Archibald Cuthbert – A Scottish Saracen in Muswell Hill

Archibald Cuthbert – Saracens 1913-14 team photo

Archibald Cuthbert was another ‘Saracens Scot’, joining his fellow club mates from north of the border in playing rugby in North London in the pre-war era. Born in Edinburgh on 25/11/1887, he grew up in Nelson Street with his parents and 7 siblings. His father, also named Archibald, was a house painter and decorator, and the family had moved to Dublin Street in Edinburgh by 1901, when Archibald Jnr, was by this time aged 13.

We have our first sighting of Cuthbert in a Saracens shirt on 21st December, 2012, when he is named in ‘The Sportsman’ newspaper as being in the 1st XV for the match versus Ilford Warriors RFC at the Saracens home field in Palmers Green. Though losing this match in a run of 5 defeats at the start of the season, there followed a “welcome return to form“, according to Club Historian ORG Williams, who went on to record Cuthbert’s selection for the game against Walton RFC on February 22nd 1913, where he played in the backs alongside fellow Scottish Saracens DH Keith and vice-captain Duncan McMillan.

ORG Williams goes on to record Cuthbert’s contribution in the traditional Saracens ‘England v The Rest’ fixture on March 1st, 1913, in which ‘The Rest’ (i.e. our Scottish Saracens) beat the ‘England’ side by 11 points to 6…”Cuthbert, receiving from Greer, after a good run sent Keith in wide out

By this time, Archibald Cuthbert appears to have been a well-established & settled North Londoner. He married Margaret Nora Bromage in London on 29th October 1910, and they are recorded as living at 2, Fortis Green Avenue, Muswell Hill, in the 1911 Census – a very short journey from the Saracens home ground of the time. Like his father, Archibald’s occupation is given as a house painter and decorator.

Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, Cuthbert did not follow many of his club mates in the rush to volunteer for the Armed Forces, it seems. We have his enlistment date as February 1917 on his service record, and he appears to have joined the fledgling RAF as a ‘Foreman Builder & Decorator’, no doubt deploying his well-honed practical work skills in the rapidly-expanding flying corps. The RAF Muster Roll from 1918 confirms his promotion to the rank of ‘Sergt. Mech’, and that the terms of his enlistment were ‘DW’ – for the ‘duration of the war’.

Post-war, Archibald Cuthbert was one of very few of our pre-1914 Saracens players who returned to the Club, pulled on his shirt & boots, and took to the field of play again. In the first season after the Armistice when rugby restarted for the 1919-20 season, ORG Williams records that. like the newly appointed 1st XV Captain D.H. Keith, “The first fifteen…Vice Captain, A Cuthbert, was also from over the border“. The war was over, the Scottish Saracens were back on the pitch, and a new era of club activity was about to unfold….

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