Blair Mayne left his mark on Lions tour on and off the pitch

Blair Mayne played in 20 of the 24 British and Irish Lions games on the 1938 tour of South Africa.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 6:00 am
Blair Mayne (standing third from right) and Sammy Walker (seated second from right) pictured playing for Ulster

The Queen’s law student was the only forward not to score on the tour, however his all-action abrasive performances won acclaim from journalists and opponents alike with the South African management describing him as ‘one of the greatest forwards in the world’.

If Mayne played hard and fast on the pitch, he did the same off it, smashing hotel furniture became one of his party pieces in South Africa especially if he thought the blazers (management and tour officials) rooms were superior to the those of the players.

A running joke on the tour was he spent most of his time off the pitch putting hotel doors back on their hinges.

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In Newport and Welsh hooker (William) Bunner Travers, Mayne found a kindred spirit for causing madness and mayhem.

While in Durban, Mayne and Travers would don sailor’s uniforms and go to the docks to pick fights with the longshore men.

To get Ellis Park ready for the first test the South Africans authorities deployed convicts from a local prison in Johannesburg to add extra seating to the stadium.

While going to inspect the stadium a couple of days before the match Mayne and Travers befriended one of the convicts who they nicknamed Rooster after he revealed to them, he was serving a seven-year sentence for stealing chickens.

The convicts slept under the scaffolding at the stadium after finishing their day’s work, taking pity on their new pal the Lions duo returned in the middle of the night after acquiring a pair of bolt cutters. Mayne and Travers cut Rooster’s chains, dressed him in a change of clothes they had brought and set him and another convict free.

However, Rooster was recaptured the next day by the South African police wearing a coat with the name Blair Mayne stitched into the collar.

Before a provincial game in Natal, Mayne went AWOL to go on a 24-hour drinking binge with a local farmer.

It just wasn’t the locals that were at risk from Mayne, many a night he would return to the hotel and terrorise his teammates and leave their rooms without doors.

Not one for formal proceeding, instead of going to a reception Mayne found a group of locals going on a hunting expedition.

Dressed in a white dinner suit complete with cummerbund Mayne decided a night’s shooting would better than making rugby small talk at the dinner table.

In a bid to calm the combustible Mayne down the tour management decided the lock should room with Queen’s colleague and Presbyterian minister George Cromey.

At 9am the next morning Mayne retuned to the room without the use of a key taking the door of its hinges, standing in front of a terror stricken Cromey.

Mayne proclaimed “I’ve shot a springbok”, the animal wrapped around his shoulders with its blood making a mess of Mayne’s white dinner suit.