Bulger, Lawrence Quinlivan ('Larry') (1870–1928), rugby player and medical doctor, was born 5 February 1870 at his parents' home on Moore Street, Kilrush, Co. Clare, the youngest of five sons and two daughters of Daniel Scanlan Bulger (d. 1904), then a pawnbroker and draper, later a stockbroker in Dublin, and Anne (Anna) Bulger (née Delany; d. 1923). He attended Blackrock College, Dublin, and was on the rugby team that won the inaugural Leinster Schools Cup (24 March 1887), defeating Farra School of Mullingar at Lansdowne Road; his brother Daniel (see below) served as one of the team's two coaches.
Larry Bulger won the Irish Amateur Athletic Association (IAAA) national 220-yard title (1890) and was joint winner of the 100-yard title (1891), representing Dublin University. He played rugby for Dublin University for five seasons from 1891, then for two seasons with Lansdowne FC (1896–8). A versatile and pacey three-quarters, he played mostly on the wing and was also a useful place-kicker. In 1896 he was capped for Ireland in victories over England (scoring two conversions) and Wales (one conversion) and a draw against Scotland, which cumulatively delivered Ireland's first ever championship title. Selected for that summer's Great Britain (later the British and Irish Lions) tour to South Africa, alongside five others of the victorious Irish team – the first Irish players to join such a tour – Bulger played in all four tests. Scoring a try in the first test at Port Arthur to secure an 8–0 victory (30 July 1896), he scored a total of nineteen tries in twenty-one games, a single tour record that stands in 2015. He won five more Irish caps, playing in two championship games in 1897 (scoring a try and a goal from a mark against England, and a try against Scotland) and three in 1898 (scoring a decisive penalty goal in a win over England, but losing to Scotland and Wales; the game against Wales (18 March 1898) was his last for Ireland).
Graduating BA (1895) from TCD, Bulger studied medicine, qualifying BAO, B.Ch., MB and MD (1898), and trained at the Rotunda and Richmond hospitals in Dublin and also for a time in Vienna. He practiced medicine in London from 1900. Moving his medical practice to Twickenham around 1910, he lived in nearby Richmond, Surrey, often refereeing rugby games in the area. Retiring to Pinner, near Harrow in Middlesex, he acted as an honorary medic during international games at Twickenham rugby stadium, assisting injured players (substitutions were not allowed until 1968). While attending the England–Scotland championship game at Twickenham (17 March 1928), he felt unwell and left the ground, collapsing to his death on a nearby street. After a requiem mass he was buried in Pinner cemetery. He was survived by a son and a daughter by his wife Marie (née Tinchant), whom he had married in 1901 in Pancras, London; she was a relative of Julius Tinchant, who had married one of Bulger's sisters, Anne. Lawrence Bulger was awarded the chevalier de l'Ordre de la Couronne de Belgique, palmes d'or by Albert I, King of the Belgians, for distinguished public service, on 9 April 1921.
His brother Michael (Joseph) Bulger (1867–1938), medical doctor, rugby player and sports administrator, was born 15 May 1867 at his parents' home in Kilrush. He played rugby for Dublin University (1888–9), was capped for Ireland against the New Zealand Maoris (1 December 1888), and played for Lansdowne FC for seven seasons (1885–92; vice-captain for two seasons, 1890–92), winning the Leinster Senior Cup with them in 1891.
Graduating in medicine from TCD (BA, B.Ch., BAO and MB (1891), MA and MD (1897), he acquired licentiates in medicine and surgery from the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1890). Briefly assistant surgeon to Dublin's Richmond hospital (1890–91), from 1892 he lived at 145 Seven Sisters Road, Holloway, London, from where he practised medicine for the next three decades. Michael Bulger served as a police surgeon for the North London division of the Metropolitan Police from 1898, before retiring to Crouch End, London. He chaired the founding meeting (March 1898) of London Irish Rugby Club, and played for the club around 1900 with his brother Lawrence; both remained active supporters of the club into their retirements.
Appointed IAAA representative (February 1907) to the British Olympic Association (BOA) – a breakthrough in the acknowledgement and representation of Irish interests in British sports administration, although limited to the tolerance of Irish crests and athletic livery alongside a slight modicum of paper recognition of Ireland in name – Michael Bulger remained in this role with the BOA until at least 1913. At a BOA council meeting in April 1911, Bulger sought the association's dissolution and replacement by separate representation for England, Scotland and Ireland (Llewellyn, 676).
Official medical attendant at the 1908 London Olympic games, he was also one of the judges of the athletics events, serving as medical officer on duty for the marathon (24 July 1908). He appears in a number of famous photographs, assisting the Italian runner Dorando Pietri over the finishing line, which led to the latter's eventual disqualification. Pietri had collapsed from exhaustion several times in the last few hundred metres of the race, and Bulger gave him medical attention and directed him towards the finish.
After serving from 1931 as a ship's surgeon with the New Zealand Shipping Company, Bulger retired to live in Crouch End, London. He collapsed and died on 20 July 1938 on a bus travelling to Highgate. Survived by three sons and a daughter, he was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. Michael Bulger married (9 November 1892) Josephine May Ryan, at St Joseph's Roman catholic church, Rathmines, Dublin.
Another brother, Daniel Delany Bulger (1865–1930), athlete and stockbroker, was born 18 December 1865 in Kilrush, Co Clare. Educated at Blackrock College, Dublin, where he played rugby and later coached, he matriculated to the RUI, but transferred after a year to TCD and graduated BA (1886). Like his brothers, he played rugby with Lansdowne FC, turning out for two seasons (1896–8). It was, though, as an all-round track-and-field athlete that he really excelled. He won his first IAAA title, representing Dublin University in the 220-yard sprint (1885), and was a member of an Irish athletics team that toured the eastern USA and Canada in the summer of 1885. Representing Lansdowne FC from 1888 and the County Dublin Harriers from 1889, he went on to win a further nine IAAA titles from 1886 to 1892: the 100 yards (1888, 1889, 1890 and 1892 – equalling the world's best time in the latter season at 15.8 seconds), the 120-yard hurdles (1888, 1892), the 220-yard sprint (1886) and the long jump (1889, 1892). With Lansdowne FC and Dublin County, he claimed fifteen Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) national athletics titles (1886–90) across 100 yards (1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890), 220 yards (1886, 1887, 1888), the 120-yard hurdles (1887, 1888, 1889, 1890) and the long jump (1888, 1889, 1890). Introducing the crouching start to Irish sprinting, at his peak he was the predominant Irish sprinter of his generation.
Daniel Bulger also won five English AAA titles from 1889 to 1892, in the 120-yard hurdles (1891, 1892) and long jump (1889, 1891 (jointly), 1892), indicating that these were his strongest disciplines, as he defeated eminent British, American and international competitors in what is considered the de facto world championships during this period. A vice-president of the IAAA, with Joseph T. Magee (brother of Louis Magee (qv)), he was amongst the hundreds of delegates who attended the 'International Athletic Congress of Paris' at the Sorbonne (June 1894), convened by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, which led to the first staging of the modern Olympic games at Athens in 1896.
Initially working as an insurance agent from 1887, then becoming a stockbroker (1892) in partnership with his father, Daniel Bulger formed a partnership with Robert Gardiner (1894), trading at various premises on Dame Street and College Green, Dublin. Bulger moved to London around 1900. On 18 January 1893 he married Marian, daughter of James Daly, at St Francis Xavier Roman catholic church, Summerhill, Dublin. In 1904 Marian Bulger applied to be admitted a member of the stock exchange, before her death later that year. Bulger married secondly (1910) Elsie Regnant, in London. During the Great War he held a commission in the Royal Sussex Regiment, RASC. In a letter to the Irish Times (11 October 1916) he praised the bravery of Irish soldiers from north and south that he witnessed during that horrific summer on the western front. He was later master of the Middlesex Stag Hounds and also of the Enfield Chace Stag Hounds (1908). Living out his later years at the Hunt Hotel, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, he committed suicide 8 December 1930 at 10 Belsize Grove, London; an inquest held that month found him to have been of unsound mind.
The careers of the three Bulger brothers are indicative of the aspirations and achievements of the rising Irish catholic middle class. They were educated at TCD, entered the professions, and embodied a nascent Irish sporting identity, before gravitating to England in pursuit of professional advancement at the turn of the century.