Although born in Scotland in 1854 he always regarded Ireland as his native country. Charles Campbell came to Ireland in 1861 from Pertshire in Scotland when his father James took up the tenancy of a farm on the County Galway border. The following year the Campbell family comprising nine sons and three daughters with their parents James and Margaret took up the tenancy of the Duke of Leinster’s lands at Kilkea Farm in South Kildare.
Two of the sons were to become early members of the Queen’s Park Football Club based in Hampden Park in Glasgow. How or why the Campbell brothers Edward and Charles returned to Scotland I do not know but on the 7th July 1870 Charles enrolled as a member of the newly formed soccer club. His older brother Edward had joined a short time earlier and was elected a member of the club committee in April 1870. Edward was to marry Ellen Hewson, daughter of Reverend John Hewson, Rector of Kilmore in Co. Mayo in 1880 and the Queen’s Park Club records disclosed no further involvement by him in the Club’s affairs.
Charles, however, was to retain links with the club and with the Scottish Football Association for many years both as a player and as an administrator. He became a member of the Queen’s Park Club first team on the 25th October 1873. His first game was a Scottish Cup Tie against Dumbreck which incidentally was the first match played in Hampden Park. He went on to play 81 matches for Queen’s Park as a half back. During his football career he won six Scottish cup medals with Queen Park F.C. between 1873/74 and 1885/86. He also got two F.A. cup runner-up medals when Queen’s Park were beaten in 1884 and again in 1885 by Blackburn Rovers in the F.A. finals played at the Oval in London. He was capped for Scotland on 13 occasions although the Queen’s Park Club history published in 1920 only credits him with 10 international caps. In those early days the international matches in which Charles Campbell played were against either England or Wales. It was one of his great regrets that Scotland did not play Ireland in an international match during his playing career. While still a playing member of the club Charles was elected president of the Queen’s Park Football Club for the 1879/1880 season. The earlier mentioned Club history refers to Charles Campbell as
“wrapped up heart and soul in the Queen’s Park. He, during his many years of active connection with it did more for the Club than any other of its many eminent members. With all his exterior bearing of nonchalance Charles Campbell was an intensely nervous man and took sorely to heart any disaster which befell the team …. His eloquence [he was a capable public speaker] generally swayed the club committee to his views, nor was he exultant over a beaten opponent.
A specialist at after dinner oratory he often assured the defeated the game was the hardest ever he had played. The score (no matter how great) in no sense represented the run of the game and that Queens Park was lucky in winning …. A great player almost to the end of his football career he played the game fairly - too fairly according to the light of modern football. Charging was charging in those days not as today when if one man rubs shoulders on the field with an opponent the whistle is blown. Charles took with equanimity and gave back with interest the hard knocks he received. It is recorded Campbell always apologised when he grassed his man. In defeat he was never despondent, his axiom being `we must do better next time’. He has left his mark on the game and he can console himself in his retirement that he has won universal respect and admiration”
Charles Campbell retired from the club committee at its AGM in May 1890. His retirement was the occasion of a presentation to him of a gold watch and chain inscribed “Presented to Mr. Charles Campbell by the members of Queen’s Park Football Club in recognition of valuable services rendered - Glasgow 18th May 1890”. After his retirement he devoted much of his time to the training of young footballers in Glasgow. The Queens Park Club history noted that
“on the occasion of cup ties or special matches his nervousness was such that he could not bear to look on during the progress of the game. He had been known to remain downstairs in the second Hampden Pavilion while the game progressed, rushing up the spiral stairs when cheers denoted a goal had been obtained. On being assured that all was going well he would go down again. At the finish no man appeared more indifferent and he concealed from all observers the intense nervous strain he had undergone. Truly his heart and soul were in the Queens Park.”
A resident of Glasgow he carried on a successful career as a stockbroker for a number of years. In 1889 he was elected president of the Scottish Football Association which position he held until the following year. His father had died at Kilkea in 1876 and his mother in 1880 and the family farm passed to his older brother David. Charles subsequently inherited Kilkea farm when David died in 1897 but remained in Glasgow until about 1907 when he finally returned to Ireland. A bachelor Charles Campbell farmed at Kilkea until his death in 1927 at the age of 73 years. He was buried in the Presbyterian plot in St. Michael’s Cemetery, Athy surely the only Scottish international soccer player and Scottish cup holder to lie in that medieval graveyard.
Last week I wrote of the launch of John MacKenna’s new book which will be held in the Town Hall Library on Friday, 23rd January at 8 p.m.. Waterstones, the International Booksellers have just announced that MacKenna’s new book, `The Last Fine Summer’ has been chosen as their Book of the Month for February 1998 - a great achievement for a local writer.