Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a clearance and restoration project organised by the Founder’s Trail at the grave of former Rangers man, William Dunlop, who represented the club as a player from 1874-1880 and as President from 1879-1880. The Founder’s Trail run the website, http://www.thegallantpioneers.co.uk, which I would urge fellow bears to have a look at. The sheer dedication to the promotion and conservation of Rangers’ history is admirable and yet another great testament to the commitment and passion of supporters of the club.
A hearty group of around 20 gathered at Cathcart Cemetery at noon and made our way up to Dunlop’s resting place. The site had become massively overgrown and one could barely make out the headstone amongst the jungle of weeds and ivy, as pictured below:
A couple of solutions flung around in jest included a flamethrower or some Napalm, as it certainly looked as if such severe measures would need to be employed. Wasting no time, we set about our business with our tools and equipment brought along that day, from garden shears, to strimmers, rakes and spades; and the old adage of ‘many hands make light work’ was proven to be true. Within around 45 minutes, we had made a remarkable difference (as seen below) and the feeling of poignancy and satisfaction felt whilst hearing Iain from the Founders Trail read out a short commemoration to Dunlop as flowers were laid on his grave is something which will remain with me for some time to come. To simply take some time out of our days to pay some respect to one of the men who contributed so hugely to the club we all love in it’s earliest days is a rewarding experience and with further gravesite clearance projects in the pipeline for the future, it is something I would hasten to look into.
The Founders Trail’s work on Rangers’ genealogy, if you will, extends beyond these activities. Regular tours are run which start from Ibrox and offer visits to various locations, including Flesher’s Haugh, Union Street, Berkeley Street, Burnbank, Kinning Park, Craigton Cemetery and of course, Ibrox Stadium itself. The real hunger and desire to keep the candle of Rangers’ early pioneers burning bright which shines through from those involved in the Founders Trail is immense and one can’t help but be captivated by it. The opportunities offered to learn so much about the formative years of what has become the world’s most successful club are innumerable and whilst helping out yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel a closer connection to the club through the work we were doing.
On June 28th, the Founders Trail are holding a commemoration service for Moses McNeil, who is regarded as being one of the most central figures in the formation of the club in 1872, after he adopted the name Rangers, supposedly from an English rugby annual. For years there had been a sense of mystery surrounding the final resting place of McNeil, however following extensive research, the Founders Trail managed to locate his gravesite in St Modan’s church in his native Rosneath. Considering the tribulations faced by the club in recent times, I am sure that these founding fathers would be looking down with a smile on their faces in the knowledge that so many still care so intensely about the footballing institution which they helped to create, all in the name of sporting excellence.
Having completed the work at Dunlop’s grave, we then visited graves of some other prominent figures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These included former President and Director, Dugald MacKenzie; former Chairman, William Craig, who interestingly died in office whilst with Rangers; and RS MacColl, who played as an amateur for several years with Queen’s Park, refusing to foray into the world of professional football despite numerous offers from top English clubs. He finally accepted an offer of a £300 signing on fee from Newcastle United in 1902, which he used to set up the now famous newsagent’s, R.S McColl, with his brother Tom. This led to his nickname: ‘Toffee Bob’. Lastly, we visited the grave of William Wilton, the first manager of Rangers, serving in his position from the creation of a manager’s role in May 1899, until his untimely and tragic death in a boating accident at Gourock in 1920. He won 8 Scottish League titles and also a Scottish Cup with Rangers and his death was seen as a huge tragedy for the Scottish game at the time. His funeral was a rather grand affair, as shown in the grainy image from the event below. We managed to stand in near enough the exact same spot from which the picture was taken, which again filled me with a sense of poignancy.
Following the short tour, we retreated to a local pub for a few much needed refreshments and the obligatory chinwag about all things Rangers. With a group of people from a range of ages, backgrounds and demeanours, the conversation was intriguing and it was excellent to spend an afternoon with people so eager to promote Rangers. The club and it’s name has been dragged through the gutter somewhat by certain areas of the press and other figures in the Scottish game over the years, but all it takes to dispel the myths these sources spout about Rangers is half an hour or so in the company of some like minded bears, it really does remind you – we don’t do walking away.
If you are interested in learning more about the work done by the Founders Trail, and details of future tours or events, please visit their website at http://www.thegallantpioneers.co.uk. It is teeming with interesting ditties from the club’s past and absolutely worth a gander. The sense of pride in Rangers really does emanate from the site and those behind it and is but another example of an occasion when the Rangers Family has pulled together, as we have done so often.