Headstone unveiled on Rab Howell's grave

24 Nov 2015 / News

On Friday 20th November 2015 a headstone was unveiled on the previously unmarked grave of Rab Howell - 78 years after he died. Howell was the first Romany professional footballer and played for Sheffield United, Liverpool and Preston North End between 1889 and 1903. He also played for England twice - in 1895 and 1899 - scoring once. He is believed to be the only Romany to have ever represented England.

His pioneering role was recently highlighted by Steven Kay, the author of a novel about Rab called The Evergreen in Red and White following Rab through his final turbulent year in Sheffield.

The campaign for a headstone was started by Steve Kay and supported in May 2014 by a pledge of 250 pounds from Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD).

'There have been a few small donations from individuals but it was the intervention of Councillor Peter Kelly of Preston City Council taking up the cause, and getting a discussion started in Preston, that got us over the line', said Steve.

He added: 'I am grateful to everyone who has shown interest. I would also like to thank Rawcliffes of Chorley who have made the headstone - it is fitting, as they have a history as old as football itself. They have been superb. Also, thanks to Preston City Council and Conlon Construction for their contributions'.

A short ceremony on Friday was attended by members of Rab's family from Preston and Sheffield, Steve Kay, FURD and representatives of Sheffield United and Preston North End.

Nick Pomfret, Rab`s great-grandson and a Preston councillor, said he was `absolutely thrilled` that a headstone had been made for Rab.

He said: `Generations of the family have gone by and they must not have been able to afford to put a headstone on his grave, and Steven Kay came along with the campaign. Nobody who played for England should be buried in an unmarked grave.

`When I think back to my grandad Leo when I was a child, if he was here today it would be a proud moment for him to finally see his father`s headstone in place.`

For more information, see the previous news story and links to press coverage and Steve Kay's website below.