Over the past year, I have become an avid fan of rugby. Not just any rugby, but New Zealand rugby. I LOVE watching the New Zealand national team, the All Blacks.
For me, being a fan means learning the history of the team I'm supporting. In order to understand the present, you have to understand the past, and that goes for sports teams, too.
And one of the things I love about rugby is the history and tradition. The five pillars of Rugby are:
In discovering the history of the All Blacks, no figure looms as large as that of Dave Gallaher, a man who displayed those five pillar qualities not only on the rugby pitch, but across the whole of his all-too-short life.
Dave Gallaher, who was born in Ireland but immigrated to New Zealand when he was a child, came up through club rugby and became the captain of the All Blacks. He was the skipper of the team when they made and unprecedented tour of Europe where they played 36 matches and won 35 of them! (The one loss is still disputed by die-hard All Blacks fans.)
Rugby was not a professional sport, (and didn't become professional until 1995!) so the players received no pay for their seven month tour of the 'home countries.' Being the captain of a group of men far from home for an extended period of time took a special kind of man, a great leader.
|Dave Gallaher in 1905, wearing the original All Black|
jersey with a leather yoke and embroidered silver fern.
|Dave Gallaher in uniform.|
Gallaher enlisted in 1916, and while awaiting deployment to France, learned that his younger brother, Douglas, had lost his life in battle. Gallaher held the rank of sergeant. On October 4th, 1917, during the attack on Gravenstafel Spur near the town of Passchendaele, Belgium, Gallaher was killed in battle. He was buried at Nine Elms Cemetery in Belgium. Though his gravestone (on the reverse side) gives his age as 41, he was actually 44 at the time of his death, having concealed his true age back in 1901 when he enlisted to fight in the war in South Africa.
|D. Gallaher's grave in Belgium. It is not unusual|
to see a rugby ball placed here.
What more could you ask from your heroes, both in sport and in life?
Below is the current captain of the All Blacks, Kieran Read, paying his respects to the man who held the office a hundred years before. One facet of the All Blacks culture that is taught and re-taught to the players is that they don't own the jersey they wear. They are merely custodians, and it is their job and their honor to add to the legacy, to pass it on to the next man having enhanced it through the embodiment of the five pillars.
Photo credits from: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=13948575
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Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
You can visit her online at www.ericavetsch.com and on Facebook at Erica Vetsch Author