Long-standing readers may remember the story of Cuthbert Ottaway (1850 – 78), England’s first ever football captain. It was a guest post written by Ottaway’s biographer, Mick Southwick. Some seven years ago, Mick had discovered that Ottaway’s grave in Paddington Old Cemetery was in a terrible state: completely dilapidated and overgrown with weeds. England fan Paul McKay picked up on the story and so commenced a lengthy campaign to restore the footballer’s resting place to a state worthy of one of the great sportsmen of the era.
It was a great privilege for me to be present yesterday at the memorial unveiling and re-dedication of Ottaway’s last resting place. Paul and Mick were both there, of course, along with representatives of the Football Association, Marlow FC (Ottaway’s club), Councellor Roxanne Mashari from the Borough of Brent, the Town Mayor of Marlow, Councellor Suzanne Brown. Paul McKay read goodwill messages from – among others – the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, Gordon Taylor of the Players Football Association and Ottaway’s descendants who all reside in Canada. The new memorial, draped in the flag of Eton College, was unveiled by Sir David Calvert-Smith, President of the Etonian Association. For Cuthbert Ottaway had been a King’s Scholar. He also represented Oxford at Athletics, Real Tennis, Racquets and Cricket (during his subsequent short career he often opened the batting with W.G. Grace). Not bad.
No surprises, we also sang Abide With Me and Jerusalem, led by Mother Christine Cargill, the vicar of the local St. Anne’s Brondesbury, who conducted the service.
Ottaway captained England against Scotland twice, in 1872 and 1874. He also won an FA Cup medal in 1874 representing Oxford University v Royal Engineers. He died unexpectedly and suddenly from pneumonia aged just 27 when his Canadian wife was expecting their first child.