Major Robertson "Robbie" Stewart Smyth, (18 August 1879 – 5 April 1916) was an international rugby player, who represented Ireland and Great Britain. Born in County Down, Ireland, he went to Dungannon Royal School, then studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained his doctorate in 1904. After a year as house surgeon at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1906, and went to India the following year.

Robertson Smyth
Robertson Smyth.JPG
Date of birth(1879-08-18)18 August 1879
Place of birthBanbridge, County Down, Ireland
Date of death5 April 1916(1916-04-05) (aged 36)
Place of deathLondon, England
SchoolDungannon Royal School
UniversityTrinity College, Dublin
Rugby union career
Position(s) Forward
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Dublin University ()
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
  • 1902
  • 1904–
  • 2
  • ?
  • 0
  • ?
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Great Britain
----Military career
Banbridge Municipal Cemetery
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1905–1916
UnitRoyal Army Medical Corps
AwardsMentioned in despatches

Smyth captained the Dublin University 1st XV, and earned his first of three caps for Ireland, against England, in 1903. He was then invited to join the British Isles tour to South Africa, and played in all three test matches. He also played for the Barbarians on two occasions in 1902, and, after graduating from Trinity College, he played with Wanderers.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Smyth went to the Western Front, and remained there until December 1915, when he was invalided by exposure to gas, and retired to London. He was mentioned in despatches. Having given up his commission, he died a few months later in April 1916.

Early lifeEdit

Robertson Smyth was born on 18 August 1879 in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland.[1] He attended Dungannon Royal School and then Trinity College, Dublin.[2]

Rugby careerEdit

Smyth was invited to play for the Barbarians on two occasions in 1902: against Penarth on 28 March, winning 11–0; and Swansea on 1 April, losing 17–0.[3][4]

In his second year at Dublin University, Smyth was selected for the 1st XV, and elected captain of the team for the 1902–1903 season. That same season he earned his first cap for Ireland against England on 14 February 1903, and was selected again to play two weeks later against Scotland.[2]

In response to an invitation from the South African Rugby Board, it was decided by the Rugby Football Union to send a team to South Africa,[5] and on 27 May, George Rowland Hill, honorary secretary of the Union, announced the team for the tour to South Africa, Smyth amongst them.[6] He played in all three tests against South Africa, the first two being drawn, but the British Isles losing the third.[7]

Smyth was selected for Ireland to play one more game, against England on 13 February 1904 away at Blackheath. England had lost all three games of the Home Nations championship in 1903, but after obtaining a draw against Wales in January 1904, its prospects against Ireland looked stronger. The Irish forwards contingent, including Smyth, was regarded as 'very strong', all eight of them having played international rugby, but the backs appeared weaker.[8]

After Smyth graduated from Dublin University in 1904, he played rugby for Wanderers, and was part of the team that won the Leinster Senior Cup in 1906.[2]

International appearancesEdit

For Ireland:

Opposition Score Result Date Venue Ref(s)
  England 6–0 Won 14 Feb 1903 Lansdowne Road [9]
  Scotland 3–0 Lost 28 Feb 1903 Inverleith [10]
  England 19–0 Lost 13 Feb 1904 Blackheath [11]

For British Isles:

Opposition Score Result Date Venue Ref(s)
  South Africa 10–10 Draw 26 Aug 1903 Johannesburg [12]
  South Africa 0–0 Draw 5 Sept 1903 Kimberley [13]
  South Africa 8–0 Lost 12 Sept 1903 Cape Town [14]

Military serviceEdit

After obtaining his medical degree in 1904, Smyth passed selection for the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC): at the start of the 20th century, many Irish doctors joined the British armed forces.[15] Before joining, he was seconded by the War Office to Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, where he was appointed house surgeon in 1905. He took up his commission as lieutenant on 2 January 1906,[16] confirmed 1 July,[17] and went to India in 1907.[2] He was promoted to Captain on 31 January 1909.[18] At the outbreak of the First World War, Smyth went to the Western Front in September 1914. Effective 15 October 1915, Smyth was promoted to Major.[19] He served there until December 1915, when he was invalided due to exposure.[20] Returning to London, he was mentioned in despatches in January 1916.[20] Smyth retired, effective 22 February 1916 on a gratuity.[21] He died a few months later, on 5 April, from the effects of the exposure.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Robertson Steward Smyth at ESPNscrum
  2. ^ a b c d e Sewell 1919, p. 179.
  3. ^ "Player Archive – R. S. Smyth". Barbarian FC. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Results & Fixtures 1901–1902". Barbarian FC.
  5. ^ "RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION". Evening Express. Walter Alfred Pearce. 7 March 1903. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Football". Evening Express. Walter Alfred Pearce. 27 May 1903. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  7. ^ McCrery 2014.
  8. ^ "England v Ireland". Evening Express. Walter Alfred Pearce. 13 February 1904. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Ireland v England 1903". Archived from the original on 2016-01-31.
  10. ^ "Scotland v Ireland 1903". Archived from the original on 2016-01-30.
  11. ^ "England v Ireland 1904". Archived from the original on 2016-01-31.
  12. ^ "South Africa v British Isles 1903 1st Test".
  13. ^ "South Africa v British Isles 1903 2nd Test".
  14. ^ "South Africa v British Isles 1903 3rd Test".
  15. ^ "RCSI Doctors in World War One". RCSI Matters. RCSI. January 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  16. ^ "No. 27874". The London Gazette. 12 January 1906. p. 287.
  17. ^ "No. 27935". The London Gazette. 27 July 1906. p. 5132.
  18. ^ "No. 28223". The London Gazette. 12 February 1909. p. 1112.
  19. ^ "No. 29334". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 October 1915. pp. 10361–10362.
  20. ^ a b Sewell 1919, p. 180.
  21. ^ "No. 29480". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 February 1916. p. 1890.


  • McCrery, Nigel (2014). Into Touch: Rugby Internationals Killed in the Great War. Pen and Sword. ISBN 1473833213.
  • Sewell, Edward Humphrey Dalrymple (1919). The Rugby Football Internationals Roll of Honour. London, Edinburgh: T. C. & E. C. Jack.