Background: As explained in the story about Bill Salter’s reminiscences, in 1989 I decided to track down and interview the ex-YC&AC rugby player living in Japan who had first played for the club before anyone else. I thought I might be looking for someone who had played in the late 1950s or 1960’s and was totally astonished when I discovered that there were two gentlemen in the club who had played in the 1920’s – Bill Salter and Cecil Arab.
When I asked Bill the name of the best player in that period up to world war two, he seemed to hesitate before mentioning several names – Fleming, Archie Scherrer, Devison and Edwards – but when I asked Cecil Arab he quickly said, without any hesitation, ‘Lampy Lamport – the Oxford Blue!’ Years later I decided I should try to find out something about the legendary Lampy Lamport!
Norman Keith Lamport was born 24th March 1907 and was educated at King’s School, Sydney and at Sydney University. His nickname in Australia was not ‘Lampy’ but ‘Butts’. He played rugby for the University and for New South Wales, and was selected to play for the Wallabies in 1929. However, the records show that he didn’t actually play a test or make it off the bench.
After completing his university studies in Sydney, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford and gained three Blues for Oxford University playing scrum-half in 1930/31 & also in 1932 when he was the captain in his final year. The varsity match in 1930 was a 3 all draw, but Oxford won in 1931 by 10 points to 3 and in 1932 by 8 points to 3. He also played for Oxford against Cambridge at Lacrosse in 1930/31 & 32 which gave him another Blue!
On graduating he joined the engineering firm Babcock and Willcox and from 1932 to 1935 he worked in Scotland where he played for the West of Scotland and London Scottish.
Then he was sent to Japan from 1935 to 1940 where he played for the YCAC. In 1939 her married Kate Struan Kay Brown. He served from 1940 to 1945 with the Royal Australian Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After the war Lamport returned to Babcock and Willcox. He served in India in 1946 and then became the manager of the Southern Area in the Australian branch of Babcock and Wilcox in 1947 where he stayed for the rest of his career.
The first reference to Norman Lamport playing rugby in Japan in the Japan Times is YC&AC’s first rugby practice of the 1935 season in early October when Lamport plays for Colors and the opposing Blues included Bill Salter (See Connect ….. & also last month) as full-back. The article also mentioned a possible game against the Navy.
The first big game that season seems to have been against Keio O. D. Club and YC&AC won fairly easily 57-21 on November 6. The article on that game had the following to say about the new player: “Lamport was outstanding and initiated practically all movements which resulted in scores, not to mention two tries by himself which were gems of opportunism and which showed that he is the possessor of a dazzling swerve and about the safest pair of hands seen in these latitudes.”
The next game was against the Nihon Medicals and again the YC&AC won easily – 47-0. However, even with players of Lamport’s calibre (and there were other good players too) the YC&AC didn’t always win.
On November 24 1935 YC&AC lost to Waseda A by 14 points to 28. The Japan Times reported the squad was hit by injuries and the 2nd team could only field 13 players. In the first team game YC&AC tied the score 14-14 with 15 minutes to go through a try by Lord but immediately afterwards Webb was severely injured. Waseda then scored three tries in the final seven minutes. The report had the following on Lamport: “Lamport was his usual brilliant self but the Waseda coach soon realized that he was dangerous and arranged that two men should mark him closely.”
That was just one of the times that the man who played a leading role in holding the All Blacks to a nil all draw against New South Wales was on the losing side in Japan. In 1937 Lamport was playing when Meiji University swamped the YC&AC 67-0.
In the 1930s with the growing strength of the leading Japanese rugby teams, one of the biggest games of the season was the All Foreigners (a combination of YC&AC and KR&AC) Vs All Kanto OB which was played at Jingumae Stadium each February. For example, Lamport captained the annual Foreigners team the 1937 match which All Kanto OB won easily 40-3.
Besides rugby, Lamport also played a lot of cricket at the YC&AC as a keen opening batsman and vice-captain. Unlike with rugby, there was no local Japanese opposition and so most of the games were played among themselves. In May 1940 the Japan Times noted that since P&O steamers had stopped calling at Yokohama it became even more difficult to arrange games.
Nonetheless, in June 1940 alone there were four matches. Lamport led the Vice-Captain’s XI to victory over the Captain’s XI by 121 runs to 94 with himself contributing 48. Other games were Main Street Vs the Rest, Yokohama Vs Tokyo, and the Eccentrics Vs Nomads.
In addition to rugby and cricket, Lamport is also reported as playing tennis and golf – regarding the latter he played in the 30th Anniversary Negishi Golf Tourney. However, his performances in these sports failed to win accolades in the Japan Times.
Last month’s article mentioned Lamport’s marriage in Yokohama on March 28 at Christ Church on the Bluff but it failed to explain just what a big event it was. The Japan Times ran a large story on the wedding and the reception that followed in the large home of Mr. & Mrs F. J. Blyth whom Lamport had met in London. It also carried a large photo of the bridegroom and bride.
“Practically the entire foreign colony of Yokohama able to be present, with scores of people from Tokyo and Kobe, attended one of the most popular and brilliant weddings in years at Yokohama today,” enthused the Japan Times reporter, “……The fact that Mr Lamport is an outstanding athlete, popular leader of rugger and other sports here, and that both bride and bridegroom have won a very warm place in the regard of the whole community, accounted for the exceptionally large attendance.” The reporter was clearly not aware that the bride had only set foot in Yokohama for the first time a few weeks before the wedding.
All in all it appears that Norman Lamport was for around five years a leading figure in the key sports at the YC&AC and in the business and social world of Yokohama in those final golden years before World War 2 changed everything for ever.