Rugby legend followed family tradition

Cecil Pedlow, who died on November 9, was an Ulster rugby legend who will long be remembered for his contribution to the British Lions.

He represented Ireland 30 times on the rugby field and earned two caps for the British Lions on the 1955 tour to South Africa.

Alexander Cecil Pedlow was born in January 1934 in Lurgan, County Armagh, where his father was a doctor and a keen sportsman, playing rugby for Lurgan Rugby Football Club.

This love of sport was inherited by his sons, with Cecil’s brother Peter becoming an Irish swimming champion, Ken becoming a talented scratch golfer and youngest brother Des being capped for Ulster at scrum half and also being a keen tennis player.

His three brothers all played in Ulster Schools Cup finals. Cecil Pedlow represented Ireland at squash, and rugby, missing out on representing Ireland in the Davis Cup at tennis but going on to represent Irish tennis at veteran and vintage representative levels and winning numerous titles all over Ireland.

Educated at Garth House, a preparatory school for Campbell College, he went on to become a full-time boarder at the college, where he showed early promise at other sports including hockey and cricket.

He represented Ireland at junior level at tennis, winning the all-Ireland Under 18 title at Fitzwilliam Tennis Club, Dublin, in 1952 at the age of 17, and then going on to play at Junior Wimbledon. He was put out in the second round by a talented French junior – Roland Garros – whom the Lurgan man later arranged to meet at the French Championships in 2004.

While tennis was his favourite sport, it was at rugby that Cecil Pedlow would make his sporting name, however.

It was the Campbell College rugby coach Bobby Mitchell who spotted Pedlow’s talent on the rugby pitch and tutored him to a level whereby he represented Ulster Schools, playing pivotal roles in two Ulster Schools Cup finals, one of which was won by Campbell.

Following his time at Campbell College, Pedlow attended Queen’s University, where he studied dentistry.

He continued to develop his sporting prowess, playing for the university Freshers team in his first year and attracting the attention of provincial and national coaches. He continued to excel despite relatively poor eyesight.

His first cap was Ireland was in the 1954-55 season, when he played against a Welsh side at Cardiff Arms Park. Despite the Lurgan man reflecting that his performance had been poorer than he would have wished, he continued to be selected and over the next number of years became the leading centre/wing for Ireland.

He completed his career with a total of 30 Irish caps and two Lions caps, retiring in 1963.

Pedlow is regarded as having reaching the zenith of his rugby career in 1955 when he was selected for the historic British Lions tour of South Africa managed and captained by fellow Ulstermen Jack Siggins and Robin Thompson.

Pedlow played in the first and fourth tests on the 1955 tour and if the statistics include the Rhodesian (as it was then) leg of the tour, he ended up as top points scorer.

The test series finished in a 2–2 draw, which was seen as an excellent result as away series victories were extremely rare against the South Africa Springboks.

Pedlow’s last cap for Ireland was against France but he was asked if he was available to play for the subsequent British Lions tour of New Zealand in 1959 and turned down the invitation due to work and personal commitments.

Cecil Pedlow was also a keen squash player and represented Ireland at squash six times, winning various tournaments all over the island. He went on to represent Ireland at veteran age level (over 45) and was Irish Champion for seven successive years. He also won the all-Ireland championship for over 55s.

Paying tribute to him, Queens University RFC said it was very sad news that the “Queen’s Lions Legend” had passed away.

“Cecil studied dentistry at Queen’s playing for the Freshers in his first year out of Campbell College,

“His natural speed and rugby talent made the provincial selectors take notice and Cecil made his Ireland debut against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in March 1954 going on to win 30 Ireland caps. In 1955 Cecil was selected for the British Lions tour to South Africa. “Equally at home in the centre or on the wing Cecil made 13 appearances in the red shirt scoring 58 points,

“Cecil scored eight tries on the tour including the winning one in the first test again against the Springboks at Ellis Park,” the Club said

In 2017 he was inducted into Queen’s Rugby Club’s Robbie Moore Hall of Fame and was included in a Queens Greatest XV announced at a gala dinner to celebrate 150 years of the Club.

He shared the honour along with others such as Tommy Bowe, Trevor Ringland, Jack Kyle and Blair Mayne.

One of Ireland’s greatest all-round sportsmen, Cecil Pedlow followed in a family tradition shared with his siblings.

His great-uncle James Cecil Parke, born in Clones, Monaghan, in 1881, was another all-round sportsman, being an Irish Rugby Union player, tennis player, golfer and Olympic silver medallist in tennis at the Australasian championships. Between 1903 and 1909 he was capped 20 times for Ireland at rugby.

His grandfather Robert Pedlow and great-grandfather Joseph Pedlow were also rugby internationals.

Cecil Pedlow passed away peacefully on November 9 and is survived by his wife Kay, daughter Judy and son Michael and their partners Sam and Pinki, and grandchildren Erin and Alexandra.

A private family funeral took place on November 15 and was followed by a celebration of Cecil’s life at which mourners were encouraged not to wear black.

Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to Dementia N.I., North City Business Centre, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast, BT15 2GG.

Funeral arrangements were carried out by Kirkwood’s Funeral Directors (Dignity), Kings Road, Belfast.