Gus Black

Scottish Rugby is saddened to learn of the death in Fife yesterday of former Scotland scrum-half and oldest former British Lions player, Gus Black.  He was 92.

Angus William Black (Edinburgh University) won six caps for Scotland and two on the 1950 British Lions tour of New Zealand.

Born in Dunfermline in May 1925, his first appearance was on New Year’s Day 1947, in the first cap-international to be played since the cessation of the Second World War.

The opposition that day were France who had been re-admitted to the Championship and Black, a medical student, was among 14 Scotland players who won their first caps after an eight-year hiatus.

In an interview with ESPNScrum.com in May 2012, Angus Black said: "We travelled by train and boat via Dover and stayed at the Hotel Lutetia which had been the Paris headquarters for the Gestapo during their war-time occupation. They'd cleaned the blood from the floors before the SRU party arrived. It was palatial.

"I remember Cyril Gadney, a well-known referee from before and after the War, was in charge of the match. Early on we had a scrum and I put the ball in at 45 degrees to the tunnel. The Paris crowd made a loud hissing noise when there was no penalty. Gadney whispered in my ear, 'Let's have it in straighter next time. Don't do it again', but allowed play to continue.

"What struck me about the French was their innate ability for the game. They had been out of international rugby since 1931, but their kicking, passing and backing up were fast and accurate. We did well to hold them and only lost narrowly. They had two very big second-rows - Moga and Soro. They were off the planet.

"The banquet after the match was at the Eiffel Tower."

Black played in Scotland’s next match, his first international at Murrayfield, against Wales, but he had to wait until 1948 to savour victory in a Scotland shirt for the first time, the 6-3 home success against England.  His final Scotland cap in 1950, in a match which marked the 25th anniversary of the stadium, also was against the Auld Enemy with Scotland winning 13-11.

In his book, A Compendium of Scotland’s matches, John Davidson described a crucial try in that game: “Black broke away and, getting the ball again after (Angus) Cameron was held, passed to (prop Gibbie) Abercrombie who scored near the posts.”  Other accounts note that in a match played in wet and difficult conditions, Scotland’s half backs put in a solid defensive shift and also had their moments in attack.

Black toured New Zealand with the 1950 Lions, playing in the 9-9 Test draw in Dunedin and the 0-8 loss in Christchurch. The Lions party travelled to New Zealand by boat, the journey taking three weeks from Liverpool via the Panama Canal.

He went on to play for Leicester and Bristol during his National Service and, in his career, was a consultant advisor on psychiatry for the RAF.

He lived in Lundin Links and only moved into a care home when he was in his nineties.

Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to all Gus Black’s family and friends.

His funeral will take place on Thursday 22 February at Dunfermline Crematorium, Masterton Road, Dunfermline KY11 8QR at 2pm. 

Written by
Graham Law