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McKivat, Christopher Hobart (1879–1941)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Christopher Hobart McKivat (1879-1941), footballer, was born on 27 November 1879 at Burrawang, New South Wales, fifth surviving of ten children of Edward McKivat, Irish-born farmer, and his Tasmanian wife Susan, née Bellette. By 1897 McKivat was playing senior grade Rugby Union with Bowen Bros Tannery's team at Orange. He performed well for country against city in 1901 and was selected to tour New Zealand, but had to decline. Moving to Sydney in 1905, he joined Glebe (called the 'Dirty Reds' for their maroon guernseys) which won the premiership in 1906 and 1907. McKivat played either as scrum-half or five-eighth.

He represented New South Wales against New Zealand in 1907 and next year captained Glebe. In August 1908, selected for the first Wallaby tour of Britain and the United States of America, he was presented by fellow workers at the Farmers' & Dairymen's Milk Co. Ltd with an inscribed gold watch. An unselfish player, he scored eight tries on tour. As captain H. M. Moran and vice-captain Freddy Woods were frequently injured, McKivat led the Wallabies seventeen times, including the match against Cornwall at the London Olympic Games when the Australians won gold medals.

On returning to Sydney in September 1909, fourteen of the Wallabies played a series against the Rugby League Kangaroos. McKivat, allegedly paid £150, was expelled with the others from the amateur code. In 1910 he played for Australasia in all three Tests against the touring British (Rugby League) team. In 1911-12 he led the second Kangaroos' tour of Britain; although older than his colleagues, he played in 32 of the 36 matches, scoring 41 points from 13 tries and 1 goal. The Australasians won all three Tests. McKivat played no more representative matches, but continued to captain Glebe Rugby League team until 1914.

At St Benedict's Catholic Church on 6 February 1915 he married Ada Glynn, a tailoress. His occupation then was storeman; earlier he had been a labourer and engine driver, later a weigh-clerk. He was also a successful football coach, taking North Sydney to premierships in 1921 and 1922.

Sturdily built, 5 ft 8 ½ in (174 cm) tall, weighing about 12 stone (76 kg), McKivat had thick, dark, curly hair, rugged features and a wide mouth. Reputedly Australia's finest half-back in either Rugby code, to G. V. Portus he gave 'the impression of strength rather than agility. But his feet and hands worked in perfect combination with his eyes, and behind them all was a quick-thinking brain … His passes were accurate, well-timed and … he was a deadly tackler'. Adept at stealing from the scrum-base, he was very quick off the mark without straightening up and was master of the high short kick. His screw-punting was handy in defence. 'A born captain … of equable temperament—never rattled', according to Claude Corbett, he constantly snapped out orders to his players on the field; off it he was a quiet humorist.

All his life he enjoyed going to the football on Saturdays and having a few beers with mates after the game. He was not a churchgoer. McKivat died on 4 May 1941, survived by his wife and son, and was buried in the Catholic section of Botany cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. V. Portus, Happy Highways (Melb, 1953)
  • New South Wales Rugby League Annual, 1928
  • Leichhardt Historical Journal, no 8, 1979
  • Sydney Mail, 20 June 1906
  • Referee (Sydney), 5 Aug 1908
  • Sun (Sydney), 5 May 1941
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'McKivat, Christopher Hobart (1879–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mckivat-christopher-hobart-7401/text12869, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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