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Pioneers of Rugby in Wellington 033: Patrick McEvedy and Arthur O’Brien

Arthur O’Brien (left) in 1904 and Patrick McEvedy in 1908.

Two players who attended St Pat’s Town a couple of years apart in the 1890s and played against the All Blacks for Great Britain/Anglo-Welsh teams on their tours in 1904 and 1908.

The 1904 British team to New Zealand.

Of the pair, McEvedy, is the most well-known, primarily because he leant his name to the famous athletics trophy still contested annually between his old school and Wellington College, Rongotai College and St Pat’s Silverstream.

McEvedy also made two tours to New Zealand with the Great Britain squad and subsequently moved back to Wellington and became an administrator and was the WRFU’s President between1930-33 and the NZRU’s President in 1934 and 1935, the year of his passing.

McEvedy with the Shield.

Both players were born in the South Island but schooled in Wellington at St Pat’s Town beside the Basin Reserve.

Both were living in London and studying medicine at Guy’s Hospital for a few years, hence how they got to play for Great Britain teams and tour New Zealand and Australia.

Both players were outside backs, appearing variously from midfield to the wing to fullback.

O’Brien was born in Westport in 1878 and attended St Pat’s Town where he was in the First XV in 1892 and 1893.

McEvedy was born in Southbridge Canterbury, some 102 years before another famous rugby player, Dan Carter, was welcomed to the world from that locality. He was a student at St Pat’s Town between 1895-98.

Across these five years that the two players were rugby players at the school, St Pat’s Town beat great rivals Wellington College three times and lost two.

O’Brien was the player-manager of the 1904 Great Britain side that toured New Zealand, in which both players were involved. He later also played for the UK Barbarians in 1906.

He later returned to New Zealand practiced medicine in Christchurch, where he passed away in 1951 aged 73.

McEvedy was also selected in this team despite playing in both the English and Irish trials and never winning a cap in either. He had been captain of the ‘Guy’s XV’ (the hospital rugby team that he and O’Brien both played for) and Kent county teams, however. He made some 70 appearances for Kent in his English playing career.

The 1904 tour was tagged on to the end of the Australian visit that saw them unbeaten in 13 matches having scored 260 points and conceded 51.

Great Britain would play five matches in New Zealand, including the only test that was played in Wellington on 13 August. After winning their first two matches, New Zealand were the first side to beat them, winning 9-3 and with McEvedy on the right wing and O’Brien at fullback.

Great Britain then drew their next match 0-0 with a Taranaki-Whanganui-Horowhenua selection in appalling conditions, before losing 13-0 to Auckland in their fifth fixture.

Four years later, an Anglo-Welsh team toured New Zealand and this time McEvedy was chosen as vice-captain.

The tourists – minus Scottish and Irish players as their name suggests – spent two months in New Zealand and their overall record was fair. In 17 matches they won nine, lost seven and drew one, scoring 184 points and conceding 153. In three Tests against the All Blacks, they lost 5-32 in Dunedin, drew 3-3 in a mud-fest in Wellington and lost 0-29 in Auckland.

They played Wellington at Athletic Park in their second encounter on 27 May and centre McEvedy was captain for the day for the visitors. Wellington were too strong, earning a momentous 19-13 win.

McEvedy played 12 of the 17 matches for the Anglo-Welsh in 1908 in New Zealand. The team won seven of nine in Australia on the second leg but McEvedy himself broke his arm in one of these games which prompted him to retire.

Returning to Wellington in 1909 to work as a doctor in Willis Street, McEvedy started his life as a national administrator between 1915-20 on the NZRU membership committee.

He had become a member of the WRFU in 1910 and was the union’s vice-president between1917-29, then President from 1930-33.

He also joined the Wellington Football Club and became a coach and was WFC President in 1934 and a Life Member of the club from 1930 until his death in 1935

Following a period of illness, McEvedy passed away two weeks short of his 55th birthday

References:

  • Akers, Clive. New Zealand Rugby Register 1870-2015. New Zealand Rugby Museum, 2016.
  • Evening Post newspapers – various articles 1904 and 1908
  • Chester R.H. & McMillan N.A.C. The Visitors. The History of Rugby Teams in New Zealand. Moa Publications, Auckland 1990.
  • Minogue, Peter B. Champagne Rugby. The Story of Secondary School Rugby in New Zealand. A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington 1961
  • Quinn, Keith. Give ‘Em the Axe. 150 years of the Wellington Football Club. Wakefields Digital, Wellington 2020.

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