Obituary: Christy Elliot
Scottish Rugby is saddened to learn of the death last Saturday (5 September) of the former Scotland winger Christy Elliot. He was 87.
Elliot was capped 12 times for Scotland between 1958 and 1965 and had come to prominence as an outstanding member of the Langholm team that were unbeaten winners of both Border League and Scotland’s unofficial club championship in the 1958-59 season.
The Langholm club believes no other club in Britain could match their record that season, and, for good measure, they won their own sevens tournament too.
Elliot amassed a gargantuan haul of some 252 points in all games he played that season.
In total throughout his career he collected a further five winners medals on the Borders sevens circuit: at Kelso, Gala twice, Selkirk and Earlston.
As a winger he had the full repertoire of skills, both silky and abrasive.
Peter Brown, the former Scotland captain and a good friend, recounted Elliot’s famous “hip swerve”, which left many an opponent either bruised or bamboozled or both!
Brown also noted: “He was the most terrific thrower-in at the lineout, as that was part of a winger’s duties then. He had exceptional timing.”
Elliot was a goal-kicker, too, “an old-fashioned toe kicker”, in Brown’s description, and combined with his unerring ability to find the try line, he was regularly among the top points scorers in domestic rugby in Scotland in his early rugby years.
In December 1957, he kicked two penalties as the South lost narrowly 6-12 to the touring Wallabies at Mansfield Park in Hawick.
When he made his Scotland debut at Murrayfield the following year, he was an 11th hour replacement for the peerless Arthur Smith, who had gone down with flu.
To resounding cheers, the seemingly nerveless Elliot marked his first cap by kicking a penalty to give Scotland a 3-0 lead against England. He almost escaped for a try too, only to be denied by a tackle by scrum-half Dickie Jeeps, which led to Jeeps being injured. A penalty from England tight-head prop, the late George Hastings, who was winning the last of his 13 caps, meant the match ended in a 3-3 draw.
An ankle injury curtailed Elliot in the ‘59-60 season but that spoke volumes about the man. He sustained it – later diagnosed as a “Pott’s fracture” – in the opening minutes of the final of the Headingley Sevens in Leeds but such was his iron determination that he played on throughout the tie.
By 1960 he had recovered, yet his penalty and conversion were not enough to avoid Scotland succumbing to an 11-13 home loss to France that January.
In the 1963-64 season, Elliot, playing in the centre, was praised for defensive heroics in the South’s 0-8 defeat to the touring All Blacks, a newspaper report describing (with some glee!) how he “knocked [Bruce Watt, his opposite number] straight over backwards, ball and all” in one fierce tackle.
Elliot, who had only played once for Scotland since that 1960 French match – against England in 1963 – returned and played in all the international matches in 1964, a momentous year for Scotland.
His first victory in a Scotland shirt, six years after his debut, came in a 10-0 win against France.
A 0-0 draw against New Zealand – Scotland thus depriving the All Blacks of a Grand Slam – followed. There was then an away loss to Wales; an away win against Ireland and a 15-6 Calcutta Cup success against England at Murrayfield.
That victory was Scotland’s first against England in 14 years and earned Scotland a share of the Championship with Wales – their best performance since 1938.
Elliot’s final cap was against Ireland in 1965 - the year in which he captained the Scottish Districts to a 16-8 victory over South Africa in Hawick, landing a penalty and two conversions to the home tally – and he continued to represent the Langholm club with distinction until their centenary season in 1971.
By then he had played a remarkable 24 years in the first XV, having first worn the famous crimson jersey as a 15-year-old!
In addition to representing the South, Elliot also played three times for the Barbarians, all against East Midlands in 1959, 1960 and 1964.
His younger brother Tom, followed in his footsteps, winning five caps for Scotland as an openside flanker between 1968 and 1970.
Elliot, who had undertaken National Service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Korea, worked in the tweed trade as a manager with Arthur Bell & Sons in Langholm.
Peter Brown added: “Ever since I played with him in 1964 there was a special bond between us and our families. Christy was an outstanding example of fairness with a very good, tactical rugby brain.
“He bore no ill-will to any other human being and was, rightly, an absolute legend in Langholm.”
Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to Elliot’s widow May, daughter Laura, son David, his five grandchildren, wider family and his many friends.