Durham County Diamond Jubilee 1936

The following is an extract from ‘One Among Many: the Story of Sunderland Rugby Football Club’ by Keith Gregson.

“Of the many stirring rugby events at Ashbrooke, none aroused greater interest than the match played 26 September 1936”


Bob Oakes

The game was between a Durham XV and an international XV and was played to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the County Union which had been established in the autumn in 1876. The international side was put together by legendary Hartlepool Rovers man, Bob Oakes. Oakes had been an England player and selector and was also a former president of the RFU.  He had also played for the county on numerous occasions.

The team chosen by Oakes for this special occasion was packed with talented players and a large photograph of both sides has adorned the Ashbrooke pavilion for many years.  There were thirteen international players in his team – six from England, two from Ireland, two from Wales and one from Scotland.  The remaining four were Yorkshire county players.  George Beamish of the RAF and Ireland captained the side and fittingly, in light of the occasion, Hospital, Services, University and Club sides were all represented.

There were a number of well-known players on view that day.  The best known historically is Prince Obolensky, arguably the most famous rugby player of the time – certainly prior to the professional era.  In 1936 he was turning out for Oxford University and England and had made his mark in January of that year by scoring a wonder try for England against the All Blacks in a rare victory over the visitors.  His family had fled the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Prince had just been made a British citizen.  He was killed in a wartime flying accident at the age of 24.


Prince Alexander Obolensky

HG ‘Tuppy’ Owen-Smith, a South African cricketer as well as an England rugby player, had already left his mark on Ashbrooke while playing his other sport.  In 1929 as part of the touring South African side, he had scored a century and taken four wickets in five balls in a game against Durham County – including a hat trick.  He played at full back for the international XV in the Jubilee Match.

At the tender age of 19, Haydn Tanner, the Welsh scrum half, was already the talk of the rugby world.  During the previous year and while still at school, he had been instrumental in helping Swansea to victory over the All Blacks.  His career continued after the Second World War and Tanner, who died in 2009, is regarded in some quarters as the finest scrum half ever.

The Durham side was a fairly strong one too.  It contained two international players – Cliff Harrison of Hartlepool Rovers and England (and at one time England’s oldest living player) and Alec McLaren of Durham City and Scotland.  The other Durham sides represented were Darlington Railway Athletic, Westoe, Gatheshead Fell, North Durham and Blaydon.  Sunderland’s single representative, as was often the case in the 1930s, was Alan Spence.

On a pleasant autumn day, the crowd of 6,000 was treated to a fine display of running rugby.  The final score was 19-3 to the international side with its players crossing the opposition line on five occasions.  Obolensky scored twice.  The post-game celebrations were equally sumptuous with all the great and good of the game in attendance as well as numerous ex-Durham players.  Perhaps the most interesting was W Hodgson of the defunct Tudhoe club.  He had been the first miner to represent the county – in 1866.book-cover-387x499

About the Author- Keith Gregson is a Sunderland-based semi-retired freelance writer, historian and musician. He has written numerous books about the history of sport including ‘One Among Many’, ‘Sporting Ancestors’ and ‘Australia in Sunderland’. Details of his work can be found at keithgregson.com and his books can be purchased from Amazon.


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Lest We Forget – Rupert Edward Inglis (England) 18/09/1916

Rupert Inglis

Photo courtesy of Sarah Duncan


Rupert Edward Inglis was easily the oldest of the 27 England internationals to die in service in WW1. He came from a distinguished background. His father, Major-General Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis, K.C.B. was the “Defender of Lucknow” (Indian Mutiny), and his grandfather was Bishop of Nova Scotia. His mother, The Hon Julia Selina Thesiger, was the daughter of a Lord Chancellor and sister to an Attorney- General. Queen Victoria was Godmother to one of his sisters.

By the time Rupert was born in London, his father had been dead for 7 months.  He was educated first at Lindley Lodge School and then at Rugby, from where he went on to University College Oxford and then Ely Theological College.

Ordained in 1889, he held curacies at Helmsley and in Basingstoke, before becoming Rector at Frittenden in Kent in 1900, the same year as his marriage to Helen Mary Gilchrist by whom he had three children, Joan, John (“Tommy”) and Margaret. During the 1950s Tommy became Head of UK Naval Intelligence.

As well as gaining two blues at Oxford, Rupert Inglis played his club rugby at Blackheath and, in 1886, was selected for all three of England’s matches. This was the final season before the introduction of a points system for deciding the result.  Until then the number of goals decided the match, with a caveat that in the event of equality, the number of tries was then taken into account. On the latter basis England beat Wales and Ireland, but versus Scotland there was no score of any kind.

When the war came he firstly continued his parochial duties, but became increasingly concerned about the sacrifices of others and therefore volunteered in July 1915, becoming a Temporary Chaplain.

As well as his work as a chaplain Rev Inglis tended to the wounded on the Western Front. Whilst acting as a stretcher-bearer near Ginchy on the Somme, a German shell struck and killed him.

Chaplain the Rev Rupert Inglis has no grave; its site lost during the chaos of war. However, following his death, an Anglican Chapel (demolished 1931) was built in his memory at La Panne, Belgium.

More places are known where he is remembered than for any other fallen England international. As well as at Twickenham, he is listed on the Thiepval memorial (Pier and Face 4C), and in churches at Higham-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire (for Lindley Lodge School), All Saints’ Church, Basingstoke, and Frittenden, where the lychgate is dedicated to him. Elsewhere he is remembered at Rugby School, by MCC at Lord’s, Blackheath FC, at University College, Oxford and Oxford University RFC and by the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department on their war memorial at All Saints, Aldershot.

Rupert Inglis 2008-2994

England team v Wales, 02/01/1886, Rectory Field, Blackheath

For more information on the Rugby Football Union’s First World War commemorations visit http://www.englandrugby.com/about-the-rfu/ww1-commemorations

For details of the other 26 fallen England players click here.

The World Rugby Museum would like to thank Mike Hagger for researching and writing this article.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter to receive further tributes to the international rugby players who fell in the Great War.


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The most iconic image in the history of sport?

Nelson Mandela 1995

© Getty Images

This photograph of Nelson Mandela awarding the 1995 Rugby World Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic in sport and is significant on a number of levels. The tournament was a grand success and Joel Stransky’s boot helped the hosts defeat the All Blacks to claim a maiden South African World Cup victory, in front of 62,000 fans at Ellis Park.  It was also the first time that South Africa had hosted the tournament, something that would have been impossible just a few years earlier.

The Gleneagles Agreement, signed in opposition to apartheid policies of racial segregation, had meant the Springboks had spent years in sporting isolation. Changes initiated by Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk helped end the apartheid era and the Springboks were welcomed back to international rugby in 1992. Three years later they hosted the Rugby World Cup and the world’s rugby community descended on a newly democratic, but still fragile rainbow nation.

President Mandela saw, in the Rugby World Cup, an opportunity to heal race relations by turning the Springboks, a symbol of the apartheid era, into a team that could unite the whole country. The slogan, “One team, One Country” epitomised the role rugby had to play in helping South Africa progress as a community. Mandela wrote to fans and players in the match-day program for the final, thanking everyone for their support and for helping a young democratic South Africa to develop.

That South Africa proceeded to win the famous Webb Ellis Cup is believed to have given the nation a crucial boost in helping create an environment conducive to resolving the societal differences. In this single moment we see the enduring power of sport to bring people together.

About the Author- Will Holmes, 19, is studying History at the University of Exeter and plays rugby for various local clubs. He undertook a placement week with the World Rugby Museum as part of a Public History module in 2016.


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Lest We Forget – George Pugh (Australia) 05/09/1916



George Pugh was born in Glebe, Sydney on 16 January 1890 and won his only Australian test cap against the United States of America on the Wallabies North American tour of 1912.  It was the final game of a 16-match tour, three matches in Canada and 13 in California and Nevada, and was played in front of 10,000 spectators on the ground of the University of California, Berkeley.

The test was hard fought and Australia came close to losing it.  The USA led 5-0 at half-time and then extended their lead to 8-0 early in the second half.  In the last 20 minutes, the Australians recovered and scored three tries to lead narrowly by 9-8 with just minutes remaining.  The final penalty goal by their captain Ward Prentice gave the Australians a far from convincing win by 12-8.

Pugh had come to prominence as a hard working forward for the Newtown club which went through the entire 1910 district season unbeaten.  He represented New South Wales Waratahs six times in 1911 including three state matches against Queensland and scored two tries.  His performances during the 1911 season led to his selection in the touring party for the 1912 North America tour, but he did not appear in any representative rugby after he returned from America.

For many years very little was known of Pugh’s life after the North American tour and his name did not appear in any list of Australian rugby internationals who died in the 1st World War.  Even the magisterial history of New South Wales rugby by John Mulford from 2005 does not list Pugh among the WW1 war dead.  However, Sean Fagan’s recent researches and the increasing availability of online historical records and newspapers have definitively established that George Pugh was killed by a mortar bomb on 5 September 1916 in Belgium while fighting with the 4th Australian Battalion.

The Sydney weekly newspaper ‘The Referee’ supplies most of the details we have of his wartime service.  On 8 March 1916, Newtown’s captain, Ralph Hill, reported that he had received news from George Pugh, whom the paper described as “the brilliant Interstate forward”:

“I (George Pugh) have joined my battalion.  Have met lots of old friends, including Rugger men in Billy Watson, Tom Lee, Tom Richards, Eric Fisher, Sid Middleton, and Dos Wallach.  The list is too long to remember.  It puts you in mind of a football tour, as they all seem to be here.  No omissions by the selectors on this trip.  I have had two games of Rugby.  We have a fairly good side in our battalion. We could get a good Australian representative team out of the two divisions.  The trouble in arranging matches is grounds. Sand, gravel, and pebbles are the main contributions.’

All seemed well but on 26 September 1916, The Referee reported:

“Mrs. R. Pugh, of Victoria-street, Marrickville, has received news that her son, Lieut. C. H. (incorrect initials) Pugh, has been killed in action in France.  He was educated at the Fort-street Public School.  In 1908 he was a member of the winning team in the Roth Challenge Shield for live-saving.  He was a leading member of the Sydney Swimming Club, and also a prominent Rugby Union footballer.  In 1912 he visited America with an Australian Rugby Union team.  He enlisted in July, 1915, with the 4th Battalion, and left Sydney in the following October as second lieutenant.  In France recently he took part in two charges at Pozieres, and was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant.  Recently a letter was received in Sydney from him, saying that he had been appointed acting captain on the staff.”


  • Australian Rugby – Jack Pollard (Ironbark 1994 – 2nd edition)
  • Fallen ANZAC Wallabies – Sean Fagan (from SAINTSandHEATHENS.com)
  • Gold, Mud ‘n’ Guts – Greg Growden (ABC Books 2001)
  • Guardians of the Game – John G Mulford (ABC Books 2005)
  • The Referee (Sydney 1916)
  • Rothmans Australian Rugby Yearbook 1981 – Jim Shepherd


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.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter for more of the same.

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Lest We Forget – Horace Wyndham Thomas (Wales) 03/09/1916

91 HWT (570x800)

Horace Wyndham Thomas was that very rare combination: not only a gifted Cambridge choral scholar, but also a brilliant Welsh international rugby player. Press reports of his games for Blackheath or Cambridge University – he played almost all his senior rugby in England – demonstrated that Wyndham was one of the most exciting and intuitive attacking outside-halves of his time. Sadly, however, because of work commitments and then the outbreak of war, he was unable to fulfill his outstanding potential.

Wyndham was born in 1890 in Pentyrch near Cardiff. He began playing rugby at Bridgend County School, where he was described by the headmaster as “the best character we ever had here”. In 1906, he won a scholarship to Monmouth School, where he represented the school not just at rugby but also at cricket, hockey, gymnastics and athletics.

Possessed with an exceptionally fine singing voice, he won a prestigious choral scholarship to King’s College Cambridge in 1909. It is unlikely that any Cambridge undergraduate enjoyed a fuller life, for this included services in King’s Chapel with the college choir; performances with university music and drama societies; cricket for King’s and the university second XI; and of course, rugby for King’s and for the Light Blues. College reports confirm that he was very popular with his tutors and fellow students, and universally admired for his modesty.

During his three years at Cambridge, Wyndham’s main rugby club outside the university was Blackheath, although he also played a couple of times for London Welsh. Selected to play for Cambridge against Oxford in December 1911, he was forced to drop out at the last minute due to injury. However, despite this disappointing setback, further honours came in the Christmas vacation when he took part in the Barbarians tour matches at Newport and Leicester. Over the holiday, he also played twice for Swansea, partnering Dicky Owen, one of the greatest scrum-halves ever to represent Wales, although the experiment was not repeated.

It is clear from the press reports for the following season that Wyndham was now playing with great assurance and “constantly bewildering” brilliance. He finally won his Blue in December 1912, when he helped Cambridge defeat Oxford for the first time in seven years. The Welsh selectors were so impressed with Wyndham’s performance that he was picked to play for Wales against South Africa only four days later. It is a common perception that, in doing so, the WRU contravened their own regulation that players who opted for clubs like Blackheath rather than London Welsh would not be selected. However, all that the WRU had decided some years earlier was that they would give preference to London Welsh players, a rather different matter.

Wyndham’s international rugby career was short but dramatic. Five minutes before the end of his debut match against South Africa, with the Springboks leading by one penalty to nil, Wyndham attempted a difficult drop goal, then worth four points. A great cheer went up, but the referee judged, controversially, that Wyndham had missed the upright by six inches. The Western Mail commented that “those inches were sufficient to deprive Wales of victory and of making the brilliant Cantab one of the immortals of Welsh rugby”. Had the kick been successful, H. Wyndham Thomas would indeed still be a household name in Wales. Sport can be a cruel business.

The Western Mail also commented that Wyndham was “just the type of player Wales cannot afford to lose”. In fact, Wyndham had recently accepted an appointment with a firm of shipping agents in Calcutta, and was planning to sail from Gravesend on the very day of the next international match, when Wales were due to meet England. The WRU, however, persuaded him to revise his travel arrangements so that he could play. This meant that immediately after the match – in which England recorded their first ever victory at the Arms Park – Wyndham had to take a long train journey through France, to meet his boat when she docked at Marseilles. It is doubtful whether anyone had a more unusual departure from the international game.

Wyndham continued to play rugby and cricket in India, but returned home in 1915 to take up a commission, eventually joining the 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade in France in March 1916. Most accounts suggest that he was killed in the battle of Guillemont on 3rd September 1916. However, he actually lost his life elsewhere that day, several miles to the north-west, in an attempt to secure the high ground on the left bank of the river Ancre, north of Hamel. With over 400 casualties, the 16th Rifle Brigade suffered terribly in this assault. Wyndham was one of only a handful from his battalion who managed to reach the German line. He had just encouraged his men to follow him into the trench with the cry – all too familiar on the rugby field – “Come on boys, we’ve got them beat”, when he was tragically caught by shellfire and killed instantly.

Who knows what this exceptionally gifted young man might have achieved if he had survived the war. Writing to Wyndham’s family after his death, the Provost of King’s College, M.R. James, said “There never was surely a brighter spirit than his”, and that he would be greatly missed.

Second Lieutenant Horace Wyndham Thomas, the multi-talented King’s College choral scholar and Welsh rugby international, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the
Missing of the Somme.call-them-to-remembrance

About the Author: Gwyn Prescott is a Cardiff based rugby historian and writer. His latest book ‘Call Them to Remembrance’: The Welsh Rugby Internationals who Died in the Great War is available through publishers St. David’s Press and from Amazon.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter for more of the same.

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“Dicky” Lloyd (Ireland) – the one who came back…

DA Lloyd101 (365x500)

There were a handful of rugby players who played international rugby both sides of the 1st World War.  Perhaps the most fortunate was the Irish fly half Dicky Lloyd who, having won 16 caps and established a huge reputation as one of the finest players of his day, joined up in 1914 and served in the 10th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool Regiment) throughout the war.  He was so severely wounded in the second Battle of Ypres that it was erroneously announced in the papers on 10 May 1915 that he was missing, presumed dead.  However, unlike so many of his less fortunate soldier rugby players, he survived to play a further season of international rugby in 1920 and become a respected referee, coach and broadcaster.

Richard Averill Lloyd was born in Tamnamore, Co Tyrone on 4 August 1891.  He was a pupil at Armagh Royal School and Portora Royal School where he gained a reputation as an outstanding rugby player and cricketer.  He was the star of a brilliant school rugby side which produced seven future Irish internationals and provided Ulster Schools with their entire back line.  From 1909 he studied at Dublin University from where he made his debut for Ireland against England alongside his university scrum half partner Harry Read in February 1910.  Dickie Lloyd and Harry Read were the first Irish half back pairing where each player took a specific role and they played together for Ireland on 13 occasions between 1910 and 1913.  A sporting all-rounder and an outstanding opening bat, Lloyd also played cricket twice for Ireland against Scotland in 1911 and South Africa in 1912.

By the beginning of the war, Dickie Lloyd had won 16 rugby caps, captained Ireland nine times, and become Ireland’s leading points scorer with 63 points including a then world record 6 drop goals. He had moved to Liverpool in 1912 to work as a cotton broker with the firm Cunningham and Hinshaw.  He then played for Liverpool FC up until the war in a side that during the 1913-14 season uniquely contained three international captains – Dickie Lloyd of Ireland, Ronnie Poulton of England and Fred (FH) Turner of Scotland.  The future England international Wavell Wakefield was a boy at Sedbergh School when Liverpool came with their three international captains to play the school in the autumn of 1913.  He was the touch-judge at that match and wrote that “Lloyd’s kicking was wonderful.  From right down by their twenty-five, he would pick it up and from the touch line screw-kick it down so that it fell into touch just by our twenty-five.”

After the war, he was appointed captain of Liverpool in 1919 and resumed his international career as Ireland’s captain against England in February 1920.  He also captained Ireland for the 11th time in his 19th and final international against France in April of that year ending with an Irish points record of 75 points from 2 tries, 16 conversions, 3 penalty goals and 7 drop goals.  He retired as a player at the end of the 1920-21 season but became a referee and refereed two internationals during the 1922 Five Nations Rugby Championship.

After his rugby career ended, he played cricket for Liverpool and three times for Lancashire during the 1921 and 1922 seasons, including a match against the formidable 1921 Australian touring side.

He died in the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast on 23 December 1950.


  • Ireland’s Call – Stephen Walker (Merrion Press 2015)
  • Irish Rugby 1874-1999 – Edmund Van Esbeck (Gill & Macmillan 1999)
  • Liverpool Echo
  • Red, Black & Blue – JRA Daglish (Neil Richardson 1983)
  • CricketEurope StatsZone Ireland – Edward Liddle (2007)
  • For Poulton and England – James Corsan (Matador 2009)  

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.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter for more of the same.

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International Rugby’s most decorated player

by Cat McNaney

The Black Ferns fly half, Anna Richards, is the most New Zealand v South Africa - IRB Women's Rugby World Cup Matchday Onedecorated player in the history of international rugby. With a total of 49 caps under her belt, Richards is the most capped Black Fern to date, and has lead her nation to four back-to-back World Cup victories out of the five she has competed in – no other player, male nor female, can compare.

Born in 1964, Anna was raised in a family of four girls. Her parents encouraged all of their daughters to pursue their sporting ambitions and all four of them become successful athletes, with her younger sister following her into the Black Ferns. However Anna didn’t pick up a rugby ball until the age of 21 when she started playing for the university side in Christchurch. Previously, she had been a talented tennis player and netballer, playing at national level for Canterbury, before being dropped and asked by the university coach to try rugby. Richards describes having fallen in love with the sport instantaneously and “found out right away that [she] was way better at rugby than [she] was at netball”.

Anna went on to earn her place in the first ever New Zealand women’s squad in 1989 and was still playing at the highest level twenty-one years later at the age of 45, when she helped defeat England in the final of the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, claiming her fourth victory. Between 1991 and 2001 she was integral to a side that went on a twenty-seven game winning run. Anna’s win/loss ratio is near impossible to match. In over 100 international appearances, including rugby sevens, she has only ever lost twice. However, she insists that her talent doesn’t come naturally and that she always had to work hard to retain her place in the squad, “It’s easier to make a team than stay on a team. I always made sure I was the fittest; I was always working on my core skills and every year I’d pick something I wanted to work on.”

Anna Richards of New Zealand and Suzy Appleby of England

12 May 1998: Women’s World Cup semi-final in Amsterdam, Holland. New Zealand won the match 44-7. (Photo by David Rogers/Allsport)

She has won four World Cups (in 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010), starting and playing all 80 minutes of all four finals; won nine New Zealand Provincial Championships from 1999 to 2005 and then again in 2007 and 2008; won four Canada Cups in 1996, 2002 and 2005; won the English League and Cup in 1995, playing for Richmond; won the 1994 inaugural Australian Championship, as part of a guest side from Christchurch; won the 1999 Tri Nations; and was a member of the 2004 Churchill Cup-winning side. She has also represented New Zealand in Sevens, captaining them undefeated in 2000 and 2001 and winning the Hong Kong International Sevens and Japan Sevens Cup in both years; as well as the 2001 Wellington International Sevens. To add to her achievements, Richards also competed internationally in Touch Rugby. She has represented New Zealand in the Open Mixed Grade in 1990-91 and was Open Women’s captain in 1997-98, as well as playing for the over 27s. She played in the 1991 World Cup and was a runner up in the Open Mixed category.

New Zealand celebrate

Celebrating after beating England in the IRB Women’s World Cup Final 2002 (Photo by Craig Prentis/Getty Images)

Her playing career finally ended in 2014 when she left New Zealand to begin her role as the newly appointed elite women’s sevens coach at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she continues to share her knowledge, expertise, and, most importantly, her love of the game with the next generation of players.

She was inducted into the IRB (now World Rugby) Hall of Fame on 17th November 2014 for her remarkable contribution to New Zealand rugby. Black Ferns coach (1996-2002) Darryl Suasua, explains how, “Anna has fought tooth and nail over the years for women’s rugby to be recognised, and has been a pioneer [for the sport]”. Suasua also claims that Richards, “may be remembered as the first lady of New Zealand women’s rugby” after her retirement. Anna’s services to women’s rugby were honoured in 2005 when she was awarded Membership of the New Zealand Order of Merit, or, what she likes to call, her Q.N.B.F. – the Queen’s New Best Friend.

About the Author- Cat McNaney, 19, is studying History at the University of Exeter and plays rugby for Bristol Ladies and the Women’s England U20s. She undertook a placement week with the World Rugby Museum as part of a Public History module in 2016.

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