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Risdene Echo, March 2001, Eric Fowell


and his Rushden connection

Walter Tull
2nd Lieutenant
Walter Daniel Tull
1888 - 1918

Walter Tull was the first coloured man to sign for the 'Cobblers'.

His father, Daniel, was born in Barbados, trained as a carpenter, and came to Great Britain in the early 1880s. He eventually married a girl in Folkestone where they shared the Methodist Church Fellowship. They had five children but, sadly, his wife died of cancer. Daniel married his wife's cousin and they had a daughter. Three months later Daniel passed away and stepmother Clara faced great financial hardship. Two boys, Walter and Edward, had to go to a children's home in Bethnal Green, and brother Edward was adopted by a Glasgow dentist. Walter stayed in care for seven years and trained as a printer.

Football began at the children's home and he joined the Clapton F.C., playing in the amateur Cup Final in 1909, winning 6-0 against Eston United. He was quickly signed up by Tottenham Hotspur as a replacement for Vivian Woodward (Captain of GB Olympic Gold Medal Winners of 1908-1912 and a full soccer international). This is where Tull met Rushden all-round sportsman Eric Tompkins, who also played for the 'Spurs'. His career was 'halted' by racial abuse during a fixture versus Bristol City.

Tull and Tompkins joined the 'Cobblers' about 1911, signed by the famous Herbert Chapman. For some time Walter and Eric shared lodgings in Newton Road, Rushden.

Just before the 1914 War, rumours went around that Walter Tull would sign for Glasgow Rangers, but the war prevented him making this move.

Walter was the first man from the 'Cobblers' to volunteer for Army service. He was quickly made a sergeant and, in 1917, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, thereby being the first Infantry Officer who was not white.

Walter served on active service in France, took part in the second Battle of the Somme, and sadly lost his life on March 25th, 1918. There is no known grave.

Northampton Town FC 1913-14
Northampton Town Football Club 1913-14
Back row, L-R: Manning, Lessons, Clipston, Thorpe, Langham, Tebbutt, Tull
Seated: A.Jones (Secretary), Tompkins, Freeman, Lloyd-Davies, King, Brown, Burrows (Trainer)
Front row: Smith, Hughes

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