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Dr John Wilson Kyle OBE


He was born on 10th January 1926 in Belfast . He was educated at Belfast Royal Academy and studied medicine at Queen's University, Belfast . He is commonly referred to as Jack Kyle or Jackie Kyle. His brother-in-law is the late Irish rugby international Noel Henderson who married his sister, Betty Kyle.

Between 1947 and 1958, he played 46 times for Ireland , and scored 24 points.

Above Jackie Kyle in the 1947 Irish Triple Crown side


The highlight of his Ireland career came during the 1948 Five Nations Championship when he helped Ireland win a grand slam for the first time.


Above the 1948 Irish side that won the Grand Slam with Kyle on the ground extreme right.

He played for the British Lions in 1950 on their tour of Australia and New Zealand , playing in 20 of the 29 games. He captained Ireland on 6 occasions between 1953 and 1954 and scored a drop goal and 7 tries for his country, the most memorable being his try at Ravenhill in 1953 when he left four Frenchmen in his wake, following a 30 yard jinking, darting run.  An impressed rugby journalist Paul MacWeeney parodied The Scarlet Pimpernel with the lines:

They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
That paragon of pace and guile,
That demned elusive Jackie Kyle.

He was a past captain of Queen’s University, Ulster and of the Barbarians and captained the combined Ireland/Scotland XV team in the four country game played to open the new West stand at Lansdowne Road in 1955.He retired from international rugby in 1958 and went on to play for some of the lower teams in NIFC until 1961.



He was awarded an OBE on 3rd March 1959 for his contribution to rugby and when he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, he emigrated  to Zambia where his life’s work and satisfaction was to help the poor and underprivileged with his medical skills. In 1991 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of Social Sciences by Queen’s University for his dedicated work in surgery in Zambia over many years. He is now back living in Co Down, where he is enjoying his retirement. He remained involved in rugby and in November 2001 established the Jack Kyle Bursary Fund in support of the Queen's University RFC Rugby Academy

In 1999 he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, and in 2002 he was named the Greatest Ever Irish Rugby Player by the Irish Rugby Football Union, and in 2008 he was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame.


Above Jack Kyle in 2009

It would not be another 61 years before Ireland won the Grand Slam again in 2009.



© Patrick Casey, 2010
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