Six Ireland rugby internationals who died in the First World War
Sport

Six Ireland rugby internationals who died in the First World War

Basil Maclear

Having made his Ireland debut in 1905, Basil Maclear was the first Irish rugby international to die in the First World War and was once described as ‘the greatest discovery in modern times’ by The Yorkshire Post. He died from a gunshot wound to the neck in battle in May 1915.

Jasper Brett

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Jasper Brett Jasper Brett [Picture courtesy of Merrion Press via IRFU archives]

Irish rugby international Jasper Brett played alongside Vincent McNamara in the famous ‘Battle of Balmoral’, which is regarded as the most violent game ever played between Ireland and Wales. Unfortunately, he witnessed much graver things at war and died in February 1917.

George McAllan

Irish rugby team in 1896, including George McAllan [Picture courtesy of IRFU archives via Merrion Press] Irish rugby team in 1896, including George McAllan [Picture courtesy of Merrion Press via IRFU archives]

Pictured lying at the front in the above picture of the Irish rugby team in 1896 is George McAllan. He was the first schoolboy to play rugby for Ireland, but emigrated to South Africa and died at war in 1918.

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Robbie Smyth

Robbie Smyth Basil Maclear [Picture courtesy of IRFU archives via Merrion Press] Robbie Smyth Basil Maclear [Picture via Merrion Press courtesy of Royal School Dungannon]

Irish rugby international Robbie Smyth was the brother of Irish hockey international Edmund Smyth. Robbie Smyth played for Ulster and Ireland but later joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and died in 1916 after being gassed in France.

William John Beatty

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Ireland rugby team including William John Beatty Ireland rugby team including William John Beatty [Picture courtesy of Merrion Press via IRFU archives]

William John Beatty – who is pictured in the middle row, one from the right in the above picture – made his debut for Ireland in 1910 and played in Ireland’s famous win over France in Paris in 1912. Beatty died in 1919 and was posthumously awarded an OBE.

Ernest Deane

Ernest Deane with his old Ireland rugby team-mates [Picture courtesy of Merrion Press via IRFU archives] Ernest Deane with his old Ireland rugby team-mates [Picture courtesy of Merrion Press via IRFU archives]
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Pictured standing to the far left in the above photograph is former Ireland international Ernest Deane, who played his club rugby with Monkstown. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Unfortunately, he died whilst attending injured comrades in September 1915.

 

Read all about these Irish sportsmen and many more who died in the Great War in BBC journalist Stephen Walker’s book 'Ireland’s Call: Irish sporting heroes who fell in the Great War, which is available from Merrion Press.