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Annetta Watson

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Andrew Watson (1856 –1921) is now recognised as the first black person to play association football at international level, representing Scotland three times between 1881 and 1882. He also attended Glasgow University and later qualified as a marine engineer. His older sister Annetta (1849–89) was less fortunate and her life story highlights the vulnerability of a young, black woman in Scotland in the nineteenth century.

Annetta and Andrew Watson were illegitimate children born in Georgetown, Demerara to Peter Miller Watson and Hannah Rose, a black or ‘coloured’ woman. Both were send to England and in 1861 they were in a household in Colwich, Staffordshire, with a widow Mrs Elizabeth Buchanan. There was another illegitimate, Demerara-born girl in the household – Emma Eugenia McLagan, whose father John McLagan was born in Demerara, trained in Scotland as a doctor, and returned to Demerara where he died in 1850.

Peter Miller Watson died in 1869 leaving £6,000 in trust to Annetta and £6,000 in trust to Andrew. There was also a legacy of £200 to Elizabeth Buchanan. Andrew was boarding at Crossley Heath school in Yorkshire and Annetta went to live with her father’s brother, William Robertson Watson, in Innerleithen.

When she reached the age of twenty-one in 1870, Annetta was a young black woman, with a substantial inheritance, living in a small Scottish town. Things went badly wrong for her in 1873 when, perhaps already pregnant, she married 44-year old John Hunter Stevenson (1829–1900). The marriage on 30th September was irregular – that is it was valid but was not registered. The couple left for London and ten days after their marriage Stephenson had sex with another woman, possibly a prostitute, and infected Annetta with a venereal disease. They lived together in Brighton and at various addresses in London until, on 16th May 1874, Stevenson deserted her. He returned for one night in December and, having had sex with a Selina Deacon on several occasions and also with ‘divers women’, again passed on a venereal disease. At some point during this year Annetta had given birth to a child who had died. In July 1875 she petitioned unsuccessfully for divorce.

Annetta moved to Glasgow where she supported herself as a music teacher but in 1883 she developed cirrhosis of the liver. She made her will in which she left all her property to her doctor, Robert Stewart Pollock who took on responsibility for the expenses of ‘her sickbed and funeral’. She died six years later leaving only a little more than £200.

Her husband John Hunter Stephenson was born in Paisley and had been a tea merchant in Glasgow before moving to London where, as a commission agent, he was bankrupt in 1866. In 1898, at the age of 69, Stephenson was convicted of conspiring with others to defraud the public by selling £21,000 of shares in a bogus company and was sentenced to twelve months hard labour. He died in 1900.

 

Sources available on request

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