Historic Reunion of 1974 British & Irish Lions Marks Milestone for Wooden Spoon Charity

The 1974 British & Irish Lions hold an indelible place in sporting history, and their legacy was celebrated in an emotional reunion, marking 50 years since their undefeated tour. On 20 June, 18 members of the legendary squad gathered near Belfast for the Million Pound Lunch, organised by Wooden Spoon Ulster, to commemorate both their remarkable achievements and a significant fundraising milestone.

Led by captain Willie John McBride CBE, the Lions embarked on their historic tour of South Africa, winning 21 consecutive matches, including securing the series victory over the Springboks—a first in the 20th century. Their final game, a 13-13 draw in Johannesburg, solidified their status as “The Invincibles.”

The reunion event, held at Hastings Culloden Hotel, celebrated the Ulster region of Wooden Spoon reaching a £1 million fundraising milestone. Among the attendees were rugby legends Sir Gareth Edwards, Sir Ian McGeechan, Fran Cotton, Roger Uttley, and Mike Gibson, with guest speaker Martin Bayfield adding to the occasion.

Peter Wood, chair of Wooden Spoon Ulster and the event’s organizer, reflected on the significance of the gathering: “We had some real legends of the game all in the one room. It is a historical event, not just for Wooden Spoon, but because we have so many of this old team in one place at one time. They are the godfathers of modern rugby, akin to the 1966 England World Cup team.”

The reunion also served as a poignant moment to remember members of the team who have passed away, including JPR Williams, JJ Williams, Phil Bennett, and Sandy Carmichael. McBride, now 84 and president of Wooden Spoon Ulster, played a central role in the proceedings, underscoring his long-standing commitment to the charity.

Peter Wood emphasized the dual significance of the event: “It is 50 years since that team, and to celebrate £1m raised by our branch is very special for us. Our president is Willie John, so it all fell into place. This has taken up 18 months of my life, contacting the Lions and ensuring their attendance.”

The funds raised from the Million Pound Lunch will go towards Wooden Spoon Ulster’s projects that support children and young people with disabilities or facing disadvantage in the Ulster region.  Recent projects supported includie a new cabin for the Ballymena Bears Disability Tag rugby club and a sensory room at Belfast Children’s Hospice.

Peter Wood, celebrating his 25th anniversary with the charity, highlighted the special nature of the 1974 Lions: “They’re special players and special men.”

The event not only honoured a unique sporting triumph but also showcased the enduring spirit of camaraderie and charity embodied by the 1974 British & Irish Lions and Wooden Spoon.