Debuting against Wales in 1900, David Revell Bedell-Sivright went on to win 22 Scotland caps. A pioneer of the wing forward role, he was regarded as the hardest man to play for Scotland and is the only Scot ever to play in three Triple Crown winning sides (1901, 1903 and 1907).
He was the only player to tour with both the 1903 and 1904 British Isles sides (captaining the 1904 Australasia tour, aged 23) and also captained Scotland. After he retired from international rugby he became the 1909 Scottish heavyweight amateur boxing champion! A surgeon, by profession, he died on active service at Gallipoli.
George Philip Stewart Macpherson, a centre/stand-off from Oxford University and Edinburgh Academicals, won 26 caps for Scotland. Making his international debut against France in 1922, he played in Scotland’s matches that season and went on to score his first try for his country against Wales in 1924. In 1925, he captained Scotland to their first Grand Slam.
Rated the most brilliant attacking centre of his era bar none, he played his last game against England in 1932, a season during which he also played against the touring South Africans.
The small-sided version of our great game came about thanks to Borders’ lad Edward ‘Ned’ Haig. Born in Jedburgh on 7 December 1858, he moved to Melrose as a youth, taken on as an apprentice by local butcher, Davie Sanderson.
After playing in the town’s annual Fastern’s E’en Ba – a traditional ball game, played on the Thursday before Lent – Ned became interested in the related game of rugby and he and Davie joined the local Melrose RFC side in 1880. Starting off in the seconds, he soon made forays into the first XV and also made appearances for the South.
In 1883, however, Ned’s Melrose club was reportedly suffering a shortage of cash and, during a club meeting, Ned – who was then captain – suggested putting on a (rugby) tournament as part of a fund-raising sports day. There wasn’t enough time to play several full XV rugby games in one afternoon, so teams were pared down to seven men, with match times reduced to 15 minutes.
On 28 April 1883, a cold and wet day, the first Melrose Sports kicked off at 12.30 at the Greenyards. The event included foot races, drop-kicks, dribbling races and place kicking as well as the main draw of the rugby tournament – the ‘Football Ga me’ – which attracted eight teams and around 1600 spectators. As play progressed, Melrose – for whom scrum half Ned and stand off Davie Sanderson had formed a great pairing – and Gala were left to decide the result of the final. After fifteen minutes of a fast and bruising encounter, but with no score, the captains agreed to play another quarter of an hour. After ten minutes, Melrose scored a try and claimed the cup – funded and presented by the ladies of the town – and the sport of rugby sevens was born.
After he retired from playing, Ned continued to be active in the Melrose club, serving for several seasons on the general and match committees, and also enjoyed taking part in cricket, curling and golf. He died in Melrose on 29 March 1939, his legacy to rugby and the world of sport truly immense.
As Ned Haig gave sevens to the world, so the trophy that’s played for during the final leg of the HSBC World Series in Edinburgh has been named in recognition of his contribution; and in 2008 the IRB inducted Ned Haig and Melrose RFC into its Hall of Fame. Altogether not bad going for a Borders’ butcher!
Kenneth James Forbes Scotland – a full-back/stand-off, from Heriot’s, Cambridge University, Leicester and Aberdeenshire – won 32 caps for his country.
Both his debut and last internationals came against France at Colombes, the former in 1957 – where he scored all Scotland’s points – and the latter in 1965. He was a world-class and gifted individual, who set new standards for full-back play, pioneering the counter-attack role – a player ahead of his time. One of the stars of the 1959 Lions tour to Australasia, scoring 12 tries, he also represented Scotland in cricket.
Alexander Bennett Carmichael MBE, from West of Scotland, was one of the speediest, most versatile props ever to pull on an international jersey.
Making his debut against Ireland in 1967, he went on to earn 50 caps, a record for a Scottish forward at the time, and was notably involved in two heroic try-saving tackles in the victory over France in 1969. He played for the British Lions on the 1971 tour to New Zealand. One of the bravest and fairest players to grace the game, his last international came against Ireland in 1978.
Andrew Robertson Irvine MBE earned 51 caps – 15 as captain – and scored 273 points for Scotland. One of rugby’s greatest running full backs, from Heriot’s, he made his international debut against the All Blacks in 1972.
With blistering pace and attacking from deep, he could turn off either foot and produce a thrilling display from nothing. Scotland’s first real superstar player, he also took part in television’s Superstars competition in 1978 and 1982, finishing respectively third and second in the British final. Selected for the British Lions against South Africa (1974 and 1980) and New Zealand (1977), he scored a record five tries in a single game during the latter tour.
Uncompromising in both attack and defence, Finlay Calder made his Scotland debut against France in 1986.
The open side flanker, from Stewart’s Melville, went on to win 34 caps, his final international against New Zealand in the 1991 World Cup. Gritty, determined and a ruthless tackler, alongside Derek White and John Jeffrey he made up one of Scotland’s greatest back rows. He was the first Scottish player to captain the British Lions since Campbell-Lamerton in 1966, the first winning captain since Willie John McBride in 1974 and the only 20th century captain to lead the team to a series victory after losing the opening Test.
No history of Scottish rugby would be complete without the inclusion of William Pollock McLaren CBE. If the world’s green fields provided the backdrop, and the Browns, Calders, Hastings et al the figures, then it was the voice of rugby that brought the sport’s rich tapestry alive.
Born in 1923, Bill’s early life was steeped in rugby, listening to tales of legends at Mansfield Park alongside his father, while delighting in the skills of his Hawick heroes.
Developing into a useful flanker, he went on to realise his dream of playing in the green jersey. His Hawick years were then interrupted by active service with the Royal Artillery in Italy during the Second World War.
After participating in a Scotland trial in 1947 and on the verge of a full international cap, Bill contracted tuberculosis and was forced to give up dreams not only of a Scotland berth but playing altogether. It was while hospitalised, however, that he tuned into broadcasting, commentating on table tennis games via the hospital radio.
Having studied physical education in Aberdeen, he went on to teach PE in the Borders and coached several Hawick youngsters who went on to represent Scotland including Jim Renwick, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger.
His media career kicked off as a junior reporter with the Hawick Express then the Glasgow Herald. In 1953, he made his national debut for BBC Radio, covering Scotland’s 12–0 loss to Wales. Fittingly, his last international TV commentary described the movements of the same combatants, at Cardiff some 49 years later.
For fifty years, his voice was synonymous with rugby, across the world. His overwhelming enthusiasm for the game was only matched by his vast knowledge, incredible attention to detail and totally unbiased views. His commentaries brought many fans to the game who had never watched a match and he truly was rugby’s greatest ambassador.
Awarded the MBE, OBE and CBE, the Freedom of Scottish Rugby in 2000 and the first non-international player to be inducted into the IRB’s Hall of Fame in 2001, Bill switched off his mic in 2002, his last ever commentary being saved for his beloved Melrose Sevens.
After a long illness, Hawick’s favourite son passed away peacefully at the local hospital in January 2010, aged 86. His memorial evening at Murrayfield Stadium saw the world of rugby converge from all corners of the globe to pay tribute to a real legend and a true gentleman.
Making his international debut against France in 1986, alongside brother Scott and David Sole, Andrew Gavin Hastings OBE, of Watsonians, London Scottish and Cambridge University, won a total of 61 caps for his country.
A world-class full back, he was Scotland’s leading points scorer of his generation, was pivotal in Tony Stanger’s match-winning try in the 1990 Grand Slam decider and, in 1995, scored the try and conversion that gave Scotland their first victory in Paris since 1969. Solid in defence, heroic in attack and superb with the boot, he captained Scotland and the British Lions.
Sir Ian Robert McGeechan OBE made his international debut as a player against New Zealand in 1972. At centre, he was capped 32 times for Scotland – 20 at centre and 12 at standoff – led his country on nine occasions, and toured with the unbeaten British Lions in 1974 and in 1977, playing in all eight Tests.
He played his last international, against France, in 1979 and, in 1986, became the assistant Scotland coach. Promoted to coach in 1988, his team won a Grand Slam victory in the Five Nations Championship. British Lions coach in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009, he re-joined Scotland as head coach in 1999. He is currently performance director with Bath.
Traversing the touchline for both his country and the British Lions,the contribution of James William Telfer to rugby at all levels over the last forty years has been immense.
Born in Melrose in 1940 and turning out in his youth for his home side and South of Scotland, he went on to represent Scotland at flanker.
He accrued 22 caps between his debut in the victory over France in 1964 and his last appearance, against Ireland in1970; had it not been for injury, he would undoubtedly have won more. In most of these games he captained Scotland; in those that he didn’t, he was inevitably the leader of the pack, directing operations and exerting his authority.
Compensating for his lesser speed with impressive power, he was an amazingly fit player for his time, courageous, determined and technically excellent.
As a player, his moment came in 1969. Having defended bravely against an ever-threatening French side, the Scots secured victory when Telfer snatched a late try in the corner. It was to be another 26 years before Scotland won again in Paris.
A teacher by profession, first in chemistry and then a headmaster, Telfer was a natural leader whose authoritative air immediately commanded respect.
Selected for the Lions in 1966 and 1968, he was greatly impressed and hugely influenced by the style of play he witnessed on that first venture to New Zealand. He made 22 appearances during the 1966 tour and in 1968, though hampered by injury, he still led the Lions pack in more than half their 20 matches.
First appointed a national coach to Scotland B in 1974, he went on to coach Scotland to victory in the Grand Slam of 1984 and, as assistant to Ian McGeechan, to a second Slam in 1990. During his second term as head coach, in 1998/99, Scotland won the final Five Nations Championship.
Renowned for his punishing training sessions, he was head coach to the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand in 1983 and was assistant coach, with particular responsibility for the forwards, on the Lions tour of South Africa in 1997. Alongside countryman and rugby soul mate, Ian McGeechan, the Lions went on to score a famous Series victory.
Legendary Scotland second row and a fully-paid up component of the Mean Machine; a triple Lion and fierce competitor in the Battle of Boet Erasmus; a ruthless assassin on the pitch and a true gentleman off the field of play. Gordon Lamont Brown.
‘Broon frae Troon’ was born into sport – the son of Scotland goalkeeper John Brown, nephew of footballers Tom and Jim Brown, younger brother of Scotland back-row Peter Brown and with a mother who could wield a hockey stick with some distinction.
Gordon’s early interest was in the round rather than the oval ball. His conversion was reportedly the result of a particularly heated football tie, after which he reckoned ‘rugby would be safer’! He emerged on to the international stage in December 1969, from West of Scotland, having just turned 22.
After a winning debut against South Africa, he retained his place for the Five Nations opener against France. Dropped for the subsequent Wales match, he was replaced by brother Peter who revelled in breaking the news to Gordon. Peter was then injured in the match – and replaced at half-time by his younger sibling; the first occasion where a brother had replaced a brother in an international. When the Browns joined forces against England in 1970, it was the first time brothers had played together for Scotland since Angus and Donald Cameron in 1902.
Immovable in the scrum yet dynamic in the loose, Gordon went onto cement his place in Scotland’s front five of the early 1970s, the formidable Mean Machine that also featured Ian McLauchlan, Frank Laidlaw, Sandy Carmichael and Alastair McHarg. Between 1971 and 1976, Scotland lost just once at home, a narrow defeat to the All Blacks.
A giant of a man, both physically and figuratively, he formed a key partnership in the blue jersey with McHarg, winning 30 caps; in a Lions shirt, he was one of the world’s most ruthless competitors. Not only could he move but his outstanding handling skills resulted in eight tries on the Lions’ 1974 venture – including the brutal Battle of Boet Erasmus – a record for a forward. He played in eight Lions’ Tests between 1971 and 1977, playing a major part in the 1971 and 1974 victories.
His final Test was for the Lions against the All Blacks in 1977, though his hardest battle came two decades later, with the diagnosis of non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A battler to the end, he died in 2001, aged just 53.