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Andrew Watson (footballer, born 1856)

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Andrew Watson
Andrew Watson Footballer.jpg
Watson (top centre, 1882 photograph)
Personal information
Date of birth (1856-05-24)24 May 1856
Place of birth Demerara, British Guiana
Date of death 8 March 1921(1921-03-08) (aged 64)
Place of death London, England
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Position(s) Full back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
- Maxwell
1874–1880 Parkgrove
1880–1882 Queen's Park[1] 0 (0)
1882–1884 Swifts
1884–1885 Corinthians
1885–1887 Queen's Park[1] 0 (0)
1887–1892 Bootle
National team
1881–1882 Scotland 3 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Andrew Watson (24 May 1856 – 8 March 1921) is widely considered to be the world's first black person to play association football at international level.[2][3][4] He played three matches for Scotland between 1881 and 1882. Arthur Wharton was commonly thought to be Britain's first black player, as he was the first black professional footballer and the first to play in the Football League, but Watson's career predated him by over a decade.

Early life and education[edit]

Watson was the son of a wealthy Scottish sugar planter Peter Miller Watson (1805–1869) (the son of James Watson, of Crantit, Orkney, Scotland) and a local British Guianese woman named Hannah Rose.[5] He came to Britain with his father, and his older sister Annetta, and they inherited a substantial amount when their father died in London in 1869.[6]

He was educated at Heath Grammar School in Halifax, West Yorkshire and then from 1871 at King's College School, in Wimbledon, London, where records show he excelled at sports including football. He later studied natural philosophy, mathematics and engineering at the University of Glasgow when he was 19, where his love of football blossomed. He played in the full back position, on either the right or the left flank.[citation needed]

Private life and career[edit]

Watson left Glasgow University after one year and in 1877 became a partner in Watson, Miller, and Baird, a wholesale warehouse business in Glasgow. In November 1877 he married Jessie Nimmo Armour (1860–1882); she was the daughter of John Armour, a cabinet-maker.[6] Their son Rupert Andrew was born in 1878, and a daughter Agnes Maude in 1880.[5] Watson moved to London with his family in the summer of 1882 for work reasons.[5] His wife died in the autumn of 1882 and their two children returned to Glasgow to live with their grandparents.[5]

He returned to Glasgow and married for a second time, to Eliza Kate Tyler (1861–1949) in February 1887.[5] She was the daughter of Joseph Tyler, East India merchant. Later that year he moved to Liverpool, where he worked on ships and sat exams to qualify as a marine engineer.[5] Watson and Eliza had two children, a son Henry Tyler in 1888 and a daughter Phyllis Kate in 1891.[5]

Football career[edit]

Club career[edit]

After first playing for Maxwell in 1876, Watson signed for local side Parkgrove, where he was additionally their match secretary,[2] making him the first black administrator in football.[4] At Parkgrove he played alongside another black player, Robert Walker.[7]

He also took part in athletics competitions, winning the high jump on several occasions.

On 14 April 1880, he was selected to represent Glasgow against Sheffield; Glasgow won 1–0 at Bramall Lane. He was also selected for a tour to Canada in the summer of 1880 which was cancelled after the death of William Dick, secretary of the Scottish Football Association.[6]

In April 1880, he also signed for Queen's Park – then Britain's largest football team – and became their secretary in November 1881. He led the team to several Scottish Cup wins, thus becoming the first black player to win a major competition.[4]

Watson's entry in the Scottish Football Association Annual of 1880–81 reads as follows:[6]

"Watson, Andrew: One of the very best backs we have; since joining Queen's Park has made rapid strides to the front as a player; has great speed and tackles splendidly; powerful and sure kick; well worthy of a place in any representative team."

In 1882, he moved to London and became the first black player to play in the English Cup when he turned out for Swifts.[2] In 1883, he was the first foreign player to be invited to join the leading amateur club in England, the Corinthians. During his time there, this included an 8–1 victory against Blackburn Rovers, who were at that time the English Cup holders.[8] He also played for other amateur English clubs, including Pilgrims, Brentwood, and London Caledonians.[6]

The colour of his skin was of no significance to his peers, and there is no historical record of racism on the part of the Scottish Football Association.[9] One match report is more interested in Watson's unusual brown boots rather than the customary black boots of that time.[9] As written in the minutes, before one match where Watson was injured and unable to play, an SFA vice-president said if Watson had been fit he would have happily drugged a fellow Scottish international to give Watson his place.[citation needed] He played his last match for Queen's Park in 1886.

Paul McDonald, writing for the BBC, noted: "Payments to players had been made legal in England in 1885 and professional footballers were paid decent salaries for that time. Ironically this attracted many Scottish players southwards to ply their trade in England, whereas in Scotland the game remained, in theory anyway, an amateur game until 1893."[10]


Watson signed for Merseyside club Bootle in 1887.[5] Bootle offered wages and signing fees to a number of players,[5] and research by Tony Onslow outlined in The Forgotten Rivals. A history of Bootle Football Club indicates that Watson was paid professionally.[11] This means that Watson's professional career would predate the professional career of Arthur Wharton, who was previously considered to be the first black footballer to play professionally.[5]

Onslow writes that Watson was Bootle's star signing and that the club pulled off the biggest coup in Merseyside by signing the Scotland international player. When Bootle was drawn with a Smethwick side Great Bridge Unity F.C., the Midlands club received a telegram from a 'Smith of Oakfield' who stated that Bootle's Watson and another Scottish player Anderson were being paid - and as such should be ineligible for their tie.[12]

Watson and others were in the Bootle side that beat Unity 2-1; and so directly after the match Unity lodged a complaint with the F.A. The F.A. announced that they would let Bootle proceed to the next round; but they would instead launch an investigation into the club.[13]

Onslow writes:

Bootle Football Club now faced a local FA committee on charge of paying a certain number of their players. Dr. Morley of Blackburn, President of the northern branch, chaired the meeting that took place at the Crompton Hotel in Liverpool. Also present was Morton P. Betts from the London executive and all the prominent members of the Liverpool and District F.A. committee. Former Bootle players Izatt and Weir were called to give evidence before the commitee [sic?] adjourned and referred the matter to London.

The club was found guilty by the F.A.; but the F.A. punishment was lenient - they had that same season closed Anfield for a month when Everton similarly paid players - and Bootle escaped with a mere caution.[14]

International career[edit]

Watson won three international caps for Scotland.[3] His first cap came for Scotland in a match against England in London on 12 March 1881, in which he captained the side.[15] Scotland won 6–1, which (as of 2019) is still a record home defeat for England.[16] A few days later, Scotland played Wales and won 5–1.

Watson's last cap came against England in Glasgow on 11 March 1882. This was a 5–1 victory again to Scotland.[17] Watson moved to London in the summer of 1882, which effectively ended his international career as the SFA only picked players based in Scotland at this time.[5]

The next non-white person to receive a full international cap for Scotland was Paul Wilson in 1975. The next black person selected to play for Scotland after Andrew Watson was Nigel Quashie in 2004, 120 years later.[18]

Later life and tributes[edit]

Watson retired to London in around 1910 and died of pneumonia at 88 Forest Road, Kew, in 1921.[5] He is buried in Richmond Cemetery.[19]

In 1926 the sportswriter "Tityrus" (the pseudonym of J. A. H. Catton, editor of the Athletic News) named Andrew Watson as left-back in his all-time Scotland team.[20] A mural of Watson was painted on the side of a cafe in Shawlands, south Glasgow in 2020,[21] and he also features prominently in the First Hampden Mural at Hampden Bowling Club.[22]


Queen's Park[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Scottish Football League did not commence until the 1890–91 season.
  2. ^ a b c "First Black footballer, Andrew Watson, inspired British soccer in 1870s". Black History Month. Archived from the original on 10 June 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Andrew Watson". 100 Great Black Britons.
  4. ^ a b c "Andrew Watson". Football Unites, Racism Divides. Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mitchell, Andy (20 March 2013). "First black footballer: Watson story takes twist". The Scotsman. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Watson, Andrew (1856–1921) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2014; accessed 13 March 2015 (subscription required)
  7. ^ Richard McBrearty. "The world's earliest known black footballers". Show Racism the Red Card. Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  8. ^ Cavallini, Rob (2007). Play Up Corinth: A History of the Corinthian Football Club. Tempus Publishing. pp. 13–14, 230, 278. ISBN 978-0-7524-4479-6.
  9. ^ a b Brown, Paul (February 2006). The Unofficial Football World Championships. North Shields: Tonto Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-9552183-1-6.
  10. ^ "BBC - A Sporting Nation - Scottish League formed". Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  11. ^ The Forgotten Rivals. A history of Bootle Football Club. Tony Onslow. Countrywise Publication. 2005.
  12. ^ The Forgotten Rivals. A history of Bootle Football Club. Tony Onslow. Countrywise Publication. 2005.
  13. ^ The Forgotten Rivals. A history of Bootle Football Club. Tony Onslow. Countrywise Publication. 2005.
  14. ^ The Forgotten Rivals. A history of Bootle Football Club. Tony Onslow. Countrywise Publication. 2005.
  15. ^ The Times, 14 March 1881, p.6, col C
  16. ^ @SFootballMuseum (12 March 2019). "On 12th March 1881, this Scotland team, captained by Andrew Watson, beat England at Kennington Oval. The result still remains England's heaviest defeat on home soil. #TuesdayThoughts" (Tweet). Retrieved 12 March 2019 – via Twitter.
  17. ^ "Andrew Watson – Scotland".
  18. ^ "History calls on Quashie". BBC Sport. 26 May 2004. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  19. ^ Andy Mitchell (16 August 2013). "Andrew Watson: a gravestone that deserves more". Scottish Sport History.
  20. ^ Catton, J. A. H. ("Tityrus") (2006 reprint of 1926 original) The Story of Association Football; Cleethorpes: Soccer Books ISBN 1-86223-119-2
  21. ^ "Mural tribute in Glasgow to black footballer who played for Scotland in 19th century". Daily Record. 12 September 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  22. ^ Murphy, Sean (6 October 2020). "The story behind the Hampden Mural restored after being cruelly ruined by graffiti artist". Daily Record. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  23. ^ "Watson, Andrew". – A Historical Queen's Park FC Website. Retrieved 11 September 2018.

External links[edit]

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