BY Peter Diamond | September 14 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Documentary reveals the deep Faith and kindness of Celtic’s Tommy Burns

THE Catholic Faith of former Celtic footballer and manager Tommy Burns has been portrayed in a new documentary to mark the tenth year of his death.

THE Catholic Faith of former Celtic footballer and manager Tommy Burns has been portrayed in a new documentary to mark the tenth year of his death.

Tommy Burns’ children and footballing friends have helped convey how much his Faith played in his daily life and how it spread into other peoples lives through unspoken acts of kindness, including a letter to the parents of a girl who died in a car crash.

The hour-long documentary made by purpleTV for BBC Alba will air next Friday evening, September 21. The film covers many aspects of Tommy Burns’ life particularly his renowned love for family, Faith and football.

His four children Emma, Jenna, Michael and Jonathan share personal accounts of their father’s Faith.

Michael Burns said: “His Faith was so important to him. To this day I’ve never seen anybody pray like my dad—he would sit for hours and I always thought, I wonder what he’s saying, what is he doing for that length of time in his own world.”

Emma Burns added: “When you went to Mass with my dad it was almost like he zoned out, like he just went into his own zone in Mass and he just seemed so calm.”

Burns died of skin cancer on May 15 2008 and his daughter Emma added that knowing her Dad’s Faith played such a prominent role in his life, helped her get through 10 years of loss.

“You learn to rebuild your life around your loss. I think just knowing that he had that Faith and it was so strong it helped me,” she said. “Dad just felt like everything that was good in his life came from God.”


East End

Tommy Burns was brought up in Calton, Glasgow, and attended St Mungo’s Academy as well as the parish of St Mary’s Church.

He made more than 500 appearances for Celtic FC before going on to manage them and, according to his son Jonathan, it’s something he thanked God for everyday.

“He used to say that he prayed every single day that he’d play for Celtic and when that eventually happened it was like a dream come true for him, I don’t think he could believe his luck,” Jonathan said.

“I think he put a lot of his success as a footballer down to his Catholic Faith and I think as he got older he just started to invest more in his Faith.”

According to former Celtic teammates, Burns went to Mass everyday after training but it was not something that he would boast about in the changing room.

Sir Kenny Dalglish said: “Tommy got solace in his Faith—and by the way, he never preached it to anybody, he never came in and slammed a Bible down and started telling you the Ten Commandments or anything.”

The documentary also reveals how Burns supported a musician he knew called Joe O’Sullivan, and his wife Margaret, after their daughter, Joanne, was killed in a car crash.

Mr O’Sullivan speaks of how, after questioning his own Faith after losing his daughter, Burns’ wrote him a letter that helped bring him back and gave his family strength.

The letter read: “You brought a very special person into this world and you brought her up to be a truly lovely young lady. I pray to God in Heaven that you both may at times close your eyes and remember the wonderful moments you all shared and draw strength from them.

“Joe, Margaret, I keep thinking what I would do if anything happened to any of our kids and it just cracks me up even the thought of it. I have taken to lighting a candle for you both and for Joanne, your little angel, every morning after Mass. Joanne has gone early to take her place in Heaven among the angels.

“In doing that she will take good care of her beloved mum and dad everyday of their lives. Your beautiful girl is now a Saint in Heaven. Pray to her often, she hasn’t gone forever, only until we all meet again. What a wonderful thought.”

Former Kilmarnock manager Jim Fleeting said in the film that bringing Burns to the club was the best decision he ever made but more than that, he hopes to be reunited with him in Heaven.

Mr Fleeting said: “Tommy believes that he’s up there looking down on us and hopefully that’s the case and maybe I’ll see him in a few years’ time—I’m hoping that’s going to be the case.”


Kindness and compassion

Margot McCuaig, director of the Tommy Burns film, said: “I worked with Tommy Burns at Celtic and he always had a kind or funny word for everyone he came into contact with and I was very aware that the love the public have for him is still palpable.

“In the film, I wanted to create an narrative that focuses more deeply on who he was as a person, understanding the depth of his kindness and compassion, gaining an insight into the Faith that was such a comfort to him and his family as he dealt with the news of his terminal illness.

“Poignantly, he asserted that the birth of his first grandson, on the day of his terminal diagnosis, was God giving the family something to live for after he died.

“We also learn how important Tommy’s Faith was to him throughout his life, and how this manifested itself in his relationships with his friends—very positively indeed.”

Tommy Burns is on BBC ALBA on Friday September 21 at 9pm.

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