When the Names Sell the Book: “Roars from the Back of the Bus”

Roars from the Back of the Bus, by Stewart McKinney, once again provides a collection of anecdotes and tales from rugby players, this time exclusively from those who have played for the British Lions. No one other than a fellow rugby player, or perhaps a sports writer, would have been able to collate the stories and attest to their veracity.  Without Stewart’s name, a former 1974 Lions tourist, the book would never have made it to print. However, the collection isn’t a self-indulgent ego-stroke, but a journey through history featuring some of the more notable players who represented the British and Irish Lions. The historical research revealed some amazing characters – my favourites have to be Alexander Findlater Todd (AFT), and Thomas Crean. AFT’s letters are a hoot, and remind me of Jeeves and Wooster.

When there are over sixty living contributors to chase up, cajole, and seek approval from, phone calls, emails and text messages, although quick methods of communication, are time-consuming. Stewart got to chat to friends and catch up on news, whilst I did the hard work. Some contributors were reluctant to ‘write’ stories, though they had several tales to tell, and once given the reassurance that nothing salacious was sought and that they could dictate their yarn over the phone, the handset would be given to me and my shorthand got a workout. I’d then type up the story, check names, dates and places with Stewart  – who has a fabulous memory – and another name could be checked off the list.

Not everyone returned their phone calls and, despite promising to contribute a story, which would help raise funds for the Lions’ Trust, no copy ever arrived. Polite reminders were given in case they had forgotten about us, but when no reply came it was time to concentrate on those who were playing the game. It was hard to accept their non-participation as we were buzzing so high on the concept and the response from the majority whom we had contacted. Sigh, c’est la vie . . . move on. Each contributor volunteered their story, so perhaps therein lies the difference between the old brigade of amateur players and the current professional players. I can only conclude that those whom we contacted, who never made good on their promise, decided that they didn’t want to be part of a project where they gave their services for free. Some of the modern players did find time to write a story which they offered without expecting payment, and to them we are extremely grateful. Perhaps some had made promises to another author and felt they had to remain exclusively in their camp – all they had to say was that they had already committed elsewhere.

The book will be on shelves from 6 September in all major bookstores – purchase and enjoy!


After Andy Ripley’s memorial service and seeing so many friends from rugby, Stewart McKinney decided to compile another set of stories to follow Voices from the Back of the Bus, Roars from the Back of the Bus, which is wholly concerned with Lions’ players.

The camaraderie and support fellow players have for each other lasts lifetimes. From the first tour in 1888, characters with immense personality surface, fighting together in wars or on rugby pitches in foreign lands, and sharing a bond developed through touring as representatives of the home nations. Exclusive access to letters from Alexander Findlater Todd (AFT) in 1896 and diaries from 1938 and 1955 show how today’s Lions still follow links established years ago. Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and Joe Worsley could have seen the same hospitality as earlier intrepid tourists like Blair Mayne, Lewis Jones, Sir Carl Aarvold or David Rollo. Defining memories and private insights in tales from across the tours, and the decades, are retold by the Lions who lived them, with the ‘Lions ethos’ still very much at its heart: 50% of royalties will be donated to the Lions’ Trust.

Siobhan McKinney

Siobhan McKinney writes short stories, usually creepy or unnerving – but that’s intended – poetry that may have the same effect, although unintended, and has completed two novellas and two novels, and is waiting for her agent to call.

A former English/Special Needs/PE teacher, Siobhan has also run pubs, clubs and wine bars, sold water filters and vacuum cleaners, worked as a stockroom supervisor for a retail company, and earned a bob or two whilst in Australia working as a secretary. She recently appeared at the Stendhal Festival in Limavady, to participate in the poetry readings. Her latest publication is a short story in Body Gossip which will be launched in early September.


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