A while back Don emailed to tell me about Michael Marra a Dundee born musician who had done a song about a legendary Dundee United ‘keeper.
He also mentioned in passing about another Marra composition – this one about another legend who played for one of the Glasgow teams and has sadly just passed away today.
“Former Celtic player Gil Heron has died at the age of 87. He passed away in a nursing home in Detroit on Thursday, November 27.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Gil had been playing in the United States and was invited to Scotland and took part in a public trial at Celtic Park on August 4, 1951, scoring twice in the game.
It was enough to impress the club who signed him and he made his debut on August 18, 1951 in a League Cup tie against Morton at Celtic Park. He scored once in a 2-0 victory.
He stayed a year at Celtic, making five appearances and scoring two goals before joining Third Lanark.
He eventually returned to the United States, settling in Detroit. “
Heron was known as the Black Arrow and was the first black player to play for the club.
You may be familiar with that name, rings a bell doesn’t it. He is the father of Gil Scott Heron who is a famous poet and musician.
Until we can find that Michael Marra song about him* (and the one about Hamish) – here’s a couple done by his son:
*post updated: see below
The first track much sampled by hip hop and rap artists
The second track much covered by everybody
Above image via Jamd.com
Gil Heron – 1922 – 2008
An article via the TimesOnline in which Gerry Hassan visited Gil Scott-Heron and they talked about…
…”My dad always looks for the Celtic results,” he said, before acknowledging the unique quality in the Scots that puts such a pride in “music and football”. He feels a powerful bond with Scotland to this day…
…The Jamaican-born Heron senior was playing for Detroit Corinthians when he was noticed by Celtic scouts during a North American tour in 1951. The centre forward was said to “exude all-round athleticism” excelling in boxing and sprinting as well as football.
During his year at Celtic, he was best known for what one contemporary described as “camera-shutter speed”. Off the park, he played cricket for Poloc and Ferguslie and stayed in a hotel in the centre of Glasgow. Sean Fallon, a team-mate, remembers him as a man about town who loved his music — spent a lot of time after training in the music section at Lewis’s department store, listening to the latest American imports.
Heron senior never got used to the physically intimidating style of play in Scotland and was released at the end of the season. “I wouldn’t get the same thrill from another club,” he said, though he went on to Third Lanark and the English club Kidderminster Harriers before returning to Detroit where he published two books of poetry…
… I spend an hour and a half talking to his son, who was once misunderstood to be a Rangers fan because he posed for a photoshoot wearing both Celtic and Rangers scarves. He says he has always supported Celtic.
Michael Marra – 1952 – 2012
am still was in search of that song but Gerry Hassan, the author of the interview I quoted above, gave me some great news on this sad day:
— Gerry Hassan (@GerryHassan) October 24, 2012
2012 Update:Listen to Flight Of The Heron by Michael Marra & The Hazey Janes.
Stream only. Buy the CD from one of the Amazon links above.
[May 23rd 2014 update]: Thanks to Paul McQuade from The Shamrock for mailing to tell us about the article on his website which has a more in depth look at the life of Gil Heron (and his Dad). Well worth a read.
Paul also informed me that the Flight Of The Heron song by Michael Marra & The Hazey Janes in now on YouTube: