John MacFarlane - Carlton's first Scottish cap

Visitors to Grange Loan with an eye for the historic can review the lists on the pavilion wall that show the names of the Carlton 1st XI captains and vice captains, together with the leading batsmen and bowlers, since the club's inception in 1863.

The name of one young man - John Lisle Hall MacFarlane - appears three times. In 1870, the Jamaica-born Edinburgh University medical student finished the season as the club's leading batsman and in 1871 and 1872 MacFarlane was the Carlton vice-captain.

John MacFarlane was a genuine sporting all-rounder. In his book "Play!", Dr N L Stevenson outlines the young man's sporting prowess:

"Dr J.L.H. MacFarlane, a brilliant short-distance runner and long jump and hurdles champion, played [rugby union] for Scotland at quarter-back, half-back and forward. He was a steady bat and one of the Club's last regular underhand bowlers. He sent down an occasional fairly fast "grub", and at least one of these deliveries went for a 6-bye, all run."

Despite his cricketing prowess, it was as a rugby player that MacFarlane earned lasting fame, playing as a forward in the first ever rugby union international between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place on 27th March 1871. More than 4000 spectators watched a match that was decided by a converted try for the Scots. Each side also scored an unconverted try apiece, but these counted for nought under the rules of the time.

MacFarlane also played in internationals against England in 1872 and 1873 (a loss at the Oval and a draw at Hamilton Crescent). In early 1874, now a doctor at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, MacFarlane was again chosen by the selectors to represent Scotland in the upcoming annual encounter with England.

However, prior to the international fixture, while playing for Edinburgh University against Royal High and shortly after kicking what proved to be the winning goal, MacFarlane fell and dislocated his knee. While such an injury would almost certainly have ruled him out of the England match, it was the delay in treatment that was to have profound implications for the young doctor as he lay on the cold ground before eventually being moved.

At his home in Buccleuch Place, MacFarlane developed a rheumatic fever, aggravated by heart and chest inflammation. After five weeks of recuperation, hopes were high that MacFarlane was over the worst. However he suffered a sudden relapse and was rushed to the Royal Infirmary, where his colleagues were unable to save him. John Lisle Hall MacFarlane died on March 17th at the tragically young age of 22.

More information: http://www.scottishsporthistory.com/uploads/3/3/6/0/3360867/rugby_tragedies.pdf

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