Reverend Robin Roe C.B.E., M.C., M.A.

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Reverend Robin Roe C.B.E., M.C., M.A.

by PaulHP on Tue Mar 28, 2006 11:52 pm

Reverend Robin Roe C.B.E., M.C., M.A.

Position: Hooker

Clubs:Dublin University F.C. (Trinity), Lansdowne, London Irish

Representative Honours: Leinster, Ireland, British & Irish Lions, Army, Combined Services & Barbarians.

Those of you that have read “Passion In Exile”, will have heard of the Reverend Robin Roe. Those of you that might not have, Reverend Robin Roe played for London Irish in 1955, after returning from the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. From 1952 to 1957 he played 21 matches in the middle of Ireland’s front row.

Playing against England at Lansdowne Road 1955

Robin Roe was born 11th October 1928 in a small place called Sheirke, Borris-in-Ossory, Co. Laoise. He started playing rugby aged 10 at Kings Hospital School, Dublin. He spend 6 years studying at Trinity College Dublin and was ordained a Church of Ireland clergyman before joining Lansdowne R.F.C. in 1953-4 (and is featured in their Hall Of Fame: ... ayer_id=40 ).

Before playing for London Irish in 1955 he toured with the British and Irish Lions to South Africa. He played in around 12 games (2 as prop) scoring a try against Griqualand West. His Lions appearances were restricted because damaging his ribs early on in the tour, but still played when required, but was kept out of the test sides by Bryn Meredith. The tour lasted 4 long tough months. His room mates where a 19 year old Sir Tony O’Reilly, Bill Williams and Bryn Meredith. The rugby played in South Africa was a lot harder and tougher than he was used to playing in Ireland. In his opinion Tony O’Reilly played excellently especially as he was only 19 years old. He found South Africa a big culture shock, apartheid stood for things opposed to his position as a C. of E. priest at the time.

During the tour he came in for some ribbing because of the enormity of his neck. The Catholics in the group used to tell him that he had a great neck for a Roman Catholic collar.

In 1955 as an Army Chaplain based near London, he played about 15 games for London Irish. He said that the training at London Irish was hard, and Sunbury at the time was good fun, but he found that the team at Lansdowne was more settled. The biggest character at Irish at the time was Tom Reid, second row forward (who died in Canada in 1996) a fellow 1955 Lions tourist. He regards fellow hooker Karl Daniel Mullen (the man he replaced in the Ireland number 2 jersey), captain of Ireland and the 1950 British & Irish Lions, as his hardest opponent.

Ireland side to face England 1956
Back row, 3rd from left

Ireland record:
29 March 1952 England 3 – 0 Ireland
24 January 1953 Ireland 16 - 3 France
14 February 1953 Ireland 9 - 9 England
28 February 1953 Scotland 8 - 26 Ireland
14 March 1953 Wales 5 - 3 Ireland
23 January 1954 France 8 - 0 Ireland
13 February 1954 England 14 - 3 Ireland
27 February 1954 Ireland 6 - 0 Scotland
13 March 1954 Ireland 9 - 12 Wales
22 January 1955 Ireland 3 - 5 France
12 February 1955 Ireland 6 - 6 England
26 February 1955 Scotland 12 - 3 Ireland
12 March 1955 Wales 21 - 3 Ireland
28 January 1956 France 14 - 8 Ireland
11 February 1956 England 20 - 0 Ireland
25 February 1956 Ireland 14 - 10 Scotland
10 March 1956 Ireland 11 - 3 Wales
26 January 1957 Ireland 11 - 6 France
09 February 1957 Ireland 0 - 6 England
23 February 1957 Scotland 3 - 5 Ireland
09 March 1957 Wales 6 - 5 Ireland

Reverend Roe was first selected to play for the Barbarian’s while studying at Trinity College, Dublin in 1951. He played in a total of 11 matches for the Barbarbians scoring 2 tries. In the summer of 1957 he was a member of the first Barbarians side to venture outside their own islands-to Canada where they were enthusiastically received and wildly applauded for the quality of their football. The Barbarian's won 6 lost 0. Points for 227. Against 23.

Barbarians Record:
24 March 1951 Barbarians 3-13 Cardiff, Cardiff Arms Park
27 March 1951 Barbarians 6-13 Newport, Rodney Park Parade
12 April 1952 Barbarians 3-6 Cardiff, Cardiff Arms Park
15 April 1952 Barbarians 3-8 Newport, Rodney Park Parade
5 March 1953 Barbarians 5-8 East Midlands, Bedford
27 December 1955 Barbarians 12-3 Leicester, Welford Road (1 Try)
19 April 1957 Barbarians 28-15 Penarth, Penarth
30 April 1957 Barbarians 52-0 Ontario, Toronto (1 Try)
8 May 1857 Barbarians 51-8 British Columbia, Victoria
11 May 1957 Barbarians 17-3 British Columbia, Vancouver
14 May 1957 Barbarians 41-3 Quebec, Montreal

1957 Barbarians Canadian Touring Squad:
T.E. Davies, G.T. Wells, A.J.F. O'Reilly, F.H. Thompson, J.E. Woodward, C.I. Morgan, D.G.S. Baker, A.F. Dorward, A.A. Mulligan, A.Robson, J.T. Greenwood, T.E. Reid, E.J.S. Michie, R.W.D. Marques, R.H. Williams, G.W. Hastings, E.Evans, R. Roe, C. Jacobs. Manager H.L. Glyn Hughes

Whilst serving as an Army Chaplain in Aden in 1967, he heard gunfire and left Radfan Camp to investigate what was happening. Outside the SAA Camp he found a British Army lorry on fire with British soldiers lying scattered around it. Under heavy fire Reverend Roe bravely helped the wounded soldiers to the Radfan Camp. Army Chaplains do not carry weapons and are non-combatants and their work is to sustain not destroy. For his outstanding bravery he was awarded the Military Cross.

Citation for Reverend Robin Roe – Military Cross January 1968 London Gazette

Reverend Robin Roe (445206) Chaplain to the Forces 3rd Class Royal Army Chaplains’ Department

The Reverend Roe volunteered for duty as a Chaplain with the 1st Battalion The Lancashire Regiment in order to accompany the Battalion on a nine month operational tour in Aden. Throughout the tour he has created a deep impression on all ranks in the Battalion by his example, courage and force of personality. Where ever the soldiers have been in action no matter how dangerous or unpleasant the task, he has always been there or has been quickly on the scene.

During the Battalion’s operations in Tawahi he accompanied patrols on numerous occasions in and out of the slum area and grenade alleys, both by day and by night, sharing with the men the threats of the terrorist weapons with a coolness that inspired in every man a tremendous self-confidence. He was always quickly on the scene of an incident ready to give assistance to any casualties, and on at least two occasions involving grenade attacks, he was involved in the incidents themselves.

He played a particularly gallant part during the “Aden Mutiny” on 20th June when, oblivious to the heavy fire being directed at the camp, he attempted to drive about 400 yards across open desert to the scene of an accident where several men had been killed and some badly wounded. He was turned back forcibly by another officer only after he had been personally been shot at and his Land Rover hit by machine gun fire. He then devoted his attention to assisting the Medical Orderlies inside camp with the local casualties until it was possible to recover the victims of the main attack.

With the change of operational commitment to Al Mansure, a hostile area much given to heavy shooting exchanges, the Reverend Robin Roe has gone far beyond the call of a Chaplain’s duty to assist and inspire the men of the Battalion in the time of danger. He has accompanied men on patrol in the face of strong enemy reaction on numerous occasions, at least three of which were under extremely heavy small arms fire and accompanied by grenade attacks. By virtue of his appointment he has not been able to retaliate even to defend himself, nevertheless he has shown complete disregard for his own safety, and has displayed a coolness and air of confidence which has inspired every officer and soldier around him. His concern for the safety of the soldiers, particularly on becoming casualties, has become a byword to every man in the Battalion, and his comfort to next of kin of men seriously wounded or killed in action has had the most profound effect in the maintenance of morale in the Battalion.

His courage and example in the face of danger has been outstanding and his infectious enthusiasm and confidence under all conditions has been an inspiration to the whole Battalion.

Military Cross

In 1964 Reverend Roe officiated the wedding of the late Andrew Armstrong Mulligan (the ex London Irish Captain) in the chapel of Magdalene College, Cambridge.


In 1982 he was awarded a C.B.E. for his work in the church in the army.

Now aged 77 the Reverend kindly took a few minutes to answer some questions:

When/where did you start to play rugby? Aged 10 at Kings Hospital School, Dublin.
When did join London Irish and how many games did you play? 1955. About 15.
How many points did you score in your London Irish days? None.
What brought you to London Irish? I was a Chaplain in the British Army, based near London.
What were the main differences between playing for Lansdowne and London Irish? Lansdowne was a more settled team.
What was the training like? Hard.
Who was your most difficult opponent? Karl Mullen. Irish Hooker (Captain of Ireland and the 1950 British & Irish Lions)
What was Sunbury like in your time playing there? Good Fun.
Who do you consider was the best player you played with for London Irish? All were good.
Did you spend much time in Fitzy’s bar? No.
Who where the characters at Sunbury in your time playing? Tom Reid (second row forward, who died in Canada in 1996).
If professionalism had been introduced in the 1950’s would you have turned pro? Yes.
Do you still watch rugby? Yes.
When was the last time you attended a London Irish match? 1957. (27 years in the army as a chaplain).
Do you still keep in contact with any of your old team mates? A few.
The professional London Irish team is no longer a team for Irish/Irish descent players, what are your feelings about this? Too many outsiders. Stifles own domestic players.
Has the position of Hooker changed much since you played? Very much. Hooking was a skill and a science. Refs never allowed a ball to be one inch crooked into the scrum. This enabled both sides to have a fair chance of the opponents ball, thus stopping the backs lying up and being flat, thus tackling the opponents as they receive the ball. Todays scrums are a disgrace as you know who is going to win the ball, and adjust play accordingly. The “line out” is a total mess as well. It should be reduced to 5 men, no lifting etc. allowed, and the back row to stand behind the scrum half at the throw in.
Which modern day player would you have liked to play with? (Martin) Johnson.
Do you prefer the rugby of today or when you played? In some ways, yes. Players are fitter, well paid etc. I regret going professional. It fosters individualism & money. Professionalism has destroyed the spirit of rugby. Money and test places are the motive, at the expense of total loyalty to each other, as in my playing days. There are many good things in the modern game.
You played a number of games for Ireland, how did it feel to pull on the shirt for the first time? Wonderful. A 10 year dream & preparation come true.
What are your memories of playing for Ireland? Tough & competitive.
Did moving to London Irish affect your International career? No. I only played for London Irish up till Christmas as I had Army and International games after Christmas.
You drew with England twice, what were those games like? England always hard to beat.
Did you win any other honours (inter-provincial/county etc.)? Leinster.
When did you stop playing rugby? When I was 40.
You are famous for having a 20 inch neck, is that true? Yes.
You toured with the 1955 Lions to South Africa, what are your memories of the tour? Great.
How many games did you play and against who? About 12 v The Provinces + SA VX.
How tough was it being on tour for 4 months? Very.
Who was your room mate? It Varied. O’Reilly, Bill Williams & Bryn Meredith
How different was South African rugby compared to what you where used to? Very hard and tough.
In your own opinion, how well did Sir Tony O’Reilly play? Excellent as he was only 19 years old.
How much of a culture shock was South Africa? Apartheid stood for things opposed to my position as I was a C/E Priest at the time.
You took part in the first ever Barbarians overseas tour to Canada, how many games did you play in? Three.
Who did you room with? (Charles Ronald) Jacobs (RFU President 1983-4).
What was the standard of rugby in Canada like? Tough but keen.
How easy was it for you to tour seeing you were in the army?Friends in high places?
Do you still think that the Barbarians have a place in modern rugby? If so why? Yes, relaxed rugby.
Did you play in any other Barbarian sides? On and off from 1950-58.
Will you miss the current Lansdowne Road when it’s demolished? Very sorry, but a bigger ground is in line with world interest in rugby.
You where an Army Chaplin, what was your regiment? Many to begin with. Royal Engineers, Life Guards (twice), 9/12 Lancers, 1st Battalion Lancashire Regiment, Royal Fusiliers.
Do Chaplin’s get promoted? If so what was your rank when you left? Colonel (Assistant Chaplain General).
Where did you serve? Royal Military Academy, British Army of the Rhine(12 years), Malta, Libya, Malaya, UK.
You where awarded the Military Cross for bravery, what was Aden like? Hell. Like a miniature Iraq.
Did you receive any other medals? Service Medal, Queens Jubilee Medal, C.B.E.
Did you play rugby for the army? For 2 years and as Captain.
How long did you stay in the services? 27 years.
When did you become a Reverend? 1953.
Where did you train? Trinity College, Dublin. 6 Years.
How many parishes have you had? One before the army as curate, and a parish in Guildford for 8 years.
When did you retire (if you have)? Unoffically when 65, but a minister never retires, as I am still very busy helping out.
Last edited by PaulHP on Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by AlecW on Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:30 am


Good one - more, please Paul!

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by dom_pedro on Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:11 pm

I still can't get over the 20-inch neck :shock:

Great article.
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by gabriel on Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:56 pm

How wonderful.
Surely the Club or LISC should invite him as a guest to a match.
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by Frenchie on Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:35 pm

Thank you for an interesting article. Yes let's have some more please. :D :D
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by Shawshank on Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:59 pm

Cheers Rev'd for answering so many questions. A nice insight into days gone by.

I agree with that man - lets get these old LI Greats together a la Wimbledon on the last home match of the season, and have a Parade of LI Champs around the Madstad - I'm sure that the crowd will be suuportive.

Would be a really nice touch for the LISC to arrange - Alec? :D
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by Mrs Chicken on Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:02 pm

Fabbo, Paul!!!
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by AlecW on Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:20 am

Shawshank - it's a truly fabulous idea - and I am aware that LI is trying to get former players more involved (witness Gary Halpin in the Sale programme)...

Snag is, I've got a day job! :wink:

I've always found the sporting heroes of yesteryear that I've come across are very retiring, modest types and might quail / be embarrassed at the thought of anything so public. But we could maybe try & invite some of these old players to a game and give them some properly excellent hospitality.

I dunno - I'm thinking off the cuff. I'll raise it at the LISC meeting next week and see if couldn't do something (in co-operation with the club) for the first MadStad game next season? Maybe with a page in the Programme describing his deeds???
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by gabriel on Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:07 am

The pre-match lunch idea was just the sort of thing I had in mind. I do think that both players and supporters would be interested to know of, and clap eyes on, some of the distinguished former cadre. I discussed the idea with the Mammy and she was very interested to know if any of them might be widowers with a decent farm of land.
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by JamesC on Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:32 pm

Outstanding report, Paul. Thanks
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Re: Reverend Robin Roe C.B.E., M.C., M.A.

by PaulHP on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:39 pm

ROE, Rev. Robin CBE, MC, MA, QHC. - died peacefully on July 15, 2010, aged 81. Much loved by Vera, Steven, Robin and Sean.

Thanks for being the first interviewee Reverend, Rest in Peace.
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