Robert Buchanan; an Arsenal man for two seasons who died tragically young

By Tony Attwood

Bob Buchanan (full name Robert John Buchanan) was born in 1868 in Johnstone (Paisley).

He started out with his local team Johnstone (not to be confused with St Johnstone who played in Perth), before moving to Abercom (a Scottish League team until 1915, local rivals to St Mirren), Sunderland Albion (a breakaway from Sunderland), Burnley and then Woolwich Arsenal.

While playing for Abercorn he also played for Scotland, on 21 March 1891 scoring in a 4–3 win against Wales.

He is recorded on the site as having played for Arsenal in the 20th century – but in fact they mean the 19th.  He played for two seasons: 25 games (9 goals) in 1894/5 and 17 games (7 goals) in 1895/6.

Bob Buchanan signed on 21 September 1894 and played his first game on 29 September 1894 – a 4-2 win over Manchester City.   This was in a period in which Arsenal, having lost the first three games of the season, scoring 3 and conceding 11, then went on to three consecutive wins, scoring 13 and conceding six.

It is said on Wikipedia that he scored on his debut match for Woolwich Arsenal but Ollier gives the scorers in that game as Boyd (3) and Mortimer.   It looks to me like his first goal came against Newcastle on 24 November 1894.  Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that this match also was a 4-2 win.

Buchanan was obviously a success in the squad, for having started out as an inside right he went on and played at centre forward, missing only one match between his initial game and the end of the season.  Indeed Arsenal only lost one match in the first 10 he played.


He continued his run in 1895/6 except for four games in November but this season was again used as an inside forward, and once even as a winger, and having played in the 3-1 away defeat to Newcastle on 18 January 1896 played for the first team no more.

In 1896 he moved to Southampton St. Mary’s who were in the Southern League, and won the Southern League 1st Division unbeaten with them in his first season.  It was the first of three successive wins of the title for Southampton and Bob shared in the first two.

However although he played throughout the first two of those seasons, he only played twice in the final season and moved then to Sheppey United.  They were relegated from division 1 to division 2 of the Southern League in 1900, but recovered to come third in the second division in 1901.

I am not at all sure when he retired from football; he would have been 31 on joining Sheppey – but players did go on playing into their late 30s at this time.

There is information that he settled in South East London and we know he died aged just 40 on 21 December 1907 at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington; but why he went to Paddington in West London is not clear.  Wiki quotes an article attributed to the Dundee Courier on 25 December 1907 that he was buried in Willesden Cemetery, implying that his body was taken to the local cemetery of the hospital rather than one close to his home.

Here is his playing record.

Years Team Lge games Lge goals
1887/92 Abercorn
1892 Sunderland Albion
1892/94 Burnley 40 (12)
1894/96 Woolwich Arsenal 42 (16)
1896/99 Southampton St Mary’s 41 (21)
1899–? Sheppey United


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4 Replies to “Robert Buchanan; an Arsenal man for two seasons who died tragically young”

  1. Oh wow, I have not seen this article before. This is my great grandad.
    I’m wondering if my dad can fill in any of the blanks. I will ask him.

  2. I believe he had broken his leg in a match and died of complications of the break. My grandad was 7 when he died.

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