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The Gallant Pioneers

Moses McNeil 

Moses McNeil

In the week Peter McNeil’s granddaughter, Heather Lang, unveiled the plaque at Glasgow Green, marking the site of the first match played by Rangers, Gary Ralston, author of “The Gallant Pioneers”, received a wonderful surprise.  It was a photograph of a near octogenarian, happy in the company of two of his grandnieces.

moses old

The cheeky grin made him easy to identify.  He had worn the same grin, some fifty years earlier, when he appeared in the photograph of the 1877 Rangers’ Scottish Cup Final side.  It was Moses McNeil, the most famous of the Gallant Pioneers and the man who named the Rangers.

Moses was from the east side of the Gare Loch. His father John was gardener at Belmore House, near Shandon, the summer retreat of Glasgow corn merchant,John Honeyman. Mother Jean Bain was from Downpatrick in Ulster. Moses had ten siblings, two of whom died in infancy. He was born in 1855, the year after Peter, one of his fellow founders of Rangers Football Club. William had arrived in 1852. Willie played in the first match against Callendar at Fleshers Haugh in May, 1872. He played for the Club for a number of years, being part of the 1877 Scottish Cup Final side. Willie, in turn, had six sons.

Moses was a natural athlete.  Powerful and stockily built, he was known for his pace but he had stamina, too.  In the Ibrox trophy room today is the cup won by Moses for the half-mile at the Garelochead Athletic Sports on 1 January, 1876.  Earlier newspaper reports tell of his victories in age-group races, against boys older than he. Moses also enjoyed being on the water, being a keen oarsman.

  moses cup

The Moses Cup in the Trophy Room

Moses played for the club he helped found for ten years, playing in the 1877 and 1879 Scottish Cup Finals and being a member of the first Rangers side to lift a trophy, the Glasgow Merchants Charity Cup in 1879.*  He did leave to join his brother Harry at Queen’s Park for a few months at the end of 1875 but quickly returned to the Light Blues.  He was the first Ranger to play for his country, in a 4-0 victory over Wales at Hamilton Crescent in 1876 (Harry scored that day) and was capped again, when Scotland defeated England 5-4 at First Hampden Park in 1880.  For a great deal of his playing career, he formed the Rangers’ left wing with his old friend and fellow Pioneer, Peter Campbell.

Although being a member of committee during his playing days, he had little involvement after his playing days were over. He did feature, though, on a number of occasions with his old pals in the “Ancients” team.  

mm langs

He spent the last few years of his life living with his sister, Isabella, in Clynder. She died in 1935, to be followed by her brother, the last of the siblings, in 1938. They lie together with their sister Elizabeth and Isabella’s husband, Duncan Gray, in the lovely churchyard at Rosneath. Sadly, for the man who gave Rangers’ their name, his name does not appear in the fading lettering on the gravestone.

moses death

On Sunday 28th June 2015 a plaque bearing the name of Moses McNeil was unveiled at Rosneath Cemtery at a dedication ceremony conducted by Parish Minister Christine Murdoch.

Rangers Football Club was represented by former captain Ally Dawson.

A memorial is now in place for a lad who fought so hard to establish the Rangers during those turbulent early years.

He packed a bag and left Rosneath and headed to industrial Glasgow seeking employment.

What he actually did was help form a football club that was to become the worlds most successful and would affect the lives of millions worldwide , that continues to this day.


*The Rangers first trophy

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 Peter McNeil writes to the editor of The Herald
 'St Columba' - Liverpool mercury Friday, March 2, 1883
 Cliftonville v Rangers - The Belfast Newsletter Monday, January 4, 1886
 Ulster v Ancients Rangers - November, 1886
 Closure of the Kinning Park ground 'Ancients v Moderns' 1887
 Queens Park Ancients v Rangers Ancients - Aberdeen Weekly journal Monday, September 24, 1888
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