Landlady to hundreds of Rangers Academy footballers

Born: March 2, 1951;

Died: January 3, 2019

MORAG McNeill, who has died aged 67, overcame disadvantage in early life to make noteworthy contributions in a number of areas. At her Milngavie guest house, she was landlady for more than 100 Rangers Academy footballer youngsters for whom she provided accommodation as well as a welcoming home from home.

She was also an extremely highly regarded and dedicated children's panel member in West Dunbartonshire for more than 20 years, bringing integrity, life experience and compassion to the task. For seven years she was a justice of the peace in Glasgow who enjoyed an excellent reputation for professionalism and abiding concern to always get it right.

Born Morag Skinner Ballantyne Proctor in Helensburgh, she was brought up by parents Joseph and Elizabeth with elder brothers Kenny and Bobby in Bonhill. Times were hard for the family and household budgeting was a challenge. By the time Morag was 11 her father had died and by age 13 her mother was also dead. Needless to say these were devastating blows and teenage years were difficult.

After Bonhill primary school she went to Vale of Leven Academy following which she worked at the Westclox factory in the Vale of Leven Industrial Estate for about two years doing various jobs. A short lived marriage ensued during which she had a daughter Caroline. The couple divorced but she maintained a close supportive relationship with parents in law, Mr. and Mrs. Main.

She met husband Lachlan McNeill in the mid 1970’s while both worked in Glasgow solicitors, Bird, Semple, Crawford and Herron, she in the cashroom and he completing his legal apprenticeship. They were married in February 1979 in Bishopbriggs where they set up home and thereafter enjoyed almost forty happy and fulfilling years together. A year later daughter Kirsty was born and together with Caroline the family unit was complete, moving in 1986 to Milngavie.

In the mid 1980’s she joined solicitors Bready and Co. in Dumbarton Road where she remained for almost twenty years. Principally a criminal law practice, she began as cashier before becoming office manager and was occasionally engaged in taking witness statements.

Meanwhile in about 2000 husband Lachlan’s career was undergoing a change of direction as he began training for the inevitable uncertainty of a career at the Scottish Bar as advocate. For some time Morag had been contemplating starting a bed and breakfast business and given family circumstances combined with the increasing popularity of the nearby West Highland Way, the time was apt to do so and ‘The Best Foot Forward’ began. Business went well and in 2003 the opportunity arose to buy a larger house, ‘Westfield’, which was also the family home. This offered six letting rooms which proved very popular with walkers and others working temporarily in the area. When it became known in 2007 that Rangers F.C. were looking for accomodation for Academy players at their nearby training base at Murray Park, Morag met with Sandy Jardine, Head of the Academy who was impressed both by Morag and the facilities available, leading to an agreement being reached which endured till recently. This was a mutually successful operation as given her warm and caring nature she endeared herself to her many charges who derived much affection and support from her as well as the highest standard of care. If necessary she also kept them in line with appropriate ‘direction’ but always constructively. It was a role she thoroughly enjoyed in which led to many lasting relationships being formed with players, including Danny Wilson whose wedding she attended in 2016, Zak Rudden currently with Falkirk who dedicated a goal to her recently and Kane Hemmings now in England. Her contribution was enormously appreciated by Rangers.

Doubtless her own early experience fed into her valuable input into these youngsters’ lives as it certainly did in her becoming a Childrens’ Panel Member in 1997. Although living in East Dunbartonshire, she wanted to serve in West Dunbartonshire having been brought up in Bonhill. Her ethos was that each child mattered and she enjoyed excellent rapport with them and their families. She was passionate in her desire for children to be given the opportunities they deserved and was delighted if over the years their circumstances improved and deeply disappointed if not. One accolade described her as ‘a great example of what a Panel Member should be like.’

Following a restructuring of the justice system, she was one of the first batch of ‘new’ Justices of the Peace to be trained and appointed in Glasgow in 2010. Till 2017 she sat regularly, earning much respect and admiration for the capable, conscientious discharge of her duties, one tribute highlighting ‘the empathy, wisdom and humour’ she utilised.

A long standing member of the SNP, her main interest outwith family was the theatre.

The large turnout at her funeral reflected the affection and high regard in which she was held by people from different walks of life. She is survived by her husband, brother Bobby, daughters and grandchildren Calum and Finlay.