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England’s first

30 August 2013

HE WAS an Old Etonian, an Oxford Blue, and England's first football captain. When he was 22, Cuthbert Ottaway led England out against Scotland on 30 November 1872. I have no information as to the score, but he represented England twice at football, and also played for the Old Etonians in the 1875 FA Cup Final.

He was a cricket Blue and played for Kent and Middlesex, and also represented Oxford at rackets, athletics, and real tennis. He left Oxford with a First, and became a barrister; but, in spite of all that athleticism, he could not withstand a bronchial complication, and died at the tragically early age of 27 - too soon to see his daughter, Lillian, who was born shortly after his death. His widow, Marion, took Lillian back to her native Canada.

His grave in Paddington Old Cemetery, London, fell into disrepair. Paul McKay, an England football fan, was horrified when he first discovered it. The plot had been quite a grand one, with a granite ledger stone on marble plinths with iron standards and railings. It was beyond restoration, however, and he set about raising funds for a "more fitting" memorial.

The Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association, and the Old Etonians all sent cheques, and a new gravestone has been erected. The Revd Christine Cargill, of St Anne's, Brondesbury, was asked to bless it, and to lead the memorial service, while the present England captain, Steven Gerrard, sent his own message to honour Ottaway.

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