- Born 31 July 1836 Rothesay Bute Scotland
- Died 20 June 1911, Glasgow
- Occupation Merchant
- Debut 14 August 1861 v Colonel Buchanan's XIV of Scotland at Langloan, Coatbridge
- Cap Number 60
- Style Hand unknown
- Teams Glasgow Scotland, Clydesdale, Gentlemen of Scotland, All England XI, West of Scotland, Caledonian Club, Drumpellier
John McNeill was a leading figure in Scottish cricket for twenty years proving himself one of the more reliable batsmen against the powerful attack of the visiting All England XI. His one appearance for Ireland, against Colonel Buchanan's XIV of Scotland in 1861 came when Charles Lawrence's United Ireland XI arrived in Scotland short of a full complement of players. John, together with fellow countrymen Daniel Duff and William Swann, made up the side. He was an obvious choice. Not only was he well known to Lawrence as they had played together during the latter's time in Scotland, but he played for Clydesdale against the Irish the previous season and, batting at 3, made 18 in the first innings before being caught by George Barry off the crafty lobs of John Mahaffy.
In the match against Buchanan's side, however, he did not make much of an impression. Batting at 8, he was run out for 2 in the first innings and was not out on 4 when the match ended in a draw with Ireland on 25-5 someway short of their target. His first match against the mighty men of All England had come in 1857 when he opened the batting for XXII of Glasgow with the 22 year old 16th Earl of Rothes. The nobleman made 17, the XXII's top score. John's 5 was the second highest! The bowling of James "Foghorn" Jackson and Edgar Willsher was altogether too much for the Glaswegians, even though they were reinforced by three of England's best known professionals of the time in William "Terrible Billy" Caffyn, Tom Sewell and John Lillywhite. The Earl, incidentally, died two years later.
John McNeill's best knock against the professionals was in 1862 when, batting at No 4 for Clydesdale against All England, he made an undefeated 36 in the second innings, to hold the XXII together. Chasing a near impossible 264, John's defensive skill enabled them to finish on 64/16. His innings clearly impresses his opponents. Later in the summer he played for the All England side against Captain Handley's XXII at Hungerford in Berkshire, making 16 in the second innings.
His highest score of which a record has been seen was made for the Gentlemen of Scotland against the Players at Hamilton Crescent in 1871, in a high scoring draw, a match which, according to Scores and Biographies was a one day affair. Looking at he scores this seems unlikely. The Players began by making 136 to which the amateurs replied with 274. John, coming at 9 - as his a career went on he batted lower and lower in the order - made an undefeated 68.
The foundations of the team's total had been built by Edinburgh solicitor Thomas Marshall who made 59. Marshall was a good bat who played five first class matches for MCC averaging 35.71. The Players then replied with 262, owing much to a peripatetic batsman from Leicestershire George Panter who struck a handsome 146*. Stumps were then drawn. If this game was really completed in a day, it saw 672 runs scored.
In the corresponding match two years later John, still batting down the order made 45 and 23*, while the following season, batting for Glasgow in an inter city game with Edinburgh he made 38.
That was his last innings of note of which a score has been seen. However his career in major cricket ended against opposition which was to become legendary, Billy Murdoch's First Australians in 1878. He was dismissed c Boyle b Spofforth 5. A failure yes but he had at least been dismissed by the great bowler whose bowling at the Oval four years later would lead to the creation of The Ashes.
Away from the cricket field, John McNeill was a successful merchant. He was also the first President of the Scottish Cricket Union, occupying the position in 1880 and 1881.
Edward Liddle, May 2014