Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888, His father, Daniel Tull, came to England from Barbados in 1876. Daniel’s father was enslaved on a sugar plantation. Walter’s mother, Elizabeth, died when he was seven; he was brought up in a children’s home. His brother, Edward, was adopted by a family in Glasgow. Walter played for Clapton FC until he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1909.
Fame and Prejudice
Walter Tull made a good first impression at Tottenham, seen as a star of the future. But he suffered from racist behaviour by fans of opposing teams. In a match against Bristol City, Walter was described as “the best forward on the field”, but there were newspaper headlines about “Football and Colour Prejudice”. Tottenham dropped Tull from the team and he moved to Northampton Town. When war broke out in 1914, Walter was one of the first footballers to volunteer for the British Army.
Walter Tull served in the “Footballers Battalion” of the Middlesex Regiment, and fought in the Battle of the Somme. In 1917 he was made lieutenant, the first mixed-heritage commissioned officer in a British Army regiment. He hoped to re-start his football career once the war was over and signed a contract with Glasgow Rangers; but he was killed in action in March 1918. At Sixfield Stadium, home of Northampton Town FC, there is a memorial in honour of Walter Tull.
Walter Tull was the third player of mixed heritage to play top/level football in England, after Arthur Wharton and Billy Clarke. He was also an officer in the British army during the First World War.
Educators could look at the life story of Walter Tull and work with young people to consider these questions: