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A chance discovery

By choice, my family and I are having a quiet Christmas – both my wife’s and my own mother having passed away in the past twelve months.

However, it was pleasing to receive a “Have you seen this?” email from my brother yesterday, linking me to a piece by Graham Fraser recently posted upon the BBC Scotland News website. It was about the loss to Scottish rugby of their many internationals who died in World War One.

See here for a link to said article – BBC SCOTLAND NEWS

It is a strange fact of life that – by taking an interest in any aspect of human existence – it is relatively easily to pick up a slight degree of knowledge that serves you well in ways that you had never contemplated.

A schoolmaster friend of mine once told me of how, returning to school one autumn term, he was stunned and alarmed to find the headmaster had assigned him to teach geography to one of the more senior classes, this being a subject of which he possessed only passing and cursory awareness. His protestations that he would be totally out of his depth and incapable of carrying out the task were waved away by the headmaster, who told him “Don’t worry, Simon. As long as you can keep one chapter ahead of them in the text book, you’ll be fine …” and so (I was told) it turned out, albeit that my pal testified to having to be quite nimble on his intellectual feet when fielding polite enquiries from the floor about knowledge he had not yet acquired.

In similar fashion, although sport is not something that I am naturally drawn to, my own Western Front researches have given me a tangential bank of data on notable sportsmen who fought and/or died in WW1.

Last night, having read the article referred to above, I wrote an email replying to my brother in which I asked him to look carefully at the first ‘rugby action’ photograph featured in it. It is of the Scotland v England match played in March 1914.

Although over the years I have read a fair amount about English cricket, soccer and rugby in Edwardian era – and corresponded with those more expert than me in such matters – I had never seen this photograph before.

I was intrigued by it because the Englishman running with the ball (with the pale striped socks) looks very much like the England winger C.N. Lowe, who became an RFC/RAF fighter pilot and survived the War to play international rugby again. Furthermore, the other England player – who is following up behind – seems to be Ronald Poulton Palmer, the England captain and centre threequarter, who was killed by a sniper in 1915.

My brother wrote back almost immediately saying that, almost certainly, I was correct.

There is well-known photograph of Poulton Palmer in action in the England v France match which took place the following month (the last Northern Hemisphere rugby  international before the commencement of WW1) but this photograph from the Scotland game could be a new discovery. It certainly is as far as I am concerned. I shall pursue the matter with rugby experts and report further as my enquiries bear fruit.


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About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts