It was the winter of 1880 and the football players of Everton were trouping off their pitch on Stanley Park having just been soundly beaten by the parishioners of St John’s Church in Bootle. Later that year they were approached by a young Scotsman who, having just moved in to the area, asked them if he might be allowed to join them in their “kick about” matches on the park. The Everton players agreed and welcomed him in to the fold. The new arrival then commenced to demonstrate his considerable football skills to the Everton players who quickly offered him the role of both club captain and coach. The newcomer’s name was Jack McGill.
The newspapers of the time state that McGill was an ex-Rangers player while John Keats, the famous Everton historian, tell us he was born in Ayrshire. This however, is not correct. John McGill first saw the light of day, 25 February 1859, up the close of number 559 tenement on the lengthy Gallowgate thoroughfare in Glasgow. There is, between then and his coming to Liverpool, no record of him having ever played football for either the first or second eleven teams of Rangers Football Club.
The 1881 census informs that he is now a skilled Engineer and living, with his sister Hannah and his young Nephew, at 18 York Terrace in Everton. The house is owned by his Brother-in-Law John Montieth who is a sea-going Engineer sailing out Liverpool aboard the SS Palm. He is absent on the night that the census was taken so Hannah McGill is listed as being “Head of the Household”.
Jack McGill made his Everton debut, 9 October 1880, against a side who called themselves the Liverpool Association. The match took place on Newsham Park and he scored in 3-1 victory. He made his Stanley Park debut, 30 October 1880, but could not prevent his side from losing, by 2 goals to 1, against the second string of players who represented Darwen Football Club. This was the season that Everton first entered a knock-out tournament, the Lancashire Cup, but they fell at the first hurdle to a very experienced side that came from the Great Lever area of Bolton. Jack McGill went on to lead his team to victory through-out the rest of the season and scored 13 goals in the process.
Everton, under the leadership of Jack McGill, made a slight improvement in the course of the next season that saw them exit the Lancashire knock-out, in December, at Turton. Nevertheless, his talent had not gone amiss on the Lancashire FA committee who selected Jack to represent the Red County in match against a team of players from the North Wales FA. On the 14 January 1882 he scored all his teams’ goals as they defeated a full strength Bootle eleven on their ground on Marsh Lane by 4 goals 1. Everton then went on to suffer just one defeat, away at Oswestry, as Jack ended the campaign with 23 goals to his credit.
Next season, 1882-83, saw the formation of the Liverpool & District FA who declared that they too would organise a knock out competition for their membership. Everton, in the meantime, had to concentrate on the Lancashire knockout where the draw had given them an away, against the firm favourites to lift the trophy, Blackburn Rovers. The gulf between the two clubs was to prove enormous.
The match took place at the then home of Blackburn Rovers that was known as the Leamington Round. It was played on a Monday afternoon. The visitors arrived to find the ground was an enclosure and was entered by strong Iron Gate. On each side of the gate were four smaller places of access, for paying customers, which had been fitted with turnstiles. The location had, on each side of the entrance, a brick building. The one on the left served as refreshment room while the building on the right, complete with hot running water, contained two dressing rooms. The playing area was completely fenced off and wooden duck boards lay all round it. The main feature of the location was a well-constructed covered grandstand that could seat over 500 people. The Leamington Ground was a far cry from the open wind swept home of the visitors on Stanley Park.
Jack McGill would, no doubt, be warmly welcomed by the several Scottish players in a home side that were captained by his fellow Glaswegian, Hugh McIntyre. There however, the friendship ended. Urged on by crowd of around 700 spectators, Blackburn Rovers then commenced to give the amateurs from Merseyside a football lesson. They scored four goals each side of half time to win the game by 8 goals to 0. There was a local journalist watching the match and he commented that:
as the game progressed it was seen that, although exceeding sharp players, the visitors were a little impetuous and rather carless with regard to observing their respective positions. For some time getting the ball simply appeared to be the entire object of their endeavours (Blackburn Standard, 7 October 1882.)
Also in the crowd that day was a certain Sam Ormerod. He was a prominent member of the Lancashire FA committee and strongly connected to Accrington Football Club. When the game was over he approached Jack McGill and asked him if he would like to play for Accrington on their enclosed home at Thornyholme Cricket Ground. The Scotsman accepted. (Although in was never mentioned, it is likely that when Jack had a game for Accrington, he would, quite possibly, have found a pound note or two tucked inside his jacket.) Jack McGill then spent three months playing for the East Lancashire club before returning to help Everton in their quest to win the Liverpool Cup. They reached the semi-final but were beaten, by 3 goals to 1, by a Bootle side who had imported, for the occasion, three guest players. On the 14 April 1883 Jack McGill scored the equalising goal for Everton, in a 1-1 draw with Turton, in what turned out to be their final game on Stanley Park before the move over to the enclosure on Priory Road.
The new venue opened with game between the new Liverpool FA and a side who represented their counterparts in Walsall. The home forward side was led by Jack McGill and the game ended in a 1-1 draw. The new venture nearly spelt disaster for Everton because they could not induce the leadings football clubs, such as Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, to visit the location. The public were not prepared to pay and watch such teams as Hartford St Johns and Ormskirk because they were no better than the teams who were still playing on Stanley Park.
The visit of Crewe Alexandra drew in a gate of around 500 to see Jack McGill, who was injured at the time, take over the goal keeping duties for Everton. However, the local knockout was prove a blessings for Everton as both St Peters and Bootle Wanderers, having been granted a home draw, elected to transfer their matches to the Priory Road enclosure. Jack, in the course of the tournament, scored 5 goals which helped his club to reach the final where a game against Earlestown awaited them. The match drew a crowd of 2,500 to the Bootle Cricket Ground to watch Jack McGill lead his side to 1-0 victory.
Only nine matches, in the course of the season, had been played at Priory Road and very little money was taken at the gate. The club soon found themselves with a debt to their Landlord that had to be paid off, by two members of the committee, before the club moved over to Anfield Road.
Everton began there eight year tenure at this location with a home game against Earlestown. The club had no recognised right back so Jack McGill, the only man capable of filling the vacancy, began the season in this position. He was later switched to half back before moving back in to the forward line. Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers at last consented to visit the venue but both fulfilled their fixtures with a side that consisted mostly of second team players. Jack again led his side through to final of the Liverpool Cup where the opposition was, once again, provided by Earlestown. The popularity of the game had now increased on Merseyside as this resulted in over 5,000 people spectators paying for admission to view the proceeding. Everton, when trailing 1-0, thought they had equalised but the goal, much to their annoyance, was disallowed by the referee.
Easter time then saw George Dobson and George Farmer join Everton and they played alongside Jack McGill until the end of the season. Both players returned next season and Dobson was appointed to the role of club captain. Everton began their list of fixtures with home game against a Burnley side who were visiting Anfield for the first time. The club were missing a left winger so Jack McGill was pressed in to this position. Job Wilding then was then signed from Wrexham and the goal scoring duties were entrusted to him. Jack McGill then took up his position were the second eleven from where, eventually he retired from the game. He did however maintain close links with Everton and was often observed at watching the game at both Anfield and Goodison Park.
Jack McGill was living on Haverlock Street when he succumbed to charms of a local 21 year old widowed lassie named Mary Ellen Powdrell. The couple were married, 5 Januray 1887 at the parish church of St Peter before setting up home, in Everton, on 21 Rydal Street. Jack continued working in the Engineering trade while Mary remained at home to look after the three daughters he had fathered. The McGill family later moved to Kempston Road, Wavertree were they lived until Jacks death. John McGill, the first Scot to play for Everton, died, 17 January 1937, and was buried in Toxteth cemetery on Smithdown Road, His wife and three children survived him.