John Pullin, a man of courage


Sir, – As we approach Saturday’s game with England, it is perhaps timely that we remember a memorable day at Lansdowne Road in the winter of 1973. Times were difficult in Ireland then. We were struggling economically and the situation in the North was a powder keg ready to explode.

The environment everywhere was threatening and dangerous. Citing security concerns, the Welsh and Scottish rugby teams had let us down by previously refusing to travel to Dublin, thereby jeopardising the very future of what was then the Five Nations championship. As in other important subsequent rugby matters England uniquely, did not let us down. They were captained that day by a brave and honourable Bristol man who refused to bow to intimidation. John Pullin and his England team saved not merely the day but perhaps the future of the competition in the process. Though it’s approaching 50 years now I can never forget the reception including a long standing ovation which England received from a grateful and sporting Irish public.

We thanked them that day with tears in our eyes realising that our sport of Rugby with its inherent and life long friendships transcends hatred and violence in all its toxic forms. The occasion was magnificent and in the end the result scarcely mattered. Sadly, John Pullin died on February 4th this year.

On Saturday next, all sporting Irish men and women should remember him with affection and gratitude. In what were very difficult circumstances he and his England team were worthy ambassadors of their country that day. Irish rugby owes a debt of gratitude to this brave and decent English man. – Yours, etc,

JOHN LEAHY, President,

Shannon RFC,

Limerick .