Irish sports legend: Fred Horlacher

by James Perry

Fred Horlacher, 15 May 1938, unknown ‘Just to remind you of an old friend in Dublin, Yours, Fred’
Fred Horlacher, 15 May 1938, unknown ‘Just to remind you of an old friend in Dublin, Yours, Fred’

The death of Alfred (Fred) Horlacher on 17 March 1943 shocked many.  The young Latter-day Saint was a successful sportsman with a bright future ahead of him.  Only six weeks after announcing his retirement from football, Fred died of septic-pneumonia.  

Fred came from a family of German descent and was an active Latter-day Saint all of his life.  He grew up attending Church and Primary meetings in Dublin, along with his parents and siblings.  On 24 July 1918, at age eight, Fred was baptised a member of the Church in Dublin.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, Fred played international football for Ireland, and in so doing brought greater recognition to himself and to the Church.  Many years later, a former teammate, Edmond Sheeran, recalled a painful interaction with Horlacher: “It was Fred Horlacher that done my knee in … but I got him back!”[1]


Horlacher was widely loved and looked up to.  During his career, he served as team captain and was a successful striker for his club and country. After being in winning water polo team in the Irish league for six years in a row, Fred was placed as a reserve for Ireland’s Olympic water polo team.  Not long after a successful campaign in 1935, in which Fred captained his team to win the Irish FA Cup, he retired from professional sports.[2]

Then in September 1937, Fred was called to serve as a full-time missionary in the British Mission.  He served for one-year before returning to his home in Dublin.[3]  During his service Fred laboured in the Nottingham, Hull, and Scottish Districts.[4]  While in Nottingham, Fred was the Branch President of the local Branch.[5]  Prior to his missionary service, Fred had been serving as the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association President (YMMIA) for the British Mission. In Scotland, he served in the Glasgow and Edinburgh Branches.[6]


Fred Horlacher Memorial, 1946
Fred Horlacher Memorial, 1946

Fred had a strong testimony of the Word of Wisdom, which he credited as being behind his many sporting successes.[7]  As he testified in 1936:

I can truthfully say I have a big advantage over my rivals in my living up to the word of wisdom; any success I have gained in sports have been due to the blessings received by adhering to the word of wisdom.[8]

Over the course of his short life, Fred was a beacon of gospel living and faithful service.  At the time of his death, Fred was serving as the Branch President of the Dublin Branch, which along with the entire mission, was devastated at his early death.  In 1946, his football club, Bohemian FC, held a commemoration for Fred and unvelied a plaque to him.  Perhaps the most apt words to describe Fred were made by the club secretary, who described Fred as ‘…the idol and inspiration of all young men who knew him.’[9]

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1] Cónal Thomas, ‘Fair Play: At 96, a Footballer Looks Back’, Dublin Inquirer, 21 September 2016, available at:, [date accessed: 21 August 2019].

[2] ‘Elder F. Horlacher Passes: Death: Dublin Branch President Called by Death’, Millennial Star, Vol. 105, No. 13 (1943), p. 247.

[3] Ibid

[4] ‘From the Mission Field’, Millennial Star, Vol. 100, No. 40 (1938), p. 638.

[5] ‘From the Mission Field’, Millennial Star, Vol. 100, No. 10 (1938), p. 160.

[6] ‘From the Mission Field’, Millennial Star, Vol. 100, No. 42 (1938), p. 672.

[7] Wendell J. Ashton, ‘Two Internationals and Training’, Millennial Star, Vol. 98, No. 4 (1935), p. 58-59.

[8] Fred Horlacher, ‘My Testimony of the Word of Wisdom’, Millennial Star, Vol. 100, No. 37 (1938), p. 582.

[9] ‘Alfred (Fred) Horlacher – Former British Missionary Honoured’, Millennial Star, Vol. 108, No. 5 (1946), p. 160.