James George Robertson, M.D
James George Robertson, MD CM was Surgeon and medical officer and public vaccinator for the Ashwell district of the Royston Union from 1894 until his sudden death on 19th February, 1900.
In common with other Ashwell GPs he lived at Fairview (now Springhead House)
He was born in Banjul, The Gambia in 1854 and died in Ashwell on the 19th February 1900 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Ashwell.
First Black Rugby Union Player
He was a Scottish rugby union player. He is reputed to be the first black rugby union player in the world. The Scottish sports historian Andy Mitchell, who researched Robertson’s life, stated: “It is intriguing that someone from an unusual background has come to the country and been accepted into society. There is virtually nothing to indicate that he suffered discrimination due to his colour. This raises the question as to whether his social class allowed them to rise above racial discrimination.”
James was first sent to board at a school in Crieff. He then went to Madras College from 1866 to 1870. A gifted student he then matriculated at the University of St. Andrews. Robertson lasted a year there, but then moved to Edinburgh University to study medicine. He was at Edinburgh for 5 years.
Robertson graduated from Edinburgh University in 1876 and found a post in County Durham as the resident medical officer at Gateshead Dispensary. While there, he turned out for Northumberland between 1879–82. In this case, Northumberland was a local club, not the County team. He represented Edinburgh District against Glasgow District on 6 December 1873.
Robertson purchased a medical practice in Ashwell, Hertfordshire in 1894. He became President of Ashwell Tennis Club and a member of the committee of the local cricket club.
He died suddenly at home in February 1900.
Over 300 attended his funeral, the procession included the Ancient Order of Foresters band with their banner.
Many thanks to Andy Mitchell, David Short, Lynette Wray and Fergus Moynihan for their contributions to this research.
Please refer to wikipaedia and the Scottish Sports History link below for further information
We will be adding more to this story from an Ashwell viewpoint as research goes on. Many questions remain unanswered.