If you know your His-Story


As a daily reader of this channel I sometimes see something that sticks in my imagination. Jimthetim53 has used the phrase “Happy as Larry” on a couple of occasions. Jim’s use of the phrase prompted me to scribble a few words about popular phrases or idioms that followers of Celtic with an Irish ancestry might find of interest.

“As Happy as Larry”

Where did the phrase come from? Who was Larry? A couple of years ago I had a look and found out that the probable origin of the term comes from a guy of Irish parentage in Australia.

Larry Foley

Laurence (Larry) Foley was born in 1849 in Bathurst, New South Wales. Larry achieved legendary status as a bare knuckle boxer and later a building contractor. He was the son of Patrick Foley and Mary (née Downs.) It had been thought that Larry might enter the Priesthood, but at 18 he moved to Sydney and became a builder’s labourer.

There he joined one of the ‘larrikin gangs’ which fought each other in the inner suburbs of Sydney, and became a leader of the ‘Green’ or Catholic gang. He also took boxing lessons and began his boxing career as a middleweight.

On 18 March 1871 Foley fought Sandy Ross, leader of the ‘Orange’ or Protestant gang; the fight lasted seventy-one rounds before police intervened.

Sentinel Celts won’t be surprised to read that Larry was on the verge of knocking out Sandy Ross when the police stopped the fight.

At a later rematch, Larry Foley knocked out Sandy Ross after 28 minutes. After the victory Foley’s gang ‘The Green’s’ assumed control of the disputed Sydney gangland territory.

Larry’s place in our lexicon was secured after he defeated Abe Hicken in 1879, in Echuca, Victoria. Hicken retired after 16 bloody rounds. Foley was awarded the purse of £1,000 and his supporters cleaned up at the bookies.

It was reported at the time that Foley’s jubilant supporters were “as happy as Larry.” The name stuck and so Larry Foley indirectly became a household name.

Larry Foley became a successful building contractor and went on to fight in numerous prizefights and exhibitions. He fought all comers and all sizes. Foley also owned a pub and a hotel, he trained many of Australia’s up and coming stars.

He achieved legendary status on the streets, in the ring and in business.

Larry Foley died of heart disease in July 1917, and was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley Cemetery.

“The Life of Reilly”

Willie Reilly

This phrase has been about for years and is thought to have been brought to America by Irish settlers.

The term dates back to an episode in County Sligo in the late 18th century. A young labourer called Willie Reilly had a relationship with a woman called Helen Foillard. Helen was the daughter of local landowner, Squire Foillard, a Protestant.

The young couple attempted to run away. Foillard and his men pursued them. Reilly was arrested and tried for abduction and theft of jewellery before the local judge, Luke Fox. It was expected that Reilly would hang but to the shock of the Squire and the Judge, Helen Foillard gave evidence to secure Willie Reilly’s freedom.

The story was quickly put into ballad form and Willie Reilly’s fortunate life was immortalised…

“The lady with a tear began, and thus replied she,
“The fault is none of Reilly’s, the blame lies all on me,
I forced him for to leave his place and come along with me,
I loved him out of measure, which wrought our destiny.”

So anytime you hear a reference to “the life of Reilly.” Think of young Willie Reilly and his love Helen Foillard.

The lyrics of the ballad are below.


“Bob’s Your Uncle”

Arthur Balfour

As every Celtic supporter knows Celtic Football Club were founded in St. Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street,Calton,Glasgow, by Irish Marist Brother Walfrid on 6th November 1887. The object being to raise money to alleviate the poverty of the immigrant Irish in Glasgow.

Ireland was reeling from the ravishes of The Great Hunger and the Land Crisis. Evictions and cruelty were the order of the day. See the article below from the Philadelphia Press newspaper, 26th November 1887 highlighting evictions in Ardagh, County Limerick.

On the 7th of March 1887, the British Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Cecil, known to commoners as Lord Salisbury appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland. Balfour was inexperienced and unqualified for the demanding position and the decision caused a public outcry.

What made matters worse was the public knowledge that Balfour referred to the Prime Minister as…

“Uncle Bob.”

From Balfour’s appointment the term “Bob’s your Uncle” was used in any cases of suspected favouritism or nepotism.

It’s funny how certain things persist long after the main protagonists have left the scene. No matter what Balfour or Salisbury ever achieved they are connected to bias. Larry Foley an immigrant of Irish stock is associated with happiness and the bold Willie Reilly, a penniless farmer is eternally linked to love and good fortune.


Hail Hail.

Guest post by The Gombeen Man. You could help us out with a day off by penning something and sending it to sentinelcelts@gmail.com

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April 23, 2019 5:01 am
April 23, 2019 7:15 am


Many thanks,bud. Things I didn’t know I didn’t know-I thought Happy as Larry was just like Happy as a Sandboy,a pretty meaningless expression that nevertheless didn’t need explaining!

(I wonder what Sandman’s always superb ratings looked like for Sunday!)

There are a few other common expressions with an alleged Irish origin. Disregarding quotes from Oscar Wilde-or,on occasion,Whistler!-there’s…

In Like Flynn,relating to Errol Flynn,the master “swordsman”. I remember one of David Niven’s many tales,where he just stood in awe upon seeing the legend in the flesh. Flynn’s own autobiography was titled Wicked Wicked Days,I think.

There’s Micky Finn,which was probably after the Irish owner of a bar in Chicago. He was eventually jailed in the 1900s for drugging his clients.

Funnily enough,Huckleberry Finn may have been related! Mark Twain was widely accused of taking the idea for his tales from those printed in a minor newspaper,and titled Micky Finn.

Tales of such plagiarism may though be greatly exaggerated!

My favourite expression of this type though also has an Irish aspect to it,as my favourite female singer is half-Irish.

One in Kate Bush is worth two in the hand.

(With apologies to Kate- her genius is legendary,and I’m sure her sense of humour is too!)

big packy
April 23, 2019 8:11 am

THE GOMBEEN MAN, that was fascinating reading, you should write a book, ive heard them sayings hundreds of times without really knowing what they meant,cap doffed.hh.

big packy
April 23, 2019 8:14 am

MIKE IN TORONTO and BOBBY, apologies don’t send your lawyers round im skint.?

The Exiled Tim
April 23, 2019 8:20 am

Great stuff TGM, I love that kinda things.
Years ago there used to be a prog on the TV called OZ, it was about a prison in the US, at the start of each episode they had a bit where the meaning of a well known phrase was told, Eavesdropping and the like, very interesting stuff.

April 23, 2019 8:40 am



Me too. Couldn’t even afford Legal Aid!

Btw,I did laugh at your crack about my Dad. To be fair,he’s wearing well. I put it down to his monastic lifestyle…

The Gombeen Man
April 23, 2019 8:49 am

Morning All,

Thanks for reading the article and thanks to the lads for publishing.

When I sent it in I said that it might suit a ‘slow news day.’ After Sunday’s performance I guessed it would make it’s appearance this week.

I suppose hardship can bring out the best in some, many others don’t get to achieve their potential. The brutality meted out here has meant that there is a disproportionate Irish influence across much of the world.

When you think of an English Rose like Kate Bush being half Irish it begins to register how far teaching the influence reaches.

I often drive past Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin and it’s staggering to think that massive complex, which is still a prison, was built as a holding centre prior to transportation.

Staggering too to think that transportation was only introduced as society evolved and execution for minor crime was discontinued.

Anyway, the Irish influence across the major English cities is a testimony to the fortitude and talent of the many who took the short trip into the unknown. They were often very damaged, very vulnerable and very exploited.

Homelessness is at a crisis level in Ireland and I gather there is a record number of cranes hovering over the Dublin skyline, 123 to be precise.

I wonder if they are building homes for the homeless?


Larry Foley gave it to them didn’t he. ?


April 23, 2019 9:00 am

The Gombeen Man, everyday is an education! Smashing article.

I’m just happy as Larry that you didn’t progress on to ‘Dim as Jim’ ! 🙂

The Exiled Tim
April 23, 2019 9:01 am

Homelessness, maybes if the government in Ireland took control of the 2350 + ghost estates that are falling into rack and ruin there would be no homelessness.
But they won’t.

April 23, 2019 9:04 am

TET, What are ‘ghost estates’ if you don’t mind me asking?

Por Cierto
April 23, 2019 9:08 am

Hail Cesar! RIP.

The Exiled Tim
April 23, 2019 9:16 am

Before the crash of 2007-8 Ireland were building houses to beat the band, then came the crash, the governments estimate is there are 2350+ estates scattered over the country, estates where 1-5% of the houses are occupied the rest are just the way the developers left them when they went bust, a national disgrace.
The Irish haven’t learned from the past, they are even camping out to buy houses these days, if they had any kinda insight they would see that the cycle is happening all over again.
The first video is one of many about the ghost estates, the second one tells of the real state of Ireland’s future woes that the people are not heeding.


Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 9:16 am

Billy McNeill, the Greatest Ever Celt RIP

The Gombeen Man
April 23, 2019 9:17 am

Thanks Por Cietro I wasn’t aware.

Billy is at peace now. Prayers for his family and thanksgiving for his immense talent and gifts.

He made us all proud and when I think of him I feel an enormous sense of gratitude.

Hail Hail Billy McNeill RIP.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 9:18 am

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our father Billy McNeill. He passed away late last night (Monday, April 22) surrounded by his family and loved ones. He suffered from Dementia for a number of years and fought bravely to the end, showing the strength and fortitude he always has done throughout his life.

We would also like to note our love and appreciation to our mother, Liz, for the care, devotion and love she gave to our father throughout his illness. No one could have done any more.

Whilst this is a very sad time for all the family and we know our privacy will be respected, our father always made time for the supporters so please tell his stories, sing his songs and help us celebrate his life.

The Exiled Tim
April 23, 2019 9:18 am

RIP King Billy
You will never walk alone.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 9:25 am

Peter Lawwell: Billy was a hero and a friend

By: Paul Cuddihy on 23 Apr, 2019 09:01

CELTIC Chief Executive Peter Lawwell has paid tribute to Billy McNeill, describing Celtic’s legendary captain as a great man who epitomised everything that is good and positive about the club.

Peter Lawwell said: “We have lost a great Celtic man with the passing of Billy McNeill, and I would first of all like to pass on my condolences on behalf of the club to Billy’s wife, Liz, their children, Susan, Paula, Libby, Carol and Martyn, and their grandchildren at this very sad time. Their loss is a deep and profound one, and I know that everyone, regardless of their football allegiance, will be sending their thoughts and prayers to Billy’s family.

“I also want to send my condolences to his football brothers, in particular, the Lisbon Lions, with whom he shared so many extraordinary triumphs with Celtic, but also to all the countless friends he made in football, people such as Mike Jackson, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship after the two of them were team-mates here in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.

“Billy McNeill was our greatest ever captain and one of the finest players ever to wear the famous green and white Hoops. His record as a player is extraordinary. He made 790 competitive appearances for Celtic – more than any other player in our history – and during that time he won nine league titles, seven Scottish Cups, six League Cups and, of course, the European Cup triumph in 1967.

“That remains the greatest moment in our club’s long and illustrious history, and the image of Billy holding aloft the trophy in the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon is an iconic one which is now immortalised in the stunning statue at the front of The Celtic Way.

“He also managed the club in two separate periods, winning a total of four league titles, three Scottish Cups and the League Cup. Among his many successes from the dugout are memorable triumphs such as the 1979 title win, when 10 men won the league and, of course, the Centenary Double success in 1988.

“He also become our first ever club ambassador in 2009, and there was no more fitting candidate to take up such a role than the man whom fans always knew and loved as Cesar.

“Those of us who were lucky enough to see Billy play, particularly during that golden era under Jock Stein, appreciate we were truly privileged to have done so. There were so many gifted players at the club during that time, and their leader on the pitch and in the dressing-room was always Billy McNeill.

“It has also been one of the great privileges of my life that, over the years, I got to meet and know Billy, not just as a great Celt, but also as a great man and someone I was delighted to call a friend. His presence on a matchday here at Celtic Park, where he would cheer on the team, was always a great opportunity to meet up with him, and it was also an indication that he always was, before everything else, a Celtic supporter, faithful through and through.

“It is often said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but with Billy, as with all the Lisbon Lions, meeting them has always been a wonderful experience. They have remained humble men, regardless of their incredible achievements as Celtic players, embodying everything that is good and positive about Celtic Football Club.   

“This is the saddest of days for the Celtic Family, and also for the wider football world. We mourn Billy McNeill’s passing and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends, while we also give thanks for Billy’s life and the incredible joy he brought to so many people as a Celtic player, a Celtic manager and a great Celtic man.”

Awe Naw
April 23, 2019 9:27 am

Only one King Billy and that´s Mc Neill

April 23, 2019 9:27 am


Larry Foley seems to have been an Aussie version of the immigrants to the USA in Captains and the Kings. Arrived with nothing,never forgot it,never looked back.

Nor behind him,I suspect.

Aye,to think that transportation was seen as a civilising of sentencing,there’s a good one. Most would never again be seen by their loved ones-at least if hanged,they would have a grave to visit.

April 23, 2019 9:39 am

Just heard the sad news of Billy McNeill’s death,relayed to me by SIPSINI.

There are many tales to be be told about this legend. His leadership on and off the park,his important goals,his raising of The European Cup in an imperious manner befitting Caesar,rather than Cesar Romero!

But for me,maybe his most important contribution was a mere few words,the ones he spoke when he heard that Jock Stein was to become manager.

“Oh,that’s great! We’ll see a difference now!!!”

Condolences of course to those who knew and loved him.

Which is why the entire Celtic family is today part of the McNeill family. We all loved this great Celt.

April 23, 2019 9:39 am

Always very sad to hear of someone passing. Especially for the family and friends. He is at peace now, with the Lord I trust. But if ever a life was one to celebrate it was Billy’s. R.I.P.

April 23, 2019 10:03 am


And anyone else with a query about THEEXILEDTIM’s point about ghost estates. This is a fascinating and disturbing read on the subject not long after it all took place.


A thing of beauty
April 23, 2019 10:14 am

It’s a sad day for our club today as we mourn the loss of a great man, Billy McNeil. I wasn’t lucky enough to witness him as a player but as a manager he will have a special place in my heart for the centenary season in particular. He moulded a team of absolute winners from in some cases ordinary players and that was the mark of his leadership. Condolences to his family who will mourn most of all and I hope they find strength in the esteem their father and husband was held.

April 23, 2019 10:17 am


Beautifully put.


April 23, 2019 10:29 am

TET, Bobby, Thanks for those links. I will catch up with them later on today. For the moment I’m just reading up on people’s thoughts and memories of Billy. I’ve got mixed emotions. Sadness, happiness and pride all rolled into one. I hope that doesn’t sound disrespectful, it’s not meant to be.

April 23, 2019 10:54 am


No,mate. I think you got it just right.

PAUL67 also got it just right today too.


big packy
April 23, 2019 11:43 am

just heard the news, god bless billy mcneil and may he rest in peace, I feel so fortunate that I got to see him in the flesh, hail hail ceasar.

April 23, 2019 11:45 am

This is a lovely, touching article from The Clumpany back in Dec. 2015 posting about the unveiling of Billy’s statue in the Celtic Way.


Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 11:54 am

For the service, the Club should consider opening up the stadium and putting it on the screens.

April 23, 2019 11:57 am

As a young boy I was in the enclosure at the ’65 Cup Final , in line with the 6 yard line and I will always remember Billy rising to bullet the ball home with his head. Many, many happy memories of watching Billy lead the Bhoys. A giant among men. A sad day for his family and the entire Celtic family. Rest In Peace, Billy.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 1:38 pm

Went to Lisbon in 1993 for Sporting Lisbon game,some guy Cadete scored twice, Big Billy and his son were on our flight,and stayed in the same hotel.After we landed,forget hotel check in,straight to the Estadio Nacional.Billy walked 2 plane loads of us round the stadium, remembering incidents in the game,when he walked, we walked, when he stopped, the 400 of us stopped, he had us eating out of his hand,telling his stories, you could hear a pin drop,a truly emotional memorable experience.RIP Billy.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 1:46 pm

Seems Bernard Ponsonby has a great tribute to Billy, on STV News at 6 tonight.

April 23, 2019 2:17 pm

Howdy folks,
Just woke to the news heaven signed a cracker.
Billy you were more than a man and you stood on the shoulders of giants in your prime.
Gutted but soo very pround to have had men of your calibre not only in the team but as role models to the community.
You’re in great company now .
Rest in Peace Billy
Hail Hail Cesar

Margaret McGill
April 23, 2019 3:23 pm

Billy McNeil — never substituted

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 3:37 pm

Celtic Legend…4.45 Sedgefield…

April 23, 2019 5:59 pm

Sorry to change the subject. But think of the 30’s and 40’s. Think of the British Isles and America. And then Russia and Germany.

big packy
April 23, 2019 6:05 pm

hi bhoys such a sad day billy mcneil was my idol growing up, I was too young to go to the 65 cup final but was there against Vojvodina in 67, ive told this story a hundred times and bobby and mahe are probably sick of me telling it, but im going to anyway as a tribute to a celtic legend, my uncle packy that is where the blog name comes from and I are in the old rangers end of the stadium, we start to to head for the exits we are right at the top of the terracing and those of you who are old enough will remember it was quite steep, we get a corner my uncle packy says right lets wait for this corner, my abiding memory which I will never forget as long as I live, is looking way down from the top of the terracing under the parkhead floodlights, and watching Charlie gallagher swinging in the most beautiful corner kick ,,and billy mcneil bulleting that header into the back of the net cue bearhugs from all around, yes mr mcneil you brought tears to my uncle packys eyes that night now he is with you in paradise.hh.

April 23, 2019 6:09 pm

Beautiful Packy.

April 23, 2019 6:11 pm

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 6:17 pm

Brilliant piece by Bernard Ponsonby there on the STV news.

The Gombeen Man
April 23, 2019 6:29 pm

Thanks Bada for the tip earlier. My son put a couple of pounds on Celtic Legend. Don’t think the horse was placed but my bhoy told me it was Celtic Legend’s first race.

Something poignant in that.

My bhoy is going over to Paradise tonight to pay his respects too.

Delighted he’s making the effort.


Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 7:07 pm

TGM- was nowhere mate….:))

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 7:10 pm

BBC Scotland channel 115 on Sky,showing Lisbon Lions Documentary at 8pm tonight

Sol Kitts
April 23, 2019 7:10 pm

One by one we are losing them, the greatest Celtic team ever assembled. Today we lost our Caesar, the leader, the legend. Treasure the memories, celebrate their lives, because we will never see their like again. God bless Billy McNeill, rest peacefully.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 7:18 pm

Always critical of the media in this country, but i have to say STV and BBC Scotland’s coverage of Billy’s passing, has been excellent.

big packy
April 23, 2019 7:45 pm

BADA BING, thanks for your efforts today regarding billy.hh.

Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 8:20 pm


Bada Bing
April 23, 2019 8:21 pm
The Gombeen Man
April 23, 2019 9:01 pm


No panic he already knew about the horse.

HH ?