Football has long been an important part of British culture, dating from the days when players in the top divisions also held down a job, to today when they are global superstars, recognised around the world. Many of us support a club team, perhaps one your family has followed for generations, sharing in the highs and lows and basking in former glories. Despite supporting different club sides, nations come together to support their national teams, particularly during international tournaments.
This summer the UEFA European Championship* returns following its postponement in 2020. Held every four years, the tournament will be hosted across 11 countries and will be the first time more than two countries have acted as hosts; both semi-finals and the final will be held at Wembley Stadium. England, Wales and Scotland all qualified for the tournament, with England and Scotland being drawn in the same group.
To celebrate the championship’s return in 2021, we have explored the family trees of two players who are set to represent their countries this summer, England’s Harry Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale.
England’s hopes will be largely pinned on Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who finished as top scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, claiming the ‘Golden Boot’, with six goals at the tournament. England fans will be hoping Kane replicates his goalscoring success at the 2020 European Championships.
On the subject of boots, Kane’s 3x great-grandfather Robert Parrott was a boot and shoemaker by trade, as indicated in the 1881 census. Robert was born in Newington in 1838, formerly Surrey but now South London. In 1859 Robert married Anne Milsom in Lambeth. According to his marriage record, Robert’s father Stephen was a leather dresser by trade, a line of work quite possibly connected to the boot and shoemaking industry. Stephen died when Robert was an infant. In later life Robert found work as a hawker (a seller of goods, often on streets).
Kane is connected to his Parrott line via his maternal grandmother; both grandparental lines on this side of his family have a strong connection to North London, which is fitting given Kane plays for Tottenham.
For example, Kane’s great-grandfather William Hogg was living on Blundell Street, Islington when the 1939 England and Wales Register was taken on 29 September. Studying the 1939 Register, it would appear that William’s wife Daisy and their children had relocated to Tenterden in Kent. Daisy and the children were possibly uprooted in early September 1939, as part of Operation Pied Piper, which saw over 1.5 million people (mothers, children and those deemed vulnerable) evacuated from perceived areas of danger. It was feared that civilians in cities and industrial centres across the UK would be at serious risk from aerial bombing, which was to be proved correct.
William appears to have remained at Blundell Street throughout the war and the family may have returned early, as Kane’s grandfather Eric was born at the family home on Blundell Street in December 1942. Maps indicate that high explosive bombs fell close to the street during the Blitz, claiming the lives of four people at 118 Brewery Road on 11 January 1941. The house was a short walk from William’s address.
There is perhaps one other candidate from the Home Nations who could be in contention for the Euro 2020 Golden Boot Award: Wales’ top scorer Gareth Bale currently plays for Spanish giants Real Madrid and spent last season on loan at Tottenham, playing alongside Harry Kane.
Bale’s football career has taken him across the globe, but he’s not the only person in his family to travel the world through their work. Bale’s maternal great-grandfather David Henry “Harry” Watson also did his fair share of travelling, albeit under very different circumstances.
David was born in Ballygalley, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) in 1897. His English father was a member of the coastguard and evidently his work took him to Ireland. David junior spent his formative years in Ireland and by 1911 the family had returned to England and were living in Sussex on the south coast, where David senior was employed as a Petty Officer in the Coastguard.
Following in his father’s footsteps, David chose a life at sea and on 28 August 1913 he joined the Royal Navy. His occupation was recorded as a farm boy and being under the age of 18 he was categorised as a Boy Class II; upon reaching the age of 18 Boy ratings were classed as Ordinary Seaman and were regarded as adults under navy regulations.
Following the British declaration of war with Germany in August 1914, almost a year after David had joined the navy, he was posted to HMS Mersey, where he remained until January 1918. The ship was involved in action off the Belgian coast in October 1914 at the Battle of Yser. In the spring of 1915, the Mersey was dispatched to East Africa where David and his comrades took part in operations against the German ship SMS Königsberg; the Königsberg was deemed to pose a threat to Allied shipping in the region. The Königsberg was badly damaged and scuttled on 11 July 1915. David remained with the Mersey in East Africa until leaving in January 1918.
David continued to serve with the Royal Navy after the war until he was pensioned in May 1937. According to the 1939 Register David and his family were living in New Quay, Cardigan, on the west coast of Wales. A useful source for establishing an individual’s occupation, the register also indicates that David was serving with His Majesty’s Coastguard, once more following in his father’s footsteps.
*Ancestry has no affiliation with the UEFA European Championship and in no way sponsors, endorses or is associated with the competition or the individual players discussed in this article