When Renton won the Scottish Cup in 1888 John "Jack" McNee was the outer of the left-wing pairing with Jamie McCall. He was there too when against West Bromwich and three and half months later his team took the "World Championship". But he had not been there when his first club had in 1885 and 1886 also reached the ultimate round of our premier competition. As with Neilly McCallum he was one of the later-comers, the pair replacing Thomson and Alick Barbour.
It suggests that McNee was a youngster just coming into the team but, reportedly born in 1866, he would have been far from being the youngest of the eleven. Harry and Johnny Campbell and McCallum were all born later. However, he was like them to be tempted South, initially to Bolton, then beyond. Indeed, he was one of the first to go.
But, unlike others in the 1888 Renton team, whose history is clear, Jack's is not. In fact it his playing career in England that might enable it to be finally and only somewhat pieced together. It is known that towards its end, from 1897 to 1900, he turned out for West Herts, which become Watford in 1898, in the Southern League. He then had an abortive trial with Southampton and was in 1901 signed by Fulham, just a train journey from the London suburb, where in 1901 he remained living, aged thirty-three, recorded as a Painter's Labourer with his Wigan-born wife, Margaret. Then, moving a little back in time, in Halliwell by Bolton in 1892 a John McNee had married Margaret Openshaw, he recorded as "Dyer" with their ages more or less matching those from Watford. And, of course, Jack McNee was playing for the town's Wanderers for the four seasons from 1889 to 1893.
However, there is a problem. On the McNee marriage certificate his father is said to be John also and, with Jack said to have been born in Renton itself, there is such no record. What there is is a John McNee born on reportedly the right day, 30th March, his mother given as Mary nee McKechnie and his father, a blacksmith, as Alexander. Both parents were Perthshire folk, from Port of Monteith. So the assumption would seems to have to be that the English record is wrong in part and that the family living at Succoth, like the Vallances just a few years earlier, is our Jack's. And on that basis the McNee's continued to live at Succoth for the next decade, Jack in 1881 working as a Milk Boy before with his footballing prowess heading South. Except again there is a problem. John McNee, son of Alexander and Mary, is in 1891 staying with his mother still in Renton and in 1901 is still in the village, having married in 1893, working as a Quarryman and with three children. He is not our man.
So at this point the net is cast wider with perhaps Bingo but twice over. A John McNee was born in Renton with a father also called John. But it was in late 1862. His father was a Calico Printer, as this John Jnr would become by the age of nineteen. But by 1891, with the family still in the village, the latter was gone, possibly South. And the alternative is another John, son of John but born in Bonhill and not until 1870 with he and the family then moving to Renfrewshire by 1881 and Lanarkshire by 1891 with possible emigration to the The States following and thus ruling him out.
Therefore it seems that far from being one of the younger ones in the Renton eleven Jack McNee was in fact one of the older ones. So much so that for footballing reasons he had perhaps to lie about his real age and it stuck. When in 1892 on marriage he had said he was twenty-five, he was thirty and in 1901 his thirty-three was really thirty-eight. Who knows.
And just as a footnote with no death for Jack seemingly recorded, Margaret Openshaw, was in 1911 back in Bolton, as still as McNee, married, confirmed as Wigan-born and living with her mother and sister. Where Jack was, was unknown till recently but thanks to the work of Bolton Wanderers historian, Jeff Williamson, the gaps are filled. In 1911 Harry McNee was commited to Preswich Asylum near Manchester with metial problelms. Fortunately he recovered, settled with his wife in Farnworth by Bolton, dying there in 1949 and is buried in the town's Heaton Cemetery.
(1862 - Back St. Renton, Dunbartonshire)
(1871 - 55, Back St., Renton, Dunbartonshire)
(1881 - Park Terrace, Renton, Dunbartonshire)
1891 - N/A
1901 - 26, Bamburgh St., Watford, Hertfordshire
1911 - Prestwich Asylum, Manchester
1921 - N/A
1939 - Devon St., Farnworth, Bolton
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