George Russell’s recent passing is a great loss to rugby and to Moray House Rugby Club in particular. He served as Secretary for 17 years and 49 years as president. George was always at the centre of the club’s activities, whether welcoming new members or opposing teams. He played his first game aged 16 in 1946 and was still playing, or as he would say, ‘on the pitch as nuisance value’ at the age of 72. A speedy winger in his day, he collected winner’s medals at Waid RFC and E&DRU 7s.
Moray House was a junior club and George was immensely proud that two players captained their countries - Pringle Fisher for Scotland and Pita Nacuva for Fiji. The Moray House 5 year dinners became a greatly anticipated event with George always arranging the SRU President to reply on behalf of the Union.
He and Tommy Laing organised and ran the Edinburgh & District R.U. 7s in the 1960s and 70s on the back pitches at Murrayfield where the highlight for 14 players plus the ref was being able to say they played in the final on the ‘big pitch’.
A selector for both the E&DRU and the Edinburgh side, he chaired the Referee Appointments Committee and implemented and ran the inaugural league system in 1972. George was an unpaid SRU volunteer for many years and as a SRU Liaison Officer, made many lasting friendships with players and officials from visiting international teams. He was a Royal Box steward along with Mike Gilbert, and never missed an opportunity to say they had the best company and the best seat in the ground yet did not pay to see the match.
Many clubs will remember him as an after dinner speaker. He was invited as a guest, or so he thought, to a Hawick junior club dinner, only to be told on arrival that it was good for a ‘Toony’ to propose the Club Toast. A quick exit to the toilet with paper and pencil produced a speech which was greatly appreciated. From that day onward he carried a few jokes and stories in his pocket just in case.
The old Murrayfield west stand housed a museum which was not replaced when the new stand opened in 1994. George was a voluntary museum guide with Adam Robson, SRU President, internationalist and Hawick player. Before his death in 2007 Adam asked George to make sure that history of Scottish Rugby did not lie in boxes in dark corners of Murrayﬁeld. He took up the challenge raising the subject at numerous AGMs but to no avail. At the 2011 AGM a Moray House motion in favour of a new museum was unanimously passed by member clubs. George died in May without seeing his dream realised. He will be remembered as helpful, kind, always sociable with a cheery smile and a story to tell. George was a good friend to Scottish rugby and to all who knew him.