Andrew Watson’s father, Peter Miller Watson, was the manager of a sugar plantation in British Guiana while his mother was a local woman called Anna (or Hannah) Rose. Having been born illegitimately, accurate details of Watson’s early life are virtually non-existent. It was only after his father moved the young Andrew and his sister Annetta to Scotland in the early 1860s that any reliable evidence began to appear.
Peter Watson died in 1869 while his son was enrolled at a boarding school in Halifax in West Yorkshire. He and his sister inherited a significant amount of money that secured their financial futures and, after attending King’s College School in Wimbledon, Watson took up a place to study mathematics, engineering and natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow. With his existing interest in football flourishing and, having left university after just one year to take up an engineering apprenticeship, Watson’s talents as a full back saw him join a succession of increasingly bigger clubs.
By 1880 Andrew Watson was playing for Queen’s Park – Britain’s leading team – and the next year he was called up to captain the Scottish national side in a match against England on 12 March 1881. Played at the Oval in London, which currently serves as an international cricket venue, the Scots defeated England by an incredible 6 goals to 1 in a match that is still the heaviest defeat ever suffered by England on home soil. He later moved to London where he became the first black player in the English FA Cup when he joined Swifts in 1882.