The ‘Real’ Triple Crown

2002-195 trophy

In 2006 a silver shield was produced as the physical embodiment of an idea that had existed since 1894. The Triple Crown was first made reference to by the Irish Times in 1894 after Ireland had defeated England, Wales and Scotland in a single season for the first time. Since then the notion of a mythical crown has been a firm part of rugby lexicon and the Triple Crown is one of several accolades contested annually during the 6-Nations Championship.

1914 Triple Crown Illustration

However the 2006 shield was not the first such trophy to have been proposed. In 1975 Dave Merrington, a retired miner from County Durham, sculpted an ornate crown embellished with an English rose, Irish shamrock, Scottish thistle and Welsh Prince of Wales feathers out of a piece of coal that had been hewn from the Haig Colliery in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

This ‘Real’ Triple Crown was then offered to the four home unions as a trophy for whichever team successfully defeated the other three. Tudor Jones, sports editor for Coal News, campaigned for several years to have the trophy accepted by the unions but eventually conceded defeat when Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies, themselves sons of miners, sIMG_0554aid that they would prefer for the crown to remain the stuff of legend.

The ‘Real’ Triple Crown however lived on. In 2000 it was formally presented to the World Rugby Museum by former England centre Jeff Butterfield.


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This entry was posted in England, Ireland, Museum Collection, Scotland, Wales. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The ‘Real’ Triple Crown

  1. Phil Mead says:

    There are several types of coal, with different calorific values and density. The coal used for the Triple Crown is anthracite, which is very hard and has a high calorific value and therefore expensive to buy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Huw Richards says:

    The timing is interesting. 1894 completed a cycle, never since repeated, in which all four countries won in turn in as many seasons. That also included the first Triple Crowns for Scotland (1891), Wales (1893) and Ireland (1894). So it marks a point at which beating the other three becomes a serious feat, since all are potential winners themselves. There’s a similar significance to the arrival of the Grand Slam as a concept in the late 1950s. I interviewed several players who took part in Wales’s Grand Slam seasons of 1950 and 1952 more than 50 years after that achievement. They all remembered it in terms of the Triple Crown. That’s because it was still assumed that any team good enough to win the Triple Crown would also beat France. By the mid 1950s this was no longer the case (and only about half the Triple Crown winners since have completed a Slam) so the new term reflected a changing reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Huw, that’s interesting to hear the 1950s Welsh player’s perspective. Our understanding is that it was the Times newspaper that first coined the term ‘Grand Slam’ (as it applies to northern hemisphere rugby) the day before England achieved a clean-sweep in 1957.


  3. Carin meider says:

    Who was the 1st team to win The Triple Crown made from Coal


  4. Hi Carin, the trophy was never awarded but Wales were the first side to win a Triple Crown (1976) after it was carved.


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