In the last month I’ve been privileged to attend the unveiling of the memorial stone to Moses McNeil and go on the Gallant Pioneers tour to Rosneath. The events were the culmination of over a decade of work by various people who were investigating the origins of the club.
In the graveyard of St Modan’s in Rosneath there now stands a simple stone which marks, without flummery or excess, the grave of Moses McNeill - one of the Founders and the one said to have given the club it’s name. The local minister, Christine Murdoch spoke, prayed, recited Psalm 95 and read from the gospel of Matthew. The club chaplain, the Reverend Stuart McQuarrie also said a few words, led us in prayer and dedicated the stone.
Growing up I was vaguely aware of the foundation of the club - it was said by “students” who used to be rowers, members of a club on Glasgow Green. John Allan’s book, inaccurate in many ways, had the basis of the story - the connection with Fleshers Haugh, the connection with the Gare Loch area, etc.
Over the years many fans have contributed to the search for the Founders - the internet in particular providing a meeting space for the exchange of information. There would be many false leads. For instance the young age of the Founders and their description as “students” - Bob McElroy of the Rangers Historian magazine spent uneventfully months looking through the matriculation records of Glasgow University and it’s associated colleges but found no trace. Then it was thought - as Rosneath for roughly 50 years had been the site of a Merchant Marine training ship - they might have been at the Nautical College in Glasgow, again, a deadend.
Yet, for all the setbacks, we started to get a clearer picture of the life and times of the Founders. At this point I’ll start mentioning some names - some may be missed out but don’t feel aggrieved as they are in no particular order of importance. Number Eight, Strathclyde Bear, The Gub and Colin Glasss (the ex-RST Chairman) all worked hard - I’ve got a copy of an email from Number Eight in June 2003 where he mentioned that he’s discovered that Moses was buried in Rosneath but couldn’t get the lair number. However, the fee was 25 shillings and the depth of the lair was five feet rather than the usual six - so that probably meant he was in a plot which contained a family member. It was assumed he was in the oldest part of the “old part” of the cemetery - that was to be proved wrong.
The previous year - 19th June 2002 to be exact - I’d had a letter from the then minister of St Modans, the Reverend Malcolm Wright in which he listed three possible burial sites:- 1/ Stone 302 (Mary McNeill) , 2/ Stone 053e (Jean mcNeil) and 3/ Stone 113e Elizabeth McNeil. Others would later confirm Moses was buried in 113e.
The Founders Committee was formed and Ian and Gordon have done absolutely tremendous work popularising the story of the Founders and bringing it to a whole new generation of fans. Along the way we discovered that the journalist Gary Ralston and club historian David Mason were also on the scent - in fact, they were so far ahead of the rest of us it would have been easy to give up!
Thankfully the spirit of co-operation prevailed and all the available info was funnelled to Gary and his book The Gallant Pioneers is an absolute masterpiece - the seamless weaving of hard facts with the romance of four young lads founding the world’s most successful football club. It reads like a John Buchan novel - romance, endeavour, success, failures, sadness and triumph over all the odds.
For years both Moses and the real story of the founding of the club lay undiscovered and their stories untold. But on a summer’s day under the shade of trees in a country graveyard we found Moses, marked his achievements and brought him back into the arms of the Rangers Family.
You can read more about Moses and his friends on the Gallant Pioneers website - http://www.thegallantpioneers.co.uk - where you will also find details of tours which tell the story of the club.