Curiously, at a time when closet professionals were transforming the game in Lancashire, the early Scots in Birmingham all came to the city primarily to work, and sought football as a recreation after they arrived.
There was George Ramsay, a Glasgwegian who joined in 1876 and went on to captain the club to its earliest successes, then served as club secretary for over 40 years. William McGregor from Braco in Perthshire was a visionary president and administrator, founder of the Football League. And the two Hunter brothers from Ayrshire, Andy and Archie, stalwarts of the team from 1879.
These Scots, and more, are well documented in an excellent blog post by Villa historian John Lerwill, which you can read here.
The mention of the Hunters presents an opportunity for me to profile their less well-known brother, John Hunter, who has been largely forgotten despite being the first Ayrshire man to be capped. He remained in Scotland when his siblings went to Birmingham.
John (often called Jack) Hunter was born in late 1854 at Hole Farm, near Coylton, where his father ran a 100 acre farm. His younger brothers Andy and Archie were born there in 1856 and 1859 respectively.
However, when the father died in 1866, the family had to leave the farm and their mother took up the tenancy of a small pub in Ayr town centre. John served an apprenticeship as an engineer, which took him to Glasgow to work as an engine fitter, and there he started playing for the newly formed Third LRV football club in about 1873; he probably joined up with the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers first.
As a talented full back, he made his international debut for Scotland against England in 1874, aged just 19, and kept his place in the team for the following two seasons. He was also capped against Wales in 1877.
With Third Lanark he played in two Scottish Cup finals, in 1876 and 1878, and sadly both were lost. In fact on the latter occasion, with brother Archie in the forward line, he inadvertently scored the only goal of the game, deflecting a shot from Vale of Leven's John McDougall past his own goalkeeper.
Jack Hunter appears to have retired from football soon afterwards, perhaps through declining health, as in a few years he was dead. He was ill with tuberculosis for about a year before he succumbed to pneumonia and died in his mother's house in Ayr on 2 November 1881, aged 26. His footballing brothers also suffered from an early death: Andy went to Australia to try and cure his tuberculosis but lost his fight in 1888 aged 32, while Archie was 35 when he died in 1894, a demise which appears to have had its roots in his collapse while playing for Villa in 1890.