James Kelly, Footballer

James Kelly played in the great Renton FC team that defeated West Bromwich Albion 4-1 to claim the title of World Champions on 19th May 1888. This was his last game for Renton because he immediately moved to the newly formed Celtic, and is listed as their centre-half in their first game. This was played on 28th May 1888 and was against Rangers. Celtic won the game 5-1, and not only did Kelly captain the team, making him Celtic's first ever captain, he also scored.

Kelly was a very highly thought of player who had already been capped for Scotland while still playing for Renton, and went on to win a total of 8 caps. His decision to join this new club in Glasgow's east end gave Celtic considerable credibility and helped them attract new good players. He went on to make 139 appearances for Celtic, scoring 11 goals and was in the teams which won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1892, and the League in 1893.

When he retired from playing football in 1897, he became a director of the club and without knowing it at the time, he thereby founded the Kelly dynasty, which effectively controlled the club until 1994. He was chairman from 1909 until 1914, and he remained a director until 1932.

His place as a director was taken in 1932 by Robert (later Sir Robert) Kelly who was also chairman from 1947 until 1971. When Sir Bob, as he was known, stood down his place was taken by his nephew Kevin who was chairman from 1971 until ousted by the Fergus McCann takeover in 1994, which also saw Kevin's cousin, Michael Kelly (a director since 1990), depart the board. Thus in a period of just less than 100 years, the Kelly family had provided Celtic with three family members as chairmen.

Although the later Kelly chairmen lived in Lanarkshire rather than in Renton, some members of James Kelly's extended family lived on in Renton until well into the 1970's.




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