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Edmund George Forrest


 

He was born on 5th October 1870 in Dublin , the youngest of three brothers who played for Ireland . He was educated at Reading School , King William’s College, Isle of Man and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland . He played rugby for Wanderers.

 

King William's College by Tasa_M.

Above King William’s College, Isle of Man.

 

He was capped 13 times by Ireland . He was captain of the first Irish side to win the Triple Crown in 1894.

 

Above Edmund George Forrest

 

Rugby in 1890s Ireland was primarily a game for the Protestant middle class. The only Catholic in Edmund Forrest’s 1894 team was Tom Crean who had been educated by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood and who went on to earn the Victoria Cross for services rendered to the British Empire in the Boer War. Of the eighteen players used in the three games, thirteen were from three

Dublin clubs –Wanderers, Dublin University and Bective Rangers – and the remaining five were from Ulster . They had a variety of occupations: doctors, clergymen, a university lecturer, a detective, an auctioneer, a solicitor, merchants and company directors.

There were a couple of changes for the 1894 championship. For the first time, Ireland followed the Welsh model of using seven backs instead of six. The selection committee was reduced from ten to six, while this was also the first championship when referees were given full powers and no longer had to wait for appeals from players. Ireland were installed as 5/1 outsiders for the opener at Blackheath against England . They won 7–5 but left it late. Trailing 3–5 in the dying minutes, they had Forrest to thank for a late drop-goal, then worth four points.

 

Above a programme from the England v Ireland on 3rd Feb 1894 at Blackheath.

 

Above the Ireland side that beat England 7–5 at Blackheath, 3 February 1894. Back row: James Lytle, Tom Crean, Harry Lindsay, R Garrett (President, IRFU), Charles Rooke, Walter Brown, Lucius Gwynn, E McAlister (Honorary Secretary, IRFU); Seated: Bertie Wells, Willie Gardiner, Edmund Forrest (captain), John O’Conor, Sam Lee; Front: Ben Tuke, George Walmsley, William Sparrow, Jack Lytle.

They left it late three weeks later at Lansdowne Road too, when Bective’s winger Bertie Wells scored the decisive try against Scotland in front of a crowd of 10,000.

 

Above the Ireland side that beat Scotland on 24th February 1894. Standing (L-R): C.V.Rooke, H.Lindsay, Garrett (President), Jas Lytle, A.T.Bond, H.G.Wells. Seated: W.Gardiner, W.S.Browne, John Lytle, J.Forrest (Captain), J.H.O’Conor, L.H.Gwynn, S.Lee, P.Grant. On Ground: B.Tuke, T.Crean

The championship was still at stake when Wales , the Triple Crown holders, arrived at the ‘Ulster Cricket Club enclosure’ following a 7–0 victory over Scotland in Newport . There was controversy before kickoff, the first match against Wales played in Belfast . Wales entered a protest against the match being played. Their contention was that the ground was not of the required measurement, being some eight yards too narrow and six yards short of the standard dimensions, in addition to which they considered the corners bordering on the cinder track were decidedly dangerous.’

The rain of the preceding days had also left the surface sodden, forcing the grounds men to start carrying out impromptu draining operations at six in the morning. But there was no thought of postponement – two Great Northern Company trains had brought 800 spectators from Dublin , which ‘considerably augmented the company, which at the start of the game could not have been far short of 6,000. The game’s one score came early and was described thus: ‘Escott was quickly brought to book by the referee and as events proved, he cost his side the match. A “scrum” was being fought out midway between the Taffies’ 25 and the line when the Cardiff half-back picked the ball out, for which, of course, Mr Rainie awarded Ireland a penalty free, and John Lytle kicking a magnificent goal, the cheering was loud and prolonged.’

Writing about the 1894 series, many years later, the Irish forward John O’Connor recalled the Triple Crown triumph

Although it was a famous victory when we beat Wales in Belfast , I must admit it was not a great match.

In those days handling was not developed to the extent that acme later. The game was left almost entirely to the forwards and the scrums were grim affairs, with all the forwards giving the full weight to the shove. There were no specialised positions such as hooker or wing forward, and every forward was expected to be an accomplished hooker. First up, first down was the rule. The backs were mainly used mainly in defence.

We got off to a good start when beating England by a dropped goal and a try to a try at Blackheath and thus had the satisfaction of scoring the first Irish victory over England on English soil.

Generally we were pleased with the performance of the side which was not a particularly hefty one.- I was the heaviest at 13½ stone – but all the players were tall and speedy. That English game was also notable for the fact that it was the first time Ireland had used four three-quarters. Until then we had played nine forwards.

We had a full-back problem that year and after the English match Sparrow (Trinity) was replaced by Grant (Bective) who had started the season in the club’s second XV.

He played very soundly against both Scotland and Wales . Walmsley broke a leg before the Scottish match and Bond of Derry replaced him in the pack, but we got through against Scotland by a goal to nil, Wells getting the all-important try. But Wells was injured for the big day against Wales in Belfast and Dunlop of Trinity replaced him on the wing.

The Lagan had overflowed on to the Ormeau ground shortly before the Triple Crown match and the pitch was in a frightful condition for the match. The mud was over our ankles and it was almost impossible to keep a foothold. But we were less affected by the conditions than Wales . We relied on the fast foot rushes to keep their defence in trouble and prevented their backs from developing attacks.

The conditions and the ability of our forwards to maintain a non-stop onslaught won us the day. John Lytle got the only score of the game in the early stages, when he kicked a penalty goal from in front of the posts. That kick won us the Triple Crown.

It was decided by the IRFU that the players who had participated in the three games would be given special presentations to mark their achievement, but someone had second thoughts on the issue and at a meeting held in December 1894 it was decided not to proceed.

The following season Ireland lost every game, despite including nine of the Triple Crown heroes. Forrest only captained Ireland for one game the following season and they finished bottom.

The games he played for Ireland were

Date

Opposition

Venue

Attendance

Result

Score (HT)

1st Dec 1888

New Zealand Natives

Lansdowne Road , Dublin

 

Lost

1G-4G

16th Feb 1889

Scotland

Ormeau, Belfast

 

Lost

0G-1G

2nd Mar 1889

Wales

St. Helen’s, Swansea

 

Draw

0G-0G

22nd Feb 1890

Scotland

Raeburn Place , Edinburgh

 

Lost

0(0)-5(4)

15th Mar 1890

England

Rectory Field, Blackheath

12,000

Lost

0(0)-3(2)

7th Feb 1891

England

Lansdowne Road , Dublin

 

Lost

0(0)-9(2)

18th Feb 1893

Scotland

Ballynafeigh, Belfast

 

Draw

0-0

3rd Feb 1894

England

Rectory Field, Blackheath

20,000

Won

7(3)-5(0)

24th Feb 1894

Scotland

Lansdowne Road , Dublin

 

Won

5-0

10th Mar 1894

Wales

Ballynafeigh, Belfast

5,000

Won

3(3)-0(0)

16th Mar 1895

Wales

National Stadium, Cardiff

 

Lost

3(3)-5(5)

6th Feb 1897

England

Lansdowne Road , Dublin

15,000

Won

13(10)-9(3)

20th Feb 1897

Scotland

Edinburgh

 

Lost

3(0)-8(3)

 

In 1894 Forrest worked in London and played occasionally for Richmond .

Edmund Forrest was appointed Surgeon-Lieutenant on 29th January 1896 and Captain three years later.

He died at Aden on 20th February 1902 on his passage home.

On 30th August 1902 in the British Medical Journal it was proposed by some friends to erect a memorial to him, either at Aden , where he died, or at his home. Captain A. H. Waring R.A.M.C. (No. 1 Section Hospital , Secunderabad , India ), will be glad to receive donations from anyone desirous of subscribing.

On 1st November 1902 in the British Medical Journal it was announced that . Captain A. H. Waring R.A.M.C. (No. 1 Section Hospital , Secunderabad , India ), begs to acknowledge the following subscription to the above fund:

£   s  d

R. B. Carson, Esq., Civil Surgeon                         0 13 4

Captain J. Cowan, R.A.M.C.                                   0 13 4

Major H. N. Thompson, R.A.M.C.                         0 10 0

Major R. J. Windle, R.A.M.C.                                 0 13 4

            Previously acknowledge                             5   5 0

         £7 15 0

 

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with the assistance of and thanks to Willow Murray IRFU

   

© Patrick Casey, 2010
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