Dan Friel

Daniel Friel was another, fine Vale of Leven footballer, who, like Malcom McVean, might have played for Scotland but for moving South at a time when that removed any such possibility. But he did it the best part of a decade before the future Liverpool player. Friel was born in Bonhill in 1859. His father was Barney, Bernard, a Sawyer. His mother was Bridget McCourt and, whilst they were said to have married in Stirling, as their names suggest they were both Irish-born. It meant that Dan Friel was one of, if not Scotland' first prominent, Catholic player. 

But shortly after  Dan's birth as the youngest of three full- and four step-siblings something seems to have gone array. His father disappears altogether with no registration of death. Dan himself for much of his childhood and youth would be boarded out, at first with family and already factory-working at age 12 and in 1881 with another Irish family and now a Calico Block Printer. And it was shortly after that Friel began to play at half-back briefly for Vale of Leven before at twenty-four upping and moving South, specifically to North Lancashire. As one of the earliest to take the Scottish game across the border In 1883 he was playing for Accrington, before six seasons at Burnley, the 1890 season at Nelson and a return just back of thirty in 1891 back home to play for Vale of Leven, whilst lodging in Old Kirkpatrick. 

The return might have had something to do with the death again in 1891 of a Bridget Friel in Bonhill, recorded as aged seventy. But curiously she was also recorded as single with no family background and with her passing signed off only by the Assistant Inspector of the Poor. And it, the return, was done with a family. Around 1887 he had married Annie McGuire, presumably in England although she was from Bonhill, and they had already produced two children, a girl and a boy, both born south of the border.

In fact the Friels seemed then not to have returned to live in the Vale of Leven, at least not for long. Instead they moved to Glasgow, to Bridgetown, seemed to have lost their daughter but have had four more boys in the meantime. And by then he would be working specifically as a football trainer; presumably with the club just along the road, i.e. Celtic. That is until 1911. With another son and two more daughters added, including a second Grace, on the census early that year he would be recorded as an unemployed Calico Block Printer, his old profession but just months later in July be dead. His passing would be in Glasgow Royal Infirmary aged just 51. He would be survived by Mary. She would died in 1939 back in Old Kilpatrick aged seventy-eight. 

And just as a foot-note on his death, on the certificate, signed off by his son Daniel, Dan Friel Snr would be registered once more as a "Football Trainer", essentially what he had in fact been not just since hanging up his playing boots two decades earlier but, without obvious honours, as one of the itinerant, pioneering, early "Scotch Professors" in the embryonic, English working-class game, for most of ten years before that too.     

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