Abram Combe

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Abram Combe's Signature from the 1901 Census.

Abram Combe (b.16 July 1852 d.20 Aug 1917 Age 65) was an International Rugby Player who is believed to have been the first ever International Rugby Referee.

He was the referee of the Ireland v England game on the 13th December 1875 at Rathmines, Dublin. England won the game one goal to Nil. (They scored two tries, but failed to convert one).[1]

Until that game international matches had no referee and any issues were sorted out between the two captains.

Combe was educated at Rugby School & then Queen's College Belfast.

He was a Grand-nephew of the famous brothers George Combe and Dr Andrew Combe.



Coombe played one game as a Forward for Ireland against England on the 15th February 1875 during the Irish tour of England.[2]

England won the game 2 goals to Nil, scoring two tries, one conversion and one dropped goal. The match was played in front of a crowd of 3000 people at Kennington Oval.

There was no referee in this game.

Point Scoring

in 1875 no points were scored for achieving a Try.

The Try, was so named because you got a chance to 'Try' at goal.

Goal could be scored by conversion (after a try), or by dropped goal.


In 1875 there were 20 Players per team. The teams for the first ever International Game with a Referee were:

Ireland Position England
Spencer Login FB Robert Walkington
Hamilton Moore FB Alec Pearson
Edward Hobson 3Q Charles Gunner
Brabazon Casement 3Q Arthur Michell
Richard Bell (c) HB Charles Clark
Abraham Cronyn HB William Collins
Richard Galbraith Fwd Edward Turner
Henry Cox Fwd Ernest Marriott
Robert Maginiss Fwd William Hutchinson
John Ireland Fwd James Bush
Tim Cuscaden Fwd Charles Bryden
George Andrews Fwd Harry Graham
R. Greer Fwd John Graham
Ashley Westby Fwd J. Brewer
W.H. Ash Fwd Walter Greg
David Arnott Fwd Andrew Bulteel
William Finlay Fwd Edward Kewley
Henry Walsh Fwd Francis Luscombe (c)
James McDonald Fwd Murray Marshall
Edward McIlwaine Fwd Courteney Verelst

Personal Life

Combe was the Son of James Combe & Margret Ann Barbour.[3]

According to the 1901 Census of Ireland[4] Combes was an Engineering Works Master living in Malone, Antrim. He was married to Emilie Caroline Combe (born c.1856 in Co. Down) and had three sons, James Combe (Born c.1878 in Belfast City, working as an Engineering Works manager, presumably with his father), Robert George Nicholson Combe (born c.1879 in Belfast City, and a Student of Law having graduated with a BA from Cambridge University) and Samual Barbour Combe (born c.1880 in Belfast City working as an Engineering Works Learner, presumably with his father, died as a Lieutenant in WW1 in 1914).

Also mentioned at Combe's residence in 1901 were:

In the 1911 Census of Ireland[5] Abram Coombe, at age 58 was living in Donacloney, Co. Down. He wasa Justice of the Peace for County Down (Where his wife had been born). Emile was in London at the time of the 1911 Census[6]. It appears, due to a mistake by the recorder, that at this point only one of Combe's three children was still alive.

Also mentioned at Combe's residence in 1911 were:

Combe died on the 20 Aug 1917 and left his estate totalling £28411 6s 10d (equiv of just under £2m in 2012 terms) to his son James Combe.


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