By Stef Kelly 15/1/19
Going with our CSC articles, Holywell Street caught up with one of our finest lads, passionate in every department. He’s certainly old skool and with a colourful past. I first met Stef around the 1985/86 season at Tynecastle. From baby crew to front-line.
Here he chats of a day when Celtic went on a famous anti Fascism demo.
As I sit here and try to recall my time as a casual, as a proud member of the Celtic Soccer Crew, I struggle with age, the odd concussion and the reality that my time as one of the crew is muddied by the fact that I was an addict in fully fledged addiction for most of it. In actual fact the anticipation that came along with being part of a mob and having so many men and women at my back was the biggest high for a long time but, like all other highs, it eventually ran its course and stopped offering the freedom from self that it once gave me. Still, I look at the early eighties and the many names that came and went from my life, with fondness and a deep nostalgia that lingers even still, as I near the half century mark.
There are most certainly many Celtic bhoys in my thoughts who have died for one reason or another; many from the very same addiction I found respite from but, there are also a few of the mortal enemy; the huns; the ICF, who have died and who played a part in making the man who sits here writing this essay. I feel sad as I write but, nostalgia does that; it is an odd feeling filled with good memories and sad ones. I’ve discovered in this age of social media that nostalgia has its place and that it is important.
Anyway, on to what I can remember about 1993 and the Welling Unity Demonstration that led to me being sentenced to two years at Maidstone Crown Court. I was charged with riot, which was the worst of the charges on offer to all those arrested; disorderly conduct being the least of the three and affray coming in second. As it transpired the whole event was orchestrated by the authorities to push the criminal justice bill/act through parliament. Myself and the rest of the crew that went down were willing pawns in their game. I remember when we got there that I commented to my old friend E.F, (whom, I would dearly love to have contact with again), who was our liaison with the Anti-Fascist League organisers, that we were being set up by them also. If it kicks off, we will be there at the front and will likely be used as scapegoats for any trouble that ensues. For the sake of clarity here, I followed that assertion with, “don’t get me wrong E.F, I don’t care if we are being used but, lets not kid ourselves.
I remember there was a nominal fee of three pounds for the bus to London from Glasgow, it really was a no-brainer for us that went. I sat with Gary S if I remember correctly and I did heroin and ecstacy on the way there. My next real memories are of the boys raiding Lacoste in London; I missed out because I was either behind or in front of them. We also had a little run in with Millwall at Kings Cross station, or was it Euston station? They were getting a little mouthy at first, they thought we were Spurs and really did not wanna know when they found out who we were.
My next memory is us walking up the road towards the intersection where the riot started and ended; anticipation building as we had no idea what to expect. There were professional rioters all around us. Three years before this demo, the Poll tax riots had happened and there were the same folks who had been rioting at that demo at the Welling demonstration. This I later discovered because a couple of my co-accused where at both days.
At the end of the road we came to the intersection where the riot cops were awaiting our arrival. This was where I got excited; remember I’m there to represent the Crew, we don’t like fascists, yeah but, I’m a 24 year old addict who is so self-obsessed and riddled with low self-worth I was going to make it about me making me feel better and hopefully raising the profile a bit of the CSC at the same time.
When we reached the section that the cops where never going to let us past, the organisers of the march started asking everyone to link arms and get ready to sit in and refuse to move. I looked around and saw that on the roof of a garage of a nearby house there was a large camera; a television camera I thought. So, I wriggled free of the interlocked arms that held me and jumped out into the 8 or 10 feet of no-mans land between us and the bizzies and screamed Celtic Soccer Crew on tour ya Bastards!!!!! I was the first to break ranks and it all kicked off right at that moment. A funny aside here; as I screamed, my false teeth flew from my mouth and landed at the feet of a riot cop in front of me. I stopped and looked down at the same time as the copper looked down; we looked up at each other and I hesitated for a minute, weighing up my options. The chance of club on the back of my skull was all too real but, I thought ‘fuck it’ and I reached down and grabbed them without being rendered unconscious by the copper. They spent the next few hours snuggled in my pocket for safe keeping. Incidently, this is far from the only time that my wallies went airborne when I was screaming at someone. I fought through legs in the jungle at Celtic Park a few times, to retrieve them.
Anyway, from there on in, it is a bit of blur; the bizzies charging us, bricks being thrown from the church wall that was destroyed by fellow rioters. Fellow Crew members would come in and out of view at varying times but, to be honest I think most of them did not partake in the riot as much as I did. I was mask free and hell bent on creating some infamy for myself and the Crew. Ed later told me that I was the one that kicked it all off and in my skewed, less than mature thinking of the time, I was so happy with this. I did get trampled at one point by riot cops and I thought “shit, this is it, this is where I get arrested” but, they just ran right over the top of me and I was able to get up and get away again. This incident is actually recorded on youtube, if you look for Welling riot. I had a dark green jacket on and a red Lacoste hat.
The riot went on until it fizzled out; myself and young Kevin Mc, made our way back to the buses. We barely made it back home. The bus we had come on had left and we ran and stopped another that luckily for us was heading to Glasgow. We got home late and I crashed out at home. Still at my parents house in Provanmill. I awoke the next morning and the first thing my dad said was “there’s the TV star” I asked him, “did you tape it, did you tape it?”. Sure enough he had recorded me on the news the evening before. I watched it and carried that VHS tape with me for weeks afterwards, I was so proud of myself. When I walked along the street that day, the neighbours; little old ladies and the rest where yelling at me “you fucking hooligan Kelly” and the like. I loved it; the infamy and 15 minutes of glory that I sought to fill the void inside me, I had it. It transpired that my picture was in newspapers all over England, less so in Scotland but, my brother in law, who is a Manc, called and let me know he had been heading to work the on the bus, the day after the riot and saw my picture in the Mirror or Sun or whatever tabloid he was reading.
As time went on, I moved further into my addiction and forgot all about my fifteen minutes of notoriety. My days spent thieving and looking for ways and means to get drugs. Going to the odd game with the bhoys and always being supported by them. I probably did some time in the months that followed, as was the pattern of my life, until one morning, about 8 months after the riot, I’m awakened by 4 CID in my bedroom. Two from Stewart Street and two from Scotland Yard; one of the guys from Scotland Yard said “you know what this is about Steven” and I replied “yep, you took your time”. I was flown back to London and taking to Bexley Heath cop shop to appear at Bexley Heath magistrates the next day. I was granted bail and went home. I went back and and forward a couple of times and finally thought ‘fuck it’, if they want me they can come and get me again. I stopped appearing at court and was on the run with an arrest warrant out for me. I got picked up for shop-lifting somewhere and was laying in London Road cop shop. The screws there were pretty sure that the cops from London would not come up for me, as they rarely did for warrants in Scotland. I knew better and told them that. Sure enough, they came back and said that coppers from London where on their way up to get me. I was taken back down and remanded to Elmley nick on the Isle of Sheppy in Kent. Where I spent three months on remand before pleading guilty and getting sentenced to a deuce; with a third off because I had pleaded guilty at my earliest opportunity. It was reduced to 16 months and I did another 5 months on top of the three months I’d already done. I’ll never forget seeing the bhoys jumping around in the road in Maidstone when I went to court for trial. My heart felt full and I was proud of them for showing up. It was a treat.
I did my remand at Elmley and when sentenced moved to Aldington in another part of Kent; an old army barracks converted to a jail. The whole time I was there I was wasted, drugs, jail hooch, it was an easy sentence. Five months of Art class and cookery classes and stoned for most of it. Easy time. In my first week at Aldington, inmates broke into the pharmacy and stole a bunch of drugs, particularly valium. This event in and of itself is hilarious;a break in inside the jail but, the posters the guards put up in the dorms afterwards where downright ridiculous. These posters told of dangerous drugs being stolen and could they please hand them back in. Needless to say that for a couple of weeks the jail was the calmest it had been in years. Another time the canteen was robbed and various items where scattered around the place until used up.
The best incident by far was the time a Belgian fella escaped from the dorm I was in.
The jails in Kent were full of smugglers, guys who trafficked tobacco and hash to truckloads of cocaine and other contraband. Guys from all over the continent: Holland, Belgium, Turkey, Greece as well as the from Glasgow and beyond. In my dorm there was a fella from Belgium, who was pining so badly for his family; many of these guys where used as bait, set up by the real criminals to take a fall whilst the big shipments went through elsewhere. This guy it would appear, was one of these mugs, who was used as fodder for the cops. He was not cut out for jail, never mind a jail in England. Some of the boys in the dorm decided to help him get home.
At 6pm every night, the guards would do a head count and go on a break and the new shift would come back at 7 and open up and do another head count to make sure everyone was there. In that hour the count went down by one head, literally.
The story goes that sometime before 6pm the Belgian fella had made his way onto the roof of one of the buildings at the jail and hid there waiting for the guards to all go off on their dinner break. At the same time in Hythe Dorm, the dorm I was in, the guys had made up a dummy and used the hair from the many haircuts we gave each other in the dorms to create a dummy head and put it in the bed for the count at 6pm. The guards would just come in and count bodies/lumps in beds, never expecting it to be anything other than a guy sleeping there. Once they had finished their 6 o’clock count, the dummy was disposed of and the bed space was cleaned up of any evidence. It would take the guards an age to figure out which inmate was missing in a jail with around 130 bodies. The Belgian fella had scaled the fence and razor wire using blankets.
There was some panic for a while, a lock-down ensued and everyone denied any knowledge of knowing where the guy had gone. Presumably the guard who did the count got dragged over the coals but, not much else happened afterwards as it really was an embarrassing event for H.M. Prisons at the time.
The icing on the cake was when we received a postcard from the guy back in Belgium a couple of weeks after the escape. A happy ending I’d say.
An interesting sub-plot to this whole experience for me; the riot and sentencing and doing the time, revolves around a scouse fella called Gary. Now, Scouse Gary as we called him, had first appeared on the scene sometime around 1985/86, after the Heysel Stadium disaster when Liverpool fans fighting with Juventus fans caused a wall to collapse and what happened, happened, as awful as it was. Scouse Gary told us that he was one of the Liverpool fans charged as part of the group of fans who where arrested. This was never substantiated by any of us and it was not as easy in 1986 to just look up who was and who wasn’t a part of this conflagration. Google not showing up for another couple or three decades. We just took him at face value and he became part of the scene for a short period, hanging around Queen Street station with myself and the other Baby crew folks who hung around there.
The strange thing about Scouse Gary is that, when I was in the cells at Maidstone crown court during trial and at preliminary hearings, eight years after I had last seen him, he shows up in my cell and claims to be one of my co-accused or, at least charged in connection with same demonstration. Our re-connection was a bit awkward; I may be wrong but, I’m now pretty sure, the Scouse fella was a professional informant; a plant; a fucking double agent if you will and had been for a number of years. Perhaps even and undercover screw, they where known to exist back in the heyday of us hooligan types. I’m not sure if he expected me when he came in to the cell, he wasn’t there long and like before he vanished in the ether never to be seen again, not during my remand or sentence.
A shady fucking character indeed.
The other notable events during that distant time in jail in England, were the thousands of letters I received from all over the world, from Holocaust survivors, from anti-fascists. From little old ladies and students and just people in the street who wanted to offer their support for a cause, a cause that I barely respected. My selfishness back then was immense; I was incapable of recognising the enormity of the cause I had tied my flag to for a day of notoriety and self-indulgent vanity. Still, I have no regrets. Life has come and gone and persists in presenting me with moments of clarity and growth; I look back with fondness and sadness; that beautiful feeling of nostalgia once again on my jail time in England and would not change it for the world
So, this is what I can recall now, as I sit here in bed in my home on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. 4,401 miles from Glasgow and 26 years from doing time in Kent for rioting. A lifetime ago; I am a father and a husband now, Capable of so much more than I was back then. I am a Registered Social Worker with a Bachelors Degree in Social Work; and I work as an addiction counsellor at a Maximum security Correctional Facility in Victoria and marvel often at how life is so different now.
Hail Hail and CSC # 1