James Princep

So here we have an "English Gentleman", one of two and chronologically just the first on the Highland and Moray Trail and a prodigy. A product of Charterhouse, James Princep, in 1879 at seventeen years and two hundred and forty-five days became the then youngest player in an FA Cup Final. Moreover, just a week later for England became the youngest of its internationalists to that date. It was a record he held for one hundred and twenty-four years until Wayne Rooney. Yet he was a military man, a British captain and a Egyptian Sub-Inspector General, who had a home in Nairn, would die there aged just thirty-four, is buried there too and seems also to have been a pioneer of, a catalyst for football, soccer, across the other side of the World in Australia

And the clue to all this heady mix is four-fold. His full name was James Frederick MacLeod Princep, his mother was from Nairn, he married a Campbell, he was born in India, in the summer capital of British Raj, Simla in West Bengal, his father in the Indian Civil Service, so under the rules of the time could only be considered English not Scots, and his army service after the Royal Military College, Sandhurst was largely in Egypt, on partial route to OZ.

On the face of it Princep's football career was brief, from 1877 at school, from the following year at club level until 1882 and his commissioning into the Essex Regiment. But he was clearly a talent and packed a lot in. The 1879 Cup Final had been lost by him and Clapham Rovers to Old Etonians but a measure of revenge was achieved in 1881 by Old Carthusians against the same opposition, he playing at half-back in both matches. But then he was off. In 1884 he was in Sudan, in 1885 in Egypt, in 1888 back in Sudan. 

However, at this point things become a little blurred. He is known to have been in London in 1891. His marriage took place in Kensington in July. He was possibly there in 1893 and 1895 as his second and third children were born there and then, the first having been born in Egypt in 1892. But then there is the record of a footballing James Princep in Australia, in 1892 in Sydney, 1893 in Newcastle, NSW, and 1894 in Brisbane. In all three he was something of a sensation. He may even have been instrumental in the arrival or rather return of one of the first Australians recorded as playing football in the UK, albeit that he, Ozzie Newcastle's Jimmy Jackson, was Scots-born.      

If Princep had been in Australia in 1894 the following year he was certainly back in Britain. The birth of his third child took place in Kensington in London. He seems to have had an address there in Thurloe Square. But by the late Autumn he had travelled north to Nairn at the "end of the shooting season" and reportedly not in the best of health. There he was said to have been on the way to recovery but after a wet day playing golf caught pneumonia, which worsened to fatal blood-poisoning and kidney failure. On death on 22nd November he was just thirty-four year-old. His passing was reported widely, as was his funeral a few days later at Nairn Cemetery.   

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