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Matthew Mullineux - British Lions Captain - Australian Chaplain

Matthew Mullineux MC (8 August 1867 – 13 February 1945) was an English rugby union scrum-half who, although not capped for England, was selected for two British Lions tours. He gained one cap during the 1896 tour to South Africa and captained the 1899 tour of Australia.

Mullineux was born in Barton-upon-Irwell in Manchester. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and St John's College, Cambridge. He received his BA in 1896, and the next year was ordained as a Deacon at Southwark Cathedral. The next year he was ordained as a priest and took his orders at the Church of Mottingham, also becoming the Assistant Master at the nearby Royal Naval School in Eltham. On the 9 May, 1899 he left England for Australia as part of the British Isles rugby tour and left both his posts.

Mullineux first came to note as a rugby player when he represented Cambridge University as a student, playing at scrum-half, before turning out for Blackheath. In 1896 he was selected to play in Johnny Hammond's British Isles team to tour South Africa; although Mullineux only played in one of the test matches, the opening win over South Africa at Port Elizabeth. He played in twelve games in total on the tour scoring four tries, including two against Queenstown, and a dropped goal in the win over Grahamstown.

In 1899, the first official British Lions team to tour Australia was selected, and Mullineux was not only chosen to captain the team, but also to manage it. Mullineux again represented the British team in the opening game, but the tourists lacked cohesion and lost to the Australians 3–13. The British Isles had under-performed in the few invitational games leading up to the first test, and after the defeat to the Wallabies, Mullineux dropped himself from the team for the remaining tests. The captaincy was given to Frank Stout, and the tourists play began to improve. After Mullineux's decision the British Isles played far better rugby and won the last three tests to take the series 3–1. Although no longer a part of the test team, Mullineux continued to represent the British team against the invitational and regional teams. He played in ten games on the tour, his only points came from a try in the loss against Queensland.

A reflection of Mullineux's character was seen during the 1899 tour, when after the third test in Sydney he undiplomatically embarrassed the Australian hosts at the after-match dinner. After JJ Calvert, the president of the New South Wales RFU, had made a light-hearted excuse for the Australian team's poor performance, Mullineux responded by lecturing the Australian's on their style of play, and offered suggestions as to how they could refine their play.

Despite only playing in the first test, Mullineux was honoured when bush poet, Banjo Paterson wrote a poem about his playing prowess, entitled The Reverend Mullineux

I’d reckon his weight at eight-stun-eight,
And his height at five-foot-two,
With a face as plain as an eight-day clock
And a walk as brisk as a bantam-cock -
Game as a bantam, too,
Hard and wiry and full of steam,
That’s the boss of the English Team,
Reverend Mullineux.

Makes no row when the game gets rough -
None of your "Strike me blue!"
"You’s wants smacking across the snout!"
Plays like a gentleman out-and-out -
Same as he ought to do.
"Kindly remove from off my face!"
That’s the way that he states his case -
Reverend Mullineux.

Kick! He can kick like an army mule -
Run like a kangaroo!
Hard to get by as a lawyer’s plant,
Tackles his man like a bull-dog ant -
Fetches him over too!
Didn’t the public cheer and shout
Watchin’ him chuckin’ big blokes about -
Reverend Mullineux.

Scrimmage was packed on his prostrate form,
Somehow the ball got through -
Who was it tackled our big half-back,
Flinging him down like an empty sack,
Right on our goal-line too?
Who but the man that we thought was dead,
Down with a score of ‘em on his head -
Reverend Mullineux.

AB Patterson

It was a common occurrence during the tour for Mullineux to lead his men in the cut-and-thrust of a rugby match one day, and deftly preach in a lively fashion at a local church the next, a news report at the time stated:

"The Rev. Mullineux, captain of the English Rugby football team, is a muscular Christian of the truest type. On Saturday, June 24, he led his team into the field, and on Sunday preached morning and evening in St James’s Anglican Church, Sydney."

After the tour Mullineux remained in Australia, briefly joining what was informally called the “Bush Brotherhood” (Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd). These young and enthusiastic Ministers travelled through remote areas, serving small communities and families that were beyond the reach of a local parish. He was in NSW when the Boer War broke out

When the first Colonial Contingents were announced NSW participation was to be restricted to two sub units each of 125 men. Assuming that all support services would be provided by Britain the NSW Government made no provisions for Chaplains for these units. Immediately the Premier and the responsible minister John See were exposed to heavyweight delegations from the churches. Anxious to deflect possible media criticism, the churches were promised that the matter would be addressed. This would take time but the Government got immediate relief from its dilemma in the form of Mullineux who was going to South Africa and offered to do the job. What’s more he would do it for nothing and pay his own passage-a politicians dream! He travelled as chaplain with the NSW Rifles on the voyage over.

This was not to be the end of his association with the Australians, indeed he seemed to take great pride in continuing a fatherly concern for his colonial friends. He was commissioned into the British Army's Chaplaincy Force as a chaplain second class on 20 December 1899 and ceased duty on leaving South Africa on 14 July 1902.

In July 1900 he wrote to the Lord Mayor's of all the colonial capital cities styling himself Acting Chaplain to the forces which appear to suggest that whatever his official British role he still considered himself as Acting Chaplain to the Australians. Like many on the British side including Lord Roberts, he assumed that the war was nearly over and that a sizeable force including colonials would remain as an army of occupation. He wanted community support and funds from Australia to establish what he called the Australian Institute in Johannesburg. This was to be for soldiers of all denominations and all parts of the empire, to provide a centre for soldiers to drop in. Rather like a cross between a canteen and the YMCA. He was worried about the temptations of Johannesburg to soldiers who were idle. It appears that he felt that Australians would be more likely sympathetic to soldiers welfare that people in Britain

"I am anxious that the institute should be a great success and worthy of Australia in every way. The Australian soldiers have proved themselves to be second to none, may the Australian Institute of soldiers be second to none."

He hoped that Lord Roberts could open it before leaving the country. It is also clear that he was trying to establish a local rugby competition as he styled himself as captain of the Anglo Australian football team.

It is said that at one point he became a POW although no clear record of this exists. Some writers have suggested that he was a POW the war's duration but that is complete nonsense. At one point he was chaplain to Lord Roberts and later to Major-General Kelly Kenny's sixth division. He was also posted to the General Hospital at Rondebusch where he was so popular, that when he left the convalescent soldiers took the horses out of his cart and dragged him to the railway station themselves. It was also reported that he still found time to conduct services with New South Wales units camped nearby. Later in the year he was posted to No7 General Hospital at Escourt, where the Australian nursing sister, Dora Burgess reported that he was the coach, manager and umpire of the women's cricket team, including herself. This team was involved in an inter hospital competition, which is amazing considering the state of the war at that point. At this time he also gave evidence to the royal commission into the mismanagement of hospitals, in particular at Bloemfontein.

In February 1901 he preached at Langman hospital, Pretoria, (which is interesting as official records suggest that this organisation did not exist at this point), at the Memorial service for Queen Victoria and Corporal RC Cox of the 4th South Australian Imperial Bushmen reported that it was an impressive sermon.

He was awarded the QSA with the clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal and as well as the KSA with clasps South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902 for his service in South Africa.

In 1902 he became a Royal Navy chaplain and served on several ships; the HMS Amphion (1902–04), HMS Terrible (1904), HMS Albion (1904–06), HMS Barfleur (1905–06) and HMS Hogue (1906–07).

Before the outbreak of First World War, Mullineux was chaplain to the Flying Angel Mission in America, but travelled by mail boat to New Zealand in order to proceed on active duty. While in New Zealand he studied medicine, before leaving for Britain as a Chaplain to the New Zealand Forces. In May 1918, while posted at a regimental aid post in France, Mullineux took command of the post after the serving medical officer was incapacitated by his wounds. The station came under high-explosive and gas-shelling for 12 hours, during which time Mullineux tended to the wounded and supervised evacuation of the site. For his actions during this time, he was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war, Mullineux continued his connections with the armed forces and Australasia, when he toured churches and Red Cross Societies throughout Australia, giving public lectures on the war cemeteries of Europe. In 1919 Mullineux set up the St. Barnabas Society, a charity which helped finance those too poor to visit the graves of family members who had died in the First World War. This included using women drivers to take wives and mothers to the grave side-stunningly, advanced tact and understanding for 1919. The society also placed wreaths at graves on behalf of relatives, and soon became the most important organisation providing subsidised war grave pilgrimages from Britain.

He was involved in the dedication of the New Zealand Memorial at Chanuk Bair in 1925. In 1927 he officiated when Tynecot Military Cemetery was dedicated, at which service, the president of the Australian Returned Soldiers Association Captain GJC Dyatt unveiled the Cross of Sacrifice. In 1928 he preached at the official Anzac service at St Clement le Danes which was significant as it coincided with the commissioning of the Australian cruiser HMAS Australia at Tyneside and its officers and crew attended as well.

Later that year he spoke at the dinner to honour the visiting Waratah's of 1928 and offered to bring an over 55s team to Australia if the Australians felt that they were up for it.

After his military service came to an end, Mullineux became the vicar of Marham in Norfolk UK, a post he held from 1935 until his death in 1945 (aged 77).

Lieutenant Colonel David Deasey RFD 2013
 


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