Andrew Watson

Biography of Andrew Watson

Andrew Watson  (top centre)
Andrew Watson (top centre)

Andrew Watson (1856-1921) was an alumnus of the University and the world's first black football player. He captained Scotland on his international debut in 1881.

Watson was born in British Guiana, to a Scottish father, Peter Miller Watson (Son of James Watson, factor to Lord Dundas – Earl of Orkney) and Hannah (or Anna) Rose, a free woman of colour from Georgetown, herself the daughter of a freed slave called Minkie, and a Scottish enslaver, Andrew Rose.

Watson’s father, Peter Miller Watson, was the co-owner of two sugar plantations in Demerara – Le'Bonne Intention and Plantation Zeebrugge – and managed his uncle George Robertson’s estate, in the form of his plantations, ships and enslaved Africans in Berbice, Essequibo and Demerara, for the firm McInroy Sandbach & Co, the Demerara subsidiary of Glasgow based McInroy Parker & Co and Liverpool-based Sandbach Tinne & Co.

Watson inherited nearly £35,000 on his father’s death and was educated at schools in England, including the prestigious Heath Grammar School in Halifax, and matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1875 to study Mathematics (under Lord Kelvin), Natural Philosophy and Civil Engineering. This was his grounding for an engineering career.

During an apprenticeship in 1877 he met and married Jessie Nimmo Armour in Pollokshields, Glasgow. They went on to have two children, Rupert Andrew Watson and Agnes Maud Watson. Watson became Chief Engineer on the ship the ‘SS Darien’ for the West India and Pacific Steamship Company, a job that would take him around the world.

Watson had played football at school, and played as an amateur for Maxwell in 1874, and for Parkgrove the following season. He played for Scotland's most successful club, Queen's Park, during the 1880s and was club secretary. He won two Scottish Cups with Queen's Park and was capped three times as a full-back for Scotland, in 1881 and 1882, captaining the Scottish side on one occasion.

His wife Jessie died in 1882, and his children remained in Glasgow with their grandfather, whilst Watson continued his career in London, where he also studied at Kings College and played for several clubs, including London Swifts and the Corinthians. He was regarded as one of the ‘Scotch professors’ who taught the English the passing game.

Whilst in London, he married his second wife, Eliza Kate Taylor in 1887. They moved to Liverpool and Watson played football for local club Bootle FC and took on work as a maritime engineer. He and Eliza also had two children, Henry Watson and Phyllis Watson.

Little had been known of Watson's subsequent life, except that he inherited shares from his father in the East Kilbride railway in New South Wales, Australia. He was initially thought to have died there in 1902 but sporting historian Andy Mitchell uncovered the full story in March 2013.

In 1901, Watson and his family travelled to the US, and later settled in Kew, London. Andrew Watson died there on the 8th March 1921 and is buried in Richmond Cemetery along with his second wife and his daughter Phyllis, who shares her mother’s grave, though she remains unmarked on her headstone.

Watson’s grave in Richmond cemetery was refurbished in 2021 after a crowdfunder led by Llew Walker (Chairman of Corinthian Casuals) and Watson’s fans, and is featured in a follow-on documentary film about Watson’s life, commissioned in 2021 by BBC Scotland. Much of the history of Watson’s family ties to the Sandbach Tinne enterprise has been the subject of research by local historian Malik Al Nasir, a descendent of Andrew Watson's uncle William Robertson Watson - a plantation overseer in British Guiana. Al Nasir is researching Sandbach Tinne for his PhD at the University of Cambridge, and writing a book about them entitled Searching For My Slave Roots.

Summary

Andrew Watson
Footballer and Engineers

Born 24 May 1856.
Died 8 March 1921.
University Link: Alumnus
GU Degree: Arts, 1875;
Occupation categories: engineers; footballers
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Record last updated: 18th Jun 2021

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus

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