William Wilton remains one of the great figures of Rangers' football club. Indeed he can be said to have transformed it into the power-house of the Scottish game that it is is today. Yet he remains an enigma. As a player it is said William Wilton never went beyond the Gers' second team and this at a very fallow time, post-Founders, for the club on the field. Then there is the ongoing mystery of his death, drowning on a boat trip on the Clyde. And finally there is the fact that the sites of much of his life, certainly the middle part in south-west Glasgow have been obliterated by the swathes that the M8 and M77 motorways now cut through its locations.
However, Wilton was not a Glasgow boy. He was born in Largs, the son of a stonemason, born on Arran, who died in 1873, his Paisley-born wife then moving with the family to Glasgow. At fifteen in 1881 William was an Office Boy at a Sugar Broker living in Kinning Park. In 1891, living with his brother in Tradeston, he was a Mercantile Clerk so Rangers, with its ground at Kinning Park itself was the local club, which he joined at seventeen in 1883. There he soon became secretary i.e. off-field organiser, to the reserve and youth teams, no doubt bringing in much-needed young talent, was on the the committee that oversaw the transfer in 1887 from Kinning to the first Ibrox, was appointed First team Match Secretary in 1889, when the club moved to the current Ibrox, and Treasurer in 1891.
It meant that, as in 1890 the club became one of the founders of the Scottish League the club's performance off- and on-the-field had much improved so much so that Rangers in 1891 shared that first League Championship. Moreover, it would continue to win a string of league championships, Scottish Cups and other trophies over the next decade and a half and more, this as in 1899 the club became a Limited Company and he its Company Secretary. In the meantime in 1893 and back in Largs he had married Catherine Houston. They were to have two daughters, living first in Scotstoun north of the river and then back south in Dumbreck.
William Wilton would then guide Rangers through the war years, and see it take the first post-war championship. But shortly after its capture, indeed on the last weekend of the season, Wilton, another Rangers director and the owner of the boat went on a sailing trip on the Clyde with two crew. Whilst they were moored at Gourock a storm blew up. The boat was being battered against the pier. The order to abandon ship was given. Four of those on the craft made it on to the quay. Wilton almost did but fell back into the water and was lost, although his body was later found. It is buried in Cathcart cemetery, with that of his wife, who survived him by fifteen years dying back in Largs in 1935.
1920 - "Brackmont", 6, Kelburn Ave., Dumbreck, Glasgow
1928 - Drowned in the Clyde estuary at Gourock
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