The Celts


Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, was created in 1863 when the Football Association laid out the rules of the game. Today, it is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries and dependencies, making it the world's most popular sport.

The Cumberland F.A. was formed in 1884 with its Senior County Cup first being played for in 1885/86. Cleator Moor United won the County Cup in 1903/04 with a team based at Bowthorn, made up with up to 10 players who had left Frizington White Star for monetary reasons.
  • Football in nearby Frizington dates back to 1886 and teams certainly played football in the Keekle and Cleator areas prior to 1909. But all this was to change with the Formation, in the summer of 1909 of the Cleator Moor Celtic Club.
Cleator Moor Celtic Football Club was founded in 1909 by Irish immigrants. The team were nicknamed 'The Celts' and began footballing life in the Egremont Divisional League for the 1909/10 season. The following article entitled "Football prospects at Cleator Moor" appeared in the Cumberland Paquet dated 2 September 1909:
Great interest seems to be centred this season in football on Cleator Moor. An Association club has been formed called the "Celts" and a field has been acquired near to Cleator Moor Railway Station. Practice has been in progress, and the executive have got together a promising lot of youngsters, and hope to be rewarded by the general patronage of the public. Wath Brow are again coming forward, and for the first time Association Football will be seen on the ground which for many years was the scene of many hard and severe struggles with the Grasshoppers (this could be referring to Northern Union). Both the Celts and the Wath Brow teams have entered into all the local contests available, and they look forward to giving a good account of themselves in the various competitions. 
The public have often grumbled at the want of pastime on Cleator Moor, and now that these two clubs have sprung into existence, we trust that they will be generously supported, and thus encouraged to go on and prosper. Cleator Moor Celtic joined the Egremont Divisional league for the 1909/10 season, the other teams were Frizington Athletic, Frizington Recreation, Parton, Pica, Keekle, Moss Bay, Arlecdon, Wath Brow, Moresby, Distington, Cleator, Hensingham, Ennerdale, Bigrigg and Whitehaven. The Celtic's inaugural match took place on Saturday 4 September 1909 at home to near neighbour Keekle, despite the inclement weather 400 spectators witnessed a 2–1 victory to Keekle.
  • During the 1919-1920 season, Cleator Moor Celtic were unbeaten. The team scored 124 league goals and conceded only 23. J. Elliot, the centre forward netted 71 goals during that season – a feat not matched by today's professional players.
On the 25th November 1950, Cleator Moor reached the first round of the FA Cup, where they lost to Tranmere Rovers 5–0, in a match played in front of a 16,000 crowd at Workington. All other campaigns in the FA Cup have not seen the club progress past the second qualifying round.
  • The club has also competed in the FA Vase, reaching the second round in 1986–87.
Prior to the match, Tranmere Rovers stayed at the Armathwaite Hotel, Bassenthwaite. Press reports from the day say the team had an early breakfast, followed by a walk through frost coated grounds. Tranmere arrived first at Borough Park, and protested about the uneven surface and innumerable hard muddy sods. But, the strong sun soon penetrated the frost. 

Celtic were wearing Green and White for the match. Tranmere were in Blue and White. Tranmere won the toss, and played the first half with the sun at their backs.

To the credit of Cleator Moor Celtic, they fought from the off, giving Tranmere the jitters. They stormed the Rovers goalmouth in a style that commanded everyone's respect and admiration. During the first 25 minutes, Celtic were every much as good as their professional opponents. Had they netted at least twice, they would have shattered the Rovers confidence, and might have pulled off a sensational victory.

The first goal for Tranmere was a moral lifter for their team. They shook off their nerves and got cracking with a dazzling display. Their second half mastery saw them win the game. Celtic had succumbed ever so stubbornly.

Workington born Bill Iceton, the Tranmere Rovers left-winger is attributed to doing the most damage during the 5-0 win. His 25th minute 'freak' opener bounced in off a goal post, and started Celtic on their way out of the competition. The goal was against the run of play.

After the match, Cleator Moor Celtic were left with some happy memories, and cash to develop their club further. Never had there been an event like it in Cumberland Football. The glorious effort by Celtic gave impetus to junior football, which had long been needed. The match showed what local lads can do - that we have the talent, if given the chance.
Cleator Moor Celtic
Publicity given by the press, and the BBC assured Cleator Moor Celtic would be remembered by soccer followers for a generation. 
  • Cleator Moor Celtic: King; Cox (T); Cox (W); Davidson; Elliot; McFadden; Crickett; Holliday; Coughlan; Farrar; Bewsher.
  • Tranmere Rovers: Payne; Steele; MacDonald; Millington; Bell; Kieran; Harlock; Wheelar; Williamson; Bainbridge; Iceton.
In the lead-up to the match, the National Press took great mirth in describing Celtic as being comprised of Iron Ore miners and Nuclear workers. The cartoon below appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post, and gave a pictorial account of the game (click for a larger version):
Cleator Moor Celtic v Tranmere
Leo Baxendale - Lancashire Evening Post
Cleator Moor Celtic have produced a number of exceptional footballers over the years. Some have gone on to play at the highest level in the game:
  • Kennedy & Elliot; West Bromwich Albion
  • Sewell; Notts County
  • Lowery; Northampton
  • Toman & McCormack; Preston
  • Fitzsimmons & Hardy; Queen of the South
  • Hargreaves; Leeds United
  • Walton; Leeds United
  • Kitchen; Barnsley
  • Woods; Ipswitch
  • Caig; Carlisle United
  • Carson; Liverpool
Cleator Moor Celtic celebrated its 100th birthday in 2008. In the 2017-2018 season Celtic achieved their highest ever placing in the Wearside League, coming 2nd and gaining promotion to the North West Counties League Division One North.  Their most successful season ever also saw them win the Cumberland County Senior Cup with a 2-1 victory over Northern League side Penrith at Carlisle United’s Brunton Park ground.

Celtic are very much the focal point for football in their locality, and host a number of teams from under 6s to open age, including a reserve side that play in the Cumberland County Football League.

Top Photo: Cleator Moor Celtic, 1919/20 Season



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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: The Celts
The Celts
Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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