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24 August 2014
A rainy Sunday in Nanjing and I wasn't starting my work day here at the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games here till early afternoon. That meant there was time for my good mate, the British commentator John Burgess and I to head out on a sightseeing trip. Did I say sightseeing? That word hints at visiting fun tourist attractions with lively sights to see. But this morning's trip was anything but...
What we went to understand for ourselves was the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall which is, according to the hand-out pamphlets, 'a memory to the most heartbreaking chapter in this city's history.' And my word it is just that.
If you know your history you know the story. Over a period of six weeks in late 1937 the then Chinese capital city of Nanjing (then called Nanking) was attacked by Japanese invaders. What followed was not an occupancy but is accepted here as a massacre, the likes of which makes it one of the worst ever atrocities in global history. It might have gone unnoticed in historical significance but for one German John Rabe who wrote a diary of the revulsion which went out to the wider world, called 'The Rape of Nanking.'
The invaders systematically attacked local residents as they went about their daily business and in just weeks a series of mass-murders, beheadings, live burnings, lootings, burials of live humans and mass-rapes took place. No one quite knows how many died but all around the grim monument we visited today the number 300,000 was posted in large letters. That many are estimated to have fallen victim.
The museum was modern, well organised and deeply affecting. It was also very well supported by the local public today. We visited on a Sunday and had to queue in the rain to get in. As one slowly approaches the entrance a series of sculptures are passed, depicting the horror and terror the people and its city suffered. And once inside we had to jockey our way through pressing crowds.
I noted two things; there were kids there of all ages - and the taking of photographs of the horror displays were not stopped in any way. I snapped off dozens of pics myself and bought a commemorative book. But they will be probably be only looked at by myself in the future. I cannot imagine ever wanting to say to anyone in my family or friends, 'oh, can I show you my Nanjing Massacre shots?' I suspect my friend John will be the same.
They will instead become a personal reminder of witnessing one of the worst examples of man's inhumanity to man.
A couple more things from the visit; the first was the seeming fairness of the displays we were seeing at the museum. It is not a place which points a stabbing, bloody finger at Japan to remind the locals of the peril that ravaged their city nearly 80 years ago; as if to keep their feelings boiling.
Far from it, the museum seemed to take a down-the-middle stance and just presented facts, graphic though they were, of those terror times. I looked at the little kids here today, walking through quietly with their parents and wondered what the children were being told as each display of revulsion was passed. No doubt every family which has a long history of living in this city would have lost at least one member, and probably many more, in the disgust of the historical chapter. The whole thing was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had.
And then, quite by coincidence after John and I had started work on a late shift of commentary, there was a reminder of Olympic hope for the future presented right in front of me.
Along with an Australian Peter Blackburn and a South African Duane Dell'oca we were the commentators for a couple of finals at the China Tennis Academy.
In the last of the tournament's week a young man by the name of Jampei Yamasaki played off in the mixed doubles final's gold medal match with his partner Ye Quiyu (pronounced 'Yer Kway Yoo'). Here was a Japanese male playing together in a sporting contest with a young Chinese woman as his partner; surely that should be seen as a very significant way to look to the future now with optimism. Say what you like about them but the Olympic Games movement in particular is doing great things to encourage a global togetherness via their Summer Youth Olympic event.
As it turned out Yamasaki and Ye did not win; in a very tight final they lost to a European pair of Jan Zielinski and Jill Teichmann. (Mind you I guess we could have drawn historical connections over the winner's two countries too -Switzerland and Poland).
For me though I had hoped the Asian pair would have prevailed in the match, even if it was just to be a personal reminder today that the world has moved on physically from the revulsion from the past, if not ever totally from the memories.
Little did the baby Jonah Lomu or his parents know that 19 years and 45 days later he would be playing for the All Blacks in a test match!
MCBRIDE, WILLIE JOHN
Ballymena and Ireland
63 internationals for Ireland 1962–75
17 internationals for British Isles 1962–74
One of the outstanding figures of world rugby who, in his time, set a record for most international caps by an individual player, and who gained great respect as a leader.
During the latter days of his playing career, William James McBride became known, as ‘Willie John’. He was an imposing lock, immensely powerful in all aspects of forward play, who specialised in giving only good ball to his halfback whether from lineout, maul or scrum. He had enormous determination and his rivalries with other top players of his day, such as Colin Meads of New Zealand and Frik du Preez of South Africa, were worth traveling miles to see. Perhaps his greatest attribute was his ability to inspire others to play with equal dedication. Perhaps it was a commentary on rugby in its time that those three men became firm friends after their rugby days were over.
In his time McBride knew success: as pack leader for the 1971 Lions in New Zealand, as captain of the 1974 Lions in South Africa and as captain of Ireland in its first championship win in 23 years, in 1974. But he also knew defeat: 26 of his games for Ireland were losses. From those varying results McBride emerged as a player of true character and greatness. He never gave in. He was idolised at home and deeply respected abroad.
McBride, then known as ‘Bill’, began his international rugby as a lock for Ulster in 1960–61, marking the great South African, Johann Claassen, in a Springbok tour game. The young McBride was one of nine new caps brought in by the Irish selectors for the match against England in 1962. Even though he was not in the winning team that day, or indeed that season, he was chosen soon after, as a 21-year-old, for the British Isles tour of South Africa. His courage was epitomised that season when he played the last part of the game against France with his left tibia bone broken.
South Africa in 1962 was a baptism of fire. The young Ballymena man played in two tests: both were losses. He also suffered the pain of defeat in New Zealand in 1966 when the All Blacks wiped aside the Lions by four tests to nil. Two wins against Australia were small consolation.
In 1968, on the Lions tour to South Africa, McBride was again in the losing team, and it was not until 1971 in New Zealand that he smelt the sweetness of victory.
His ultimate performance was with the British team of 1974, which won its test series with the Springboks so dramatically. On that tour McBride, the captain, exhorted his men to ‘take no prisoners’. They reacted superbly to his leadership demands and did not lose a game on tour. Their three test victories, with a draw in the fourth test, represented the biggest humiliation for a major ‘home’ team in rugby history.
On that tour the cry ‘99’ was also used. It was said that McBride had previously suffered at the hands of All Blacks and Springboks in the physical side of the game. He was determined that there should be no more. Thus ‘99’ called for all his players to get alongside their team-mates and if necessary physically fight the opposition together. It was a controversial tactic but one which McBride and his team felt was necessary.
Between his Lions tours he added to his tally of Irish caps, building towards the massive total, in that time, of 63. His five Lions tours, three in all to South Africa and two to Australia and New Zealand, added another 17 caps, bringing his total to 80 caps. Thus he became the world’s greatest cap-winner, an honour he kept until his fellow Ulsterman Mike Gibson passed it in 1979.
In all his test matches McBride scored only one try, against France in his second to last game for Ireland.
After his retirement in 1975 he was, for a time, the Irish coach. In 1983 he was manager of the British Isles team in New Zealand.
In which New Zealand Rugby Province was the Ranfurly Shield resident for the longest duration of time?