Monday, 3 June 2013

Leicester's Lions #1: George Beamish

This series, of undetermined length at present, will be of little mini-biographies of some of Leicester Football Club’s 36 players chosen to play for the British Lions.  

Leicester's Lions No. 1: George Beamish

George Beamish
George Beamish was from the generation of men that led two lives at least.  He was the international rugby superstar; larger than colossus he captained Ireland to a share of the 1932 Championship and led Leicestershire & the East Midlands to victory against the touring Springboks in 1931.  He was a decorated war hero who was the first RAF man promoted to Air Commodore and was awarded the KCB in 1955.

He was said to be so strong he could bend pennies out of shape with the thumb and forefinger of one hand!

Beamish made the first of his 118 Tigers appearances aged 19 on December 27th 1924 at home to Heriotonians; just two days before taking on the Barbarians in the by now annual encounter.  Beamish had been in impressive form for his native Coleraine and his Tigers honours tipped him into full international recognition as he made his Ireland debut against England on Valentine’s Day 1925.

He earned three caps in the 1925 Five Nations Championship and was also part of the all-Tigers Leicestershire side that won the County Championship for the first and so far only time, scoring a try in the victorious final against Gloucestershire at Bristol.

This was a boom era for the Tigers attendances, not until the mid ‘90s did the numbers reach these heady heights again, and Beamish would have regularly featured in front of 5 figure crowds.  He played against the touring Maori and New South Wales Waratahs, but probably his biggest ever achievement was captaining the Leicestershire & East Midlands XV (containing 7 Tigers, 5 Saints, 2 Bedford and 1 West Herts) to victory against the touring 1931 Springboks in front of 25,000 people at Welford Road. 

Beamish had played against the Springboks the week before for the Combined Services and had developed his tactical master plan to beat the Boks.  The Midlanders played the game tight, turning ball back inside at every opportunity with the wingers rarely seeing the ball, and instructions to “shake up” the South African pack, I can imagine Richard Cockerill giving similar instructions!  Northampton fly half Charles Slow stole the show with 2 tries and a drop goal in a 30-21 win, Slow later joined the Tigers after Beamish retired and won an England cap.

Beamish set a then world record of 25 international caps at number 8 after he was recalled to the Irish side for the 1928 Five Nations Championships, missing only 1 game between 1928 and his final appearance in 1933.  He captain the Irish to a share of the 1932 Championship and in 1933 his final match as captain saw his younger brother, and fellow Tiger, Charles Beamish make his test debut at prop. 

Beamish was one of three Tigers to be selected for the 1930 tour to Australasia alongside 19 year old prop Douglas “Joe” Kendrew and captain Doug Prentice, a local Leicester lock captaining the Lions now why does that ring a bell?  Beamish undoubtedly made the largest impact on the tour playing 21 games, including all 5 tests, being described at the time as the “biggest and best of their forwards in all the tests” whilst Prentice had the strength of character to admit he was not playing at his best and hand over the captaincy for all but 2 tests.  Kendrew played 11 games at prop and hooker.  

Beamish was a tear away back-rower for the Lions, securing his test place by scoring a try against Otago the Saturday before the first test, both games were played at the famous Carisbrooke ground.  In the place of club mate Prentice he captained the Lions three times against Wairarapa/Bush, Canterbury and Marlborough/Nelson Bays. The Lions defeated the combined teams but fell to Canterbury, Beamish grabbing a try against Marlborough/Nelson Bays.

It was on this tour that Beamish, legend has it, led a delegation of Irish players determined to have some representation in the playing kit.  At the time the Lions wore the blue shirt of Scotland, with a white collar and white shorts of England, plus red socks of Wales, neatly also copying the three colours of the Union Flag.  His demands were met and Green flashes were immediately added to the socks, with green turnovers still being a feature on the kit today.

Beamish’s brother Charles went on the 1936 tour to Argentina, captained by Leicester’s Bernard Gadney and managed by Doug Prentice, and played 17 games for the Tigers over 10 seasons, whilst his other brothers Victor and Cecil played for the first XV in 68 and 13 games respectively.  Their record of 4 brothers playing for the Tigers held firm until November 2009 when Manu Tuilagi became the 5th of that clan to play for the club’s first team.  Like Beamish he played in a side that beat the touring Springboks and is now a British Lion himself.  Rather fitting I think.

1 comment:

  1. Great article - do you think in 100 year time someone will be writing:

    Darren Garforth - Legend has it he could drink 17 pints of Guinness after a game and still walk home to Nuneaton