When I wrote that article, I appealed for further information and was therefore delighted to be contacted by his grandson, Christopher Robbie. We met up and exchanged information - he was unaware of many of Sleator's exploits - and he found his grandfather's priceless gold medal, pictured here. He also provided a snapshot of the man himself.
A couple of years ago I wrote about William Sleator, an Englishman who is regarded as one of the fathers of French football. In 1891 he founded White Rovers FC, the first club in Paris, and imported the first set of goalposts to France.
When I wrote that article, I appealed for further information and was therefore delighted to be contacted by his grandson, Christopher Robbie. We met up and exchanged information - he was unaware of many of Sleator's exploits - and he found his grandfather's priceless gold medal, pictured here. He also provided a snapshot of the man himself.
The gold medal is the top honour of the French Football Federation, presented to those who have made a major contribution to football in the country. In general it is awarded to long-serving officials, who have already accumulated the silver and gilt category awards, so it was really something special for Sleator to be recognised in this way. The presentation was made 1949, half a century after he gave up playing the game, and showed that his pioneering role in French football had not been forgotten.
Christopher Robbie shared fond recollections of his grandfather, who died in 1955. The story was made all the more interesting as Robbie himself has a fascinating life story as a TV announcer and actor - there are plenty of clips online - and I am sure I saw him in action as a cyber leader on Dr Who in the 1970s (Revenge of the Cybermen). It just goes to show that sport history can lead in all sorts of interesting directions!
The growth of Scottish sport in the late Victorian era owes much to the efforts of Percival King, an Edinburgh sports shop owner. He was one of the first to understand the value of self-promotion, edited a superb cricket annual and donated football trophies which are still competed for today.
King was born in Surrey in 1835 and although he was apprenticed as a cooper he was hooked on cricket and soon found himself in demand as a batsman. Still following his trade, he moved to Cheshire where he played for Birkenhead Park, and returned to London where had a trial for Surrey. He was given his first professional engagement in Birmingham and then Fred Lillywhite offered him the chance of a job in Scotland.
He duly came to Edinburgh in 1862 as cricket professional at Merchiston Castle School and would remain in the city for the rest of his life. Although he coached at the school for 13 years, he really made his mark with his pioneering sports retail business. He opened his first shop in Bristo Street in 1868 and it did so well that he soon expanded to a Cricket and Football Warehouse at 54 Lothian Street, which included a billiard room as well as an extensive stock of playing equipment.
He launched the Scottish Cricketers' Annual in 1871, which was not only an indispensable record of the game in Scotland, it also included a full catalogue of his stock. It would run to 17 editions, which are now rare and highly collectable.
The same year he played his one first class match for Surrey, and although he scored 13 his great achievement was as wicket keeper, catching WG Grace.
Back in Edinburgh he was noted as a batsman, captained the Players of Scotland and played many years for Brunswick; in 1885, aged 49, he scored 115 not out for them against Craigmount. He umpired numerous matches and was the undoubted guru of Scottish cricket thanks to his shop and the Annual.
King was also an excellent businessman and clearly had an eye for an opportunity, keen to encourage other sports that might improve his turnover, notably football.
In 1887 he donated the first Scottish Junior Cup to the fledgling Scottish Junior FA, and the inaugural competition was won by Fairfield Athletic, who defeated Edinburgh Woodburn 3-1 in Govan. King presented the cup to the winners in the public bar next to the ground.
From those small beginnings, the Scottish Junior Cup is now the world's oldest continually played football competition, having been contested annually without a break ever since (including war years). However, as the competition grew, King's silver-plated cup was soon considered too insignificant and in 1897 a new and grander trophy was commissioned by the SJFA, the one that is still in use today.
King's original cup went into retirement, although it made one more appearance before modern times, being put up by the Scottish Junior FA as the War Fund Cup in 1917-18 and won by Renfrew Juniors. Then it disappeared from view until 1985 when the Sunday Post were contacted by a Lanarkshire reader who had been given the cup by a relative. The trophy duly came up for auction at Christies in April 1987 and sold for £500 to a demolition company in Kilsyth. The company's general manager was quoted in the press a few days later saying that he had intended to display it in his offices, but realising the interest of the SJFA he would donate it back to its original owners.
Also in 1887, Percival King donated a cup to the Edinburgh FA who decided to use it 'with a view to keeping up interest among clubs after they had been defeated in the Shield competition'. It was named the King Cup and is still played for to this day by East of Scotland League clubs, probably one of the oldest sponsorship deals in world football!
He wound up his business in 1899, selling off his entire stock at auction, but his latter years were a challenge as he and his wife lived in straitened circumstances. Scotland’s top cricketers played a benefit match in 1909 which brought some comfort but he died the following year in Longmore Hospital after a long illness.
Percival King deserves to be remembered as a sporting pioneer whose efforts enabled a generation of Scottish sportsmen to play the games they loved, and whose legacy lives on in the competitions he helped to establish.
Born 9 December 1835 in Stockwell, Surrey.
Died 29 October 1910 in Edinburgh.
by Andy Mitchell
Look closely at the team photograph of the Royal High School Former Pupils team from 1871: it may come as something of a surprise that one of the players is black.
Standing between two well-known Scotland internationalists, Angus Buchanan and Alexander Petrie, he is identified in the caption as JG Robertson.
So, who was he? Can he claim to be the world's first black rugby player?
Finding out about Robertson took some detailed research to identify him and unravel his fascinating story. It turns out he was a prominent rugby player on both sides of the border who would surely have faced significant social barriers because of his colour, yet appears to have been accepted and integrated.
According to the club website, between 1871 and 1875 Robertson played a total of 46 games for Royal High School FP, one of the founders of the Scottish Rugby Union. He appears in two more team photos, and also made four appearances for the Edinburgh representative team against Glasgow. Other than that, he is barely mentioned in sports histories. There was no JG Robertson in the 1871 or 1881 census in Edinburgh, and I could find nobody of that name in the Royal High School archives.
The answer is that he was the son of Dr Daniel Robertson, a Perthshire-born surgeon who had gone to Gambia in 1834 after graduating from Edinburgh University, and rose to become colonial secretary. Daniel Robertson devoted his entire working life to Gambia and spent over 30 years there before retiring in the mid-1860s. There is no record of him marrying, and the assumption must be that he had a relationship with a Gambian woman which produced two sons: James George Robertson was born about 1854 in Bathurst, Gambia, and his younger brother John three years later.
James was sent to Scotland for his education, initially boarding in Crieff (1861 census) before going to live in St Andrews, where his father and younger brother joined him. James attended Madras College from 1866-70, did well educationally and matriculated at St Andrews University in 1870, but left after his first year.
In the autumn of 1871 he went to Edinburgh University to study medicine and throughout his five years in the capital he played rugby for Royal High School FPs. It would have been natural for him to join the University's thriving sports teams, yet he chose not to. The obvious question is 'Why?' as the major unknown factor in this story is the lack of an obvious connection between him and the school. One can speculate that he may have gone to the Royal High as a boy, or his father had a connection, but I have not yet found any proof.
A talented forward with the knack of scoring key tries, Robertson found acceptance within the Edinburgh rugby-playing community, as four times he was selected to play against Glasgow. The first time was on 6 December 1873, then again the following month, and in February and December 1875. Although these matches were effectively international trials, he was never mentioned as a possible internationalist.
In 1876 Robertson graduated from Edinburgh University in medicine and surgery, in the same ceremony as Scotland rugby legend RW 'Bulldog' Irvine. He found his first job in County Durham where he was appointed resident medical officer at Gateshead Dispensary. It was not the end of his rugby days by any means and over the next few years he played regularly. He first appeared for Northumberland (a club, not the county) early in 1878, where he would have found a familiar face in the team: PB (Patrick Bruce) Junor, a Glasgow Academical who had played for Royal High School FP (also without a past pupil connection) before coming to Durham in 1874.
Dr Robertson went on to captain the North Durham club, which was based in Gateshead, from 1879-82 and may have played for Darlington after that, although records are not clear.
He married local girl Emily Joel in Newcastle in 1879, and they had three sons and a daughter. The 1891 census shows the family living in Gateshead, joined by James’s father. However, Daniel died in 1892 and this may have been the catalyst for the family to move on, as in 1894 James Robertson purchased a medical practice in Ashwell, Hertfordshire. He became a prominent figure in local life, not only as the town's doctor but also as president of Ashwell tennis club and a committee member for the cricket club.
However, his life ended unexpectedly in February 1900. He had been doing his usual rounds but when he came home he collapsed and died in front of his wife. The funeral three days later attracted over 300 mourners and he was buried in St Mary's Churchyard. He was only 46, and left almost £10,000 in his will.
JG Robertson's story is important as he is the first known black footballer, of any code, yet I have not found a single reference to Robertson's colour in contemporary accounts.
His story has strong echoes with two other non-white Scottish players of that era. Alfred Clunies-Ross, who was half Malay, played in the first Scotland rugby team in 1871; he was also educated at Madras College, studied medicine at Edinburgh University but played for a club side (Wanderers) and then went to London where he played for Wasps. A decade later, the Scotland football team in 1881 was captained by Andrew Watson, born in Guyana to a Scottish father and local woman, then educated in Britain; he played for Parkgrove and Queen's Park, then went to London where he played for Swifts, Corinthians and Bootle.
The common thread for all three is that their colour was barely mentioned (if at all) in newspaper reports, and there is virtually nothing to indicate that they suffered discrimination due to their colour. This raises the question as to whether their social class allowed them to rise above racial discrimination.
It also make me wonder why attitudes then changed, making it harder for non-white players to participate in high level sport: from Arthur Wharton onwards, their colour was regularly highlighted and discrimination in sport became the norm.
In the course of my research I have accumulated a fair bit of additional detail about JG Robertson and his family. If you would like more information, or may be one of his descendants, please get in touch via the form on the Contact page.
The colourful life of Harry Boyd, a Scottish goalscorer of the 1890s, is a classic example of a player whose talent was blighted by drink and personal demons. Yet for a while his star shone brightly, notably as top scorer at both Woolwich Arsenal and Newton Heath. He was also capped by the Scottish League during a season at Third Lanark.
Boyd's chaotic story has never been told in full before but now it has been researched and written by a trio of guest bloggers: Robert Bradley, Douglas Gorman and Colin MacKenzie. They reveal his family background, detail his goalscoring exploits, and contrast his playing success with his tragic outbursts of violence and indiscipline, culminating in an early grave.
Click here to read their fascinating account of Harry Boyd's life.
by guest blogger Douglas Gorman
Scotland had three great Junior football internationalists in the early post-War period: Bert McNab (Petershill), Davie Mair (Stonehouse Violet) and Willie Niven (Irvine Meadow XI).
Their combined Junior Scotland careers stretched from 1948 to 1955 and overlapped between 1951 and 1954.
In the 16 matches played by Scotland from 23 December 1950 to 12 February 1955 at least one of the trio was in the team and they all captained the team in a total of at least ten matches. Bert McNab’s 13 matches against international opposition has yet to be beaten.
You can read Douglas Gorman's account of their careers and achievements by clicking here.
As I write, Belgium are set to face Scotland at Hampden Park, fresh from an excellent World Cup campaign which saw them finish in third place. Yet perhaps their greatest honour came in 1920 when they won Olympic gold in the football tournament, and much of the credit went to their Scottish coach, Willie Maxwell.
Maxwell is a key figure in the development of Belgian football, having gone to Brussels in 1909 after a fine career which included a cap for Scotland against England in 1898. Born in Arbroath, he started out in his home team where he represented Forfarshire aged 18. He played briefly for Hearts and Dundee before joining Stoke in 1895, where he was the club's top goalscorer in five of his six seasons there. Rated one of the top forwards of his era, Stoke turned down serious money for him but after he suffered a knee injury (thereby missing a second cap) he lost some of his speed. He had a season at Third Lanark in 1901-02 before returning to England with Sunderland, Millwall and finally Bristol City, where he won a Second Division championship medal in 1906.
Like many prominent players of the era, he went to the continent to coach and took charge initially of Leopold FC in Brussels. Part of his remit was to teach the players how to shoot, and he also took them on a short tour to England. He was optimistic about the future for Belgian football, according to this article at the end of 1909:
In 1911 he was asked to coach the Belgian national team, and was also training another club side, Daring FC. He threw himself into Belgian life, and even represented the country at cricket in 1913. He had always been a fine batsman and had played for Arbroath, Staffordshire and Bedminster during his football career.
Although his Belgian appointment was curtailed by the First World War, he returned after the conflict and his greatest triumph came in 1920 at the Olympic Games, held in Antwerp. Belgium, as hosts, beat Spain and Netherlands to reach the final against Czechoslovakia. With Belgium leading 2-0 towards the end of the first half, English referee John Lewis sent off a Czech player and the rest of the team promptly walked off in protest. The Belgians were awarded the gold medal, and were essentially world champions (albeit this competition was for amateurs only).
Maxwell remained as national team coach until 1928, after which he coached Malines (Mechelen) for a decade, and finally led Cercle Bruges to the second division title in 1937/38.
He returned to Staffordshire and his wife's home town of Stone, where he is buried, although he died in Bristol.
William Sturrock Maxwell, born Arbroath 21 September 1875, died Bristol 14 July 1940.
When I wrote the biography of Lord Kinnaird a few years ago, one of the challenges that I faced was an absence of personal recollection by the man himself. He kept some scrapbooks and photos, but appeared to have left no sporting memoirs.
However, there was one particular quote widely attributed to him, the source of which I had never been able to track down. It read: 'I believe all right-minded people have good reason to thank God for the great progress of this popular national game.' It was only recently that I stumbled across its origin in a religious magazine called Progress, published by the United Free Church of Scotland in January 1901. The article sheds a fascinating light on the early development of football, made all the more useful as it is written by a man who lived through the sport's fledgling days in the 1860s.
Thanks to digitised newspapers, and I can now reproduce the full article:
Football, by Lord Kinnaird
I have been connected with the Association game ever since its commencement and, indeed, my knowledge of the game dates from about 1865. Looking back, I cannot but contrast its present popularity, when from 60,000 to 70,000 people will gather to see an International match, or the final for the Football Association Cup, and those old days, when a handful of people, who were admitted free, used to come and witness the best matches of the year. Reading the football reports on a Monday morning, it is difficult to realise that this is the same game. I know of no sport which has so quickly assumed national importance as football.
I well remember some of the first attempts to extend the game beyond the confines of our public schools and universities. The earliest efforts were made in London, and the neighbourhood, the teams being largely composed of old members of Eton and Harrow, with Winchester, Westminster, Charterhouse, and members of H.M. Civil Service. My own personal knowledge of the development of football mainly applies to the Association game, but I fancy that what one can say of this branch is equally true with reference to the Rugby game.
I was one of a small committee formed to think out what came to be the Association Rules. These were based on the game played by Eton, Westminster, and Charterhouse, leaving out the Eton 'rouge', which resembles what Rugby friends would call the scrum.
What Led to Football's Great Popularity?
It is generally difficult to popularise a new game, but it early appeared to many leading athletes that there was a great need for an open air game available to all classes, especially for those who could not afford the more expensive pastimes. It further gained a great impetus from the increase of the Saturday half-holiday and the general increase of leisure. Young men found they had more free time, and not much to occupy the time. Another force which early came in to extend the liking for football was the annual matches between public schools and university teams.
The first large town to take up the game energetically was Sheffield, and the annual matches were played between London and Sheffield under rather different rules, the first match being in 1866. Then came the keenly contested games between England and Scotland, which became an annual fixture. It was in Yorkshire, at the home of sport, Bramall-lane Cricket Ground, Sheffield, that spectators first began to assemble in any great numbers. They were the fairest spectators of any crowd, always ready to appreciate the points of the game, and to applaud good play on either side. It would be well if the spectators in England and Scotland today would follow their example. We would then be spared many of the disgraceful scenes which bring discredit on the game. In those days umpires were not necessary - the captains of the two teams made most admirable umpires, and from their positions they were able to give as good and fair decisions, often better, than the modern umpire.
Scotland, of course, began early to take up football, and it spread like wildfire, and they very soon produced players to hold their own in any contest. The management of the Scottish team passed into the hands of a committee in Glasgow, which became the Scottish National Association, and the annual match was keenly looked forward to and eagerly contested. The third match, which was played at Kennington Oval in 1871, was a most exciting affair, and ended in a draw. For the first three or four contests the Scottish team was mainly composed of men like myself, resident in or near London, but Mr. R. Smith, of the Queen's Park, Glasgow, did excellent work, and was amongst the forerunners of the many who are now willing to take a long journey in order to play in such games. Before very long the committee decided that the International team should be composed entirely of Scotsmen, which was a very just rule.
Gate Money and Its Troubles
Amongst the teams which made their mark in the early development of Association football might be mentioned the Wanderers, the Queen's Park, Glasgow, Old Etonians, Harrow Chequers (which soon merged in Old Harrovians), Royal Engineers, Clapham Rovers, and Civil Service. With the growing popularity of the game the troubles began. Gate money flowed in, and how it was to be spent became a substantial factor in the game - the question of players receiving payment pressed for consideration. Personally, I took the view that it would be better to recognise what was bound to come. It did not need the gift of prophecy to foresee that, with large sums of money coming in there was a danger of it being illicitly spent if the professional was not permitted. Many of my friends differed from my view that, in football as in cricket, there was room for development, not only among amateurs, but also among professionals.
I will not, however, enter at length upon the thorny question of professionalism. Suffice it to say, that I find professionals play just as fair and sound a game as amateurs. Some of the roughest games in which I have taken part have not been with Northern or professional teams, but in matches with clubs representing public schools and universities - more especially the games between the old rivals Eton and Harrow. While, however each side played a hard game, there was nothing in the way of mean or unfair play.
With reference to the development of the game itself, the first football tour was undertaken by a team of officers of the Royal Engineers, under the able captainship of the late Major Sir F. A. Marindin, who was for so many years president and chairman of the Football Association, and very few of its meetings took place at which he did not preside. As might be expected from a team comprised of scientific men, the Royal Engineers were the first to develop that style of play (so different from the public school game), which is now known as the combination, or passing game, and which has been carried to such perfection both by Association and Rugby players. Football is a game possessing many advantages. It may be played in any weather and at a time of the year when few other games can be so advantageously played. One of the roughest days in which I ever played was in a match at Glasgow - Old Etonians v Queen's Park - just the day before the sad Tay Bridge disaster, but none of us were any the worse for our game.
The Future of Football
As to the future of the game, I am often I asked: 'Do I not regret the part I have taken in promoting the development and popularity of football?' I unhesitatingly say 'No!' I look on the increase of athletic sports as one of the most important elements in improving the physique of our population, and producing a sound body and a healthy spirit amongst the young men of the vast population herded together in our great cities. I admit that I cannot now speak with the same accurate personal knowledge as I could have done ten years ago of all the districts in the United Kingdom; but even if it be granted that there are sometimes blots on the game in small areas of the country, I believe that all right-minded people have good reason to thank God for the great progress of this popular National game, and it is the duty of all good citizens to do what they can by personal influence and presence, and by associating themselves with the various clubs, to see that the game - both Rugby and Association - is fairly and honestly played. In this game numbers, variously estimated at 300,000 and 350,000, take part every week.
I wish further, that rich men would acquire freehold land for open spaces sufficiently near the centre of our large towns for cricket and football, and secure these under trust deed with rules prohibiting the sale of intoxicants and forbidding betting and gambling.
The Football Association has steadfastly set its face against all gambling and betting in connection with football matches, and we are always ready to come down with a heavy hand on any infringement of our rules on this point, and we invite the aid of all who are interested in the well-being of young men of the rising generation to encourage them to take part, not as spectators, but as players, in some of the many branches of athletic sports which are now brought within their reach. Of all these, I personally think that football is the best for the development of true manliness and unselfishness of character, helping to fit the young men to take part in after years in the more serious competition of life, whether for the Churches or for the Empire.
First published in Progress, the monthly magazine of the United Free Church of Scotland, January 1901
He was a Scottish football coach who managed teams in Spain, Uruguay, Mexico and Argentina. He won trophies and was held in high regard, but almost nobody in this country has heard of William Raeside.
I first came across him when I wrote my recent blog about the Scottish players who spent the 1946-47 season in Mexico. He has a fascinating story, but working out Raeside's football career has proved quite a challenge: he changed his name, knocked years off his age, exaggerated his achievements and had long periods out of football.
I can find no record of Raeside until he was announced in the summer of 1927 as the new coach of Celta Vigo in north-west Spain. He was then aged 35 and the club outlined an impressive background as player and coach: 'He played for 11 years with Hibernian, South Shields, Darlington and others. Later he was trainer of Hibernian and then, as a professor of athleticism for Charles Durning at St Mirren. He was instructor at Glasgow University and then trainer of four Norwegian clubs – one of whom he took to the final of the Norwegian championship. He comes with excellent references, including from Celtic and Motherwell.'
The trouble is, I have been unable to verify any of these claims, or indeed any football pedigree as player or trainer. There is perhaps some truth in it, for example he may well have been an assistant to Charles Durning, who was trainer of St Mirren 1911-19 and subsequently athletics coach at Glasgow University, but there is no hard evidence. He certainly didn't make any first team appearances as a player.
Nonetheless, he was a success at Celta Vigo: his team won the championship of Galicia for 1927-28, and the club was disappointed when he left them after a year.
Yet what makes his story particularly curious is that Raeside took the Celta Vigo job under a false name, WH Cowan. And that takes some explaining.
Born in Paisley in 1892, William Raeside was brought up in the city, where he worked as a steel cutter, which probably saved him from being called up in the first war. He married Jane Gerrard in 1911 and they had two daughters.
However, he separated from his wife and by 1920 was living in Edinburgh when he fathered the first of five children by Jessie Cowan Scobie. Her middle name is significant as he used it to change his identity, and perhaps to evade his first wife, who divorced him in 1928 claiming 'address unknown'. At the time, he was coaching Celta Vigo as WH Cowan, and later that year he had a son who was registered with that surname, and Raeside even signed the register as William R Cowan. That subterfuge was only corrected years later, in 1946, with the aid of a sheriff.
Following his year in Vigo, Raeside returned to Glasgow to work as an accountant, reverted to his own surname and married Jessie in 1930. Throughout this time, he was described on all the birth and marriage certificates as a clerk or accountant. Interestingly, however, on similar certificates relating to his children, many years later, his occupation was given as football trainer or athletic coach. It is a good example of how family records can help to build up a life story with their snippets of information.
There is no record of Raeside having any further football involvement until the summer of 1937, when Millington Drake, a British diplomat in Montevideo, was asked by the president of Nacional to find him a coach who would improve Uruguayan football 'by the influence of English technique and training systems.' Somehow Drake was put in touch with Raeside, whose ability to speak Spanish must have helped, and he duly crossed the Atlantic in November 1937 to take up the position.
He spent a year coaching Nacional, assisted by Hector Castro, a World Cup winner with Uruguay in 1930, and they are credited with laying the foundations for the great Nacional team which Castro led to five straight championship titles. The first signs of that success came early in 1938 when Nacional won the Gold Cup, formally known as the Torneo Internacional Nocturno, played between the ten best teams from Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Rosario and La Plata. It included a memorable 2-1 away win at Estudiantes on 19 February 1938, in a bitterly hostile atmosphere known as 'the match of the bloodstained shirts'.
Raeside (also known as Reaside) decided to return home in October 1938, reportedly to become a scout for Arsenal, prompting mass demonstrations from fans who wanted him to stay.
Again there was a fallow period before his next overseas appointment with Asturias in Mexico City, coaching the team for the 1945-46 season in the Mexican Liga Mayor. They finished tenth out of 16, a disappointment after winning the league two years earlier, but he remained with the club for a second season having recruited three Scottish players, including Jackie Milne as coach.
In 1947 he was on the move again, this time to Argentina, taking charge of Newell's Old Boys in Rosario. It was not a great success as Newell's did not win any of their first ten games, in fact they only won seven out of 30 all season, and ended the season in 11th place in the Argentina Primera Division.
He appears to have suggested recruiting Scottish players, as in 1948 Newell's had three Scots in their ranks: Willie Kilpatrick (ex-Chelsea, Dunfermline and others) was joined by two inexperienced juniors from Renfrew, Stewart McCallum and Donald McDonald. Former Celtic striker Joe Rae also signed up but then bought himself out of the contract. By all accounts, the Scots were not a great success, but by then Raeside had returned home.
He next cropped up back in Mexico with CD Guadalajara for 1950-51, and although the team did reasonably well, finishing fifth in the league, he was dismissed by the board because of health problems, apparently rheumatism. By this time Raeside was becoming conscious of advancing years, and his passport, issued while he was in Argentina, stated his birth was in 1896, knocking four years off his age.
For the first time in his career, he secured a management post in the UK, taking charge of Cheltenham Town in the Southern League for the 1952-53 season, and then had a short final stint across the Atlantic, as technical director of Atlante in Mexico City in the autumn of 1953.
Back in Scotland, in August 1954 he applied to be Dundee United manager but the job went to Reggie Smith, and that appears to be the end of Raeside's football career. He retired to Old Kilpatrick, west of Glasgow, and died there in 1964.
There are many frustrating gaps in William Raeside's life story. Most notably, how did he get that first job with Celta Vigo in 1927 – did he really have a coaching background? He seems to have slipped under the radar for much of his life, but there is no doubt he led a fascinating career and I would love to find out more.
William Raeside, also known as WH Cowan and William Reaside: born 24 March 1892 in Paisley; died 15 November 1964 in Old Kilpatrick.
With thanks to the following sources:
Celta Vigo: http://yoentrenealcelta.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/wh-cowan.html
Newell’s Old Boys: http://anotandofutbol.blogspot.com/2018/02/newells-old-boys-parte-2.html
Newell’s Old Boys: https://nobhomenaje.blogspot.com/2017/05/quinteto-ofensivo-1947.html
Chivas Guadalajara: https://www.facebook.com/Datos.Chivas/
British Newspaper Archive: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
The anecdote about Millington Drake in 1937 is from Scoring for Britain by Peter J Beck (1999).
When writing the book 1824: The World’s First Foot-Ball Club, we took a close look at the lengthy pre-history of football in Edinburgh. This led to the rediscovery of some remarkable seventeenth century drawings which include what is probably the earliest illustration of football goalposts yet discovered – not to mention the oldest picture of football in Scotland.
It was drawn by Archibald Flint, a student who graduated from Edinburgh University in 1673. He doodled extensively in the margins of his lecture notes (known as dictates) and on the title pages of two surviving volumes are four little pen sketches which show men – presumably students – taking part in sport. They depict billiards, tennis, football and target archery.
The importance of these drawings was first recognised by Charles Pringle Finlayson, who was keeper of manuscripts at Edinburgh University library. He wrote a lengthy analysis in the Scottish Historical Review, published in 1958, but his paper has been largely forgotten and deserves to be better known among sports historians.
The football scene is fascinating, with two men in hats kicking a ball between a curious set of three-barred goal posts. Finlayson speculates that the bars may be associated with some kind of scoring differential, depending on which bit of the goal the ball crosses. Alternatively, he says, they might relate to the Edinburgh field where football was played, Gallowgreen, because of their similarity to the shape of the gallows.
Finlayson also notes that the Latin translation of one of James VI’s works calls football 'pila Scotica quae pede propellitur' (a Scottish ball which is propelled by the foot).
The drawings confirm that sport of various kinds had became respectable in late 17th century Scotland, when attitudes relaxed again after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. It was not just football: emerging from years of negativity by the Kirk and the civic authorities, golfers started to knock balls around Bruntsfield and Leith Links, horse racing began again on Leith Shore and Musselburgh, and bowling greens were laid out in the city by landowners on their estates.
Archery was strengthened by the founding in Edinburgh of the Royal Company of Archers in 1676, the nation's first sporting society. From Alexander Flint’s drawings we can deduce that tennis was popular – there was a tennis court at the Abbey of Holyroodhouse – and so was billiards.
Students were at the forefront of this activity, and around the same time, there is an account of the money spent by Alexander Heriot, who was perhaps a factor for the Gilmour household, on behalf of Alexander Gilmour of Craigmillar (just south of Edinburgh), reflecting what the young man about town needed in 1671-3: 'A great comb to his periwig, half a dozen golf balls, a football at fastern's even'.
Golf was also considered a suitable game for a student of that era, as Thomas Kincaid, an Edinburgh surgeon’s son, reveals in his diary for 1687-88. Aged about 26 years old, he played golf on Bruntsfield Links, 'near the Tounis College', and on Leith Links. Kincaid went on to describe 'the only way of playing at the Golve', giving instruction on how to adopt the correct stance and hit the ball, and elsewhere in his diary he outlined how golf clubs were made. He also developed a talent for archery and went on to be an active member of the Royal Company of Archers, becoming just the third winner of the Edinburgh Arrow in 1711.
It all goes to show that football games, archery butts, tennis courts and billiard tables were an accepted part of the landscape for Edinburgh gentlemen towards the end of the 17th century. The enthusiasm of the university authorities for some of these sports appears to have waned in the following century, before John Hope and his friends revived football as a respectable pastime when they founded their club in 1824.
With thanks for the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library, for rephotographing Archibald Flint's dictates, and giving permission for reproduction.
CP Finlayson's article was entitled: Illustrations of Games by a Seventeenth Century Edinburgh Student. The Scottish Historical Review, Vol. 37, No. 123, Part 1 (April 1958), pp. 1-10.
The offer sounded too good to be true: three Scottish footballers were wanted to go to Mexico, all expenses paid, big salary, lengthy contract. And this was in 1946, so it meant an escape from post-war austerity and rationing.
Little wonder that three of our international starts jumped at the opportunity, and for a full year Jackie Milne, Tom McKillop and Jimmy Hickie lived the dream in Mexico City. This little-known episode was brought to mind as Scotland's national team prepare to face Mexico in the Azteca Stadium for the first time.
The adventure was chronicled in a series of articles by Jack Harness in the Sunday Post, starting in May 1946 when he revealed that William Raeside, the Scottish coach of Asturias FC, had come home from Mexico to recruit players. The three he selected were approaching the end of their careers and were all able to negotiate free transfers. Jackie Milne was player-manager of Dumbarton after a career with Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal (where he was part of the team that won the Football League in 1937/38) and Middlesbrough. Tom McKillop had spent a decade with Rangers, winning the Scottish League twice, while Jimmy Hickie was an established defender with Clyde, winning the Scottish Cup in 1939. They all had pre-war international honours, Milne having twice played against England, McKillop won one cap against Holland in 1938, while Hickie was selected for the Scottish League the same year.
After a rush to get passports and negotiate their release from their clubs, they duly set off for Mexico in June 1946, flying from Prestwick via New York in an era when transatlantic air travel was a rare luxury. They were immediately pitched into the Asturias side for a cup-tie.
Asturias was a mid-table Mexican side when they joined league and there was to be no fairy tale season as their league position hardly changed, finishing ninth in 1946/47. Still, it was a great experience and the three were preparing for the second year of their contracts when the club's Spanish and American owners suddenly withdrew their support. The players were effectively abandoned and had to return home.
Nonetheless, they told Jack Harkness of the wonderful experience, away from the shortages of post-war Britain. They lodged with a Scottish couple in the Lomas district of Mexico City, and found that food was plentiful, while the city was booming. The football took some getting used to - there were stories of mass fights and appalling refereeing - but they fitted in well.
Once back in the UK, the footballers had to decide on their futures. Milne left the game and set himself up in the licensed trade, running the Wee Thackit Inn at Carluke. Hickie returned briefly to Clyde and then played for Dunfermline before retiring at the end of 1947. McKillop, the youngest of the trio, signed for Rhyl in North Wales and liked it so much he settled there permanently and later became club manager.
The other factor in the tale is the role of Paisley-born William Raeside, who recruited them in the first place. He has a fascinating story as a Scottish coach abroad, having taken charge of clubs as diverse as Celta de Vigo in 1927 (under the assumed name of WH Cowan), and later across the Atlantic with Nacional of Uruguay, Newell's Old Boys in Argentina, Guadalajara in Mexico, and - somewhat incongruously - back in Britain with Cheltenham Town in the 1952/53 season. I'm going to look into his life in more detail in a future blog.
All blog posts, unless stated, are written by Andy Mitchell, who is researching Scottish sport on a regular basis.