Nairn MacEwan

Scottish Rugby is saddened to hear of the death earlier today of former Scotland back-row forward and former national coach Nairn MacEwan.  He was 76.

Nairn Alexander MacEwan was born in Dar-es-Salaam, in what is now Tanzania, in December 1941.  He was described today by his former Scotland team-mate and captain Ian McLauchlan as a “very, very good player who was extremely dedicated to the game and a real student of the game.”

MacEwan’s commitment was the stuff of legend. He would often travel three times in a week, twice for training and then at the weekend for playing, from his home near Inverness to Galashiels in the Borders, at a time when Gala were a major power in the Scottish club game. A round trip of some 400 plus miles, long before any road improvements to the A9.

MacEwan won his first cap against France at the Stade Colombes in Paris in January 1971 and he won 20 caps in total over the next four years.

Scotland, under the tutelage of their first “advisor to the captain”, as the coach was called then, Bill Dickinson of Jordanhill, had a truly formidable pack and it underlined MacEwan’s talent that he was something of a fixture in the back-row.

He enjoyed four victories over England during his international career, scoring his only try for Scotland in the 23-9 Murrayfield win in 1972. In his book A Compendium of Scotland’s matches, John Davidson, described the try: “. . . a bad pass to [England’s stand-off] Alan Old, which Colin Telfer [Scotland’s stand-off] tapped on, saw MacEwan there to snap up the ball and score.”

MacEwan was also a pivotal figure in the Highland club’s march up the leagues and his influence was a factor in the emergence of another big, raw-boned back-row forward in George Mackie who was capped four times between 1975 and 1978.

In 1977 MacEwan took on the role of “advisor to the captain” and coached the national team for the next three years, before he was succeeded by Jim Telfer.

In 1980, he had to undergo heart bypass surgery but his love of the game was undimmed.  He coached at Rovigo and Piacenza in Italy and had stints in Sweden and Ireland in addition to spells with Highland, Glasgow Accies and Glasgow HSFP.

He was a typically gregarious “mein host” at his restaurant with rooms in Strathconon in Ross-shire.  As with his rugby, he was an innovator, whether as a cook or as a businessman.

Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to all Nairn MacEwan’s family and friends.  

Nairn MacEwan's funeral will take place at 1pm for 1.45pm on Wednesday 13 June at Inverness Crematorium, Kilvean Road, Inverness IV3 8JN, and thereafter at Highland Rugby Club. The family requests the tartan or club ties should be worn.

Our picture shows the Scotland team that defeated England in 1972 with MacEwan third from the right in the back-row.

Written by
Graham Law