The Six Nations, and old photographs


CONNECTIONS:LANSDOWNE ROAD is a place that belongs to the past and to the future. But now it is a building site, and today’s Ireland v England rugby action is taking place across the river in Croke Park. But nonetheless it’s Lansdowne Road that inspires me to write this article. (Well, that and the vast inflated fee these words command.) I note the construction progress on visits to Dublin as I clack by on the Dart.

Yes, I’m inspired. Not that I’ve actually much involvement or interest in rugby, but big buildings are always inspirational, no matter their purpose. I don’t actually have much involvement or interest in human sacrifice either, not these days anyway, but Rome’s Coliseum creates an equal sense of awe and wonderment. At the human condition, so to speak.

I come from a rugby football background, which explains today’s two photographs. The one on the right was given to me by the late Des Fogarty of Dalkey who ran a bric-a-brac shop in Monkstown and was also a sales rep for a confectionery company.

The photo shows the 1923 Committee of the IRFU. Des gave it to me because “that fellow is some kind of relative of yours, I do believe”. He believed right, that fellow (standing far right) being Hubert Butler Kennedy, a kinsman of my father. Hubert Butler had been president of the IRFU in 1907. As for the others in the photo, I know that the AD Clinch (standing, second from right) was a member of a once-well-known rugby family, Jammie Clinch and all that. Jammie’s son, James Clinch, became master of the Coombe Hospital, and his son is Prof Peter Clinch, special adviser to the Taoiseach on the economy.

I can also identify WP Hunter (standing far left), GG McCrea (sitting second left) and H Thrift (sitting third from left). The past is another country and all that, but no doubt the images will connect with the descendants reading this newspaper today.

The above photograph is the rugby team of St Conleth’s College in Ballsbridge – class of 1959. One of the worst rugby teams ever cobbled together, it included myself (guess). We were the despair of our mentor, the then international rugby referee Kevin Kelleher. While some of the boys didn’t exactly reach the heights of writing articles for the Irish Timesweekend magazine, many others didn’t do badly. Our number included an army officer: second from left, back row, Olly Macdonald, colonel. And there’s a medical consultant: fourth from right, back row, David Powell, who was to become a distinguished professor of medicine in Dublin. He married a Miss World – and he a very quiet and studious lad at school! It’s always the quiet ones. As a student I well remember fancying a girl named Siobhán. She was snatched from me by a quiet and studious fellow. (Yes, I know where you are, Paul. Madrid. There’s no hiding place!)

And third from right, standing, is Philip Bouchier Hayes. We were billeted together as students in the Co Donegal Gaeltacht at Gortahork. Philip recovered from the experience sufficiently to father another Philip Bouchier Hayes, the RTÉ journalist.