Jack King England International

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Jack King England International

Post  AdrianHunter on Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:02 am

Hi everyone,

I have been researching the English Internationals who fell in the wars.

Does anyone have any information about Jack King of England, Yorkshire & Headigley who is being a bit elusive?

Many Thanks

Adrian
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Re: Jack King England International

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:04 am

Try this:

A sporting knight inspired by the tale of a true hero who never came home
31 December 2009
By Tom Richmond

SIR Ian McGeechan is a privileged man. As well as becoming Britain's latest sporting knight, he's played alongside many of rugby union's all-time greats – revered individuals like Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams and the talismanic Willie John McBride who need no introduction.
This extraordinary player and coach, who combined his sporting odyssey with a teaching career in Yorkshire, also managed some more recent icons idolised by millions; inspirational players like Brian O'Driscoll, Martin Johnson and Jeremy Guscott.

Again, their endeavours speak for themselves.

But they pale into insignificance when compared to the player that is most admired by Sir Ian, one of Headingley's greatest ever players before enjoying a stellar coaching career with, among others, Scotland, London Wasps and, most significantly, the British and Irish Lions.

Who is this mystery individual?

John Abbot King – or plain "Jack".

His teams?

The forward played with distinction for Headingley, Yorkshire and England.

His fate?

Serving in the Liverpool / Scottish Regiment, he perished – like so many others – in the Battle of the Somme during August 1916. There are no other details. He was simply listed as "missing", presumed dead.

During three separate assaults on Guillemont, a heavily defended German position in France defended by tunnels and dugouts, the regiment was repelled. The battlefield cemetery stands as testament to the carnage that was witnessed. It contains 2,200 graves – many unmarked. King's body may count among their number. It may not.

Yet, in many regards, he had no right to be at the Somme. When he signed up, he was just five feet, five inches tall – too short for Army regulations. But, within a day or so, he had found an extra inch because he was desperate to be "a real soldier" – a hallmark of courage that McGeechan likes to see in rugby players.

"Sometimes, when I am dealing with players who behave like prima donnas or who complain about the harshness of their sporting lives, I would like to be able to refer them to 'Jack' King and his stoicism under murderous fire," said Sir Ian.

"They might appreciate how fortunate they are to be players; fully-paid professionals earning a good living from playing the game that they
love and which was denied to all those who did not make it home from two World Wars."

Sir Ian is in a reflective mood. And, significantly, he has time to reflect. For, the first time in decades, the 63-year-old does not have a rugby team to coach at present – or to finalise the details of a Lions tour. "It's taking some getting used to; four-day weekends and three-day weeks."

It's proving to be a liberating experience, though hardly a day goes by without him being linked to a high-profile rugby role – such as helping to revive England's fortunes.

That is for the new year. In the meantime, his voice becomes enchanted as he discusses the previous day's Heineken Cup action. He purrs over Munster's stirring victory at Perpignan. Likewise, England fly-half Tony Flood's return for Leicester Tigers after a ligament injury. "Good to see," he says.

Despite the international scene being dominated by the Southern Hemisphere countries, headed by world champions South Africa who were fortunate, in many regards, to beat Sir Ian's Lions in the summer, he's buoyed by these club performances.

Likewise, he feels "vindicated" that the rugby authorities are
belatedly tackling the issue of eye gouging, as exemplified by the
24-week ban recently handed out to Stade Francais scrum-half Julien Dupuy.

When the South African forward Schalk Burger appeared to gouge the eyes of the diminutive Luke Fitzgerald in the pivotal second Test on the Lions tour, and was only sin-binned for 10 minutes, Sir Ian said such foul play should carry a six-month ban.

For someone brought up when rugby union was, strictly, an amateur sport, Sir Ian's views maybe considered old-fashioned. But he's a pragmatist. His imaginative coaching, and motivation, were ahead of their time.

And, while he was one of the slightest centres – physically-speaking – to represent Headingley, Yorkshire, Scotland and the Lions when the Willie John McBride-inspired "Invincibles" were undefeated during their 1974 tour to South Africa, he accepts that physicality is a key element of the game.

The key, says Sir Ian, is the spirit within which matches are contested – and players being aware of the history and heritage of the shirt that they are entrusted to wear on match day.

It's where his history tutorial enters the fray and why "Jack" King will always mean more to him than Gareth Edwards, the "Prince" of Welsh rugby who he names – without hesitation – as the "greatest ever player" that he has seen, a crucial caveat as our conversation progresses.

Born in Kirkstall, street games were the young Sir Ian's pre-occupation. His dream was actually to play cricket for Yorkshire. His childhood idols were Brian Close and Sir Garfield Sobers, the dashing West Indies all-rounder.

Proficient in many sports – he was once the Leeds long jump champion – Sir Ian ran everywhere. Home. School. The sports pitch. If he missed the bus, he ran. He'd also play two games a day; one for school, the other for Headingley. He can't imagine a brilliant young player like Danny Cipirani doing likewise today.

He was also fortunate that Ken Dalby, his maths teacher at West Park School, was a rugby legend who nurtured sporting youngsters.

This freedom – and enjoyment – also gave him an awareness of his home environment. And, when he walked into the Headingley clubhouse, he became fascinated by the club's honours board that listed every international – and every club member who had died in both World Wars.

Yet, as Sir Ian says, they were just names. Proud names, but with
little detail about the achievements.

That changed, however, when Sir Ian and his wife Judy drove out to Ripon one weekend and perused in the second-hand bookshops situated in the Cathedral's shadow.

In one favourite haunt, Sir Ian discovered a copy of the annual Yorkshire Rugby Football Union Commemoration Book 1914-19 and Official Handbook 1919-20.

Bound in red vellum, it covers the minutiae like club accounts, minutes, rules and such like. "Not exactly bedtime reading," he admits. It also gave each club's fixture list for 1919-20. Some clubs like Baildon, Batley and Leeds Rifles were represented by a blank page. Insufficient players had returned from Europe's bloodbath.

Sir Ian goes on to say how the book names 200 Headingley members who enlisted – "200 mostly young blokes who were roughly the same age as me when I first began to play. More than 50 were killed. Twenty-one gained military honours".

Each of the fallen has a page to themselves – including "Jack" King who won 12 caps for England from 1911-13. He played, according to the tribute by RF Oakes, "with the greatness of a soulful man". It left a lasting impression on Ian McGeechan.

Whatever challenges he faced, he knew he could turn to the book, read a few paragraphs and gain an entirely different perspective. He clearly wishes some of today's players were more aware about history.

"The story of John Abbott King is something that affects me deeply, perhaps not surprisingly," he added. "For there is a link with my father and his services background, the service traditions of my family; there is the link with Headingley, the pride in the history of our club, and the courage of our young predecessors in the white, green and black hooped jersey."

As a teacher at Fir Tree Middle School – before moving to Moor Grange shortly before winning his first Scotland cap in 1972 – he would take pupils on minibuses for geography or games lessons.

Invariably, the conversation would turn to how communities were scarred by war – and the Pals Regiments who fought in the First World War.

Sir Ian says a request for rugby players to form their own Pals regiment fell on deaf ears. He says it would have left the game in an even worse state. Yet he's emotional as he talks about the communities wiped out.

Looking back, he realises that he's probably one of the last great coaches to combine a profession with a high-profile sports career.

This is a man who was still teaching in Leeds when he orchestrated Scotland's 1990 Grand Slam win over England at Murrayfield, an accomplishment that ranks alongside his many great successes with the Lions.

It could not happen today, he says. Rugby is now so professional that it requires a full-time coach, in the higher echelons, to analyse games, prepare training sessions and plot strategy.

"The only way that it happened for me was that I worked with good people," Sir Ian said, as he dedicated his knighthood to his family. "The staff at school were brilliant. Scotland were understanding. But, crucially, my wife made it work. She had to make sure everything was functioning effectively – she was the organiser."

Sir Ian likes to refer to himself as a "Yorkshire Scot". "It means I don't have to pay for anything!" he jokes.

His playing and coaching career with Scotland – his father hails from Govan's dockyards in Glasgow – means it is unlikely
that he would take over the England team.

But, whatever he chooses to do in the future, he wants his players to have fun. It's why he allowed his Lions players last year to enjoy a beer after a game – and, crucially, enjoy each other's company. They might not get another chance, he told them. This was in marked contrast to the rigid organisation of the Sir Clive Woodward-led Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005 – complete with Tony Blair's spin doctor, the Keighley-raised, Alastair Campbell as PR officer. They simply suffocated any enjoyment out of the trip.

"There is a danger that players – and coaches for that matter – can take themselves too seriously.

"You need to enjoy each other's company and you need to have downtime to relax.

"There is no comparison between war and sport. But rugby, for me, is still the ultimate team game. You are totally reliant on other people. You have to support your team-mates and they will support you in return. When it works, the effects can be incredible."

It's why Sir Ian is sometimes reluctant to single out any of his accomplishments.

For him, the greater satisfaction was helping someone – whether it be a shy school pupil or a strapping rugby player – do something that they did not think was possible.

"That is where the real satisfaction lies," he says.

"And, when it works, you can be satisfied that you are doing your job well."

Whatever the future holds, Sir Ian will remain involved in sport. He sees it as his vocation.

When he retired from playing and started coaching Headingley in 1980, he had a conversation with his ever-patient wife Judy.

"How long will this go on for?" she asked, and clearly hoping for some help in raising the couple's two children.

Her husband's reply: "Until I run out of ideas."

He's still thinking of fresh innovations. He cannot help but watch matches – even on television – from a coach's perspective. He admits to always reflecting on how he could have done things differently.

For he knows that he's been fortunate to be involved in a record seven Lions tours as a player and coach – seven more than many who've been involved in the upper echelons of rugby union. And seven more tours
than those players who were killed in action – or left crippled by rugby injury.

What still moves Ian McGeechan is the note that his hero, "Jack" King, wrote to RF Oakes, a Yorkshire rugby official, shortly before he was killed.

"I am absolutely A1 in every way. But one can never count on the
future. As long as I don't disgrace the old rugby game..."

More than 90 years years on, they remains the words that have driven Sir Ian McGeechan's career to great heights – while also showing that sport is only a game. Unlike war.



n Sir Ian McGeechan is the author of Lion Man, published by Simon & Schuster, price £18.99. To order a copy from the Yorkshire Post Bookshop, call free on 0800 0153232 or go online at www.yorkshirepost
bookshop.co.uk. Postage and packing is £2.75.
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Re: Jack King England International

Post  Tim Fox-Godden on Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:07 am

There is a mention of him in this article too:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/rugby_union/article2402762.ece

However, the fact that the author states Ronnie Poulton Palmer was in the King's Liverpool regiment may undermine this!

Pip pip,

Tim
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Re: Jack King England International

Post  AdrianHunter on Sun Jan 17, 2010 1:04 pm

Tim,

This is great Exclamation

Many Thanks Very Happy

Adrian
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