In part 2, we continue the theme and look at some Celtic players’ day jobs, and also consider why is it that the Welsh and Irish have produced so many rugby playing doctors?
In 2013, Jamie Roberts the Welsh and Lions international centre, became the latest in the stethoscope line.
Jackie Kyle [1946-1958, 52 caps], played fly half, Kyle was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and studied medicine and played rugby at Queen’s University, Belfast. He was widely acclaimed as one of the greatest Irish players ever. During the 1940s and 1950s his brilliance lit up the Irish back-line, helping them to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1948, Triple Crown the following year and Five Nations in 1951. He was awarded an OBE in 1959 for his contribution to rugby.
Life after rugby, in 1963 Kyle followed a humanitarian path, working in Indonesia. Then, when he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, in 1966 he emigrated to Chingola, a mining town in the ‘copper belt’ north Zambia where his life’s work and satisfaction was to help the poor and underprivileged with his medical skills.
He returned to Northern Ireland in 2000 and in retirement settled in County Down. He remained involved in rugby and in 2001, established the ‘Jack Kyle Bursary Fund’ in support of the Queen’s University RFC Rugby Academy. In 2002, he was named the Greatest Ever Irish Rugby Player by the Irish Rugby Football Union. He once remarked. ‘It is great to have maintained so many friendships after so long, sometimes I wonder what our lives had been without our sport. It enriched our lives, we were born with the ability to do certain things on a rugby field that in your dreams you could never do.’
Tony O’Reilly, [1955-1970, 39 caps], played on the wing, educated by the Jesuits at Belvedere College Dublin, which has produced many international rugby players. After studying law at University College, he went to work as a management consultant in England, playing for Leicester FC. He represented Ireland, the British and Irish Lions and the Barbarians (a record holder for both appearances and tries), and is enshrined as a member of the IRB’s Hall of Fame.
After rugby, he became an immensely successful businessman, developing the successful Kerrygold brand for Irish export butter, moving to H. J. Heinz Co., and Independent News & Media, a Dublin-based print media company. He married a Greek shipping heiress and horse breeder, with houses in the Bahamas, and Ireland. He set up the O’Reilly Foundation in 1998 funding educational projects. The press speculated he was perhaps Ireland’s first billionaire. However, the Midas touch has finally failed him he now owes large amounts to banks and financial institution and facing bankruptcy.
Jack Matthews, [1947-1951, 23 caps], played at centre, part of a legendary Welsh midfield partnership alongside Bleddyn Williams regarded by many as one of the finest in the game. Played for Cardiff, Newport and the Army, he was also a devastating tackler, once described as ‘a cross between a bulldozer and a brick wall’.
During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force and whilst stationed in Wales, he fought a four-round draw with Rocky Marciano when the future world heavyweight champion was stationed nearby, with American forces. Later he was transferred and commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He became a physician in post-war Cardiff and estimated to have delivered 7,500 babies personally, often the night before or on the morning of a big game. Whilst serving as doctor to the Welsh Boxing Association, he became friends with Muhammad Ali. He travelled on the 1980 Lions tour of South Africa as the team’s doctor, and made an OBE in 1981. He died 2012 aged 92.
JPR (John Peter Rhys) Williams, [1969-1981, 63 caps], played at full back, noted for his aggressive attacking style. With his long sideburns and socks around his ankles, ‘JPR’ was an iconic figure in the legendary Welsh international team, during their Golden Era in the 1970s -playing in three ‘Grand Slams’ and six ‘Triple Crown’ winning teams. He was outstanding for the British Lions in the 1971 New Zealand and 1974 South African tours. Played for London Welsh and St Mary’s Hospital where he studied medicine, qualifying as a physician in 1973, and becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1980.
He retired from international rugby union in 1981 continuing his career as an orthopaedic surgeon. However he still played club rugby in Wales for many years, well into his fifties. He finally hung up his boots in 2003. He currently serves as President of the Bridgend Ravens.