Friday 18 January 2019

Dracula author had plenty of sport in his blood

Sean Diffley

Bram Stoker will be 100 years dead in a couple of weeks. Aficionados of the Dublin-born author have every justification for commemorating the occasion when we recall, among other aspects, that 'Dracula' was only outsold over the years by Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

But the bloodsucking count has tended to monopolise the image of the man from Marino Crescent.

Long before he entered the portals of scribbling, Stoker was a noted athlete and rugby player on the green swards of Trinity College.

He was a member of the Trinity rugby team in seasons 1869-70 and in 1871-72, when his team-mates included Charles Barrington and George Stack Barrington -- who, of course, was the player who introduced the first written laws of Irish rugby.

A few years later, Stack became captain of the first Irish team.

Stoker was a close friend of fellow athlete Henry Dunlop, the founder of Lansdowne Road.

When Dunlop ran the first Irish athletic championships in Trinity's College Park in 1873, Stoker is on the very extensive programme as the judge of the walking races.

In his active sporting days, Stoker frequently competed with Dunlop in walking races, which were very popular in those times. Stoker was also a noted hurdler.

And writing books didn't preclude several of our other famed authors from indulging in the frivolities of youth.

When James Joyce lived briefly as a youngster in Blackrock, he did some running under the guidance of a local coach, but then lost interest as the artist became an older man.

Samuel Beckett was the most athletically skilful of them all. When he was at Portora, he was captain of both cricket and rugby, and he led them to the Ulster Schools rugby final in Belfast in 1923.

He was scrum-half and captain, but the team lost.

In Trinity he was star all-rounder at cricket and when he played against Northamptonshire, his name was included in Wisden -- he is the only Nobel prize-winner to gain entry to the cricket bible.

As a footnote to the spate of verbal abuse, crossfield banter or sledging that has been capturing our headlines recently, let it be taken on board hereabouts that we are only in the halfpenny place in comparison to Australia.

Top prize surely goes to the Bodyline series in 1933 where the England captain Douglas Jardine, -- patrician, implacable and a snob -- knocked at the Australian dressing-room and complained about the Aussies "calling me a b***ard."

The Australian captain turned to his players and demanded "which of you b***ards called this b***ard a b***ard..."

Irish Independent

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