Bertie Auld’s contribution to the playing cause, and his place in the Celtic story as a footballer are guaranteed in perpetuity. That’s beyond any kind of doubt. Similarly, his one-liners and his storytelling skills are legendary in the minds of those people who were ever privileged enough to have been in his company – even just the once.
Most of us could relay the “ENTERTAIN!” story verbatim, and we could do the same on the one about how his father brought him to Celtic Park for the first time to meet Mr McGrory in the mid 1950s, and how his mother hoodwinked him out of the subsequent £20 signing-on fee.
Since news of his passing was announced we’ve seen thousands of individual supporter photographs of Bertie. He greeted everyone he encountered, and he had time for everyone, and he made those he met feel 10 feet tall.
But beyond the kidology and the gags, he held a special place in the hearts of those at Celtic FC Foundation, and our sincere condolences go the Auld family and those countless close friends that he amassed over the years.
And there was another little-known side to Bertie that summed up the non-football aspect of Celtic, and that’s his relationship with the Foundation.
In the build-up to the fiftieth anniversary of Lisbon, in early 2017, Bertie and the fitter Lions of the day – Willie Wallace, Jim Craig, Bobby Lennox and John Clark – worked tirelessly for months to assist the Club’s charity to raise funds, and raise its profile.
They went with us to Lisbon to be filmed, photographed and painted, and to re-live the single most important match this club has ever won.
They went with us up and down to London where they performed on stage for 1,300 people at The Grosvenor Hotel, sharing the bill with Simple Minds and Susan Boyle. They were in and out of Celtic Park for various events, they attended lunches and dinners and supporters’ functions in all sorts of places, and they did it as brothers and with a smile on their faces as they had done for 50 years. And all the while they belied their ages and their aches and pains at the same time.
For years before that and right up until COVID-19 hit, Bertie was a regular at Celtic FC Foundation project delivery and presentation sessions. He would come along to the park, meet and engage our participants – many of whom had endured trauma and hardship in their own lives, and he would listen to them, speak with them and enthral them, even if they weren’t football folk.
He was relatable to this and every audience that he addressed. He was an ordinary guy from Panmure Street in Maryhill who lived the dream for us mere mortals, and that was why it worked.
The entire Foundation team loved him, because he was one of us.
As recently as summer of this year, the Foundation had helped organise a wee private event at the stadium where Bertie would come along with a couple of his close pals, his brother, and his son, Robert, and they would spend a couple of hours reminiscing and cracking jokes with his team-mate, John Clark.
It was a very special moment in the life of a very special individual.
What a man he was. Ask anybody.