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From The Herald:

 

The birth of the blues is a story of remarkable poignancy. Rangers are a solid, substantial club with its roots firmly planted in the soil of world football. Yet the beginnings of the club were truly humble and have been treated with an indifference, even an ignorance.

 

Consider this for a test. Who founded Celtic? Most Scottish football fans would instantly reply: "Brother Walfrid". But who were the originators of Rangers? Some may mumble hesitantly: "Moses McNeil". Others would not hazard a guess.

 

But the question receives its most authoritative answer in Gary Ralston's Rangers 1872: The Gallant Pioneers. This is the dramatic story of the formation of an institution and of the cruel fate that beset the four young boys who set the ball rolling for what soon became the leading club in Scottish football.

 

"It is a sad, heartbreaking story. It adds an extra dimension to the formation of Rangers, just what these young guys went through.

 

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The sadness for me is that they created a club that went on to be known throughout the world yet they themselves led such tragic lives. There is something touching, even romantic, about that," says Ralston.

 

The simple conception of Rangers can be traced to Kelvingrove Park. There were four fathers: Peter McNeil and Moses McNeil, 17 and 16 years of age respectively, and Peter Campbell and William McBeath, both 15. They discussed the possibility of forming a team during their constitutional walk. The club that has won 52 Scottish championships was therefore basically started as a street team by a group of boys who had been smitten by the latest sporting enthusiasm of association football. They were joined in their endeavours by Tom Vallance, later to become a legendary Rangers captain, but who was then barely 16 years old.

 

Their triumph was to be the foundation stones of a Scottish institution. Their tragedy was to die in relative obscurity and have their deeds unremembered by the mass of supporters.

 

Ralston, gloriously, resurrects them. But the sadness remains. The passing of Moses in 1938 did not rate a mention in the press of that week. He was buried at Rosneath which only recently has become a place of pilgrimage for Rangers fans.

 

His brother, Peter, died in his early 40s. He was certified insane and had been sectioned at Hawkhead Asylum in Paisley. The business brain behind Rangers, Peter had been beset by financial problems and the pressure took a toll on his mental and physical health.

 

Peter Campbell had a more sudden demise. At 25, the marine engineer was lost at sea after the steamer he was working on came to grief in the Bay of Biscay.

 

William McBeath, chronically ill and mentally infirm, was certified as "an imbecile". His last days were spent in the Lincoln workhouse, his passing went unremarked in the press when he died in 1917. He was given a pauper's burial and lies in an untended grave.

 

Tom Vallance, however, did have his days in the sun. As a footballer, Vallance was of the highest rank, almost certainly one of the most accomplished players in the 1870s. He never played on the losing side against England and was a commanding captain for Rangers. Yet, in common with his band of brothers who were part of the formation of Rangers, he was struck by misfortune. Vallance embarked on a career in the tea plantations of Assam. But he returned to Scotland suffering from black water fever.

 

Why did Ralston include him in the pantheon of Rangers founders even though Vallance was not at the meeting in Kelvingrove Park then known as West End Park?

 

"Because he was an absolute colossus," said Ralston. "The two people who were absolutely pivotal to Rangers' development were Peter McNeil for his work behind scenes and Vallance. At 6ft 2in, he was a veritable club giant on and off the field."

 

The club these vulnerable human beings created went from strength to strength.

 

Ralston is keen to dispel any misconceptions about the birth of Rangers. "There was no political or religious element in the formation of Rangers," he said. "I am fascinated about just how the sectarian divide came into Scottish football but that happened in the 20th century, probably from about 1910-20."

 

He added: "The birth of Rangers was basically a result of young guys deciding to have a team to play in what was the new craze of football. There was no other agenda, no wealthy benefactors."

 

Ralston, a journalist, spent three years uncovering the story from the debris of passing decades. It was a labour of love.

 

"I wanted to do it because I had read brief accounts of the formation of the club and I wondered just what had happened to those guys. This is a story that has never fully been told before. I was helped by the fact that the internet has meant that it is easier to do the kind of research that it is necessary in pulling the strands of the story together. Basically, it was a fascinating piece of Scottish football history that has been under-researched."

 

He emerged from his studies with a mass of evidence that he has distilled into a story that is fascinating for any observer of Scottish football.

 

"The most important game Rangers have played in their history was the 1877 Scottish Cup final," he claimed. "Rangers took the mighty Vale of Leven to three games. That final was crucial because SFA annals testify to the Glaswegian labour classes rushing from the factory gates to salute their new heroes. These games won them an audience."

 

That audience has endured 137 years on. Rangers sit unmoveable on the South Side. The stadium has been modernised to cope with the changing imperatives of football. More than 50,000 people file into their seats of a Saturday. Hundreds of thousands more follow the Light Blues through internet and television.

 

There are no shortage of stories on Rangers. But the tale of the birth of the club had been allowed to lie in the darkness of the past. Ralston has brought it into the light.

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Consider this for a test. Who founded Celtic? Most Scottish football fans would instantly reply: "Brother Walfrid". But who were the originators of Rangers? Some may mumble hesitantly: "Moses McNeil". Others would not hazard a guess.

 

What is it with the constant bumming up of the ****s.

 

I guarantee for a fact that my pals who are fans of Scottish football wouldn't have a fucking clue about "Brother Walfrid". Putting him up there with Elvise Pressley, Neil Armstrong and the Dalai Lama?

 

Old Firm fans are more likely to have a good idea about both answers. The rest couldn't give a monkeys.

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