One of four Canterbury-based players for the famed 1907-08 ‘All Golds’, former All Black Hubert Turtill was one of the standout players on the pioneering tour and went on to play professionally in England before being killed in action during the First World War.
Born in London, the chubby youngster picked up the moniker ‘Jumbo’ – shortened to ‘Jum’ – from ship passengers when he moved to New Zealand with his mother as a four-year-old in 1884.
Turtill gained a rugby union grounding with the Christchurch Albion club and debuted for Canterbury in 1902 and South Island in 1903. The fullback subsequently played one Test for New Zealand in the 15-a-side code, against Australia in Dunedin in 1905.
Accepting an offer to join the All Golds on their journey to Britain, ‘Jum’ played 31 matches abroad. He was fullback in New Zealand’s maiden rugby league Test against Wales on New Year’s Day, 1908, and filled the custodian role for all four matches of the drawn series with England. Turtill scored a try in the second-Test loss at Leeds.
The 28-year-old had the honour of captaining New Zealand in its inaugural Test against Australia on the way home, kicking a goal in an 11-10 victory at Sydney’s Royal Agricultural Society Showground.
Turtill returned to England in 1909 to join St Helens (after originally planning to play for Salford), where he played 137 games and scored 403 points in four seasons.
Enlisting in the British Army after the outbreak of World War I, Turtill rose to the rank of sergent in the Royal Engineers. He was killed by a shell-burst while serving with the 422nd Field Regiment in France in 1918, aged 38.
Turtill is buried at Brown’s Road Cemetery, near Festubert in France. His son, Alan, was killed in World War II in Libya while serving as a captain with the 21st Battalion New Zealand Infantry.
‘Jum’ Turtill was in the news in 2019 when a consortium of New Zealand bidders paid $89,000 for his All Blacks jersey at an auction in Cardiff.
NEW ZEALAND (1907-08)
6 Tests – 1 try, 2 goals (7 points)
25 tour matches
-1907-08 All Golds tour of Britain and Australia