XI Quarterly Issue One Extract

Page 7



ere in glasgow is a city about the size of Detroit, and it drops dead at 9 pm. Why, over in Detroit that’s just late afternoon; you start to enjoy yourself about then!” gil heron, 1951

In September 1756, Alexander Heron was born in Wigtownshire, a small town on a rainy coastal peninsula in the southwestern tip of Scotland. A few decades on and over 4,000 miles away, Heron and his son–Captain Alexander Woodburn Heron–had established one of the largest plantation holdings in Jamaica. A little under two centuries on from that, on August 18, 1951, one Gilbert Heron–the great-great-great grandson of Alexander– made his debut for Glasgow Celtic, returning the family line to Scotland. Heron was the first black player to turn out for Celtic’s first team, and on that day, he scored a goal in a 2-0 win. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Gil Heron had come to Scotland via Canada (where he served in the air force during World War II) and then from the United States, where he would become a renowned soccer player in Detroit and Chicago and a top scorer in the short-lived North American Soccer Football League and other regional competitions in the late 1940s. Heron was spotted by a Celtic scout, and moved on to Glasgow. He stood out. Sporting a zoot suit, trilby hat and yellow shoes, Heron played jazz, loved photography, wrote poetry and was a natural talent at multiple sports. His lightning pace earned him the nicknames the “Black Flash” and the “Black Arrow”; yet despite scoring regularly in the reserves for Celtic, he received few further first team opportunities, going on to play for fellow Scottish club Third Lanark and then Kidderminster Harriers in England, before moving back and settling permanently in the United States. Heron returned to America having chased his dream at a cost. He had left behind in the Midwest his infant son, Gilbert Scott-Heron, from whom he remained estranged until the famous radical musician was 26. Heron Junior was born in Chicago where his parents met at a bowling alley while his father played for the Maroons. ScottHeron had moved to the South with his grandmother Summer 2012

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