2012 Inductee: Alfred St George Hamersley

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 1 January 2013
 2012 Inductee: Alfred St George Hamersley
Rugby captains at Marlborough College with Hamersley's IRB Hall of Fame cap and pin

IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.55 – Alfred St. George Hamersley KC (1848-1929)

Personal Details

– Born: 8 October 1848 in Great Haseley, Oxfordshire, England.
– Died: 25 February 1929 in Bournemouth, England
– Family: The 11th of 13 children (seven sons and six daughters) of Hugh Hamersley Esq and Philippa Mary Anne Phillips. His father was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge and was a magistrate (Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions) and a deputy-lieutenant for Oxfordshire. Alfred St. George Hamersley married Isabella Maud Snow on 26 October 1876 in St Peter’s Church in Wellington, New Zealand. They had two daughters, Helen Constance Hamersley and Maud D’Oly Hamersley, and six sons Cecil St. George Hamersley, Hugh St. George Hamersley, Harold Hamersley, Edward Hamersley, Thomas Hamersley and Alfred Hastings St. George Hamersley. The youngest son, Alfred Hastings, played rugby for Clifton RFC.
– Education: Marlborough College, Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; Barrister-at-Law, Middle Temple 1872, QC (KC) in 1899.
– Other sports: Rowing, athletics, horse riding

Professional career

Alfred St. George Hamersley was a Solicitor, Barrister (1873), artillery officer, businessman and politician. He practiced law in Timaru, South Canterbury, New Zealand, and saw action as a senior artillery officer in the last Maori war. He moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1888 and became the city’s first solicitor and a legal advisor to the Canadian Pacific Railway. In Vancouver he engaged extensively in land development and founded the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. He returned to Britain in 1906 and was elected and served as an MP for Woodstock between 1910 and 1918. He served in the Great War as a Major, then Lieut. Colonel. He retired as a full Colonel.

Rugby career

– He learned the game at Marlborough College, one of the leading rugby schools in England. His headmaster at Marlborough College was George Granville Bradley, a former Rugby School student and Master.
– After school Hamersley moved to London and joined Marlborough Nomads (also known as Old Marlburians – the Old Boys Club of the College) soon after its formation in 1868.
– He played for the club as a forward until 1874 when he left for New Zealand.
– The Nomads played their matches at Blackheath, where they used the “Prince of Wales” Hotel on Montpellier Row as their clubhouse, then on a private piece of land Surbiton. Their fixture list included Civil Service, Ravenscourt Park, Haileybury College, West Kent, Wimbledon Hornets, Blackheath, Gipsies, Richmond, Royal Military Academy and Oxford University.
– In 1871 he was one of the 20 players selected to represent England against Scotland in the first ever rugby international at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh.
– He was selected again in 1872, 1873 and 1874.
– In 1874, he captained England, and became a member of the RFU Committee, after which he left for New Zealand.
– In 1875, at the age of 27 he founded the South Canterbury club in Timaru, a club he played for during his stay in New Zealand. The club eventually changed its name to Timaru RFC. It is mentioned that he also contributed to the formation of Temuka RFC, another Timaru club.
– One of the founders of the Canterbury Rugby Union, which took place after a match between North Canterbury and South Canterbury clubs at Timaru on 26 July 1879. He was elected as a Vice President of the newly-formed Union at the meeting held at the Grosvenor Hotel in Timaru.
– His name is related to the formation of the South Canterbury Rugby Union which broke away from the Canterbury Union in March 1888. Though he may have been part of the original plans to form a new Union, he did not attend the meeting, which took place in the offices of legal firm of Hamersley and Wood, as he had already left for England a few months earlier.
– He left New Zealand in 1887 and the following year he and his family emigrated to Canada.
– In Canada he took up residence in Vancouver, where he became the City solicitor and, true to form, he started a new rugby venture called Vancouver FC.
– He was instrumental in the formation of the British Columbia RFU and became its first President at New Westminster in 1889.
– In 1906 he returned to Britain where he campaigned for and got elected to the House of Parliament.
– In Britain, he launched Oxfordshire Nomads RFC, the third rugby club he started in his career. Oxfordshire Nomads is now known as Oxford RFC.

International Appearances Summary

– Played forward for England XX v Scotland XX at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871. The match ended in favour of Scotland by one goal and one try to one try. Scorers for Scotland were William Cross (try and conversion) and Angus Buchanan (try) to England’s try by Reginald Birkett.
– Played forward for England XX v Scotland XX at Kennington Oval in London on 5 February 1872. The match ended in favour of England by two goals and two tries to one goal. Scorers for England were Francis d’Aguilar, Stephen Finney and Alfred St. George Hamersley (tries), Francis Isherwood (conversion) and Harold Freeman (drop goal) to Scotland’s drop goal by Charles Cathcart.
– Played forward for England XX v Scotland XX at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Glasgow on 3 March 1873. The match ended in a draw “greatly in favour of England”.
– Played forward and captained England XX v Scotland XX at the Kennington Oval in London on 24 February 1874. It ended in favour of England by one drop goal by Harold Freeman to one try by James F Finlay.
Other sporting achievements

– An outstanding rower, he rowed at Henley and won may races and regattas.
– During his sojourn in New Zealand he founded the NZ Grand National Steeplechase club.
– Founder and President of the Amateur Athletic Club of British Columbia.

Rugby career highlights
– He played as a forward in the first ever international rugby match, a 20-a-side game between England and Scotland in Edinburgh.
– He scored a try in the second international, also 20-a-side, played at Kennington Oval in 1872. It was England’s second ever try and the fourth scored in international rugby.
– He captained the England XX in their fourth international against Scotland in 1874, becoming the second captain of England after Frederick Stokes.
– A member of the RFU Committee at the age of 26.
– He formed the South Canterbury club in Timaru, New Zealand.
– One of the founders of the Canterbury Rugby Union and became one of its Vice Presidents.
– He founded Vancouver FC in Canada.
– One of the founders and the first President of the British Columbia RFU.
– Chaired the meeting that led to the formation of Oxfordshire Nomads FC (now Oxford RFC) and became its first President.
What he said

”The social side of life and sport were infinitely better than stem officialdom to build up a community. To build North Vancouver as she ought to be, money was nothing compared to good fellowship, manliness and the love of sport. Were all brought up in a manly way they could play the game and play it well. If we can in our little communities infuse manliness of sport and square dealing we would be helping the empire as a whole.”

“… the soccer game was not to be compared with the rugby code. There was no better game in the world than rugby.”

What they said

The Football Annual 1870s: “A.S.G Hamersley (Marlborough), Marlborough Nomads. A capital forward player, following up hard and with plenty of dash.”

Arthur G Guillemard (RFU Secretary) – “Football, the Rugby Union game” – on the second match between England and Scotland in 1872: “Matters opened auspiciously for Scotland, for C Cathcart, getting the ball out of a loose scrummage dropped a neat goal for Scotland after some ten minutes of play. This caused the English forwards, who as usual began rather slowly to wake up and led by their captain FW Isherwood, A St.G Hamersley and DP Turner, they gradually forced their opponents back into the goal, where Hamersley touched the ball down after a short maul. From this Isherwood kicked a goal.”  

Arthur G Guillemard (RFU Secretary) – “Football, the Rugby Union game”: “A. St. George Hamersley was a very tall, powerful forward, working more resolutely in the scrummage, and first rate at getting the ball on its being thrown out from touch. His departure for New Zealand, where he did much towards improving the colonists’ game was a great loss to England.” 

R. Edward Gosnell (historian) – “A History - British Columbia”: “He is a well-rounded character not so abnormally developed as to become a genius in any line, but so evenly balanced that his judgement is rarely at fault and all his views of life in all these relations are at once rational, practical and progressive. A favourite socially and a success professionally, he stands today as one of the leading men and lawyers of his adopted city.”