Girish Mahajan (Editor)

1896 British Lions tour to South Africa

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Date  1 July  – 5 September
Tour captain(s)  Johnny Hammond
Coach(es)  Roger Walker
Top test point scorer(s)  J.F. Byrne (12)
1896 British Lions tour to South Africa
Test series winners  British and Irish Lions (1–3)

1896 British Isles tour to South Africa was a rugby union tour undertaken by the British Isles, one of the first British and Irish Lions tours. The team toured South Africa for the second time in 1896. Between 11 July and 5 September, they played 21 games, including four tests against South Africa. The British Isles XV won the Test series 3–1 and completed the 17-game provincial program unbeaten, scoring 204 points and conceding just 45 in all matches.


Tour overview

The squad had experience on their side in the shape of two veterans of the 1891 campaign, the captain Johnny Hammond and fellow forward Froude Hancock. For the first time the squad also included a notable Irish contingent. Nine Irishmen were included in the touring party of 21. These included Tom Crean, Larry Bulger, Jim Sealy, Andrew Clinch and Louis Magee, all of whom had just helped Ireland win the 1896 Home Nations Championship. Robert Johnston had won two caps for Ireland in 1893. The other three – Arthur Meares, Cecil Boyd and James Magee, the brother of Louis – had not yet been capped by Ireland at the time of this tour. Crean and the Magee brothers were the only Catholics in the touring party and on the Sunday after they arrived, they begged to be excused from joining an excursion to Hout Bay. On being pressed for a reason for such a refusal, they shyly admitted that they had been three Sundays on board ship, without Mass, and they would like to attend church. The management committee replied that they could all go to their various churches if they pleased, and that the excursions would start afterwards.

Hammond's squad was considered to have an outstanding pack but be comparatively weak in the three-quarter line. Louis Magee and England full-back Fred Byrne were the stars of the backline, but it was a forward eight inspired by Tom Crean that laid the foundations for the team's success. Hammond, was injured early in the tour and it was Crean who took over the role in his absence. The team's only draw came in an early game against Western Province. Before the game, the new Prime Minister of the colony, Sir Gordon Sprigg, insisted on entertaining the tour party in the grand manner of his predecessor, Cecil Rhodes. Crean, captain for the day, sensing a ruse, sternly warned his players to limit their lunchtime consumption to just four tumblers of champagne, but it would appear some lost count. They escaped with a lucky 0–0 draw, but in a later game a much more sober team avenged the result 32–0, their biggest win of the tour. Facing a South Africa side captained by Ferdie Aston, brother of Randolph Aston, a member of the 1891 British team, the tourists dominated at forward throughout but could only score two tries in an 8–0 win. South Africa scored their first tries in international rugby in the second Test but still went down 17–8. In the third, the hosts actually led but were overhauled to go down 9–3, with Byrne kicking a conversion and a drop goal to set a record. He remained the only player to score 100 points while on tour in South Africa until 1960 when Don Clarke of New Zealand beat his record. South Africa improved, however, and won the final test 5–0 at Newlands. It was the previously flawless Byrne who lost possession to spark the attack from which Alf Larard scored the game's only try.

When the tour ended, both Crean and Johnston remained in South Africa. During the Second Boer War they both served with the Imperial Light Horse and were both subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross. One member of the Lions squad, Cuth Mullins, was a South African who was studying at Oxford University. His brother, Charles Herbert Mullins, also won a VC during the same engagement as Johnston. The fly half, Rev. Matthew Mullineux, was awarded the Military Cross in the First World War while another member of squad Walter Carey became the Archbishop of Bloemfontein; both men became Military Chaplains for the British Navy.

As on the previous tour in 1891, the tourists played in red and white hooped shirts and dark blue shorts.

Touring party

  • Manager: Roger Walker
  • Captain: Johnny Hammond
  • Full Backs

  • Fred Byrne (Moseley/England)
  • Three-Quarters

  • Cecil Boyd (Dublin University)
  • Larry Bulger (Dublin University/Lansdowne/Ireland)
  • Osbert Mackie (Cambridge University)
  • James Magee (Bective Rangers)
  • C.O. Robinson (Northumberland)
  • Half backs

  • Sydney Pyman Bell (Cambridge University)
  • Louis Magee (Bective Rangers/ London Irish/Ireland)
  • Matthew Mullineux (Blackheath)
  • Forwards

  • Walter Julius Carey (Oxford University)
  • Andrew Clinch (Dublin University / Ireland)
  • Thomas Crean (Wanderers / Richmond / Ireland)
  • Johnny Hammond (Cambridge University / Blackheath)
  • Froude Hancock (Blackheath)
  • Robert Johnston (Wanderers / Ireland)
  • G.W. Lee (Rockcliff)
  • Arthur Meares (Dublin University)
  • William Mortimer (Marlborough Nomads)
  • Cuth Mullins (Oxford University)
  • Jim Sealy (Dublin University / Ireland)
  • Alexander Todd (Blackheath)
  • First Test

    British Isles: CA Boyd, LQ Bulger, JF Byrne, OG Mackie, R Johnston, M Mullineux, AM Magee, RC Mullins, AF Todd, W Mortimer, PF Hancock, WJ Carey, J Sealey, AD Clinch, TJ Crean capt.

    South Africa: D Lyons, Percy Twentyman-Jones, Biddy Anderson, Ferdie Aston, E Olver, FR MyBurgh capt., Frank Guthrie, JJ Wessels, P Scott, PJ Meyer, M Bredenkamp, Frank Douglass, BH Heatlie, CG van Renen, HC Gorton

    Second Test

    British Isles: JT Magee, LQ Bulger, JF Byrne, OG Mackie, R Johnston, SP Bell, AM Magee, J Hammond capt., AF Todd, W Mortimer, PF Hancock, WJ Carey, J Sealey, AD Clinch, TJ Crean

    South Africa: Davey Cope, Theo Samuels, HH Forbes, Ferdie Aston capt., Bill Taberer, A Larard, G St. L Devenish, JJ Wessels, P Scott, AM Beswick, Jim Crosby, Charlie Devenish, Tom Mellett, JB Andrew, CW Smith

    Third Test

    British Isles: AWD Meares, LQ Bulger, JF Byrne, OG Mackie, R Johnston, SP Bell, AM Magee, RC Mullins, AF Todd, W Mortimer, PF Hancock, WJ Carey, J Sealey, AD Clinch, TJ Crean capt.

    South Africa: Theo Samuels, Percy Twentyman-Jones, Biddy Anderson, Ferdie Aston capt., Albert Powell, Bill Cotty, Jackie Powell, JJ Wessels, P Scott, AM Beswick, M Bredenkamp, DJ Theunissen, EW Kelly, PJ Dormehl, CW Smith

    Fourth Test

    British Isles: AWD Meares, JT Magee, JF Byrne, OG Mackie, LQ Bulger, SP Bell, AM Magee, J Hammond, AF Todd, W Mortimer, PF Hancock, WJ Carey, J Sealey, AD Clinch, TJ Crean capt.

    South Africa: Theo Samuels, Percy Twentyman-Jones, Biddy Anderson, Ferdie Aston, T Hepburn, A Larard, T Etlinger, HA Cloete, P Scott, AM Beswick, P De Waal, HD Van Brockhuizen, BH Heatlie capt., PJ Dormehl, CG Van Renen


    1896 British Lions tour to South Africa Wikipedia

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