Vard, John (‘Jack’, ‘Jackie’) (1926–98), sportsman and businessman, was born 29 May 1926 in 4 Rosedale Terrace, Dublin, one of six sons and two daughters of Alfred (‘Taylor’) Vard, of Dublin, originally a cobbler by profession, and his London-born first wife, Daisy May Vard (née Groves). The family (original name Vardovich) were of Jewish extraction, and Vard's grandparents had left Bialystok, in what later became north-eastern Poland, in the 1870s after a pogrom, and arrived in Dublin via London c.1875, settling in the Clanbrassil St. area of the city. Vard was educated at Damer Hall Church of Ireland school, and first came to sporting prominence as a chess prodigy, competing in the 1937 Irish championships at the Dublin Chess Club. As a boy of twelve he achieved the feat, unsurpassed to date, of being the only Irishman to draw two consecutive matches with two Russian masters. These masters were Alexander Alexhine, then ranked in the top ten in the world, and the lesser-known Kilkonoski. Despite the temptation to become a professional chess player he did not continue to play competitively into adulthood.
Although he was a successful rugby player, playing on the wing for Monkstown Rugby Club, his main sporting achievements lie in freestyle wrestling, and he was a member of the Apollo club on Dublin's south side for a number of years. Instrumental in founding the Irish Amateur Wrestling Association in 1947, Vard soon won club and Irish championships, and achieved the distinction of winning two British lightweight titles (1949, 1952). In 1950 he also won the British title but lost it at a subsequent weigh-in. His career in wrestling lasted for over two decades, and the highlight was probably his taking part in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki as a member of the Irish team. In the lightweight division of the freestyle event, he lost both his bouts, going down to Richard Garrard (Australia) and J. Thomas Evans (USA), who went on to win the silver medal. He also attended the 1960 Olympics in Rome, this time as manager and coach of the Irish team. In later years he established another wrestling club, the Spartan Wrestling Club, in Werburgh St., Dublin. Vard was for many years a member of the Irish Olympic committee, and was instrumental in ensuring that the committee selected and paid for Ronnie Delany to participate in the 1956 Olympics. A successful businessman, he established a clothing manufacturing company, Doreen Holdings, with two of his brothers in 1946, in which Jack assumed the role of production manager. Specialising in women's clothing, the company also produced Olympic uniforms for Irish female competitors. He married (1960) Miriam (née Dillane) from Drogheda, they had four children. After his retirement he bought a farm at Ballyedmonduff in south Co. Dublin, where he became a successful horse breeder and owner, producing a number of horses that competed at the top level in show-jumping, ridden by riders such as Paul Darragh (d. 2005). A son, Taylor Vard, was a prominent figure in the Show Jumping Association of Ireland. Vard died 13 April 1998 in St Vincent's Hospital after a long struggle with cancer, and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery.
The Vards were a prominent sporting family. Jack's brother Julian ‘Julie’ Vard (c.1925–1996) co-founded the Spartan Wrestling Club with Jack and was one of Ireland's best wrestling coaches, working with the Spartan Club and also the Maccabi Wrestling Club, both of which eventually shared a gym on Adelaide Road. He was a naturally laid-back and relaxed individual, patient and witty, and these qualities helped him to become not just a top-class coach but also a highly respected referee. Julian Vard had seven children with his second wife Kathleen (née Byrne), and lived in Booterstown, Co. Dublin. He was also in the clothing trade, specialising in sheepskin and leather from his shop in Aungier St., Dublin. He died 14 October 1996 and is buried at Shanganagh cemetery, Co. Dublin.
Another brother, Cecil Vard (1923–87), born 18 June 1923 in Co. Dublin, was one of Ireland's leading racing and rally drivers in the 1950s. He came third overall in the prestigious Monte Carlo rally in 1951 at his first attempt, driving his mother-in-law's Mark V Jaguar, which, according to one report, he borrowed on the pretext of taking a continental tour. In 1953 he came fifth overall, and eighth the following year. He also participated unsuccessfully in the Le Mans 24-hour rally in 1955. In 1950 he won the Hewitson trophy (the national autotest championship) and he was part of an MG team that won the same trophy in 1958. He stopped competing in rallying shortly afterwards when it became too expensive. Associated with charitable work all his life, in 1955 he was a founder member and the first president of the Dublin Lions Club, and for many years was heavily involved in organising holidays for senior citizens. Along with Jack he was a founder of Doreen Holdings, and was later a director of the Glen Abbey group. He married (1952) Dáire O'Connor Cox; they had two children. Cecil Vard died 1 August 1987 and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery. A measure of his involvement in both charitable work and motor sport is that there are two Cecil Vard trophies in his memory: one is awarded to the winner of the All-Ireland talent competition for senior citizens, and the other is awarded to the winner of the national rally championship. Another brother, Leslie (b. c.1929) was a provincial table-tennis champion and also won the Hewitson trophy in 1969. Leslie's daughters Cathy, Wendy, and Lisa became the well known singers, the Vard Sisters.