One of the pioneers and widely considered as the first black person to play international football, representing Scotland on three occasions.
South American born from Guyana whose mother was also Guyanese and father from Scotland. Growing up provided an opportunity to move to Britain gaining an education where he displayed a natural ability, excelling in sports. Later on, in life, he became a qualified marine engineer.
Both football and education served Andrew well as he truly was a catalyst for what is achievable being black in Britain, during a period after the slave trade was abolished.
Sources are limited in terms of being able to provide an account on his childhood, however records do show he moved to England with his father and older sister around the age of 4 years old, leaving his mother back home in Guyana. Andrew’s father, a wealthy sugar plantation manager who’s family and most likely himself would have made their money from owning slaves prior to 1834, when slavery was officially abolished by law. We can assume he wanted to provide his children with the opportunity to receive a good education and career prospects with their mother’s approval for mutual reasons in a logical sense as a mother’s natural instinct wouldn’t allow herself to be separated from her offspring. Although not confirmed, she would have been a local worker, possibly on the plantation who would have wanted the best for her children especially as their father had the financial capacity to facilitate this whilst avoiding the certainty of them becoming plantation workers themselves. It’s also fair to say she would of had little say or control if there was an objection to the move, leaving the latter as a rationale as both a coping mechanism and a way of coming to terms with losing her children.
Life in England shows Andrew lived with a relative of his father with no evidence of him playing any further role with significance in the upbringing of his children. Andrew attended school and by the age of 13/14 years old he was essentially an orphan, following the death of his father and mother back in Guyana who he may have a distance memory of and potentially no solid contact details. The lost came with a hefty inheritance which made the teenager financially independent and continued his education moving to London, attending King’s College School in Wimbledon.
One can imagine being a pupil at a school of King’s College magnitude, presents itself with opportunities to explore and exposure to a variety of subjects, sports and interests which ultimately helped steer the direction he wanted to take his learning too. It was also during this period that his sporting talents became apparent whilst proving to be a smart and capable student, taking full advantage as the next progression was to study mathematics, natural philosophy and civil engineering at the University of Glasgow. Now at the age of around 19/20 years old living in Scotland, Andrew began to take football more seriously joining local sides building a reputation as his performances continued to impress those who were fortunate to witness.
By his mid twenties the young footballer also had a day job which is the equivalent of a semi-professional by today’s standard and was selected to play for Glasgow, helping them to a 1-0 win over Sheffield. Within the same year Queen’s Park F.C., Scotland’s first association football club sign Andrew and with this team he goes on to win the Scottish Cup on more than one occasion, which is still active today and one of the oldest association competitions in football history.
Andrew’s presence signifies ‘The First’ and ‘One of the First’ as we look at what we know, his life could have planned out into various scenario’s both positive and negative. So for example he was separated from his mother as a child, moved to a foreign country as a child, became a teenage orphan, inherited wealth as a teenager and coping with an ignorant society full of racial prejudice and discrimination. There is no doubt the inheritance could have helped ease some of these obstacles, however accounts reflecting his character appears to consistently show a humble gentleman despite any negative behaviour towards him.
Andrew Watson will and should be remembered as one of the first black footballers, the first black international player, the first black player to win a major competition, the first black administrator in football and one of the first examples of black presence in Britain, disproving the portrayal that this never existed.