Tributes paid to a football pioneer
Dozens turn out to show Harry McNeil is not forgotten
Dozens of football fans turned out to pay tribute to Rutherglen’s first international star at the weekend.
Harry McNeil starred for Third Lanark and Queen’s Park as well as Scotland during his career in the late 19th century.
But he is now perhaps best known for playing in Rangers first ever match in 1872, alongside his famous brothers, Moses and Peter, who founded the Ibrox giants.
He is buried in Rutherglen cemetery, but until Saturday, his resting place had no grave.
That has now been put right by the Restoration of Rangers Graves Project.
Harry’s living relatives, greatgrandchildren Ann and Archie, were there to witness the service, which was conducted by Rev Stuart McQuarrie, a Rutherglen native and Rangers official chaplain.
The project had been taken forward by Gordon Bell and Iain McColl, who run the popular Rangers Founders Trail.
Iain said it had been a fantastic occasion: “It went really well, Ann and Archie were delighted with the turnout.
“Harry had spells with Third Lanark and Queen’s Park, but kept coming back to Rangers. In the 1880’s, the founders started the Rangers Ancients team and he was heavily involved in that.
“It says on his gravestone he was a pioneer of football, and that’s very much the case.
“We’d always felt he was a guy who had been forgotten so when we found out his final resting place was not marked, it was something we wanted to put right.
“The main thing is the family were pleased, they should be very proud of what he achieved.”
Harry was born in 1853 and grew up in Gareloch. He was one of 11 children to John and Jean McNeil, although two died in infancy. It’s unclear when Harry made the move to Glasgow but he was soon joined by his brothers, including another early Ranger, William, where they became fascinated by the new footballing craze.
After joining Third Lanark, Harry moved to Queen’s Park where his career took off. He made his name as a winger, inside-forward and half-back.
He was part of the famous Queen’s Park team who helped revolutionise the game in the 1870s and would go on to win five Scottish Cups in the his career.
In 1881, he played in Scotland’s 6-1 thrashing of England at the Oval, still our biggest victory over the Auld Enemy.
In 1891 he left Scotland to run a hotel in Bangor but came home after the tragic death of his wife, who choked on her false teeth.
He returned to Rutherglen, settling in Buchanan Drive, and took work as a travelling salesman. He also ran a pub on the site of the present day Picture House.
Harry McNeil died in 1924. Overtoun Park will once again host some Easter fun for the people of Rutherglen on Saturday, March 26.
The Friends of Overtoun Park are holding their Easter Eggstravaganza event from 1-3pm at the bandstand.
The day will feature an Easter egg hunt (50p per entry), Easter egg painting and an Easter bonnet parade which will take place at 2.30pm.
Also available will be‘tattoos’and face-painting (50p) and a bouncy castle (£1.50). The event is open to all but children must be accompanied by an adult. If weather is bad venue is Stonelaw Church.
Resting place (from left) Harry’s great-grandson Archie Stewart, Gordon Bell, Harry’s greatgranddaughter Ann McNeil Law and Iain McColl at Harry’s grave
Gallant pioneer Harry McNeil was an early footballing star in Scotland
Tributes Dozens turned out to pay tribute to Harry McNeil