top of page

William Clarke - Footballer

William Clarke - one of the first black professional footballers

W illiam Gibb 'Willie' Clarke was one of the first black professional footballers, and the first black player to score a goal in the English Football League. He was born in Mauchline, Ayrshire on 3 March 1878 to a Scottish mother and a father from British Guiana.

Playing as a winger, he started his career with junior clubs in Scotland, and was a member of Scotland's junior international side in 1897 that beat Ireland 3 -1 in Belfast, becoming only the second black player to represent Scotland. During his professional career he played for Bristol Rovers, Aston Villa, Bradford City and Lincoln City. It was in 1901 while playing for Aston Villa that Clarke became the first black footballer to score a goal in the English Football League.

At the outbreak of the First World War, William Clarke volunteered immediately, enlisting with the Middlesex Regiment and serving on the Western Front. Later in the war he transferred to the Royal Engineers.

William Clarke and his wife Annie settled in Tunbridge Wells after the war. They and their children lived in Albion Road, and later moved to Whitefield Road. He worked as a house fitter, laying carpets and lino and fitting blinds. He died in Tunbridge Wells on 21 January 1949 at the age of 70.

bottom of page