Ulster Rugby vs Llanelli Scarlets


Dapper, smiling, and waving rather self-consciously to the throng, Jack Kyle stood suitably alone on a balcony as, on a fresh April evening this year, the packed Kingspan Stadium was formally opened.


Below on the pitch stood some of Ulster’s most illustrious players, but it was surely right that, looking down upon them and across the pitch he had so often adorned, the diminutive figure of Ireland’s most distinguished performer should force heads to turn, and for the big new screens to fill with his benevolent image. On Friday of last week the most supreme out-half of his and any generation, a man of great achievement in medicine, a learned and wise counsel to all who had the privilege to be in his presence, took his leave. At 88 years young Jack Kyle had lived a life so full and selfless that most of us can only remain in awe of an athlete and intellect, a humility and generosity which rarely are found combined in one human being. In the past week tributes have been flooding the airwaves and filling acres of newsprint, and it is testament to the character of Jack Wilson Kyle, born in 1926 in Belfast, that what has been said to honour him was quite properly said when he lived so vibrantly amongst us.

Statistics and accolades can hint at the nature of a person, but Jack – or Jackie – Kyle lived a life which was marked by the old-fashioned virtues he found so instinctive and we all admired and valued. He was so thoroughly decent and honest in all his dealings, and in his very carriage we saw someone who had walked life’s path with a smile on his face, and who found in everyone something worth cherishing. Perhaps it was his calling and training as a doctor which added lustre to a wondrous set of sporting skills and rounded a character of real depth and integrity. Jack Kyle wore his many talents lightly, but he was as conscientious as he was self-conscious about the plaudits he gathered either as a Grand Slam-winning out-half in 1948, or as a surgeon in the outer reaches of the Far East and later, most publicly, in Africa. When news came last weekend to the modest town of Chingola in Zambia of the passing of ‘Dr Jack’ the sense of loss was as keen as it was in his beloved Province, and in every corner of the world where



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