Hugh McIntyre - Footballer to Cricketer
While flicking through various documents, press-cuttings and articles that I have been collating as research to include in my follow up to “As the Willow Vanishes”, I chanced upon a wee story from August 1884 that was provided to me by Gordon Bell, an administrator of The Gallant Pioneers, a website that records and researches the history of the founders of Rangers Football Club.
In the article, the mention of Parkgrove initially raised my eyebrows. The reason? Parkgrove is the football club that Andrew Watson, the first black international footballer, plays for before joining Queen’s Park and going on to captain Scotland at association football, on his debut I hasten to add, against England at the Oval on the 12th March 1881. Scotland beat England 6-1 that day, and maybe, a similar result at cricket can be achieved in the not too distant future.
As the first black internationalist, Andrew Watson’s story is important for world sport, but in a modern context, the current premise of multi-culturism and complete social engagement irrespective of ethnicity is nothing new – we Scots had conceived the concept and were demonstrating it on an international sporting stage 140 years ago.
But the aspect of the article that caught my eye, was this forgotten story of Hugh McIntyre. Hugh McIntyre was born in Milton, Glasgow, on the 16th January 1857, who played football for Glasgow Northern, Partick Thistle, Rangers, Blackburn Rovers and Scotland.
He was a versatility player – primarily a defender who could play in midfield, as a forward or even as a goal-keeper. He joined Rangers in 1878 and played in the 1879 Scottish Cup Final against Vale of Leven. The final itself was a 1-1 draw, however, Rangers refused to attend a replay and Vale of Leven won the cup by default as a walkover. Rangers refused to attend the replay as a protest at a disallowed goal in the original match.
Hugh joined Blackburn Rovers in 1880 and became part of a squad that would win three successive FA Cup Finals. He moved to London in 1886 and played football for the London Caledonians for a while. There are suggestions that he spent some time in North America and may have played some embryonic football while there.
He died on the 25th June 1905 in Westminster, London. He was only 48 years old, the same age as myself, and on researching his story and background, I discover that Hugh is a gallant pioneer of a footballer turning to cricket, the reverse of the thesis of my book, “As the Willow Vanishes” whereby I suggest that it is cricketers turning to football during the winter months that establishes association football in Scotland and then beyond.
The search of his cricket playing leads me to discover that while at Blackburn Rovers, he gets involved with the summer game. He plays for the Travellers in 1882, East Lancashire from 1883-1886 and WH Bowers XI in 1886. He plays a First Class game for Lancashire against Derbyshire in 1884.
His team-mates at Blackburn Rovers are keen cricketers, such as the Hargreaves brothers, Doctor Greenwood and fellow Scot and former Rangers player, Fergie Suter. This conversion to cricket during the summer months for footballers confirms that the symbiotic relationship between the two sports was evident. They existed side by side and players could seamlessly drift from cricket to football to cricket when the respective seasons finished.
The historical cricketing aspect for me is the coincidences associated with Hugh’s early football career. He plays for United Northern, a cricket club that plays football and is based at Ibrox. He plays for Rangers whose ground was Kinning Park, the former home of Clydesdale Cricket Club and a major force in early Scottish football. His debut for Rangers is against Possilpark on the 6th October 1877, Possilpark also being a cricket club playing football. He plays against Vale of Leven in the Scottish Cup Final, Vale of Leven being a cricket club playing football out of season.
Maybe we have lost sight of the important legacy of cricket in our national history and it is treated with disdain and prejudice. The dismissal of the original national team sport cannot be allowed, perceptions have to be changed and the answers to its future always lie in the past. We just have to search for these answers and then be creative.