JACK Kyle, rugby legend, great humanitarian and superb raconteur, was the special guest speaker at Portadown Rotary Club on Monday evening, the guest of fellow retired surgeon Rotarian Ivan Stirling.
Jack told the audience of the many facets of his life, not least the strictly amateur rugby regime that he illuminated in the post-war era, with 46 full international caps at out-half for Ireland. The records show that he helped Ireland to the Grand Slam in 1948 and the Triple Crown in 1951.
He also starred for the British Lions in their tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1950 and for the Barbarians - he was declared one of the players of the tour by the NZ press, was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2008 was named the Greatest Ever Irish Player by the IRFU.
He regaled the Rotarians with tales of the days that rugby players were actually out money for their trade, as distinct from the highly-paid stars of today. They had to return their shirt to the authorities after each game - or they were charged for it! - and rarely received expenses. And Jack told of a young photographer who presented him with an album after the Lions tour ‘down under’. He loaned it to someone, it wasn’t returned and somehow turned up 60 years later!
After retiring from rugby in 1963, he embarked on humanitarian work in Sumatra and Indonesia, and between 1966 and 2000, he worked as a consultant surgeon in Chingola, Zambia, after which he returned to County Down for a well-earned retirement. He remained interested in rugby and in 2001 established The Jack Kyle Bursary Fund in support of the Queen’s University RFC Rugby Academy.
Said Ivan Stirling, “I knew Jack through the surgery fraternity and was delighted when he agreed to speak to Rotary. It was a great occasion, thanks to a modest man who has given so much to sport and to humanity.”