The late Jim McCarthy & his soon to be Dolphin team mate Mick Lane who is still hale and hearty, were the two Cork based players on the 1950 B & I Lions tour to New Zealand & Australia.
James McCarthy, Jim’s son , was interviewed on RTE ‘s Seascapes on 2nd July (and is available on the radio player) where he gave details of the trip from Jim’s tour diary.
It was the first tour since 1938, they were the first ones to wear the red jerseys and not to be known as the British Isles but the B & I Lions. The entire trip lasted 6.5 months, and luckily they came back on time as Jim got married two weeks after coming home. It was the last Lions trip undertaken by sea, it took 32/33 days each way, they circumnavigated the globe, taking in the Panama Canal on the outgoing journey and the Suez Canal on the homeward journey .( Lewis Jones became the first Lions replacement when he was flown out as a replacement for one of the original 30 players.)
The ship they travelled out on only carried 85 passengers, they were provided with strict rules, plenty of sleep, bed for 11.30 except on Saturday nights, moderate beer intake but no spirits, moderate eating and P E and scrum practice. One of the players Ken Jones had competed at the 1948 Olympics, winning a Silver medal in the 4 X 100m relay took charge of P E/fitness training on deck. (Lane McCarthy & Jones met up again at the Mardyke in Oct 1953 when Newport played Dolphin when on an Irish tour)
The tour captain was Dr Karl Mullen who was also responsible for coaching the forwards, while the two Welsh centres coached the backs.
Another thing they had plenty of time to do was choir practice every evening and had a repertoire of 20/30 songs and recorded an LP when in New Zealand.
One thing that the Munster & Leinster players were worried about was there was no priest on the outward journey for spiritual guidance . When in New Zealand they were hosted by the Archbishop of New Zealand where they must have got some absolution. There was no problem on the way back, it was a far bigger ship on the return journey, there were 1200 passengers including four priests so no problem with daily Masses.
On the playing front they won 21/24 of the non test fixtures, narrowly lost three New Zealand tests and drew the other, they won the two tests against Australia and an unofficial friendly against the Ceylon National Team.
They were well looked after when they were in New Zealand, they all received new boots and someone sponsored a Food Parcel home for each member of the party, it was only a few years after the 2nd World War so they were well received. While the New Zealand population was 1.9m, their games were attended by a total of 520k people. When they left the port there were hundreds of people standing in the raining giving them a traditional send off singing “Now is the Hour” & Auld Lang Syne”
The worst of the sea journeys was actually the crossing of the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia with mean of them suffering sea sickness.
They did receive an allowance of 50 bob a week, about €4 in today’s monies- the 2017 Lions were on €11k per week. They were hosted everywhere they went so their money was able to go a long way.
They stopped in Bombay (Mumbai) , Aden and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on the return journey, Jim & Mick being shown around Colombo by a Skibbereen woman.
The last entry in diary was made on the final leg of the journey, the train from Dublin to Cork, they worked out they travelled a total of 33,656 miles. “not bad when you are being paid for it”
The friendships they made on the tour lasted, James was concerned when he met his father one time in London when Jim was in his 70’s and he not looking well, until he learned he had been out with one of his fellow tourists until 2.30 am at a night club.