The First XV rugby team at Campbell College Belfast have paid a poignant tribute to their predecessors of the 1913-14 First XV by recreating the famous photograph of the 1913-14 First XV in front of the main entrance to the College. Seven members and one coach of this team killed in action during the Great War.
The Men Behind the Glass (TMBG) project has conducted research into the civilian and school lives of these people as part of the project to restore the portrait photos of many of its 126 pupils and a teacher who died in WW1 that are part of the College’s Great War Memorial in its Central Hall.
The 1913-14 First XV players who died in the Great War included Robert Semple (back row, second from left as you look at the image), Charles Owens (back row, third from right), coach and teacher William Madden (back row, far left), George Herriot (centre row, second from right), Reginald Whiteside (centre row, middle), George McCullagh (to Whiteside’s left), Benjamin Watson (to MuCullagh’s left) and William Porter (front row, left).
Our research has shown that Robert Semple’s mother, Lady Ethel Semple, had a real tough time during the war. She had a nervous breakdown in 1916 on the death of William, Robert’s older brother (Robert died in 1918). This was, at the time, the third child she had lost having had two sons die in childhood before the Great War. Eileen, Robert’s sister, recalled in her memoirs that the loss drove Lady Ethel to bring a small boy into the family called Sam. Lady Ethel said that the child was from a home for ‘illegitimate children’ and that ‘the owner of the home told mother that the father of the baby was an educated man who had been killed in the war’. Eileen said that she, and her sister Mabel, behaved badly towards their mother and the toddler. Eileen recalled ‘we were furious. We knew mother was trying to make up for the loss [of her sons]…but the thought that this strange baby could take their place enraged us. Also, we had to look after him”. Evidence emerged after the war that suggested that Sam was the illegitimate child of Lady Ethel’s brother, William.
 S. Ridley, Dear Jelly, Family Letters from the First World War (London, 2014), p.47.
 S. Ridley, Dear Jelly, Family Letters from the First World War (London, 2014), p.91.