The family trees of two of Rangers’ and Scotland’s footballing heroes with historical links to Helensburgh have been revealed in a series of books by author and genealogist Derek Niven.

The footballers are Derek Parlane, in ‘Pride of the Bears’, and the late Walter Smith, in ‘Pride of the Jocks’.

Mr Niven told the Advertiser: “The idea for this series of books honouring the achievements of famous footballing legends, and the ancestors who made them, came from my passion for footballing history and through my work as a genealogist.

“What became fascinating in the research for the books was just how interesting the stories of the players’ ancestors revealed themselves through tales of migration, poverty and two world wars.”


Walter Smith, pictured with Ardencaple FC chairman Craig Holborn, died in October 2021 aged 73

Walter Smith, pictured with Ardencaple FC chairman Craig Holborn, died in October 2021 aged 73


In ‘Pride of the Bears’, Derek tells how Derek Parlane, a medal-winning substitute when Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona in 1972, was born in May 1953 in Braeholm Maternity Unit in Helensburgh. Derek was the son of Jimmy Parlane, a market gardener in Rhu, and Irish-born Margaret Russell.

Jimmy had played as an inside forward at Ibrox between 1945 and 1950 alongside Rangers legends Willie Waddell and Willie Thornton.

In 1970, Waddell, by then Rangers manager, and his assistant Thornton drove out to Jimmy’s home in Rhu to sign up the young Derek, who went on to spend 10 years at Ibrox.

Rhu is also the birthplace of three of the four founding fathers of Rangers FC - brothers Peter and Moses McNeil and Peter Campbell - while Moses McNeil is buried in St Modan’s Churchyard in Rosneath.

The Parlane family association with Rhu stretches back to 1870.


Pride of the Jocks

Pride of the Jocks


Elsewhere, in ‘Pride of the Jocks’, Derek tells how the late Walter Smith, son of John Smith, a crane driver, and Elizabeth Rogerson, and who gained most of his success as manager of Rangers, was signed by Jim McLean for Dundee United in 1967.

In September 1975, Smith was brought to Dumbarton FC by the Boghead club’s manager, Alex Wright, and former Rangers player Davie Wilson.

Wilson had worked alongside Smith’s father at the local steelworks near the village of Westburn, Cambuslang, and latterly had been a teammate at Dundee United.

To read more about the above fascinating histories ‘Pride of the Bears’ and ‘Pride of the Jocks’ are available in Waterstones Glasgow stores and on in paperback for £9.99 and also on eBook from £0.99.

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