Eric MILROY (Thiepval et Deville Wood 80)

9 mars 2018

Eric Milroy (4 December 1887 – 18 July 1916) was a rugby union player who represented Scotland and Watsonians. He was capped twelve times for Scotland between 1910 and 1914, his first appearance coming as a surprise replacement for the Scottish captain, George Cunningham. He was selected for the 1910 British Isles tour to South Africa after other players were forced to withdraw. Due to illness, he only participated in three matches, and did not take part in any of the tests against South Africa. In 1914, he captained Scotland against Ireland, and against England in the last international match before the outbreak of the First World War.

At the start of the war, Milroy was commissioned in the Black Watch and was killed in action in Delville Wood, France, during the Battle of the Somme. He was one of 31 Scottish rugby internationals to be killed in action. His last letter home, written from the trenches, contains a poignant reference to the game of rugby. Milroy is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing dead of the Somme.

Rugby career :
While at Edinburgh University, Milroy played for his school’s old boys club, Watsonians, and remained with the team after graduating, until 1914. Between 1908 and 1914, Watsonians won the Scottish Club Championship five times, being undefeated in the season of 1909 to 1910. That success was attributed in part to Milroy’s ’wonderful success at the base of the scrum’.

Milroy won twelve caps for Scotland. The first of them was against Wales on 5 February 1910 at Cardiff.[8] His selection was surprising, as he replaced George Cunningham, who had captained Scotland to victory against France in the preceding game. Yet, there was a sentiment in the South Wales Daily Post that his inclusion, alongside four other changes, strengthened the team, and the Welsh Evening Express ahead of the game described him as "a young player of fine ability... [and] very smart at getting the ball away to his threequarters." The match, which the Welsh won 14–0, was played in "dismal and depressing conditions".[11] With ten minutes left of the game, and Wales leading 11–0, Milroy made a run for the Welsh tryline, but was brought down before crossing the line. Asked for an interview after the match, he said : "No thanks, I want to get this mud off. Congrats to Wales." Rhys Gabe, the former Welsh centre, reviewed the match for the Evening Express and said of Milroy : "[He] was exceedingly clever with his feet when he helped the forwards in the loose."

In 1910, Milroy participated in the British rugby tour to South Africa, but due to illness only played in three games, none of them tests. His place on the team was secured only after other players made themselves unavailable, and the Welsh Evening Express deemed that the resulting selection was mediocre.

Milroy scored one try for Scotland, in the match against Wales on 3 February 1912.

Scotland played Wales at home on 1 February 1913, in a match that Wales won 0–8. Milroy, according to the Welsh press, was outclassed by Bobby Lloyd, his opposite number, who tackled him several times after he had received the ball back from the scrum.

Milroy did not play in the 1914 fixture against Wales, and the press speculated that his late withdrawal was due to the exclusion of his Watsonian team mates Angus and Pearson from the Scottish side travelling to Cardiff. Nevertheless, he was selected to play in the next fixture, against Ireland in Dublin on 28 February.Moreover, he was appointed captain.

He captained Scotland in the final match before the outbreak of the First World War, at Inverleith in March 1914, which England won by a tight margin.

Memorial trophies :

Milroy’s life and early death are commemorated on three rugby trophies.

The Eric Milroy Trophy, presented by Milroy’s mother to George Watson’s College in 1920, continues to be awarded for kicking.[20] Winners have included the Scotland internationals Gavin Hastings and Scott Hastings.

The Challenge Milroy - Black Watch Trophy, presented by Association Mémoire de Rugby events since 2017, continues to be awarded for veterant and leisure rugby in France or in Scotland every two year between Amiens, Lorient, SUP’R XV Hauts-de-France, Nivelles, Clermont and Howe of Fife RFC Cupar.

The Auld Alliance Trophy, first presented in 2018 to the winner of the Six Nations match between Scotland and France, honours the French and Scottish rugby players who fell in the First World War. Inscribed on the Trophy are the names of Milroy and of the French aviator Marcel Burgun, Scottish and French captains in 1914. The trophy was carried on to the pitch at Murrayfield on 11 February 2018 by Lachlan Ross and Romain Cabanis, 11-year-old descendants of Milroy and his French counterpart.

Milroy played against France in 1913 with Marcel Burgun, Scotland won 21-3. In 1911, Marcel Burgun with France won Scotland 16-15 the first victoy for the France against British nation in 5 nations tournament.