Christ's College, Finchley 21 December 2005
Source: New Zealand Rugby Museum
Whenever the All Blacks and Barbarians take the field a little known London school, Christ’s College, Finchley, can take a lot of the credit.
For C J Monro, who introduced rugby to New Zealand, and W P “Tottie” Carpmael, the founder of the Barbarians club, both learnt their rugby at Christ’s College.
And if there are South Africans playing and someone is wearing headgear then the debt to the College will be that much greater.
Rugby Museum co-founder John Sinclair uncovered the part Christ’s had played in the development of rugby back in 1967. This is what he recorded.
According to A. C. Swan's authoritative "History of New Zealand Football 1870-1845", rugby started in New Zealand, at Nelson, in 1870 when C. J. Monro brought the English social game back with him after attending Sherborne School in England, as a schoolboy.
This statement laid fallow, unchallenged and accepted until 1967. Nobody had disagreed with the acknowledgement of C. J. Monro as the man who inadvertently shaped the destiny of our country. But the Monro family has long been mystified by the reference to Sherborne school. This they knew was incorrect.
Christ's College, Finchley, London. A recent visitor to the Museum advises the building tower is now subject to a preservation order.
Among the many rugby supporters who were following the 1967 All Blacks was John Sinclair, a Palmerston North businessman whose unpublicised hobby over the years had been honorary public relations work for visiting sporting teams to this country. The Monro family asked him if he could set the record straight... particularly as 1967 was the 75th Jubilee year of the founding of the New Zealand Rugby Union (1892).
Sinclair was particularly suited to the mission because of a vested interest. Like C. J. Monro he was both a Palmerstonian and an Old Boy of Nelson College. Working with the Monro family ... a series of letters to half remembered London schools proved fruitless. Then a school called Christ's College, Finchley, received one of the letters passed on from another school. They wrote back immediately. Yes, they could and did substantiate that they were indeed C. J. Monro's lost English school. The school records showed that he was a pupil from 1867 to 1869.
Three equally curious, unknown and unreported aspects of the world of rugby were uncovered during Sinclair’s visit (to Christ’s College)
- possibly the most famous and prestigious rugby club in the world is the British Barbarians Football Club. Its founder was a well known rugby blue from Cambridge, W P Carpmael (he died in 1936, aged 73)... what is scarcely known about him is that he learned his rugby as a boarder at Chnst’s College, Finchley (1876-83)
- the scrum cap in universal use around the world was invented and first worn by the 1st XV, at Christ's College, Finchley
- the other great rugby dynasty, South Africa, also owes the introduction of rugby (at least in part) to an old Finchlean. R W Shepstone Giddy (at Christ’s College 1871-74) and later Solicitor General, Cape Colony, claimed to be the founder of Rugby in South Africa.
Christ's College 1st XV, late 1860s.