Daisy, Daisy, give me some arsenic do…

1906 saw the first South African rugby tour to the United Kingdom.  The team played in their now iconic green and gold kit adorned with a springbok, but for smarter occasions they were kitted out with green blazers edged in yellow.  We are lucky enough to have one such blazer in the museum collection which can be seen on display in our World Tours Gallery.  If you do come and visit us however, don’t be fooled by the blazer’s civilised appearance, this particular garment has links to much more grisly past.

Blazer awarded to Sydney Clarence (Slapie) De Melker, 1906

Blazer awarded to Sydney Clarence (Slapie) De Melker, 1906

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Who was the first substitute referee?

The first substitute referee on a grim day for Irish rugby…but who was the referee?

In almost 3,200 tests played between the ten major countries and the British and Irish Lions since 1871, only 15 tests have required a change of referee during the match.  The first four internationals were played with 2 umpires, but from February 1875 when AG Guillemard, the former English international, was appointed as the sole referee of the match between England and Ireland at Kennington Oval, a single referee has been in charge of each match.

Over 250 international matches had been played over 40 years before Ireland took the field to play the all-conquering Springboks at Lansdowne Road, Dublin on November 30th 1912.  The match is remembered almost entirely for the humiliating 38-0 defeat that the Irish team suffered at the hands of a rampant South African side.  This was the second international victory of the Springboks on the way to a Grand Slam over all five European countries during which they scored 98 points including 24 tries and conceded only 8 points and 2 tries.

Ireland v South Africa, 1912

Ireland v South Africa, 1912

Numerous records were set that November day in Dublin – the most points, tries and conversions scored in an international by South Africa and the most points and tries conceded by an Irish team – but the most unlikely record was the first occurrence of the substitution of a referee at half-time.  This was unique and, although the identity of the substitute referee has been known for many years – Fred Gardiner, the former Irish forward capped 22 times between 1900 and 1909 – there is still controversy over exactly who was the referee of the match in the first place, when was he chosen, and why was the eventual referee then substituted at half-time.

The experienced English referee Frank Potter-Irwin had refereed the Scotland v South Africa match at Inverleith the week before and was scheduled to referee the Irish international.  However he withdrew from consideration due to illness and the Northern Whig reported on Wednesday November 27th that Arthur Owen Jones, the England cricketer who had already refereed 5 rugby internationals, had been invited to referee the match.  On the same day, the Dublin Daily Express in its City Special edition reported that AO Jones had been invited but was unable to accept the invitation to referee the match.

With both Potter-Irwin and Jones unable or unavailable to referee the match, the Manchester Courier of Saturday 30th stated that “Mr Tulloch, of the Scottish Union, will be the referee, in place of Mr Potter Irwin, indisposed”.

Fred Gardiner

Fred Gardiner

JT Tulloch was an experienced referee with 5 international matches under his belt and he would referee the epic clash between England and South Africa at Twickenham a month later.  His appointment was logical and appeared to be endorsed by some of the Irish newspapers, although the endorsement was hardly ringing as he was described as “J Tulloch” – the reason for the inverted commas being unclear at that point.

All the known sources agreed that Fred Gardiner took over after half-time and refereed the second half of the match.  Although he was a very well-known figure in Irish rugby circles and had refereed the Calcutta Cup match earlier in the year, his elevation to the refereeship in no way helped the Irish team.  Losing 0-12 at half-time, the Irish leaked 6 further tries in the second half to lose by a record score of 0-38.

For many years confusion reigned as to exactly who refereed the first half of the match.  The Dublin Daily Express on Monday 2nd stated that “J Tulloch” (SRU) refereed the 1st half and was replaced by F Gardiner at half-time; the Belfast Newsletter of Monday 2nd stated that “J Tulloch” was replaced by Fred Gardiner at half-time; and the Northern Whig report of Monday Dec 2nd stated categorically that JD Dallas, President of the Scottish Rugby Union in 1912-13 and the referee who had charge of the historic match between Wales and the All Blacks in 1905, and Gardiner were the two referees.  Other names put forward as the referee in various rugby histories over the years included “D Jack” and “Mr Paling”.  So who was the referee in the first half?

Scotland team, 1903. Jack Dallas (back row 2nd from right)

Scotland team, 1903. JD Dallas (back row 2nd from right)

John Griffiths, one of rugby’s foremost historians, has recently solved the confusion:

It is clear that Tulloch did not referee the game, several journalists making a point of referring to the ref as J “Tulloch” – the quotation marks suggesting that they definitely knew he was NOT Tulloch.  Fred Gardiner, the recent Irish international player and himself a well-known referee in Irish circles, took over the whistle for the second-half when “Tulloch” fell lame.

So who did control that first half?  Some reports called him D Jack, but I’ve never come across period reports elsewhere of a referee in British rugby with that name. 

At long last I think I might have come up with the answer as the result of some work I’ve been doing on old South African Tests.  Danie Craven’s pathfinding and well-illustrated volume of Springbok Annals was published in 1958 and updated in 1964.  His photo of the 1912 Irish & South African teams has slightly different captions in the two editions.  The listing for the back row of the team group in his 1958 edition ends with Freddie Luyt, the little South African fly-half, and understandably he made no attempt to name the two guys in mufti on the far right of the row.

In Craven’s updated version in 1964, however, one name has been added to the photo caption: that of J D Dallas (referee – SRU) standing at the right end of the back row.  In the foreword of the updated version, Craven credits among others for help making corrections one Jock Wynness of the Scottish Daily Express.  Craven of course was referring to Jock Wemyss, the old Scottish international who was the rugby correspondent of the SDE for many years.  The typesetter must have mis-read Wemyss in Craven’s handwriting for Wynness.

Jock Wemyss more than anyone would have recognised Dallas accurately.  And comparing pictures, the tall guy in the suit far right at the back of the team pic is clearly Jack Dallas.  (The unnamed, smiling and balding fellow between Luyt and Dallas is Major Bob Stevenson, the old Irish forward and IRB member who was President of the IRFU in 1912-13.  The Irish rugby presidents invariably featured in Irish team photos of the time.)

D Jack I suspect was simply a nom-de-plume for Jack Dallas, and one newspaper report I found – the Northern Whig – made absolutely no bones about it.  Their reporter names the referee as J Dallas.

QED I think.  As a former prime minister once said of a fellow politician on a TV programme, I agree with John!


  • The Scottish Rugby Union Official History – AMC Thorburn (SRU & Collins Publishers 1985)
  • Springbok Annals (1958 and 1964 editions) – Danie Craven (Mimosa Publishers Ltd)
  • A Statistical History of Springbok Rugby – Teddy Shnaps (Printpak Books 1989)
  • The Watsonian Football Club 1875-1975 – Robin Stark (Howie & Seath Ltd 1975)
  • Belfast Newsletter – Dublin Daily Express – Manchester Courier – Northern Whig

About the Author – A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has had a life-long love of sport.  He has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005.

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‘If the greatest writer of the written word would’ve written that story no-one would have believed it’

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45 years ago, Gareth Edwards scored “that try” playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand.  The date was 27th January 1973 and it was the final match of New Zealand’s 1972/73 tour to the British Isles.

Cardiff Arms Park was host to the first defeat of New Zealand by the Barbarians, 23-11, in front of a 50,000 strong crowd.  Unsurprising perhaps, as this particular Barbarians side was predominantly made up of former British Lions.
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First Reserve – AH Walker


The museum has recently received as a donation two scrapbooks and a Lancashire jersey that belonged to Manchester forward AH Walker.

After learning the game at Kingswood School, Walker progressed to Manchester University, with whom he toured France and Germany and won the Christie Shield and Inter-University Championship in 1925. Continue reading

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The Western Samoa disaster tour of 1992

The title of the 1992 Middlesex Sevens Final programme on page 19 read in bold: WESTERN SAMOAN APPEAL.

“Few people in the British Isles are aware of the disaster that has befallen Western Samoa.

On 7th December 1991 the islands were hit by ‘cyclone Val’ with gusts up to 260k.m. per hour for four days.  This caused the most devastating natural disaster to strike Western Samoa in over 100 years.

What was the net effect?

  • More than 90% of building damaged or destroyed
  • Electricity and water supplies cut-off
  • 90% of vegetation flattened
  • Roads washed out
  • Food crops totally destroyed
  • 50% loss of livestock
  • 1.2 million dollars of damage to fishing boats & equipment
  • Total cost of damage – $600 million

All this hitting the Islands with a GNP of only £60 million per annum!”

What was this information doing in a rugby programme for the Middlesex Sevens Finals at Twickenham?

The Western Samoan team collect the trophy after winning the Middlesex Sevens

1992: The Western Samoan team collect the trophy after winning the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham in London. Mandatory Credit: Mike Hewitt/Allsport

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Royal Air Force exhibition opens at the World Rugby Museum

Since the formation of the Royal Air Force 100 years ago, close to 200 RAF service men and women have represented their countries on the rugby pitch.  The RAF’s contribution to rugby is now being celebrated in a special exhibition at the World Rugby Museum.

1929 RAF rugby team

1929 Royal Air Force rugby team at Twickenham Stadium

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Naval Special Ops – Arthur Harrison and the Zeebrugge Raid

Arthur Harrison

April 1918…

The plan was as audacious as it was hopeful.  Under the cover of smoke the HMS Vindictive and two former River Mersey ferries would approach the mole with a large company of marines.  Once contact with the mole was established, the marines would quickly disembark; storm and secure the enemy gun emplacements.  Whilst this was taking place submarines, packed with explosives, would detonate alongside the viaduct, destroying it and preventing enemy reinforcements from coming to the guns’ assistance.

Yet all of this was mere distraction.  The real objective of the operation would take place in the harbour, where three obsolete Allied cruisers were to be scuttled in the mouth of the Bruges Canal, thus blocking it and preventing access to the seas for the German U-boats that had been waging unrestricted warfare on British and international shipping. Continue reading

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