IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.18 – Dr John Sydney ‘Syd’ Millar CBE (1934-), Ireland and the Lions

Personal Details

– Born: 23 May, 1934 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland
– Family: Parents James and Amy Millar, the oldest of six brothers and sisters – Audrey, Bea, Reba, Trevor and Jimmy. Married to Enid Diane Millar, they have three children Lesley, Peter – a wing forward who played for Ballymena, Ulster, Barbarians and Ireland A – and Jonathan, who also played for Ballymena. They have eight grandchildren, four boys and four girls.
– Education: Ballymena Academy and Belfast Nautical College
– Position: Prop (played fly half at school)
– Club: Ballymena RFC
– Province: Ulster

Professional career

– Retired businessman, he started his professional career at sea as a navigator, before working for Thomas Hedley (Industrial Products), Shell (Industrial Market) until finishing as the Managing Director of Farron’s (Road products) CRH.

Rugby career

– He began his playing career at fly-half at Ballymena Academy.
– Played for Ballymena RFC between 1950 and 1972. During his first two seasons the club won the Ulster Junior League Championship to become a senior club in 1952-53. A member of the 1962-63 side that won the Senior Ulster Cup, Millar captained Ballymena in the 1960-61 and 1966-67 seasons.
– He went on playing until he was 45 and won the McCambley Cup in 1980 with Ballymena 6th XV.
– He was selected for the first time for Ulster in 1957 and represented the province during two spells, 1957 to 1965 and 1967 to 1971. Millar captained Ulster during the 1962-63 season.
– Elected a Barbarian at Penarth, in the first of his four Easter Tours in 1959. He appeared 10 times for Baa-Baas, a personal record which included a win over the 1961 South African team.
– Made his international debut for Ireland against France on 19 April, 1958 at Stade Colombes in Paris. Ireland lost 11-6.
– He propped the Irish scrum in 37 internationals between 1958 and 1970.
– His last match for Ireland was against Wales on 14 March, 1970 at Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Ireland won 14-0.
– Played in the Twickenham Jubilee match for the combined Ireland and Scotland team against England and Wales in 1959.
– Made his Lions debut against NSW in Australia in 1959 and played his last match against Orange Free State in South Africa in 1968.
– He represented the Lions in 39 matches – nine tests and 30 provincial – on the 1959, 1962 and 1968 tours and scored three tries.
– Captained the Lions twice – on 25 May, 1968 v South West Districts and 8 July,1968 v Boland Kavaliers.

Ireland Appearances Summary

AgainstMatchesTries Cons Pens DGs Points Won Drawn Lost
Wales7 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 4
England8 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 4
Scotland8 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 4
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
South Africa
3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
France10 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 8
Total 37 0 0 0 0 0 12 3 22

Ireland Test Summary

Caps: 37
Points: 0

British and Irish Lions all-time matches

The 1959 Tour of Australia and New Zealand

30/05/1959 v New South Wales
02/06/1959 v Queensland
06/06/1959 v Australia
13/06/1959 v Australia
20/06/1959 v Hawke's Bay
24/06/1959 v Poverty Bay / East Coast
27/06/1959 v Auckland
04/07/1959 v Otago
11/07/1959 v Southland
22/07/1959 v West Coast / Buller
25/07/1959 v Canterbury
29/07/1959 v Nelson Bays / Marlborough / Golden Bay / Motueka
01/08/1959 v Wellington
08/08/1959 v Taranaki
15/08/1959 v New Zealand
25/08/1959 v Wairarapa / Bush
02/09/1959 v New Zealand Juniors
09/09/1959 v Thames Valley / Bay of Plenty
26/09/1959 v British Columbia

The 1962 tour of South Africa

30/05/1962 v Griqualand West
02/06/1962 v Western Transvaal
06/06/1962 v Western Province Universities
09/06/1962 v Boland Kavaliers
16/06/1962 v Northern Transvaal
23/06/1962 v South Africa
30/06/1962 v Eastern Province
07/07/1962 v Junior Springboks
11/07/1962 v Combined Services
14/07/1962 v Vodacom Western Province
21/07/1962 v South Africa
28/07/1962 v Transvaal
04/08/1962 v South Africa
11/08/1962 v Border
15/08/1962 v Central Universities
25/08/1962 v South Africa

The 1968 tour of South Africa

22/05/1968 v Vodacom Western Province
25/05/1968 v South West Districts
01/06/1968 v Sharks
08/06/1968 v South Africa
18/06/1968 v Transvaal
22/06/1968 v South Africa
08/07/1968 v Boland Kavaliers
17/07/1968 v Border
20/07/1968 v Orange Free State

British and Irish Lions playing summary

Tests: 9
Provincial matches: 30
Points: 3 tries in provincial matches

Coaching and management

– Coached Ireland from 1973 to 1975, winning the Five Nations in 1974.
– Coached the 1974 Invincible Lions to South Africa and a remarkable tour record of played 22, won 21 and drawn one – the only coach to defeat South Africa in a four match test series.
– Managed the 1980 Lions and both the 1977 World XV and 1982 World Invitation XV to South Africa.
– A Lions selector in 1977 and 1993, he chaired the Lions selection panel for the 1997 tour to South Africa and the one to Australia in 2001.
– Member of the Ulster branch Committee since 1962, he held the role of President in 1978/79.
– Managed Ireland at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and eventually took over the coaching duties when team coach Mick Doyle had a heart attack.
– Member of the IRFU Committee from 1985 to 2004 and IRFU President in 1995-96.
– Represented Ireland on the IRB Council from 1994 to 2002.
– Member of the Six Nations Committee from 1992 to 2002.
– Acting IRB Chairman in 2002, he was elected IRB and Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) Chairman in 2003.
– As RWCL Chairman he led the team who delivered the most successful Rugby World Cup tournaments in history in 2003 and 2007.
– Chairman of the Northern Ireland Sports Council.
– Member of the Sports Council of the Republic of Ireland.
– Chairman of RWCL from 2003 to 2007.
– Trustee of the Lions Trust Charity.
– Director of the University of Ulster Foundation.

Awards and distinctions

– Awarded an MBE in 1988.
– Awarded a CBE in 2005 for services to sport
– Officer of Légion d'Honneur
– Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of Ulster  in 1992
– Freeman Borough of Ballymena in 2004.
– Spirit of Sport Award from the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) in recognition of his outstanding services to sport.

What they said about him

Sean Diffley (writer): “Millar was in South Africa in 1962, but was considered a bit long in the tooth when the 1966 tour of New Zealand was being selected. Later it began to dawn on the world of rugby that strong enough loosehead props were scarce and when they were available they generally improved – like good Irish whiskey – with age. So it came about that Millar, too old in 1966, was grabbed for the tour of South Africa in 1968 when he was 33 years old.”

Ed McCann (former Ballymena player in the early 1960s): “Suffice to say that Millar, a prince of a man, was arguably the best prop forward in the world at that time.”

Terry O’Connor (rugby writer): “In my view Millar has always been under-rated as a coach and overshadowed by Carwyn James who was in charge of the 1971 team. Both rank among the world’s best and brought different qualities to their work. James was a visionary about back play but accepted that his forward knowledge at Test level was limited. Millar has proved over the years a master of forward tactics and in 1974 forged the finest pack ever to visit South Africa.”

Adrian Logan (writer): “Mr Millar is not only the most powerful man in world Rugby but once again he put his beloved Ballymena on the map with the Legion d’honneur bestowed on him by the French Government. Nothing fancy with Syd – let’s have the ceremony at Ballymena Rugby Club! What a great gesture!

Gavin Mairs (rugby writer): ”Millar’s contribution to rugby football has been nothing short of phenomenal – from player, coach, manager and lately world class administrator who presided over two outstanding Rugby World Cups and leaves the Game well equipped to continue its global expansion in the professional era.”

Jim Stokes (writer): “Over the years, Millar has been a canny, often tigerish, but diplomatic opponent who if he didn’t screw you into the ground with technical ability and strength on the field of play, would turn you towards his way of thinking with some well-directed words.”

*Profile correct at time of induction