Spiders’ Legend a Cause for Celebration

A Queen’s Park FC legend has leapt back to prominence during the past month as the we celebrated Black History Month in October.

Even global tech giant Google has highlighted the extraordinary life of Andrew Watson, a man of many firsts when he played for Queen’s Park in the 1880s. The left back became the: • First black footballer to win a national cup • First black international footballer • First black footballer to captain a national side • First black football administrator He has been rightly lauded as a pioneer, and his life is full of interest. Andrew Watson, known to his friends as Andy, was born in Georgetown, British Guiana in 1856. The country of British Guiana is now called Guyana and is situated on the north coast of South America. Andrew’s father Peter was a wealthy Scottish sugar plantation owner. His mother was a local black woman named Hannah Rose. Peter and Hannah Rose had two children – Andrew and older sister Annetta. As was common in plantations at the time, Andrew’s father had been a slave owner and had owned 16 slaves until slavery was abolished in 1834. Could Hannah Rose have been born a slave? No one knows. When Andrew was a young boy, his father brought him and his sister to England. Hannah Rose did not accompany the rest of the family, and we do not know what happened to her. Andrew attended a couple of different schools in England before going to King’s College in London and then Glasgow University. Andrew’s father Peter died in 1869 and left Andrew and Annetta £35,000 between them. In today’s money, this made them both wealthy.

Newspapers did not have photographs when Andrew Watson played for Queen’s Park but they sometimes printed sketches of players. This is a drawing of Andrew

Andrew did not finish his studies at Glasgow University. He obtained part-ownership of a warehouse business supplying “dry goods” to shops. Andrew also became increasingly involved with football. There were quite a lot of black people in Scotland in the time of Queen Victoria but they were nearly all either rich people’s servants or students at school or university. A wealthy, well-educated black person like Andrew was very unusual. Andrew’s football career started in 1874 when he joined Maxwell FC. He then moved on to Parkgrove, which was a bigger club than Maxwell. Parkgrove played in Govan, close to Ibrox Park where Rangers play now. The Parkgrove club no longer exists. Andrew became Secretary of Parkgrove and was later Secretary of Queen’s Park. In 1880, when still at Parkgrove, Andrew was selected to represent Glasgow in a challenge match against Sheffield. Andrew was a left back – the same position that Andy Robertson now plays for Scotland. He was a tall player at just under six foot tall. People were smaller in those days and being six feet (183cm) was very tall. The Scottish Football Annual 1880/81 said that Andrew “has great speed and tackles splendidly.”
Glasgow team v Sheffield 1880 (Andrew Watson third from right in back row)
Andrew joined Queen’s Park in April 1880. At that time, Queen’s Park was the biggest, and probably the best, club in Britain. Queen’s Park played at the first Hampden Park, which was at the edge of the Queen’s Park Recreation Ground. The site of the First Hampden is now occupied by Hampden Bowling Club, next to the railway line and about halfway between Mount Florida and Crosshill Stations.
Queen’s Park Season 1884/85 (Andrew Watson fourth from left in back row)
Andrew was an immediate success with Queen’s Park and was part of the Queen’s sides that won the Scottish Cup in 1881 and 1882. He also won the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup with Queen’s in both of those years. The Charity Cup was Scotland’s second most important competition. Andrew was capped three times for Scotland. In 1881, he was captain of the Scottish side that beat England 6-1 at the Kennington Oval in London – biggest defeat England has ever suffered on home turf. Later that year, he was a member of the Scotland team that beat Wales 5-1 and, in 1882, he played for Scotland in a 5-1 victory over England at the first Hampden Park. Some of you may have seen the mural commemorating this win on the back of the pavilion at Hampden Bowling Club. Andrew Watson appears on the mural.
In the summer of 1882, Andrew moved to London for work reasons. He had married Jessie Armour in 1877 and Jessie and their two children, Agnes and Rupert, went with him to England. Sadly, Jessie died soon after they got to London and the two children returned to Glasgow to live with their grandparents. Back in the 1880’s, people died of illnesses and diseases that can be cured today. While in London, Andrew played for different amateur teams. He also turned out for a club call the Corinthians, which was an invitational side. Because Andrew had moved to London, he was no longer able to play for Scotland. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) only picked players who were based in Scotland.
Andrew Watson as Scotland player
Although Andrew was living in London, he was still a member of Queen’s Park and came back to Glasgow from time to time to play for the Spiders. In 1884, he played in the Queen’s Park team that beat 3rd Lanark Rifle Volunteers to win the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup. Then, in 1886, he was a member of the Queen’s side that beat Renton 3-1 to lift the Scottish Cup for an eighth time. After that cup final, the two groups of players had dinner together and then they all went to the theatre to see the pantomime “Babes in the Wood”. Early in 1877, Andrew returned to Glasgow and married for a second time. His new wife was called Eliza and they went on to have two children, Henry and Phyllis. He and Eliza moved to Liverpool a few months later, where he studied and sat exams to become a marine engineer. When he arrived in Liverpool, he signed for a football team called Bootle FC. At that time, Bootle and Everton were the two biggest clubs in Merseyside. Liverpool Football Club was not founded until 1892. Bootle was a professional club but did Andrew Watson sign as an amateur or a professional? No one knows. If he did accept payment, he will have been the world’s first black professional football player. After qualifying as a marine engineer, Andrew spent the next 20 years or so travelling around the world, working on ships as an engineer and visiting places such as America and Australia. He retired from work around 1910 and lived in London until he died of pneumonia in 1921 at the age of 64.
Andrew Watson is buried in Richmond Cemetery in London. His grave had been neglected and was in a poor state but, in the last few years, a group of Scottish football fans have got together to restore the grave to a state befitting a man so important in the history of the game of Association Football. Honours Scottish Cup: 1880/81, 1881/82, 1885/86 Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup: 1879/80, 1880/81, 1883/84 Scotland appearances: 1881 England, Wales; 1882 England

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