He was a huge admirer of Malcolm MacDonald and said he was the greatest player he had ever seen in the hoops, even better than our own heroes of the time, Jinky, Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain. There were not many times when you could get under his skin but we used to kid him on that the real Malcolm MacDonald (Super Mac) actually played for Newcastle United at St James’ Park and this was guaranteed to set him off in a long rant.
In March 1979 Celtic played Motherwell at Parkhead. As was his habit my Dad went to pay his Celtic pools whilst I went for a look in the old Celtic shop in Kinloch Street. It was basically a wooden shack which was usually closed as it was constantly being broken into or set on fire by the local youths. Matt noticed me and approached (naturally he was Mister Lynch back then) and asked me did I know what day it was ? ‘Saturday’ said I, puzzled at his question. He went on to say it was actually Saint Patrick’s day and did I know what every good Celtic fan should be wearing on Saint Patricks’ day ? ‘A shamrock’ I replied and he produced a sprig of shamrock from his pocket and pinned it on my lapel. When my Dad returned I showed him the shamrock and he smiled knowingly.
Despite the enthralling Celtic stories my main recollection of him is obviously the experience of my schooling. One day we had a guy in our class who was a bit of a show off and was full of himself. In no time at all Matt had chopped him down to size and it was clear that you took no liberties with Matt Lynch. Matt’s Maths class was in the school ‘annex’ which was the old Broomloan Road primary two streets away, a goal kick away from Ibrox Park. With the best will in the world it was difficult to get there for the beginning of his period and we were regularly (and unfairly) belted for being late. And then we were often belted afterwards for arriving back late in the main building for the next period ! There were no excuses accepted and no mercy given. In 1970’s Glasgow secondary schools there were things that went on that would make the newspapers these days and make Esther Rantzen faint. And we were told it was character forming !
As well as Maths he also informed us of other things. I recall him asking us what was the widest street in Europe and the answer was O’Connell Street in Dublin. I can also recall a discussion about the Irish tricolour flag and he asked us what the colours were. We replied enthusiastically that it was green, white and gold and he told us we were incorrect and that the correct colours were actually green, white and orange. The green symbolising the Catholic (republican) tradition, the orange for the Protestant (orange order) tradition and the white to symbolise the peace between both factions. That was news to all of us.
Matt absolutely worshipped Jock Stein, as we all did, and he would be complimentary about the then current team but never tired of telling us that Willie Miller, Malky MacDonald, Jimmy Delaney and Johnny Crum were better. He never spoke ill of Rangers and told us of how when he was controversially ordered off at Ibrox in 1943 the Rangers player Jimmy Duncanson had sent a hand written note to the SFA in Matt’s defence and this was a gesture he hugely appreciated.
Because he was a teacher I’m sure that prevented Matt from joining the armed forces during world war two. Although he said that the war time period was difficult for Celtic he told us to remember that many Celtic supporters had made the ultimate sacrifice for a just cause during that war and this is something that the more immature Celtic supporters in the current day would do well to remember.
On the day after Celtic beat Rangers 4-2 to win the league in May 1979 the absence rate of male teachers in my school must have been 50%. I don’t know why but our Maths period first thing that morning was taken by Mr Haddow, a well known Rangers fan. As soon as he walked in the class every one of us roared and hammered the desks in an effort to humorously noise him up. He was another intimidating character but he took it in remarkably good stead given the circumstances.
It should be noted that Matt Lynch was a hugely popular president of the Celtic supporters association and he gave them many years service and a lot of good advice over a period.
Unknown to me but Matt retired and it was many years before I came across him again. In April 1997 I found myself in the rare position of being inside the Parkhead main stand enjoying some match day hospitality. I went to the toilet at half time and there was Matt. He would never have known me but I asked him how he was and told him that he had taught me a good number of years back. I can still recall that he said it was good that I was ‘keeping the faith’.
Matt Lynch passed away in 1999 and I’m sure Celtic had a minutes silence during a game against Aberdeen which I think Celtic won 7-0.
Matt Lynch was a true Celt, a man of great faith and a decent Maths teacher (although it has to be said he gave out too much homework !)
They definitely broke the mould when they made Matt Lynch. May he rest in peace.