A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

History: Scotsman Marries Local Girl; Claims to be Oxford Grad and Play for Eagles (1935)

I came across an intriguing marriage announcement in the 5 Jul 1935 edition of The Matawan Journal. Mae Layton of Old Bridge, a grammar school graduate, would wed Neil O'Neil (sic), a Scot who had studied at Oxford. The son of Charles O'Neil (sic), Neil was a "professional soccer football player" working for the Philadelphia Eagles. I thought the whole thing curious, so I did some digging.

What I learned was that Neil O'Neill was born in Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland on 3 March 1906, the son of John O'Neill. He emigrated to the US in early 1929 and made occasional trips back home to Scotland. I found a Neil O'Neill at the right age and birth place working as a factory machinist and boarding with a Scottish family in Detroit, MI in the 1930 Federal Census. By February 1935, Neil was a leather worker living with his Polish electrician friend, Frank Guscior, 101 South Walter Avenue, Trenton, NJ. The Scottish homestead between 1935 and 1960 was at 35 Rintoul Avenue, Blairhall, Fife, Scotland. By the 1950s, Neil had become a "fermenter operator." It must have been profitable work because he was took the kids (Maureen O'Neill DOB 21 Apr 1951 and John O'Neill DOB 12 Aug 1952) on the Queen Mary for a four-week stay in the United Kingdom.
Neil O'Neill (33 Scotland) and his wife May (26 NJ) were in the 1940 Federal Census living in East Brunswick, NJ with children Neil Jr (4 NJ) and James (1 NJ). He was a cutter in a pocketbook factory. They both were living in Trenton, NJ five years earlier. She had completed 7th grade and he had completed four years of high school.

Mae Layton (5 6/12 NJ) was in the 1920 Federal Census living in East Brunswick, NJ in the household of her widowed father, Charles Layton, Jr (40 NJ). Her brother Charles (3 6/12 NJ) was also in the household. I found her father and brother in the 1930 Federal Census, but Mae wasn't in the household. Perhaps she was at boarding school?

Neil O'Neill (22 Scotland) was a miner from 32 Blairhall, East George, Fife when he sailed from Glasgow aboard the S S Cameronia on 23 Feb 1929. He was headed for New York and planned to reside in the US.

Neil O'Neill (28 Scotland) departed Glasgow, Scotland on 15 February 1935 aboard the S S Caledonia and arrived at New York on 27 February 1935. He was born in Denny, Scotland, the son of John O'Neill. Neil was a leather worker by profession and was being hosted by his friend, Frank Gusior (sic), 101 South Walter Avenue, Trenton, NJ.
The only hint of European football, other than the marriage announcement, was when I looked up Denny in Wikipedia. Apparently the area has a team founded in 1888 called Dunipace Junior Football Club.  You can check out the club's history here.

So, if Neil played soccer in Scotland, he was very young, as he came to the US age 22, so he might have played a few years after high school. Whether or not he played professionally, I can't say. As a miner from Scotland with only four years of high school education, I doubt he attended Oxford. And making leather purses in Trenton, it seems unlikely he played professionally for the Eagles, but perhaps that was his hope. At 2 wins 9 losses, the Eagles had an abysmal 1935 NFL season, by the way.

If someone knows the back story on this, I'd be interested.

CORRECTION: I fixed the text to recognize that Maureen and John were children, not grandchildren, of Neil and Mae O'Neill. Thanks for the information.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    I am one of Neil O'Neill's grandsons. Some quick corrections - Maureen and John were also children of Neil and Mae, not grandchildren. Also we ran across a photo of our grandfather when he played soccer in the US Bethlehem Steel Soccer Team 1927-8. His brother Hugh played for Celtic. No one seems to know about Oxford . . .