William McBeath

When three out-of-town, young men, two from Rhu and one from Callander, met across the landing of a west-Glasgow close no-one could have imagined the result. But then the pair was the brothers McNeil, Peter and Moses, the third present, William McBeath, and the product, with additional input from Gairloch's Peter Campbell, would be Glasgow Rangers F.C. formed by the four of them in March 1872. Nor is it likely to have been complete coincidence that the new club's first game would be against a team that carried carried the name of McBeath's home-town, not least because he had just made its re-acquaintance, and in the saddest of circumstances.  

William McBeath had been born Perthshire-born in 1847, the son of a draper with premises on Callander's Main St., that are now the Waverley Hotel. But his father would be widowed with five children, had remarried late and then died at just fifty-five, leaving William, the third of a second family and the youngest to survive, just eight on his passing and his mother no longer able to enjoy the previous prosperity.

These events would cause the movement of what remained of the family to Glasgow but not resolve the problems. Even as Rangers would be formed William McBeath at fifteen was burying his mother back in Perthshire, then found himself the following year alone as his sister married and then lost her husband from consumption within six months. Thus, as he eked out a living as Sales Assistant, training for and  playing the new fad of football at the weekend must have seemed blessed relief.

However, having been club President for the 1874-75 season by 1876 McBeath had possibly fallen out of love with football or Rangers had fallen out of love with him despite in the 1875-6 Scottish Cup reaching the Second Round only to be in what was probably his last game only narrowly defeated by 3rd Lanark, eventual, losing finalists. Alternatively, perhaps by then it was simply that he was already courting. Whatever the reason, at twenty he ceased to turn out for the team he had help to create, although he remained in contact, and still in Glasgow in 1878 at twenty-one married Jessie Harris, she a locally-born daughter of a Hosier, he now a Drapers Salesman.

The first of the couple's three children would be be born in Glasgow in early 1880 before, his sister having herself died in 1979 in Dunblane, the new family left Scotland for Bristol, where he found work as a Commercial Traveller. And there they would seem to settle prosperously for more than a decade and two more children were born. That is until 1897 when William was accused of fraud, was tried and acquitted but a ball was set in motion that proved impossible to stop. By 1901 the marriage had failed, his daughter was working in Devon, his sons had both returned to Scotland, one living with Harris relatives, his wife was living in Essex and he was in Lincoln, working as an Insurance Agent and having in 1898 remarried in Bradford to a Sarah Jane Lambert without seemingly divorced. 

And the situation was only to deteriorate. A decade later McBeath was now recorded as living in a Lincoln workhouse. In fact he was to die there in 1917 at the age of just sixty-one, recorded as imbecilic to be buried in a pauper's, un-marked grave, by when Jessie had already passed away back in Bristol two years earlier. Sarah was to die in 1940 back in Bradford and also seemingly in difficult circumstances.

And so it might have remained but for the efforts Rangers' fans to locate William's final resting place at the Canwick Old Cemetery, where a fine memorial is now to be found. 

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