O.M. Wallop, Yale and Polo

The other day, I stumbled across another Yale polo story, this one with a player named Wallop. How could anyone resist picking up that thread of history?

The story began in 1883 when Oliver Henry Wallop graduated from Oxford and went to Wyoming. This may strike you as an odd move, but he was the fifth son in a titled line, without much reason to stay home, and he wanted to be a cowboy. So he settled near his Scottish cousins, William and Malcolm Moncreiffe, in Sheridan, Wyoming, raising cattle and horses. The cousins maintained their British ties, supplying horses to the British during the Boer War (1899-1902).

One account notes that the British liked to test the horses by riding the length of a polo field, so the Moncreiffe brothers built one; having the field at hand, they taught their cowhands to play.

In 1906, Oliver Henry Wallop became a U.S. citizen and he eventually was elected to the Wyoming state legislature. But in 1922, when the fourth of his older brothers died without a male heir, Oliver unexpectedly became the Earl of Portsmouth; he was thus obligated to return to his ancestral home in North Devonshire and become the first Wyoming state representative to move to the House of Lords.

L. to R.: Oliver M. Wallop,  J.H.H. Phipps,  F.C. Baldwin,  Hardie Scott

Stateside, his son, Oliver Malcolm Wallop, went to Yale to play polo on what was surely one of the most far-flung teams ever assembled. The young Wallop was joined by Long Island’s John Henry Howard “Ben” Phipps, famous for bringing a skunk to chapel at Groton which led to his sudden enrollment at Exeter; F.C. Baldwin of Hawaii’s foremost missionary, ranching, sugar growing, polo playing family; and Hardie Scott of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., who was thrice elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but not before graduation. Together, the four won the Intercollegiate (Outdoor) Championship for Yale in 1928.

Oliver Wallop graduated in 1928 and returned to Wyoming to ranch; his son Malcolm also attended Yale (1952-54), captaining the Yale polo team to two more intercollegiate titles.

Malcolm was elected to three terms as a U. S. Senator before returning to the ranch in 1995. The Wallops are still very much a part of Wyoming. The Oliver Wallop Memorial Cup was played for this past summer at the Flying H Polo Club in Big Horn, and Oliver Matthew “Matt” Wallop, is the owner and chef of Oliver’s Bar and Grill in Sheridan. And the Wallop’s Canyon Ranch is still in the family, now open for visitors.

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