Arthur Wharton was born on 28 October 1865 in Accra,
formerly the Gold Coast, now capital of Ghana, West Africa.
His father, Henry Wharton was a famous Methodist
Minister and Missionary from Grenada in the West Indies and his
mother was Annie Florence Egyriba, was related to the Fante Royal
A Prince among men
|Wharton exchanged a regal
lifestyle for a career in sport.
Both of Arthur's paternal grandfather's were Scottish
traders. One of his great grandmothers was an African-Grenadian
Arthur's uncle on his mothers' side was a successful businessman
and owner of the Gold Coast Times.
The Early Years
In 1884, aged 19, Arthur moved to the North East to train as
a Methodist preacher at Cleveland College, Darlington.
It was whilst at College that he began his amazing
sporting careers, competing at this stage as a 'gentleman amateur'.
He excelled at everything he tried (even setting
a record time for cycling between Preston and Blackburn in 1887).
card celebrating Wharton's record breaking 100 yard sprint.
In 1886 Arthur became the fastest man in Britain
winning the Amateur Athletics Association national 100 yards champion
at Stamford Bridge, London - the first time the trophy was won by
Scoring an Own Goal
His sporting prowess was spotted at Darlington Football Club,
where he was selected to play as goalkeeper. Arthur became the first
black professional footballer in Britain.
At Darlington he was describes as 'magnificent',
'invincible' and 'superb'.
There was no league championship then and the FA
Cup was the main competition, along with district and county matches.
In 1885/86 season, whilst still a Darlington player,
Arthur was selected for the prestigious Newcastle and District team.
At that time it was the best in the city and far superior to the
West End and East End sides which later combined to form Newcastle
True English Eccentric
Like many other great goalkeepers before and after him,
he gained a reputation for being eccentric! Apparently he would
wait in a crouching position at the side of the goal before rushing
out to save the ball.
His performance for Darlington came to the attention
of the then mighty Preston North End, who signed him. He played
in their FA Cup team of 1886/7, while continuing to turn out for
In 1888 he left the region to become a professional
runner in Sheffield but after a year he returned to football, signing
for Rotherham, where he remained for six year before moving to Sheffield
Utd for a season.
|Snubbed in his lifetime,
Wharton has achieved a place in the Football Hall of Fame
A year at Stalybridge followed until he fell out
of favour and joined rivals Ashton-under-Lyme, in 1897 until they
went bankrupt in 1899.
After another spell with Stalybridge he returned
to the Football League in 1901 with Stockport County at the age
of 36. He retired in 1902.
But not Out.
In 1914 Arthur was offered a cricket-coaching
job in County Durham, which he turned down due to lack of work to
supplement his wages.
In 1915 he went to live in Edlington, Doncaster
- possibly looking for work. He became a haulage hand at Yorkshire
Main Colliery. He also joined the Home Guard of WW1 sometime between
1915 and 1918.
Arthur continued with his cricket and his running. Even in his 50's,
an eyewitness reported that 'he could catch pigeons'.
|Arthur cut a dash in fashionable
Arthur will undoubtedly have taken part in the 1926
General Strike, which for the miners lasted seven months and caused
In 1930, Arthur died penniless in the Springwell
Sanitarium in Balby and was buried in an unmarked grave in Edlington
In 1997, at a special ceremony, a memorial stone
is placed over the grave of Arthur Wharton in Ellington Cemetery,
"He (Arthur) ended his days sadly,
but he was not a sad figure, he did things his own way, despite
obstacles put in his way."