Donald and John Gow

Blair Atholl in north-west, Highland Perth-shire has three parts - Old Blair just by the castle and the kirk, Blair Atholl itself, half a mile away and as the Gaelic says, at the ford in the river, the Tilt, and Bridge of Tilt, on the far bank across the old bridge a quarter of mile upstream from today's crossing. And it was in Bridge of Tilt that Donald and John Gow were both born a year apart, in 1868 and 1869 respectively.

They were the sons of farming stock, the father from Blair itself, the mother from just up the strath at Calvine. Indeed their father had been a farmer himself but one who by 1871 had left the land, perhaps with little alternative, moving the family to Larbert in Stirlingshire to become a publican. But perhaps he did so already with the TB that in 1875 was there to deprive him of life, with his wife not taking the children rurally once more but to Glasgow's Plantation.

And it was there, their mother still a Wine Merchant, that both the Gow boys learned their football, Donald with local team, Cessnock, John, the younger initially with Fairfield in Govan. And it was from the two clubs that both boys would join Rangers, John first aged sixteen in 1885 as an athlete, which he then translated to left-winger, and Donald at seventeen in 1886 as a left-back cum sometime centre-forward.

However, John was to play in the Rangers first-team for just three seasons, stepping back after a single Scotland cap but also injury in 1888, returning to sprinting but remaining active in the club administration. He became Honorary Secretary and, from 1896 to 1898, club President. And meantime he had also gone from being a Cashier cum Messenger Boy to an Insurance Agent, whilst Donald was able to continue both to turn out for The Gers , gaining a Scotland cap in 1888 once more, captaining too albeit in that year's first defeat by England for a decade and work with their mother in the drink's trade. In fact Donald would remain at Ibrox in its first iteration until 1891, in the team that took the shared, first League that season, before finally tempted South to turn professional with Sunderland and promptly winning the English League too. 

In fact Donald Gow, whilst he was to return to Rangers for the 1892-3 season, would then be drawn back to Wearside for four more seasons, so five in all, by which time he was almost thirty. He then spent a further, season at the short-lived New Brighton Tower, dropped into the Southern League outwith the wage-cap for one more at Millwall and then returned home for two campaigns from 1899. But it was not to Glasgow or at senior level but Girvan, where he joined his mother once more, in running what today is the Athletic Tavern. 

Donald had and would never marry. John did, in 1898 to Isabella MacGown on Cumbrae, she from Millport, he now an Insurance Secretary and they would settle in Glasgow, having their only child there the following year. And he would remain in the same industry for the rest of his steady life, gradually moving upward financially and westward geographically. In 1911 he and his family were living in Cardross, in 1921 in Helensburgh and they would eventually retire back to Millport. 

Meantime, however Donald's life would take a quite different course. In 1905 their mother died. He then would spend time in the then Gartnaval Royal Hospital before taking himself off to Tiree. In 1911 he is recorded lodging on the Hebridean island, a Wine and Spirit Merchant now retired, before disappearing and only reappearing in 1939 back in England but for no known reason in Middlesbrough, aged seventy-one, retired once more but this time from labouring. And it would be on Tees-side that in 1945 he would pass away in hospital, an asylum, at seventy-six.

Yet, despite what had been clearly a harder life Donald Gow had outlived his brother by a decade and a half. In 1931 the latter and his wife set sail for Shang'hai, whether for business or pleasure is unclear, since he had by then ceased officially to work. Yet, he did not return, dying and being buried in the Chinese city at the age of sixty-two, with a memorial added to the headstone on his mother's grave back home in Old Blair Kirk. And there his memory would be joined by his wife, whose death would be back in Scotland but only months after his own.

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