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Giles Heron: Played for Celtic, father of musician

Posted by Frank Dell'Apa, Globe Staff  December 4, 2008 01:51 AM

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Gilbert “Giles” Heron was described as “a great and supremely interesting human being” by the Celtic FC guide "An Alphabet of the Celts." That seems to have been an understatement.

Heron, who went to Glasgow for the 1951-52 season to become the first black player to perform for Celtic FC, died last week at his home in Detroit, Mich. He was 86.

In his one season with Celtic, Heron played one league match and four times (two goals) in the League Cup, then went to Third Lanark in Scotland and Kidderminster Harriers in England before returning to the U.S. to play for the Detroit Corinthians.

Heron also scored 15 times in 15 appearances for the Celtic reserve team but failed to fit into manager Jimmy McGrory’s lineup, which included legendary performers such as Sean (Iron Man) Fallon, Bobby Evans, John McPhail, Bertie Peacock, Charlie Tully, Jock Weir.

Heron performed for the Detroit Wolverines in 1946, leading the start-up North American Soccer Football League with 15 goals in eight games. In 1949, while playing in Chicago, he fathered
Gil Scott-Heron, whose Midnight Band popularized songs such as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."

Heron served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. He was an amateur boxer, played cricket and ice hockey, and was a professional photographer.

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.

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