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John Bowes MacDougall


Dr John Bowes MacDougall holds the distinction of being the first player to be capped for his country whilst playing at Wakefield .

In 1920, he joined the club on being posted to the West Riding County Council as Chief Tuberculosis officer. Formerly he had played for and captained Greenock Wanderers and had been capped twice for Scotland before the Great War.

Whilst at Wakefield , he made ten appearances for Yorkshire and won three further Scottish caps – against France , Ireland and England in 1921. In the latter match he played against William Wavell Wakefield and the Yorkshire Post described how MacDougall was “constantly prominent” and “played with great dash and determination.”

He played in three Yorkshire Cup finals – twice on the winning side in 1920 and 1922, but he was an unsuccessful captain of the 1921 side.

For a forward, he was quite a try scorer. He touched down four times in eight games in the 1919/20 season, followed by thirteen tries (joint leading try scorer) in 17 appearances the following season and in 1921/22, he scored only five tries in sixteen games, but this was still the joint second highest number of tries scored that season. He also converted five tries across the three seasons.


He chaired Wakefield ’s coming of age fete and bazaar in 1922, which exceeded its target, achieving a profit in advance of £860 that went towards the erection of a stand at Wakefield ’s Coach Road ground.

He left Wakefield in June 1922 and the club started a subscription fund at 2/6 “to mark the small token of esteem he is held in by all connected with the club.” Claude Beaumont, the Honorary secretary, described how “His fine play in the field, remarkable personality as a leader, and a wonderful power of organisation has effected a change in the affairs of the club, such as a short time ago could never have been anticipated”. Later he was made a life member of the club.

In 1947, he became Chief of the Tuberculosis section of the World Health Organisation, based in Geneva . In 1950, MacDougall wrote to the club “From time to time I still get the membership card and fight the good fight again”. He went on to praise the early twenties teams and asked that the club would “pay full tribute to the great forward line we had then and especially the earnestness with which they carried out a systemic routine training. It may be really interesting to recall that on more than one Saturday I was at the time the smallest and lightest man in the pack and that any success which I personally may have achieved in the team was due almost entirely to the tremendous team spirit we had, and to the keenest enthusiasm of the side as a whole.”

According to, he died around 1967, aged approx. 77.


© Richard Lowther, 2010
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