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Heron, Gil aka Giles (1951-52); Date + Place of Death
Topic Started: Jan 19 2011, 11:46 PM (6,265 Views)
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As Camillo suggested, it's worth seeking out the final resting place of Gil aka Giles Heron.

Gil is legendary as he might well be Celtic FC's first black player (c. 1951), and because he's the father of the incredible funk/soul/jazz/rap pioneer, Gil Scott-Heron.

Further details on Heron sr can be viewed on the Celtic Wiki at http://www.thecelticwiki.com/page/Heron%2C+Giles .

He died in a Detroit nursing home on 27 November 2008.

I've done a rudimentary trawl of the web through Google, and found a few obituaries that don't provide funeral or burial details. I've also checked the subscription database Dow-Jones Factiva, but found nothing relevant.

Any further ideas will be appreciated. Maybe some of our Stateside bhoys and ghirls can help out?


well done greenpoint!! me finks youve caught the bug!! I remeber reading an article on him in the scottish press around the time of his death. Interesting to see what info there is on him.



Obituary by Celtic director Brian Wilson:


Gil Heron, the one-time Celtic footballer, who has died at the age of 86, had two unrelated claims to fame. He was the first black player to capture the imagination of Scottish football fans, and he was the father of Gil Scott-Heron, the jazz musician and rap music pioneer of the 1970s and 80s.

On a visit to Glasgow, Scott-Heron reflected that the two things the Scots loved most were music and football, and that his family had provided one representative of each. Although Gil Heron's time at Celtic Park was brief, his considerable sense of style, both on and off the park, made a lasting impression and it became a feature of his son's UK concerts that some of the fans turned up wearing Celtic tops.

Heron was born in Kingston, Jamaica. During the second world war he joined the Canadian air force, where his footballing talents began to make a wider impression. In 1946, he signed for Detroit Wolverines, who played in the short-lived North American Professional Soccer League, which they duly won in its inaugural season, with Heron as top scorer. He was then transferred to Detroit Corinthians, who played in the larger American Soccer League.

Celtic had a history of making lengthy American tours and doing some scouting at the same time. The goalkeeper Joe Kennaway was an earlier product of this strategy. Although they did not play Detroit Corinthians on their 1951 tour, a scout learned about Heron's prowess and was sufficiently impressed to invite him to Glasgow for pre-season trials. He made an early impression, scoring twice at a public trial at Celtic Park and was soon dubbed "the Black Arrow". He made his debut on 18 August 1951 in a League Cup tie against Morton at Celtic Park and scored in a 2-0 victory. However, he was competing for the centre-forward role with John McPhail, a Celtic hero of the era.

By the end of the season, Heron's star had faded and he was transferred by the club to Third Lanark, subsequently moving again to become the first black player to sign for Kidderminster Harriers. However, the folklore surrounding Heron's brief football career in the UK lived on. He was a skilful player, a natty dresser and a colourful personality in an era of cloth caps and physical football. He was capped by Jamaica at football and excelled at cricket, playing for leading Glasgow clubs while resident in the city.

Gil Scott-Heron, born in 1949, and famous for his polemic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, had stayed in the US when his father was divorced from his mother, Bobbie, and set off for Scotland. Heron eventually returned to play for Detroit Corinthians and later became a referee, as well as resuming his career as a photographer. Like his more famous son, who moved at the age of 15 to be brought up by Bobbie - a notable singer - in New York, Gil Heron was also a poet and jazz musician.

According to his son, who survives him, Gil continued to take a lifelong interest in the fortunes of Celtic football club.

• Gil Heron, footballer, born 9 April 1922; died 27 November 2008


This is an interesting review of Gil's life and touches on his relationship with his son. It also mention that Gil's older surviving brother Roy attended his funeral in Detroit in 2008.

'A blessing from the spirits' was how the son referred to his father playing for Celtic :)

Gil Heron, 81, father of Gil Scott-Heron, joins the ancestors

By Norman (Otis) Richmond

Gil Heron, who was known as the Black Arrow has joined the ancestors.

Heron was 87 years old, a poet and professional soccer player.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1921, he was the father of the revolutionary author/poet/singer and musician Gil Scott-Heron, who received much critical acclaim for one of his most well-known songs,” The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”.

Gil Heron passed away in a nursing home in Detroit on Nov.27.

Heron is survived by three children: Gil, Gail and Dennis. Another son, Kenny, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Detroit. He is also survived by eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

One of Heron’s surviving brothers, Roy Heron, was featured in a 2008 article,” At 85, Roy Heron’s a leader”, in Share newspaper by Dr. Lorne Foster.

Dr. Foster wrote then: “Heron has been a stalwart in African Canadian life and politics for over 60 years, fiercely dedicated to the principles of self-determination and consciousness-raising. He has single-mindedly maintained the same impassioned commitment to social justice that he possessed when he arrived in Canada in 1941.”

After Scott-Heron’s last performance in Toronto at the El Mocambo, he introduced “Uncle Roy”.

Roy Heron, remembered his younger brother with the following statement. “He was a brilliant person who showed people of color what they can achieve.” The older Heron attended his brother’s funeral in Detroit.

Gil Heron moved to Canada as a boy, and is believed to have
first shown evidence of football skills during a spell in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He moved to the USA after World II and joined the Detroit Wolverines. Heron played in the United States and was invited to Scotland for a public trail at Celtic Park on Aug 4, 1951, scoring twice in the game.

According to press reports from Scottish newspapers: “The club 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.

Heron was a published poet. One of his books was entitled, “I Shall Wish For You”. He was featured in a 1947 Ebony magazine article which referred to him as the “Black Babe Ruth.“ I spent many hours in the library at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) looking for that article, to no avail.

I met Gil Scott-Heron in the summer of 1976 when he made his first Canadian appearance at the world-famous El Mocambo. I interviewed him at a downtown hotel and asked him about his father. Arista records publicity campaign had gone to great lengths to point out that Scott-Heron’s father, Gil Heron, had been a professional soccer player for Scotland. Scott-Heron appeared to be taken aback. “The Scotts raised me” was his acid reply.

Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, but spent his early childhood in the home of his maternal grandmother, Lillie Scott, in Jackson, Tennessee. His mother, Bobbie Scott-Heron, sang with the New York Oratorial Society. At the time of my first meeting with Scott-Heron he had not met his father. It was at that time I met his Jamaican-born uncle, Roy Heron, Aunt Noreen and cousins Melissa and Kathleen.

Heron was at Celtic for a year, making five appearances and scoring two goals before joining Third Lanark.

He eventually returned to the United States and settled in Detroit. He was also the father of jazz musician and composer, Gil Scott-Heron, who received much critical acclaim for one of his most well-known songs: "The Revolution Will Not be Televised.”

After the show with Scott-Heron and the Midnight Band, people hung out on that warm summer night at College and Spadina. Many of us watched Scott-Heron get into a taxi cab with three women. An African-Canadian sister confronted me outside the club and said, “I just saw your boy, Gil Scott-Heron, get into a cab with three White women.”

I replied, “I saw him too and the three women were his aunt and two cousins.”

Scott-Heron finally met his father when he was 26. The meeting is immortalized on the “Bridges” album on the song “Hello Sunday! Hello Road!”

Says Scott-Heron:
”Manager we had just couldn't manage
So midnight managed right along
And it's got me out here with my brothers
And that's the thing that keeps me strong
Say Hello Sunday, Hello Road
Seems like Midnights' coming up on a town
The children on their way to Sunday school
I'm tippin' my hat to Miss Chocolate Brown
And it was on a Sunday that I met my old man
I was twenty-six years old
Naw but it was much too late to speculate
Say Hello Sunday, Hello Road
Hello Sunday, Hello Road“

When Bob Marley became too ill to perform, Stevie Wonder invited Scott-Heron to replace Marley on that tour. The Toronto Star assigned me to cover the concert and interview the 'Eighth Wonder of the World,' Stevie.

I ventured to Montreal only to discover that my soon-to-be friend, Dick Griffey, a concert promoter, president of the Black Music Association and head of Solar records-- was the promoter of this concert.

I was reunited with Scott-Heron in Montreal and he introduced me to his wife at the time, the Shreveport, Louisiana born actress Brenda Sykes.

When I was introduced to Ms. Sykes I joked: “My Uncle Printis married Rose who I believed was a Sykes and she was also born in Louisiana. We may be cousins by marriage.”

In a telephone conversion with my aunt she confirmed that Brenda is indeed her cousin.

It was in Montreal that I first met Scott-Heron’s brother, Dennis. Besides being a bit lighter in complexion than his brother, there was no doubt about it they were blood brothers. Dennis went on to manage his brother for a time.

Scott-Heron spoke about his father on one of his last tours of Scotland. Said Scott-Heron, “You Scottish folk always mention that my dad played for Celtic. It’s a blessing from the spirits”.

It has become a tradition among Scott-Heron fans to show up at his Glasgow shows in Celtic tops.

At one concert, he joked: “There you go again – once again overshadowed by a parent.”
Norman Richmond is a Toronto-based writer/broadcaster/human rights activist. Richmond can be reached Norman@ckln.fm


Heron, born in Kingston, Jamaica, died Nov. 27. He had been hospitalized since January, but returned home in November. Heron met his future wife, Margaret Frize, while with Celtic.
Survivors include a daughter, Gayle; sons Denis Heron & Gil
Scott-Heron; a brother, Roy; eight grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral is scheduled at Swanson Funeral Home on West McNicols Road in Detroit at noon Friday. Visiting hours are set for 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday.



Well done, WS!

Now, to find out whether he's buried or cremated. And where.


Top effort WS.

Seen his son play a couple of times (musically ;) ) but not quite old enough to have watched Gil.

Another mission for the NA Tims coming up.


I had tickets to see Gil Scott-Heron play in Edinburgh back in April but gig was cancelled due to ash cloud disruption and then quickly re-scheduled the following week when I couldn't go. Gutted. He has done really well to turn his life around and to start recording again.

Gil Senior led an amazing life, very well-travelled, and was great at a range of sports and had an array of other interests. He supposedly played cricket for Poloc while in Glasgow also. In Charlie Tully's book he talks about the crazy suits and clothes that Gil used to wear.

I recently got my hands on a copy of Gil Senior's book of poetry thanks to Frank Glencross and put up some info from it on the Wiki. There is only one poem about Celtic and his time in Glasgow, the majority are love poems:


The Great Ones
I'll remember all the great ones
Those that I have seen,
Those who I have played with
Who wore the white and green.

There was Tully and Bobby Evans
No greater ones you'd see,
And Celtic Park was our haven
To win was our destiny.

There was Sammy Cox and Thornton
Woodburn was there too,
Waddell and the great George Young
Who wore the white and blue.

There was Reilly and Turnbull for the Hibs
Billy Steele the great Dundee,
I'll remember all the great ones
Wherever I may be.

So let there be a Hall of Fame
The fans will all be there,
The stars will all be remembered
By loved ones everywhere.


The wee shamrock fella!!
Magic info on gil heron. In quite some detail too. well worth a read. maybe worth collating it together. On another note, i see that someone suggests that we check the glasgow observer for details on someone. I will be in the mitch later today and will be searching the gl. obs. be it on another subject. maybe the next two days, I will be there as well. Either post the dates you require searched, or pm or email me and i will spend a few hours over this week with a detailed going over.



wasn't first 'black' player (unless you are discounting Indians)


Mohammed Salim in the 1930's.


I've always been fascinated by the story of the Black Arrow. I'm very curious if his remains were placed in a cemetery.
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I live just north of Detroit and would be willing to help track down the resting place of Gil. He was a referee for many years in the area at the college and club level from what I have been told.

If you have any information please let me know
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Great stuff

I'll review what info we have and get back to you
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Oct 27 2011, 05:52 PM
I live just north of Detroit and would be willing to help track down the resting place of Gil. He was a referee for many years in the area at the college and club level from what I have been told.

If you have any information please let me know
So the last info we have was

"Gil Heron passed away in a nursing home in Detroit on Nov.27."

"A funeral is scheduled at Swanson Funeral Home on West McNicols Road in Detroit at noon Friday. Visiting hours are set for 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday."

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His son was cremated
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I have a number for a friend of his and will contact him an old referee buddy of his so will see if he has any more details...thanks
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I have contacted the funeral home and hope they can come back with some information that can help us, will keep everyone posted
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The Wee Shamrock

Great stuff Crossy! Would be great to confirm if there is a resting place for Gil. What a life he led - any more info on his refereeing career and later life would be appreciated
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Thanks Crossy! Can't wait to see what information you uncover.
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Had some friend help me recently and they got in contact with someone who knew Gil but a while back and this is what they said: Fred said that he used to ref with Gil back in the 80’s. Gil even reffed Fred when Fred first arrived from Iraq. Said Gil was a very good referee, fair honest, not full of BS. Fred didn’t hang around with Gil, and it’s been 15 years or so since he had seen him.

He doesn’t know where Gil is buried. I am still awaiting on reply for the funeral home.
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