The Gallant Pioneers 1872. Book Update Confirmed!

We’re delighted to announce that author Gary Ralston has an agreement in place with a publisher to update the wonderful Gallant Pioneers Book.

This will be the culmination of our own, and others, on-going research into the lives of our Founders and the Rangers fascinating early years.

We’re aiming to have the updated version of The Gallant Pioneers book published for May 2012 which will be the 140th anniversary of the Rangers first ever match at Fleshers Haugh against Callander

HM Naval Base Faslane and Our Founders

Belmore House


HM Naval Base at Faslane has within its grounds the wonderful Belmore House.

Belmore House, as explained in this article, has had a strong link to our Founders since the 1850’s. Furthermore when owner John McDonald gifted a young William McNeil Rangers first ever ball.During the August Founders Trail we were approached by a passenger Al MacLeod who informed us that he was a Naval Photographer at Faslane and would be delighted to organise a visit to the base and Belmore House for myself, Gordon and Neil.Due to the location of the house this was something none of us ever imagined would be possible.

So off we set from Ibrox Stadium on Wednesday September 7th, like a group of school-kids heading off on an adventure.We were met at Faslane by Gavin Carr from the Royal Navy Press Office and taken through security and on to the Naval Base.

I’ll be honest, I thought we’d be viewed as nothing more than geeky enthusiasts who would be allowed to take a few pics and then ushered back off the base quick style.

I couldn’t be more wrong.

We were taken to Belmore House which is the headquarters of the Faslane Flotilla, where we met Warrant Officer Craig Campbell who next month will receive his MBE from The Queen and is a BIG Rangers fan, leading seaman McFadden who isn’t! ………..and Ollie.

We couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome, their interest in our research and hospitality was overwhelming.

”Tea and biscuits for our Rangers friends Chucky” shouted Craig.

After giving them the background to the link with Belmore House, the McNeil family and the story behind The Founders Trail, we were presented with a plaque from The First Mine Countermeasures Squadron as a token of their friendship.

We in exchange gave them copies of the Gallant Pioneers Book and vouchers to distribute on the base for the Founders Trail and Ibrox Stadium Tour.

We can’t thank you enough lads for allowing us to visit Belmore House your welcome was exemplary and we will be taking up your kind offer of a return visit in the near future.

Another big piece of the Rangers Story falls into place.

What follows is the story of Belmore House and an article by Base Press Officer Gavin Carr on our never to be forgotten visit to Faslane.



The splendour of Belmore House began life as a more modest two-storey home to a local fishing family, the McFarlanes, when built in about 1830.  It was two later owners who gave Belmore the quality that today has given it listed building status.

John Honeyman was a Glasgow corn merchant who purchased Belmore House for his holiday retreat.  Money was no object to Honeyman.  He spent both on the building and its extensive gardens.  The man he employed as head gardener was John McNeil, a Perthshire man now living with his wife and young family in Rhu.  During his tenure at Belmore House, the four footballing McNeils were born.  Harry, born in 1848, would have the most successful playing career, winning the Scottish Cup with Queen’s Park and wearing the dark blue of Scotland.  William was born in 1852; he would play for Rangers for about ten years.  Peter was the next in line, in 1854 followed a year later by Moses.  Moses represented his country on two occasions.  Peter and Moses would be two of Rangers’ “Gallant Pioneers”, founders of the Club with their friends Peter Campbell and William McBeath.

John Honeyman was successful in the business world but his son, John Jnr, would achieve greater fame.  He became one of Scotland’s finest architects.  He set up in partnership with another young architect, John Keppie.  They would soon be joined a young man who would achieve worldwide fame, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

John Honeyman, Jnr.

One of John Honeyman’s first commissions was Lansdowne United Presbyterian Church in Great Western Road.  In 1875, Rangers played at the Burnbank ground.  The steeple of Lansdowne was very much the backdrop to the ground.

Today, Honeyman’s work is still a distinctive Glasgow landmark. This photograph was taken from more or less the same position as that of the Burnbank ground.

The splendour of Belmore House began life as a more modest two-storey home to a local fishing family, the McFarlanes, when built in about 1830.  It was two later owners who gave Belmore the quality that today has given it listed building status.


In 1856, Belmore House was bought by John McDonald,   The store the McDonalds owned in partnership with the Stewart family, Stewart and McDonald, is still one of Glasgow’s great shopping meccas, now as “House of Fraser”.  The first Hugh Fraser was a lace buyer for Stewart and McDonald.  Founded in 1826, it was a hugely successive business.  By 1866, the company’s turnover was £1 million.  To give some idea of the McDonald’s family wealth, when the second generation Stewart, Alexander Bannatyne Stewart, died in 1880, he left what in today’s terms equates to £340 millions!  It is likely the other half of the business would be of similar wealth.

The young Rangers owed a debt of gratitude to one of John McDonald’s sons, probably John, Jnr.  He gifted to William McNeil, a football.  Not only did that ball see the birth of the Rangers, it saw probably the first recorded use of what has become a famous west of Scotland saying.  When the great day came, the playing of Rangers’ first match against Callendar at Fleshers Haugh, Willie McNeil was told he was too old so would not be playing.  Willie then uttered the immortal line, “Well it’s my ball and if I’m not playing, my ball’s not playing.”

Willie, of course, did play, along with his three brothers, Moses, Peter and Harry.  The great institution that is Rangers Football Club began life on the banks of the Clyde at Fleshers Haugh, Glasgow Green.  Life, though, for those who created the Rangers, began on another part of that great river, at Belmore House.



Staff at HM Naval Base Clyde learned a little bit about the military site’s place in Scottish sporting history recently. 

On Wednesday, September 7, three members of The Founders Trail – an organisation which researches the history of Rangers Football Club – dropped into the Naval Base for a visit. 

The trio were there to photograph one of the most distinctive buildings on the site –  Belmore House, which now acts as headquarters of the Faslane Flotilla who operate HM Naval Base Clyde’s ships and submarines. 

Back in the 1800s however, Belmore House was owned by the wealth Honeyman family, who employed a master gardener by the name of John McNeil and his growing family.  Among that family was the youngest son, Moses McNeil, who was born in Belmore House in 1855 and went on to be one of the founders of Glasgow Rangers.  

“Four of the founders of Rangers had strong ties with the Garelochhead area,” explained Iain McColl of The Founders Trail.  “Moses McNeil and his brother, Peter, were both here at Belmore House with their family during their early years and Peter Campbell was from Garelochhead too.   

“Another founder, Tom Vallance, was born in Succoth, near Renton, but his family moved to Rhu when he was very young.  Tom Vallance was one of the finest footballers in Scotland at the time and played in the Scottish Cup Final against the Vale of Leven in 1877.” 

Yet another connection with the Naval Base comes from the fact that Tom’s brother, Alex Vallance, who also played for Rangers, used to give swimming lessons at the Shandon Hydropathic Institution which once stood at the south end of base. 

A newspaper report from 1884 reads:  “At the Shandon Hydropathic Institution on 17 February…Alexander Vallance, of the Rangers FC, gave examples of the various styles of swimming, diving, plunging [his] really spirited and graceful illustrations evoking much applause…” 

There to greet the visitors and give them a quick tour of the modern Belmore House was Warrant Officer Craig Campbell MBE of Faslane’s First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1). 

Warrant Officer Craig Campbell MBE

“As a life-long fan of Rangers I was delighted to show the group around,” he said.  “I’ve worked in Belmore House for a number of years now but had no idea of the historic links to the football club.   

“It was fascinating to speak with the guys and learn about the connections.  I don’t think I’ll look at my workplace the same way again.” 

He joked: “Parkhead season ticket holder Leading Seaman McFadden of MCM1 staff highlighted how impressed and intriguing the story was, and has commenced reading the book ‘The Gallant Pioneers’!” 

The Founders Trail run a website tracing the history of the club and also provides a popular guided tour of the areas in Glasgow associated with the early years which includes an Ibrox Stadium Tour. 

For more information on The Founders Trail visit:
From Gavin Carr, Royal Navy Press Office, HM Naval Base Clyde.