Donald McKechnie

Donald McKechnie seems to be the forgotten man of certainly Renton and therefore early Scottish footballing history. Yet it is hard to understand as he, with Archie McCall and Alick Barbour, was one of the three older heads in an otherwise very young team that changed World football forever. And it is even harder to understand since his life, in and outwith the game, is comparatively easy to trace.   

As a player he was there in the Scottish Cup Final-winning team in 1885 alongside Bob Kelso at half-back, was there again in losing it in 1886 in the same pairing and in 1888 in victory there he was once more on the left of the club's uniquely innovative three. And he was also a man of his valley for the whole of his life, born in Renton, lived in Jamestown and Alexandria and died in Bonhill. That is apart for one short period, which again seems entirely ignored.  

Donald McKechnie was came into this world in February 1861 on Renton Main St., the son of a Millwright, and it was on that same street that he grew up, his mother a shopkeeper. In 1872, when football came to the Vale he was already eleven, his teenage years clearly spent watching it develop. When he first played for Renton is unknown but he was a stalwart of the team that emerged from 1883 from early on. In terms of work he was a Machine Tenter, a Calico Machine Printer from youth until retirement except for a couple of years. After Renton's 1888 Scottish Cup Final win and the club being crowned "World Champions" by defeating the English FA Cup winners, Preston North End and West Bromwich, he was one of the players tempted South, in spite of already being twenty-eight. He went to Sunderland, as did teammate, Johnny Campbell. The Wearsiders have him staying just one season, 1888-89 but it seems unlikely since he is also said to have played thirty-eight times for them and in the 1891 is recorded as boarding in Bishop Wearmouth in the city. 

In fact that year, 1891, Donald features in two censuses, the second being the Scottish one. In it he is living in Jamestown with his wife, Helen. He is working at his given trade and aged thirty. However, that is two years older than his recorded age in Sunderland with footballers' licence obviously in play.

Donald McKechnie and Helen Robinson, an Alexandria lass, had been married on the last day of 1888. But the ceremony had been in Jamestown and it was there on Napierston Terrace that they would live for at least thirty years, raising five children, three boys and two girls. However, in later life they would return to Alexandria, where both would die. Helen would predecease her husband in 1932. His passing would be at the age of eighty-four in 1945.

And there is one last piece of footballing history worth mentioning. In June this year, 2023, a gold Scottish Cup Winners medal was offered up for sale at auction. It was dated 1887-88 and on the back is engraved, "SFA Challenge Cup", the official name of the Scottish Cup, "Won by Renton F.C." and "D.McKechnie". No reason was given for the sale. No selling price was given but historically invaluable might be near the mark.  

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