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George Hall Stack Jnr


In Irish rugby circles the name of George Stack is not well known but he was in fact one of the main founders of the national side and its first captain.

He was born in 1850, the third son and one of seven children born to George Hall Stack snr. and Mary (nee Orpen). His mother was one of 11 children of Sir Richard John Theodore Orpen, one of her brothers was the Rev. Raymond D'Audemar Orpen, Archdeacon of Ardfert, and Rector of Tralee, who went on to become the Bishop of Limerick. His father was a barrister, J.P. and a wealthy landowner who was the eldest son of Rev Thomas Lindsay Stack. They lived at Mullaghmore House, Omagh, County Tyrone .

Above Mullaghmore House, Omagh, County Tyrone . It would later become the birthplace of the politician, Sir John Gorman and Jurassic Park lead actor Sam Neill. It is now a Restoration Centre selling antiques as well as providing accommodation and hosting weddings. See

George Stack was elected a Scholar of the House in Classics at Dublin University in 1870; gaining his B.A. in 1873 and an M.A. in 1875.

Above the entrance to Dublin University (more commonly known today as Trinity College )

Above the rugby ground at Dublin University .

In the early 1870s in Ireland the two leading rugby clubs were Dublin University and North based in Belfast . In 1873-74 Dublin University tried to arrange a match between an Irish side and England but the RFU insisted that Ireland had established its own governing body before a match was arranged.

Above the Dublin University team of 1874-75. Back Row (L-R): H.D. Walsh, W. Beatty, B.N. Casement, H.L. Cox, E. Galbraith, J. Myles, R. Galbraith. Middle Row: A.M. Archer, W.B. Smyth. Front Row: W.H. Wilson, G.H. Stack, H. Malet. On Ground: H.L Robinson, A.P. Cronyn, D. Neill.

Following the annual general meeting of Dublin University Rugby Club in October 1874, it was decided to call a meeting of the ‘principal clubs’ with a view to forming an executive. It was hoped that a match against England could then be arranged. The clubs met at 1.30pm on 7th December 1874 in the rooms of George Stack at No. 27 Trinity College. The executive was formed the following week on 10th December at John Lawrence’s rooms at 38-39 Grafton Street , George Stack as captain of Trinity chaired the meeting. It was agreed that a working committee of five would arrange the match against England . They were George Stack, M. Barlow, Edgar Galbraith, Richard Galbraith and Arthur P. Cronyn. It was also decided to call the administrative body the Irish Football Union.

In the county of Ulster there was an outcry that Dublin had taken it upon themselves to set up a ruling body without consulting Belfast so they established their own on 13th January 1875 at the Linen Hall Hotel, Belfast called the Northern Football Union of Ireland.

There was a lot of jostling for favour with the RFU. The IFU persuaded the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland , the Duke of Abercorn, to become their President. On 22nd January at a meeting of the IFU a letter was read out from A.G. Guillemard, honorary secretary of the Rugby Union, which confirmed that the match against England would be played at Kennington Oval on Monday, 15th February 1875. George Stack proposed that:

In order to guarantee that the Northern clubs’ interests would be duly regarded in the selection of the international twenty, that the Irish Union shall nominate seven men to play on the twenty, and the Northern Union a like number and that each Union would then submit the names of ten further players each from which the remaining six players would be chosen.

The Northern Union accepted with the slight amendment that each union would select eleven players from which the remaining six players would be chosen. The Northern Union enclosed the names of their selected seven, but Stack, would not allow the names to be read out at the meeting of the IFU on 3rd February until after the IFU had chosen their seven.

On 5th February 1875 The Belfast News announced the Irish squad.

The remaining six places on the team were selected by a sub-committee of six, three from each union which included Stack.

Stack was an obvious choice as the first captain of Ireland as he was already captain of Trinity and one of the leading figures in setting up the match. He had also contributed financially to the cause.

The first ever international played by Ireland was against England and took place on 15th February 1875 at The Oval, London . On the day H.L. Robinson and “Darky” Smyth the two best backs from Dublin University were absentees. They were never selected again. The Irishmen wore green and white hooped jerseys, white knickerbockers and green and white hooped stockings.

A crowd of 3,000 saw the match at the Oval. The match was played on a Monday afternoon, heavy rain during the previous weekend having turned the pitch, which measured 130 yards by 75, into a quagmire.

The Irish side was selected from the Northern and Southern Irish Unions and consequently, many of the players had never seen one another before.

Above the Irish side that played England on 15th February 1875. Back Row (L-R): E. Galbraith, W. Ashe, R. Galbraith, J. Myles, B.N. Casement, W. Gaffikin, M. Barlow, H.L. Cox, W.S. Ash, G. Andrews. Front Row: E.N. McIlwaine, H.D. Walsh, A.P. Cronyn, R.M. Maginness, G. Stack, J.A. McDonald, R.D. Walkington, F.T. Hewson, A. Combe, R.J. Bell.

England won the match by 1 goal, 1 drop goal and a try to nil. A report of the match was in the Dublin newspaper, Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser on 16th February 1875 and said (this report is produced as printed and includes name errors in the teams)


(by Freeman Special Wire) London , Monday.

This afternoon the first match that has ever taken place between the chosen representatives of England and Ireland at what may fairly be termed the winter game of the two countries took place in London, at Kensington Oval. Great interest had been excited in the contest from the fact that Irish football and its merits were practically unknown in England . Every preparation had been made to give the Irishmen a hearty welcome on the occasion of this their first introduction to English players. The weather certainly could hardly have borne a more smiling aspect, with a clear sky and bright sun overhead, but the ground was in a bad state, owing to heavy rains of the previous week, and running, about was almost impossible, as was anything like good dropping. The Irishmen won the toss chose the kick-off, the English Twenty commencing with the sun in their faces. Despite a fine kick-off the ball was speedily brought to the Irish goal line, and Collins all but got in for England . The Irish back then tried to get out, but he was well collared, and the ball being shortly afterwards well thrown out from touch, the Irish had to touch down. Collins, for England then got the ball well out of the scrimmage, and rushing in front of the posts, Ireland’s goal was threatened, but Cronyn charged it down, and the danger was over. Ireland then removed the ball away for a truce, but Turner, coming hard through the Irishmen, compelled again to have recourse to a touch them down in self-defence. Soon after this Nash had a good chance of a drop at the Irish goal; but he waited, and a good run by one of the Irish backs, the English forwards forced their way again on to the opposite goal line. After some hard play by the Irishmen in the lose scrimmages, Mitchell, after a short run, got a try for England, but as it was almost on the touch line the place by Frazer failed. Another run by Mitchell was followed by one by Nash, the latter being only collared when almost between the posts. This was the last incident before half-time, the end of three-quarters of an hour showing only a try for England . Soon after the kick-off Collins, with a left-footed drop, almost received a goal for England , and then the Irish had to touch-down four times in succession, the last with the ball close to their posts. Two excellent runs by Cronyn then for a brief period relieved the Irish lines, but the ball was again returned, and Nash, after a neat run, dropped a clean goal for England . Some hard play by the Irish forwards, followed by a good run by Bell , formed for a time the principal incidents. A bad piece of play by one of the Irish backs’ then enabled Cheston to charge the ball down, and ultimately to get in between the Irish posts, Pearson placing from this the second goal for England. With the exception of two more touch-downs by Ireland, and an unsuccessful place by Stokes from a fair catch by Walker nothing more was scored, so that England won easily by two goals, one try, and several touch-downs to nothing. At the last moment the English Twenty had to be changed, owing to the loss of three northern forwards Hon S Parker, C W Carver, and E Kewley – and O S Morse, one of the half-backs; while Ireland had some reason for disappointment in the absence of Smyth and Robinson, of Dublin University, even though their places were competently filled by such substitutes as Cox and Myles, from the same club. For the Irish, Cronyn was the most conspicuous for his good running. The twenties were :-


Hon H A Lawrence (captain), Richmond; A W Pearson, Guy’s Hospital; L Stokes, Blackheath (backs); W H Milton, Marlborough Nomads (three-quarter back); W E Collins, St George’s Hospital; A T Mitchell, Oxford University; S Morse, Marlborough Nomads (half-backs); C W Crosse, Oxford University, F Adams, Richmond; T Batson, Blackheath; E Kewley, Liverpool; E S Perrott, Old Cheltonians; M H Marshall, Blackheath; Hon E C Cheston, Richmond; R Walker, Manchester; C Carver, Liverpool; D P Turner, Richmond.


J Allen, Wanderers; G Andrews UI; W Ash, UI; M Barlow, Wanderers; R D Bell, UI; B Casement, DU; A Coombe, UI; A B Cronyn, DU; W Gavacen, Windsor; E Galbraith, DU; R. Galbraith, DU; F.T. Hewson, Wanderers; J. McDonald, MC; E M genis, UI; R Mafenes, DU; G H Stack, DU; R Wilkington, UI; H D Walsh, DU; J Myles, DU.

Above the English side that played Ireland on 15th February 1875. Back Row (L-R):  C.W. Crosse, E.H. Nash, A.T. Michell, E.C. Fraser, H.J. Graham, W.H.H. Hutchinson, E.S. Perrott, R. Walker, L.Stokes, A.W. Pearson, T. Batson, W.H. Milton. Front Row: J.E.H. Mackinlay, F. Luscombe, F.R. Adams, Hon. H.A. Lawrence (captain), D.P. Turner, W.E. Collins, M.W. Marshall, E.C. Cheston.

After the match the players were entertained and had dinner at St. James Hall, Piccardilly.

After the match the arguments between the two unions started about where the return match should take place in Ireland , north or south.

Stack never played for Ireland again. In fact in the first nine matches Ireland played, from 1875 to 1882, they had a different captain in each. The two unions eventually amalgamated in 1880. At the time of the establishment of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Ireland had played seven matches and lost them all and had failed to register even one score. Now with one controlling body and the game expanding at club level there were high hopes.

George Stack jnr. was a classical teacher at the Erasmus Smith School , now more commonly known as the High School, on Harcourt Street , Dublin but resigned after being called to the Irish Bar.

Above the The High School, 40 Harcourt Street , Dublin , this was founded on 1st October 1870, by the Governors of The Erasmus Smith Schools.

Above Harcourt Street and the Pleasure Grounds. The school has always welcomed pupils from many religious persuasions and those of no religion.  One of the more amusing accounts of the religious breakdown at the school was given by William Wilkins, Headmaster, in a letter to the Board in 1886, 209 Church of Ireland, 41 Presbyterians, 8 Plymouth Brethren, 5 Methodists, 3 ‘Separatists’, 3 Baptists, 3 Jews, 2 Roman Catholics, 2 Moravians and 1 Congregationalist. 

George Hall Stack jnr. died on 14th November 1876 at The Royal Arcade Hotel, 33 College Green, Dublin from an overdose of chlorol hydrate. An account of his death appeared in the Dublin Newspaper, Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser two days later and said


Yesterday at half-past 11 o’clock Coroner N. White held an inquiry into the mysterious death of Mr. George Hall Stack, whose demise, under unusual circumstances, we reported yesterday. The investigation was held at the Royal Arcade Hotel, College-green.

The police were represented by Inspectors Quinn and Greevy, And Acting-Inspector Fallon, B division,

The father of the deceased, Mr. George Hall Stack, and the deceased’s uncle, Mr. R. N. M. Orpen solicitor, Dublin , were in attendance. The apartment in which the inquest was held, was crowded with students from Trinity College , who evinced a keen interest in the proceedings. A jury having been sworn,

The first witness examined was Mr. Orpen, who deposed, in answer to the Coroner, that the deceased was his nephew; he was a bachelor, and was 26 years of age; he was a member of the Bar, having chambers at Trinity College; witness had not the slightest doubt that he came to his death by misadventure; witness was aware that some time ago deceased underwent a painful and unsuccessful operation.

Mr. Auguste Mouillat, proprietor of the Royal Arcade Hotel, deposed that he knew the deceased who occasionally stayed at the hotel; he came to the hotel on Saturday last and remained until his death; when witnessheard of his having been found, he sent for doctors, and Drs Tyrell and Stokes arrived, but deceased was then dead.

Thomas McDonnell, a waiter at the hotel, was then examined. He deposed that on Saturday he showed the deceased his room, No. 16, where his body now lies; he stayed that night and dined; on Sunday he left to go to his own house in Eccles Street, but returned soon afterwards, saying he could not get in; he remained in  bed all day on Sunday, and in the evening he desired witness, when he was giving him his tea, to come again for a note; at a quarter past eight he gave witness a note to Messrs. Hamilton and Long, Grafton Street and he brought back the bottle now produced.

James Hunter, an employee in the Arcade Hotel gave evidence to the effect that yesterday morning he went to the room of the deceased to see if he required anything; it was between six and seven o’clock, and he appeared to be asleep; on going to his room between nine and ten o’clock witness found him insensible; and then gave alarm.

Mr. W. T. Kyle, who had lived with the deceased in Trinity College, deposed that he knew he was in the habit of taking opium for the purpose of relieving indigestion; witness often remonstrated with him upon the matter, but deceased had said he suffered very much, and that he (witness) had no idea of the pain he suffered.

The Coroner remarked that Dr. Egan was present to make a post-mortem examination if the jury desired it. Decease’s relatives did not wish it, but the matter was altogether for the jury to deal with.

Mr. Stack (deceased’s father) – I testify that he wrote to his sister within the past fortnight respecting his Christmas vacation. He spoke then of the approaching happiness they would have..

A gentlemen present observed that within a week he had received a letter from the deceased respecting their taking rooms together.

Charles H. Hartt, 107 Grafton Street, deposed that he was manager of Messrs. Hamilton and Long’s, Grafton Street; deceased was in the habit of taking sedatives, and had an account with witness; he sent the order (produced) on Monday night, and the bottle (produced) was sent to him; the bottle labelled chloral (hydrate) was purchased, witness had no doubt, at his establishment.

The Coroner remarked that he thought the jury would have no hesitation in saying that all the legal requirements had been complied with by Messrs’ Hamilton and Long.

Several jurors assented. The Coroner remarked that his relatives saw no cause to assign for his taking poison except by misadventure. He was in the habit of taking doses of opiates, and if he did on the occasion in question take a dose, his friend believed it was purely by misadventure that he met his death. However, Dr. Egan would give some evidence which would be important.

Dr, Egan said that from what he had heard of the case he thought it possible that deceased, who he understood had given up opiates, renewed the habit that night, and took as large a dose as he had previously taken without sustaining any injury, but, having for some time ceased to use opiates, he was affected more by what he had taken than had he not for a time relinquished the habit. Four grains was the smallest fatal dose on record; but if the deceased had taken all that was in the smaller bottle he would have swallowed 24 grains.

The Coroner briefly reviewed the evidence, and the jury, without hesitation, found that the deceased had come to his death through misadventure.  



© Patrick Casey, 2010
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