That Andrew Watson, thrice an international and once captain of Scotland in 1881, was Britain and the World's first major Black footballer now seems to be completely accepted. And much more is now known of his birth in Demerara, now part of Guyana, his life, both footballing and private in Glasgow, London and Liverpool, and, thanks to the exemplary research of Andy Mitchell, of his death in 1921 and final resting-place in London. There his grave has in part at the SFHG's instigation been restored and now is commensurate with his significance as a pioneering player, football administrator and, not role-model, for it was more than a century before his shoes would even partially be filled, but certainly icon.
However, there remain parts of his family background, his Highland background, which remained obscure, even inaccurate, something we will try to clarify and correct.
Andrew Watson was born in 1856. His mother was Hannah Rose, a local, Demareran woman. His father was Peter Miller Watson, whose own father was James Watson and mother, Christian Robertson. James Watson is often shown as "of Crantit, Orkney". In fact, he was not Orcadian at all. He was born in Dumfries, was to find work as a factor to Lord Dundas on his Crantit Estate by Kirkwall and would die there aged just thirty-eight in 1808. He left a pregnant thirty-year old widow and four sons, Harry, named for his maternal grandfather, Andrew, for whom our footballer might even be called, his father Peter, born in 1805 and William, to whom would soon be added James. Four of the boys were born at Crantit but one was not, Peter. He was born at Kiltearn, by Evanton in Ross-shire, where James Snr and Christian had also been married in 1800.
Kiltearn is a beautiful, tranquil and, by its name, an ancient religious spot on the banks of the inner Cromarty Firth. There is today a roofless church, a graveyard and Kiltearn House, presumably once the manse. And it was the church that is the thread that joins the story together. It was Episcopalian and at the turn of the 18th Century the reverend was Dr. Harry Robertson, Christian's father, Peter Miller's grandfather and Andrew Watson's great-grandfather. And the Reverend Dr. is himself of interest by association. He seems to have been related to Anne Mackenzie Robertson of nearby Dingwall, mother of William Ewart Gladstone, four time British prime minister, born in 1809, so a contemporary of Peter Miller, and in Liverpool via Leith. Thus William Gladstone and Peter Miller and Andrew Watson were cousins, albeit distant. And both families were heavily involved in the slave-trade, indeed each ultimtely owed their fortunes to it.
And it would also be Liverpool that would take Peter Miller Watson to Demerara. His widowed mother remarried, again at Kiltearn, to an Orkney doctor, Thomas Trail, and would have five more children by him, all born in Liverpool, to where the newly-marrieds and the Watson boys had rapidly relocated and where Traill was a prominent Liberal, indeed a Gladstonian Liberal. Thus it was that Peter Miller Watson from aged seven grew up on Merseyside, part of a large Scottish, politically powerful, mercantile Diaspora, that would in time take him to South America and there the fathering by Hannah of a daughter and a son, Andrew himself.
Of Hannah much less is known except that her mother was likely Black and her father White. Moreover, it is known that she was a "free-woman". Whilst her mother had probably been a slave, she was not. Indeed the family owned slaves. And, whilst there is no proof positive, the suggestion is that her mother may have been subject to manumission, i.e. freeing , by her owner and quite possibly the father of a number of children with her, including Hannah. Moreover, perhaps Hannah's father was also a Scot, a Rose, Andrew Rose, born by Banff and firstly a potential source of her surname and secondly a further one of our footballer's Christian-name.
Thus it was that the Andrew Watson story might be said to have begun not simply in Guyana but in Ross-shire and even also Banffshire. And before it would end in Richmond in Surrey it would not just take in Glasgow, London and Liverpool but also encompassed Orkney and for a substantial period Liverpool once more.
(Peter Miller Watson)
Weylea, Worplesdon, Guildford, Surrey (Peter Miller Watson)
1881 - 15, Afton Crescent, Glasgow
1882 - Edmonton, London
(Peter Miller Watson)
Grave Locator: (Andrew Watson)
Andrew Watson, The World's First Black, International Footballer
- Ali Firth's story of how his grave was saved.
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