A Scotland fan was writing an article for Scottish Epistles Football Fanzine on the Rosebery colours. One of the things that came out of this was the fact that these colours were worn in the international against England at The Oval in 1881 in which Andrew Watson was the captain, and the first international black football player.
Of course, Watson is also commemorated on the mural at the 1st Hampden (now Hampden Bowling club) for playing in the international against England there the following year which resulted in a 5-1 victory.
Andrew Watson died in 1921 and is buried in Richmond cemetery where his grave has fallen into state of disrepair. A Scotland fan who lives in the area visited the cemetery in 2020 and took pictures of the grave displayed on this site.
It struck the Scotland fan, known as Ally, that this was all rather sad – one of Scotland’s most important sporting icons, who is commemorated on a mural at Hampden, who will hopefully be recognised with a permanent statue/memorial in Glasgow and who should be lauded as a pioneer of the game of football, in a unassuming resting place with no indication as to his importance. Surely the very least that should be done is that grave could be tidied up and restored to a more befitting state. Ally decided that this could probably be done with a little effort; the question was how to go about this…..
It is not possible to clean up and alter memorials in graveyards without establishing grave ownership and consulting family members. This necessitated further research by Ally into Watson’s background and family tree to try and establish if there are any living descendants who would require to be consulted before any material alterations. It appears that there are no direct descendants of Watson, his 2 marriages each resulting in 2 children who died without any further children (although one of the children just disappears according to public records and her fate in unknown).
This does raise the question of who paid for his burial plot – currently Richmond Cemetery personnel are looking into the records to find who originally purchased the plot (note that this has been more complex than usual as the records are in paper format and they cannot access the office at this moment in time due to restrictions due to Covid-19). Interestingly, Watson’s (2nd) wife and daughter are buried in the same cemetery in one plot, so finding out who is the grave owner of their grave may provide further useful information.
Therefore in the past couple of months there has been a lot of dialogue between Ally and the very helpful people at Richmond Cemetery about the ownership of the grave, and if/how we can clean this up and perhaps in the future change the simple headstone into a larger memorial.
The current state of affairs (18Sep2020) is that grave ownership hasn’t been established. But the fact that the grave is not maintained and it is 99 years since Watson’s burial means that the grave owner will be deceased. It is therefore legally possible to apply to clean the grave up, and quotes have been sought from local stonemasons.
When the ideas first mooted to clean the grave, the Association of Tartan Army Clubs immediately donated £250 to kickstart the financing of the work. It must be stated that this is a supporter led initiative. It is not, and never was, the intention to do this to embarrass the custodians of the national game, but it is puzzling and sad that there is no interest in celebrating and commemorating such a historical figure.
The installation of a memorial is a more complex issue, but Ally's reading of the information so far (which may be incorrect) is that if it can be legally established that Watson’s children are deceased (PRNO records), and that it can be shown that they had no children, then it is possible for anyone to apply to become the owner of the grave and then permit a new memorial. However, it is obviously a massive step to do this and take responsibility, and there is the question of who manages this in perpetuity.
If the cleaning of the grave as a fan led project helps to then kick start a wider discussion on Watson, and stimulates interest in him with further fund raising being easier for permanent memorials on site and in Scotland, then this is not in vain.
It may appear to be a pointless step to clean the grave if plan is to then replace the current stone with a memorial, but the grave needs to be cleaned in advance of the 100th anniversary of his death and getting everything in place for March 2021 will be a big ask.
Should the crowd funding appeal raise more than £1000, it is planned that any excess go towards the fund for a memorial statue.