William Wilton (1865 – 1920) Largs-born amateur footballer who went on to become the first manager of Rangers F.C.

William was born in Nelson Street, Largs on the 9th June 1865. His parents were James Wilton, a stonemason from Arran and Janet Smith, a weaver from Paisley.  

William grew up in the town and in the Kingston area of Glasgow. He joined Rangers as a player in the junior team when he was 18 years old but was more involved in the administrative side of things. 

One of his first roles was secretary for the club’s youth team and reserve side and he was also part of a special committee involved with moving the club from Kinning Park to the first Ibrox ground in 1887. 

In 1893, when he was 27, he married Catherine Houston of Largs in the towns St. Columba Parish Church. They would go on to have 3 daughters, Catherine, Janet and Annie. 

Rangers became a limited company in 1899 and Willie was appointed manager. The team would go on to win 8 league championships, a Scottish Cup, 9 Glasgow Cups and 7 Charity Cups, all under his stewardship. They also achieved the first ever 100% league record. 

On 2nd May 1920 things came to a tragic end for William when he died in a yachting accident in Gourock. He had been on the first day of his holidays with some friends and the yacht – Caltha – had been moored overnight at the bay. William had woken in the early hours to discover the vessel had broke its moorings and was adrift and dashing against the pier. He raised the alarm to his companions who managed to escape by jumping onto the pier when the yacht swung inwards. However, when it came to William’s turn to jump, he lost his footing and fell into the sea. There was an attempt at rescue by the yacht’s owner, James Marr, but it was not to be, and Willie was swept away. He was 54 years old.  

William’s body wasn’t discovered for a while and when it was, his remains were brought from Gourock to Glasgow Central by train, where members of his family and directors of Rangers FC were in attendance. His funeral took place in Cathcart Cemetery on 28th June 1920 and was well attended by family, friends and members and players of the club. 

Further Reading

William Wilton at CathcartCemetery.co.uk