10.11.15 News Release – What has a Cornish Bard got to do with the Webb Ellis Cup?

John Kendall Carpenter (left) with Ken James at Truro School former pupils' centenary dinner 1980
John Kendall Carpenter (left) with Ken James at Truro School former pupils’ centenary dinner 1980

Now that the final of the Rugby World Cup has taken place it’s timely to remember a fellow bard of Gorsedh Kernow and former pupil of Truro School who was Chairman of the organising committee for the first ever Rugby World Cup.

Apparently a couple of weeks before the first Rugby World Cup way back in 1987, John MacGregor Kendall-Carpenter realised they didn’t have a trophy so went to Garrard & Co and purchased one. It may have looked like gold but it’s actually gilded silver. He named it the ‘Webb Ellis Cup’.

John won 23 England caps, and was a legendary Oxford University Blue and Barbarian, yet he couldn’t get into the 1st XV at Truro School. In fact, in school plays he was often cast in female roles as he was quite slight, although he did grow substantially after leaving Truro school as noted by his contemporary Trevor Jaggar (1937-43).

He appeared as a club player for Penzance & Newlyn, forerunners of the Cornish Pirates before moving on to Bath, where he was dubbed “Prince of Cornerflaggers”, while he taught rugby at both Clifton College and Wellington School. Subsequently he became the Headmaster of Cranbrook School in Kent, followed by Eastbourne College in 1970 before returning to Wellington School as headmaster in 1973.

He was one of only five Cornishmen to captain the England rugby team, the others being E K Scott, Vic Roberts, Richard Sharp and Phil Vickery.

John MacGregor Kendall-Carpenter was made a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow at Nance, Illogan in 1981 and took the bardic name of Onen a Bymthek – One of Fifteen. He had a home in Penzance.

He died in 1990 shortly before retirement and after his death a John Kendall-Carpenter Trust Fund was established. Linked to the Cornwall Rugby Football Union, the fund exists to help young people up to the age of 21 in sport both in Cornwall and elsewhere in the world.

On 24 October 2011, at the IRB Awards ceremony in Auckland, Kendall-Carpenter

The Webb Ellis Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup

was posthumously recognised for his role in the creation of the Rugby World Cup with induction into the IRB Hall of Fame. The Cornish Pirates website, where he is affectionately referred to as “Carps”, describe him as “One of the truly ‘great’ names in world rugby.”

With thanks to Truro School for permission to reproduce the photographs of John Kendall Carpenter with Ken James at the Former Pupils’ Centenary Dinner in 1980, and of the Webb Ellis Cup.