GRIMSBY Emerald Celtic Supporters’ Club are mourning the loss of their charismatic chairman Denis McKenny, who died on Wednesday at the age of 82.
Many travelling Celtic supporters may recognise Mr McKenny from the European circuit as, up until around four years ago, he was an avid match-goer during the club’s Champions League and Europa League campaigns.
Born in England to Irish parents, Mr McKenny would use his Irish passport when travelling all over Europe in support of his beloved Bhoys, right up until the age of 78.
“He just loved to travel wherever,” Paul Read, secretary of Grimsby Emerald CSC, told The Irish Post.
“He’s been to some remote places, like Tbilisi, Donetsk, Kiev. He would fly to a different city, then take a 500-mile train journey to wherever Celtic were playing, he always loved the journeys.
“He sometimes just sorted out his accommodation as he went along, and this is when he was in his 70s!
“Denis has been out at all the big games in recent years; Barcelona, Milan, you name it, he was there, and often turned up without a ticket.
“He never knew whether he was going to get in or not, like in Seville when he never got a ticket, but he’d just book flights and go, he loved it, that was him.”
Grimsby Emerald CSC notified their social media followers of Mr McKenny’s death on Thursday, prompting dozens of Celtic fans to pay tribute.
@paulread14 Paul condolences from the Kavanagh family, one of our own
— steve kavanagh (@stevekavanagh5) December 1, 2016
@paulread14 Sorry to hear that Paul. I met him the night of the Juve game. Condolences to all. ??
— Jinkyjohnstone (@Jinky71) December 1, 2016
@paulread14 condolences on your loss Bhoys and Ghirls
— Coventry Emerald CSC (@CovEmeraldCSC) December 1, 2016
@paulread14 condolences on your sad loss from all at Winchburgh & District CSC
— Burghbhoy (@StephenMcTierna) December 1, 2016
@paulread14 sorry to read that bhoys RIP Denis from Arthur McKenna Lochgelly CSC HH
— Jock McPhillips (@starman_1888) December 2, 2016
@paulread14 thoughts and prayers with you all ???
— Saint Paully (@paulzana1) December 1, 2016
@paulread14 R.I.P Denis
— pol76celt (@paultrainor2012) December 1, 2016
A staunch socialist, Mr McKenny had been retired for some time but throughout his working life he plied his trade as a teacher and a fisherman before finishing his career by running a fish and chip shop in Grimsby.
He was one of the original members of Grimsby Emerald CSC, which was founded in 1998, and had been chairman since 2000.
“He was a real character, very outspoken and very much respected by everybody in our small club, which he was a main part of,” added Paul Read, who had known Mr McKenny for 18 years.
“He was a proud man who stood up for his rights, he loved the Irish and was very proud of his roots too.”
Having divorced before his retirement, Mr McKenny made full use of his spare time and fulfilled a dream by touring Ireland less than a decade ago.
“Nothing bothered him, he just lived life as it was, loved his red wine, smoked a pipe, liked his cooking – Denis just enjoyed the simple things.
“In his latter days, he’d walk to the pub, have a few pints and then go buy good quality meat to cook when he got back home.
“Then he started to get problems with his legs, and he soon realised things weren’t going to be like they used to be, because he was so used to being independent.
“We looked after him a bit ourselves, as a club, and helped him to move into some social housing, which he didn’t like because it was in a Tory area, so we got him out of it in the end.
“When he started to deteriorate, he came to me and said ‘I’ve got to keep going, I can’t die under a Tory government!’ He really was a character right up until the end.
“But he enjoyed life, he made the most of it.”
Mr McKenny leaves behind a son and a daughter.