Tributes paid to a foot­ball pi­o­neer

Dozens turn out to show Harry McNeil is not for­got­ten

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Dou­glas Dickie

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

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