120 Years Ago Today. Founder Peter McNeil.
120 Years Ago Today. Founder Peter McNeil.
On the 30th March 1901 our Founder Peter McNeil passed at Hawkhead Asylum in Glasgow which today is Leverndale Hospital.He rests in Craigton Cemetery with his brothers William and James and parents John and Jean.
On the 9th September 2009 Heather Lang unveiled our plaque at Fleshers Haugh to mark the location of the first match played by Rangers Football Club against Callander in May 1872. There was no-one more appropriate to carry out the ceremony than Heather, granddaughter of Gallant Pioneer,Peter McNeil. Heather and her sister Doreen Holland were the strongest link we had with Peter and his fellow Pioneers, his brother Moses, Peter Campbell and William McBeath.
Sadly Heather passed at her sister’s home in London in 2016.
Heather and Doreen though were unaware of their link with the founding of Rangers.Grandfather Peter had a tragic end to his life.It was probably because of this, that their mother Gertrude, daughter of Peter and his wife Janet, never spoke of her father. He had died in Hawkhead Asylum on 30 March 1901.He had clearly suffered from a form of mental illness, though his death was recorded as “general paralysis’’.
Peter was born in 1854,a year before his brother and fellow Pioneer Moses. In his mid-teens he had moved to Glasgow with other members of his family. In May 1872 Peter played in the Club’s first match against Callander aged only 18.He was one of the Club’s earliest captains and was a regular in the side until 1876.It was off the field of play though Peter McNeil made his greatest contribution during the formative years of the Club.
Rangers team mate William Dunlop wrote an article in the SFA Handbook of 1881, Willie actually used the pen name “True Blue”. It’s a beautifully written article that describes in such loving terms of how Peter McNeil would travel on a Saturday morning across town from the family home at Berkeley Street to Fleshers Haugh, put poles in the ground which would act as goalposts and then literally stand guard until the hour came in the afternoon when he would be joined by his friends. We felt this was a very dramatic and moving image and commissioned a painting to be done depicting this scene. We presented the painting by artist Helen Runciman to the Club in 2009 and the painting now hangs on the marble staircase within Ibrox Stadium.
When his playing days were over Peter became honorary secretary. He held this position from 1876 – 1883.He was also vice-president from 1886 – 1888.Peter McNeil was a greatly respected administrator, serving as treasurer of the Scottish Football Association from 1879 – 1883.He was known as “Genial Peter”, a much-loved and respected figure within Scottish Football.
Peter had a business which he ran with his brother, Harry, “H and P McNeil’s”. It was one of the forerunners of the modern sports outfitters. The business had started in the mid 1870’s.The original premises had been in Renfield Street but in 1883, the brothers moved to Union Street. They were suppliers of outfits to both Rangers and Scotland.
In March, 1885, Peter married Janet. Rangers Football Club presented the happy couple with “a beautiful inlaid marble clock and a pair of equestrian bronzes”. Within five years, the family was complete with the birth of John Fraser and Gertrude Grace. Despite the happy home life, it was clear the pressure of business was taking its toll of Peter. The business of H & P McNeil disappeared from the PO Directory by 1896,bankruptcy had come to Peter and Harry.
The deterioration of Peter's mental health caused great anguish to his family In January, 1901,he was committed to Hawkhead Asylum where he was to pass.
Peter McNeil lay at rest for many years with his parents, John and Jean, and older brother William in what was an unmarked grave at Craigton Cemetery Glasgow. Either side of him are his brothers Alexander and James.On the 22nd June 2013 we placed memorial stones to our Founder Peter McNeil and his family on their final resting places at Craigton Cemetery.
Founder Peter’s resting place fittingly looks on to the front door of Ibrox Stadium.
Our Founder Peter McNeil died at a young age ,he was only 47, but he lived long enough to see the Club that he helped form and nurture grow from what was essentially a boys club on Fleshers Haugh into Ibrox Stadium and on its way to becoming a worldwide sporting institution.
As we celebrate our 55th Title we today remember Founder Peter McNeil.