When asked recently who was the first Liverpool-born man to play Association Football for England or score a goal in an FA Cup final, I was not able to answer the question. I then commenced to trawl through the FA records and, after much deliberation, appeared to have found the two most likely candidates to fill these roles. I was surprised to discover that they both belong to the same family.
Robert Darnley Anderson was born on 29th April, 1859 and baptised the following June at St Pauls church in the Princes Park area of Liverpool. He was the fifth child and second son of a wealthy Scottish cotton merchant who had settled at Liverpool in a large house known simply as “West Dingle”. His Mother, Dorothy nee Horsfall, was born on Netherfield Lane in Everton and her father was also a rich cotton merchant.
The 1861 census reveals that the family had moved to Marine Terrace in Great Crosby and the children were being educated at home. They then left the Liverpool area never to return. The 1871 census then finds the Anderson family had moved to a large estate inherited from their grandfather known as Waverley Hall near Farnham in Surrey where Rupert, along with his younger brother William, was taught by a resident governess in preparation for his public school education. Twelve other servants were also employed by his Father.
In 1873, Rupert became a pupil at Eton College, Windsor and was placed in the house of one of the dames, a Miss C. Evans. In the June of 1876 his Father passed away and the Waverley estate passed in to the hands of his elder brother, Charles. Rupert in the meanwhile represented the Oppidans in the Eton Wall Game on the football field and became the Honourable Secretary of the Old Etonians Association Football Club when he left the College in 1878. He represented the club in the forward line, played in the same side as his close friend Lindsay Bury and, presumably, went along to support him when he was selected to represent England at the Kennington Oval on the 29th of January, 1879.
Their opponents were Wales and it was the first time the two counties had opposed each other under the rules of the FA. The occasion, however, was effected by the weather. The national railway network was thrown into chaos by a heavy overnight fall of snow and the man who was selected to keep goal for England, the Reverend W. Blackmore, was not on the ground when the time appointed for the kick-off arrived. Rupert Anderson, as a last-minute replacement, took to the field and thus became the first Liverpool-born man to play association football for England. He guarded the home citadel with confidence and helped his side to win the game by 2 goals to1 before rejoining the Old Etonians.
Rupert Anderson and his fellow Collegians now embarked on an FA Cup run which, eventually, brought them in to conflict with a Darwen side who had reached the quarter final stage of the tournament by strengthening their ranks with players that they had imported from Scotland. Nevertheless, they were beaten at the third attempt but the new aspirants had won the public admiration because, due to the rules of the contest, they had been forced to play all three games in London. Anderson next took part in the semi-final victory over Nottingham Forest but then picked up an injury and missed out on a winner’s medal when the Old Etonians, who beat Clapham Rovers, won the FA Cup for the first time.
Rupert then left his home in Farnham when he matriculated to Trinity Hall College at Cambridge University in October but was back with the Old Etonian players when he honoured a pledge he had made to the secretary of Darwen Football Club to play a benefit match to help replenish the money they had spent in honouring their FA Cup ties in London. The match was played on 31st of December, 1879.
The Etonians, led by Lord Kinnaird, travelled by overnight train from London and arrived in good time for the game that was played on Barley Bank Meadow. Rupert Anderson took part in the match where he was joined on the field by his younger brother William, who was now attending Eton College. The game attracted a crowd of over 8,000 people who packed the enclosure to see their side beat the FA Cup holders by 3 goals to 1. William Anderson then returned to Eton College while his elder brother Rupert continued his studies at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was not, however, to remain there for much longer.
University records reveal that Rupert Anderson did not graduate but suddenly left Cambridge along with Lindsay Bury and emigrated to North America where he became Fruit Broker in Baker County, Florida. His brother William, in the meantime, had “gone up” to Trinity Hall, Cambridge and become a regular member of the Old Etonian football team forward line. In 1882, the club again reached the FA Cup final where their opponents this time would be Blackburn Rovers. The game in England however, was now changing and the professional football player was beginning to make his presence felt.
The Lancashire side, who had not been beaten for thirty-five matches, were confidant of taking the trophy but the public schoolmen took a first half lead when a pass from Arthur Dunn found William Anderson who, with a calm finish, became the first Liverpool-born player to score a goal in an FA Cup final. It turned out to be the only goal of the game and he thus became the first Liverpool-born man to receive an FA Cup winner's medal. Next season, the Old Etonians reached the FA Cup for a third and final time but fortune on this occasion favoured their opponents, Blackburn Olympic.
William Anderson took his place in the forward line and the game ended in 1-1. The Old Etonians, reduced to ten men, tired during extra time and were beaten by 2 goals to 1. The days of the noble amateur football player had come an end and henceforth the game would be dominated by the professional.
William Anderson, like his brother before him, soon left Cambridge University and emigrated to North America where he became a rancher/cattle dealer near the town of Livingstone in the state of Montana. It would appear that he lived an exciting life, being in injured by a bull and taking part in “Wild West-style” range wars while preventing his cattle from being rustled off his land. His brother Rupert also flourished in America before returning for a special romantic visit to England.
On the 3rd of January, 1889 Thomas Anderson married Amy Harland at the parish church of Colwich in Staffordshire. The late father of his wife had been a vicar at the church while her mother hailed from the Everton district of Liverpool. Amy gave birth to a daughter in Colwich before joining her husband who continued to prosper in Florida. In 1893, Thomas Anderson retired to private life and the couple re-settled in England near Rugeley in Staffordshire where a further three daughters were added to the family.
On the 23 of November, 1893 his elder brother Charles passed away and Rupert and his family moved in to the Waverley Hall Estate where he received a visit from his younger brother. William then returned to his ranch in Montana before coming back to England in 1899 where he enlisted to fight in the Boer War. He was never to see his native land again.
William was granted the Queens Commission and became a Lieutenant in Thornberry’s Mounted Infantry. The troop consisted of men from all walks of life and were described as being…one of the finest irregular mounted units to be raised during the conflict. Anderson, along with his fellow troopers, saw action around the Spion Kop where he may well have been wounded in the fierce fighting because on 21st September, 1900 he resigned his commission. William Joseph Anderson died on 23rd June, 1902 and was buried in the military cemetery at Braamfontain in Johannesburg.
The 1911 census finds Rupert Anderson still enjoying his retirement at Waverley Abbey with his four daughters and his son and heir Rupert Junior. At the outbreak of World War One he became a Major in the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment while his son also served in the army. Waverley Hall was given up to be become a Military Hospital and Amy Anderson became the Commandant. She was assisted in her nursing duties by her four daughters. After the conflict both her and her Husband, in recognition of their service, were awarded the OBE. Rupert Darnley Anderson, a former goalkeeper for England, passed away on the 2nd of January, 1939 and his ashes were buried, far from his native Liverpool, at Tilbury in Surrey.
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