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Giles Heron - The "Black Arrow"

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.

 

One of the first black players to play in Britain, Giles Heron became the first Afro-Caribbean player to play first team football for Celtic.
 
Heron scored on his debut, a 2-1 win against Morton during the 1951-52 season and was quickly bestowed the nicknames "Black Flash" and "Black Arrow".
 
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1922, Heron played as centre forward for the Jamaican national team as well as playing for the American club side Detroit Corinthians. On a North American tour he was spotted by a Celtic scout and later signed for the Glasgow club in 1951.
 
At a time when Scottish football was notable for its physical nature, Heron soon struggled - as one local newspaper put it: "lacking resource when challenged." The writer Phil Vasili notes that Heron was criticised in Glasgow for "being unable to transfer his pugilistic tenacity" (Heron had previously been both an athlete and a boxer). He was released barely a year later and signed for Third Lanark.
 
Heron also played for Kidderminster Harriers before returning to play for his original club, the Detroit Corinthians, where his son, the acclaimed jazz musician and poet Gil Scott Heron, was born in 1949. Shortly before Giles Heron's son visited Scotland recently to promote his new book "The Last Holiday," a local journalist asked about his father's experiences of playing football in Glasgow.
 
Despite Heron's relatively brief spell at Celtic, it is apparent that Giles Heron Sr still retains fond memories of his time in Scotland. "My father still keeps up with what Celtic are doing. You Scottish folk always mention that my Dad played for Celtic," said Scott-Heron, "it's a blessing from the spirits! Like that's two things that Scottish folks love the most; music and football and they got one representative from each of those from my family!"
 
It has become a tradition of studious Gil Scott-Heron fans to show up at his Glasgow shows in the green and white hooped shirt of Celtic. "There you go again," said Gil Scott-Heron jokingly, "once again overshadowed by a parent!"
 
However, before the directors of Glasgow Celtic can think about inviting him to attend a match at his father's former club, Heron declared, "Personally I support Rangers and I'm going to wear my Celtic scarf and Rangers hat when I come over!"

 

Mike Lee, November 2001

 

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