Recreativo Huelva Founded 1889
Spain is an excellent example of a country which was very heavily influenced by the Scotch Professor. It came in some unusual ways. The very south of Spain is where the Scots first rocked up, to found the oldest current club in Spain: Recreativo Huelva. Like pretty much everywhere else, it was industry and commerce which linked the two countries.
Maybe our first man to remember is Hugh Matheson from Edinburgh (1821-1898). Very famous family. You might be dimly aware of one of the family companies: Jardine Matheson of Hong Kong. They pretty much invented the modern hard drugs industry. Grew opium in Bengal, shipped it to China in P&O ships and got the nation hooked on drugs. Embarrassing, but that is how empires control people. Hugh wanted nothing to do with that side of the family business.
In 1873, he bought the Rio Tinto mines in Huelva from the Spanish Government. The mines became the world’s largest producer of copper in the world. The mines needed Scottish expertise, which brings us to one of our many heroes: William Alexander Mackay from Lybster, in Caithness. Caithness is about as north in mainland Scotland as you can get, without self-declaring as a polar bear.
Mackay was in Huelva, because his older brother John, was the Medical Director of the Company. Alexander arrived in 1883. He had played cricket, football and tennis at Edinburgh University. It was the People’s Game that he introduced, with help from another Scot: Charles Adam from the Gas Factory (and Paisley).
Now here is the thing. The histories tell us that a British colony was built in Huelva. This will be the usual foreigners’ scheme which looked like it was a wee village outside London. It was a good way of not having to talk to ‘foreigners’ i.e. the Spanish people in their own country. When you think that Huelva is just south of the northern coast of Africa, then building houses in the English style was completely nuts. It did not matter. Build English houses, build a wall around the ‘barrio’. Have only a couple of gates, to control access. That way, the Spanish could be kept out.
Generally, it would seem that the Scots were different. Football was Scottish and the Scots were about to introduce it to their new colleagues. The Recreativo Huelva website knows.
In this Mackay wanted to differentiate himself from what happened with other recreational activities practiced by his compatriots, since he did not restrict participation to the British, but strongly encouraged local young people to play, providing many of them with their first sports experience, including José García Almansa, Ildefonso Martínez and Alfonso Le Bourg, who can legitimately be considered the first Spanish soccer players.
Charles Adam was the first President of Huelva. The club played on Gas Company land, so it seems fair. It is also important to know that Adam had already been promoting sports since 1884. He had set up the Sociedad de Juegos de Pelota (Society for Ball Games) for cricket, football and tennis. He arranged games between the RTC men and the Scots from smaller mines like Tharsis, which was a Glasgow based mining company. There were also the English speaking seamen in the boats waiting in the harbour to take on a load from the mines.
So - Recreativo Huelva are up and running. The first question would always be ‘Against whom are we going to pay a match?’. The story of the Scotch Professors of Sevilla FC will wait for another day.
Barrio Reina Victoria