Thomas Gisborne Gordon

Thomas Gisborne Gordon, (15 December 1851 – 8 July 1935)[1][2] was a rugby football player who played for North of Ireland F.C. and represented Ireland. He has the distinction of being the only one-handed/armed man ever to play international rugby (union or league).[3]

Thomas Gisborne Gordon
Birth nameThomas Gisborne Gordon
Date of birth(1851-12-15)15 December 1851
Place of birthBelfast, Ireland.
Date of death8 July 1935(1935-07-08) (aged 83)
SchoolRugby School
SpouseMarie-Louise Graham
Occupation(s)Wine Merchant
Rugby union career
Position(s) Half-back and Three-quarter back
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
North of Ireland F.C. ()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1877–78 Ireland 3


Thomas Gisborne Gordon was born in Belfast, Ulster in 1851. He was educated at Rugby School in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England before returning home to play his club rugby at North of Ireland F.C. (NIFC) and to work as a wine merchant.[3] He only had one hand, his left, having lost the right one in a shooting accident.[2] He married Marie Louise Graham in 1890 and the couple had two children, Helen, born in July 1891 and Thomas, born August 1899.[4] He died in 1935, at the age of 83.[3]

Gordon's obituary in the Rugby Football Annual described him as "keenly interested in horse racing and breeding horses."[5] Isabel Giberne Sieveking's A turning point in the Indian mutiny is dedicated to him.[6]

Playing careerEdit

Thomas Gisborne Gordon gained three caps for Ireland,[1][7] making his debut in the first rugby international played between 15-a-side teams: England v Ireland at The Oval on 5 February 1877, a game which England won by 2 goals & 2 tries to nil. Previous to this, rugby had been played with 20-a-side teams.[8] He won his second cap against Scotland before completing his international career against the English in 1878 at Lansdowne Road in the first rugby test played at the venue. Previous matches were held at the Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines. He played Test rugby at Half-back and at club level in the Three-quarter line.[3]

Other disabled rugby playersEdit

While Thomas Gisborne Gordon is the only amputee to have appeared in international rugby, some others have appeared in club matches over the years. One such example was a player by the name of Wakeham, who played for Newton Abbot RFC in Devon, England.[9] In a Devon derby against Plymouth RFC on 30 January 1886, Wakeham kicked thirteen conversions from thirteen attempts, creating what is claimed to be a record for English club rugby at the time.[9][10]

Danny Crates, is the Paralympic world record holder in 800m sprinting, and has won gold medals in a number of international competitions, including the Paralympic Games. He also plays competitive rugby and is a qualified diving instructor.[11][12] However, Crates has not played rugby at international level. He has carried the Olympic Torch twice.

Jock Wemyss who played at prop for Scotland lost an eye during World War I, but continued to play after the conflict.

In Washington, DC, Willie Stewart lost an arm in a construction accident (at the Watergate Hotel), and yet went on to captain the prestigious Washington Rugby Union Football Club, a very successful Division I Club in the USA.[13]

See alsoEdit

Other one-handed sportspeopleEdit


  1. ^ a b "Thomas Gordon". Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b The Complete Who's Who of International Rugby. Blandford Press. 1987. p. 167. ISBN 0-7137-1838-2.
  3. ^ a b c d John O'Sullivan (3 May 2010). "Planet rugby". Irish Times.
  4. ^ "A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland". HARRISON AND SONS. 1912. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. ^ John Griffiths (15 March 2010). "Ask John". Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  6. ^ "TURNING POINT IN THE INDIAN MUTINY". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  7. ^ The Book of Rugby Disasters & Bizarre Records. Century Publishing. 1984. p. 37. ISBN 0-7126-0911-3.
  8. ^ "Historical Rugby Milestones 1870s". Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  9. ^ a b Rugby's Strangest Matches: Extraordinary but true stories from over a century of rugby. Past Times/Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-354-1.
  10. ^ "Strange rugby matches". BBC Sport. 20 December 2000. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  11. ^ "Crates determined to enjoy life in fast lane after accident that changed his life". The Independent. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  12. ^ "Patience pays off for Crates". BBC Sport. 26 September 2004. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  13. ^ "Willie Stewart - Challenged Athletes Foundation". Challenged Athletes Foundation. Retrieved 10 November 2017.

External linksEdit