FORMER University of Oxford rugby captain and Scottish international Joe McPartlin, who became a long-serving teacher at St Edward’s School, has died aged 75.
Mr McPartlin, a popular and instantly recognisable figure on Oxford’s rugby union scene for decades, lost his battle with prostate cancer at a Kent hospice last Thursday.
A powerful centre, Mr McPartlin played for Scotland in the Five Nations Championships while still a student at Oxford, making his debut against France at Murrayfield in January 1960.
He also played for Harlequins, Barbarians, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Surrey and the Army before taking up refereeing. He also served on Oxford University Rugby FC’s Committee for close to 40 years.
Mr McPartlin was born in West Hartlepool in 1938 to George and Belle McPartlin, both from Glasgow. His mother was a primary school teacher, while his father became sports administrator with the Central Council for Physical Recreation and was rewarded with an OBE for his services to sport.
After the war the family settled in London with Joe McPartlin being educated at Wimbledon College, where he showed himself to be an outstanding all-rounder at cricket. But it was in rugby union that he really excelled and he went on to captain the school as well as the London Schools’ Rugby XV.
His national service was undertaken with the Army, who he also represented at rugby, and he held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
In 1959 he came to Oxford to read geography at St Edmund Hall and later took a fourth-year post- graduate diploma in education.
In his first year he played for the Greyhounds before going on to win three Blues, the final one in 1962 as captain. After winning six Scottish caps his international career ended the same year. His last match for Scotland was a home Calcutta Cup fixture against England, which ended in a 3-3 draw.
Scotland and Mr McPartlin were to narrowly miss out on what would have been Scotland’s first Triple Crown since 1935 with England’s vital points being secured from the boot of another Oxford Blue, his close friend John Willcox.
On leaving university he took a teaching post at St Edward’s School in North Oxford in 1963, where he remained until he retired 34 years later. As a geography teacher, rugby coach and the man who ran the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), he came to be regarded as a St Edward’s institution.
He remained a passionate supporter of OURFC, joining the committee in June 1975 and remaining a member until his death.
Always a shrewd observer of the game, players strove to avoid his disapproval. “I’ve seen better centres in a box of Black Magic,” was his damning verdict on one unfortunate three-quarter line.
Some of his sayings have become familiar to rugby fans across the world, such as his reflection in one match that a kick was “the greatest conversion since St Paul on the road to Damascus”.
A natural raconteur, he was in great demand as an after-dinner speaker.
A lifelong bachelor, to the disappointment of a number of ladies according to friends and family, he stayed in the city until late in his life, living in Woodstock Road.
His final months were spent at the home of his brother John in Folkestone. He leaves three brothers, George, John and Gerry, and a sister, Prof Mary McPartlin.
The funeral is next Thursday at 2pm at Oxford Oratory,Woodstock Road, Oxford, prior to cremation at Oxford Crematorium and a reception at OURFC Pavilion, Iffley Road.