Manhattan Number 1 CSC - the New York Fenian Bhoys... A Club Like no Other

About the New York Fenian Bhoys

The Manhattan No.1 CSC - The New York Fenian Bhoys is the best Celtic Supporters Club in the world! And for visitors to New York, the club's home at Jack Demseys at 36 W 33rd St, New York, NY 10001 is THE place to watch the Hoops, free of charge!

The club was founded in July 1998 over a few drinks, (ok more than a few drinks), in the back room of the old Rocky Sullivan’s bar on Lexington Avenue in New York. Present at that first ‘meeting’ were Tony Quinn, Des Brownlie, and Kevin Browne. The current President is Robert Parker and our members hail from near and far.

    In the aftermath of Celtic’s League Championship win in 1998, Quinn and this band of rebel Tims decided that they needed somewhere to go, to not only watch the ‘Tic play live, but also to be able to have a few post game drinks and be to sing the songs of Celtic. 

    Up to this time we had watched the games with the New York CSC, but problems had arisen over time with post match celebrations, more specifically the songs we were singing after the games. Certain members of the NYCSC felt some songs were somewhat ‘radical’. Coupled with this was the problem that the home of the NYCSC, Boomer’s, was an American sports bar and post match celebrations were often cut short by baseball, basketball, and ice hockey fans coming in to watch their respective teams.

    To continue the celebrations we had often gone to Rocky Sullivan’s were we had acquired some space on the jukebox for some CD’s of our type of music, and a sing-song was positively encouraged! The day we won the league in 1998, we left Boomer’s after the game never to return, upon arriving in Rocky’s we were handed bottles of champagne, provided by the bar, most of this ending up on ourselves, the walls and the ceiling, the party went on all night.

We talked among ourselves about the possibility of setting up our own club, and Rocky’s seemed like the natural choice.  We had decided at the first meeting, that the name of the club would be the New York Fenian Bhoys CSC The reason for this title? The American branch of The Fenian Brotherhood had been formed near Rocky’s in 1858, and were devoted to raising money, arms, and soldiers for a future rebellion in Ireland.  Also in New York in the 1850’s new Irish immigrants found they had a lot in common with other immigrants and working class Americans. As Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace reported in their Pulitzer Prize winning book Gotham, A History of New York City to 1898

"These groups of workingmen shared a distaste for bourgeois culture, with its exaltaton of piety and sobriety, self control and industriousness, female domesticity and refined respectability. Some immigrants were drawn to the party of the refined; others joined the ranks of the rude boys – and transformed them into b’hoys. The b’hoy was a multi-ethnic construction, part native-American rowdy, part Irish "jackeen," part German "younker". This new youth culture fashioned its self-image not at work but at play – and the bastion of b’hoydom was the Bowery long a site of rough sports for adolescents and apprentices. Walt Whitman observed and his poetry so reflected their defiant vitality that more than one reviewer observed: "He is the ‘Bowery Bhoy’ in literature."

So all the ingredients of the club name were garnered from right here in our adopted home city, and of course, "sedition’s a tradition."

    This forming of the new club drew curiosity from some in New York, and d resulted in the three original Fenian Bhoys going on Radio Free Eireann, a weekly show here in New York broadcasting to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - a potential audience of tens of millions. They shared the show that Saturday afternoon with IRA gunrunner George Harrison. Our stall had now been set out and everyone knew from the beginning what type of club this was to be. After discussions with the NAFCSC over the name it was decided that it would be called the Manhattan No.1 CSC - The New York Fenian Bhoys. 

    During these early weeks, big Tam Donnelly in Canada gave loads of advice in starting the club, and Billy Ramsey from the Boston No.1 CSC was always encouraging. With the name in place all that was needed was a little matter of $5,000 to put up a satellite dish and receiver! So there we were counting our diminutive liquid assets and scratching our heads as to how to get the money together. Our saviour came in the shape of Chris Byrne, a.k.a. Seanchai, a partner in Rocky’s and a Celtic supporter, who told us to go ahead get the dish up and get the games.  The Unrepentant Fenian Bastard, Chris, was also the first person to pay his membership in the club. Suffice to say without this Celtic hip-hop artist, the club would probably not exist today. Then one evening an American couple just back from honeymoon stopped in for a drink, the husband Dan O’Toole became interested in the club and made several generous donations to keep us afloat.

    We brought in a few bits and pieces of memorabilia and put them up on the walls and got ready for the new season. We three had decided that whatever the cost of the games, we would split it between us and sit on our own if need be to watch Celtic live. However as the new season opened others joined the ranks of the club, Tommy McKeown was drafted in at the beginning from Kearney, New Jersey to lead the choir in song and bring in the pies for half time.  The Logan boys began to make the trip up from Southern New Jersey, and Pat Sweeney crossed the Hudson from the Kearney CSC. Brian McCarthy, Brian Dempsey, Willie Holmes, Gerry Sullivan and others who had watched the games in Boomers moved to Rocky’s. 

    That first season there were times when it was indeed just three or four of us sitting in Rocky’s for games, but as word spread the number of regulars grew. Radio Free Eireann kept plugging the club and called live on the air on Saturdays for match reports, often closing the show with us all singing ‘Go On Home’ over the telephone, a live broadcast to millions in the greater New York metropolitan area!!  Our first big game was the 5-1 demolition of the Huns and the place was bouncing, the party went on and on, strangers who had never been to watch a game were in awe as we sang and danced the day away, and after this there was no looking back.

    Over the years the club has continued to grow and has found a new home in Jack Demsey's, and today we continue to welcome supporters from (literally) all over the world.  We've seen members, good friends and Celtic family come and go, but the club's endured and it's still the same rebel enterprise it was in 1998.



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