Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive, I established that William Forman (or Foreman) was a regular competitor at professional sprint events in Scotland over several years. He was not a top level runner and did not win many prizes, but was confident enough to enter the famous New Year Sprint handicap at Powderhall.
Unfortunately there was also a dark side to his life: three times he was convicted of assaulting his wife and he served time in prison.
Isabella was also black although born in Leith in 1850, the daughter of another American immigrant called John Davis and his Scottish wife Christina Paterson. Isabella already had an illegitimate daughter, but there were no further children with William.
Throughout this time, his name cropped up in reports of races in Edinburgh and Leith, competing for cash prizes. Sometimes he won a heat, for example earning 7s 6d in that meeting at Kirkcaldy, but never a main prize. His last recorded race was in 1882, when the New Year event was held at the Royal Gymnasium, coming second in his heat for the 250 yards handicap.
Looking at the bigger picture, it has to be pointed out that in the 1870s Scottish sport had at least four black sportsmen: Andrew Watson and Robert Walker in football, James Robertson playing rugby and William Forman competing in athletics. The same decade also saw two with Asian heritage, Alfie Clunies-Ross representing Scotland at rugby and Tommy Marten playing football alongside Watson at Parkgrove.
Yet after their sporting careers ended there was a yawning gap in black and ethnic minority participation in Scottish sport for over a hundred years. Apart from a few fleeting footballers, these black sporting pioneers were not emulated by subsequent generations as negative social attitudes and racism blanked any opportunities.
NB I am currently researching the lives of 1870s footballers Robert Walker and Tommy Marten, mentioned above, and hope to publish my findings soon.