Obituary: Gary Callander
Scottish Rugby is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Scotland captain Gary Callander on Sunday 5th December at the age of 62 following a period of ill-health.
A legend of Kelso rugby over many years, Gary broke into his hometown side aged 16 which he followed as a young player with the first of the five Melrose 7s tournament wins just two years later aged 18.
Playing at hooker, Gary led Kelso side to the Border League championship in 1986 and the Division One title in 1988.
His first international recognition came in the form of a Scotland ‘B’ cap in 1982 against France ‘B’.
He then made his first appearance for the full Scotland team in Bucharest against Romania in May 1984.
Although he only played in six capped matches, Gary was captain in five of them.
His cap total may well have been far higher had he not been playing in an era with such stiff competition at hooker.
He captained the Scotland side during the 1988 Five Nations, which included a 23-12 victory over France at Murrayfield.
Gary packed down in a front row alongside David Sole and Norrie Rowan that started all four of the 1988 Five Nations fixtures.
His final Scotland appearance came in November 1988 as Scotland lost to Australia 32-13 at Murrayfield.
As well as a stellar fifteen a side career, Gary was also successful as a sevens player. He won a Melrose medal on five occasions with Kelso including three back-to-back titles in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
He played in the Hong Kong 7s twice, first in a Scottish Border Club team that defeated New Zealand in the semi final before finishing runners up behind Australia, who beat them 18-14 in the final at Hong Kong Stadium.
He then featured for the Co-Optimists in 1986, who beat Papa New Guinea and Canada before losing to the French Barbarians.
Following his playing career, Gary took on a coaching role at Haddington Rugby Club.
In 1993, alongside Simon Scott, he began coaching the Scottish Students team.
He later held coaching positions at Gala, Watsonians and Kelso.
Away from rugby, Gary ran a successful electrician business.
Gary is survived by his mother, Mary, his children, Torrie and Becky, and his former wife Diane.
Kelso RFC also paid tribute to their former captain and coach.
In a statement posted on their website, Club President Scott Forbes said: “Kelso RFC are saddened to learn of the passing of former player Gary Callander.Gary’s contribution to the history of the club cannot be overstated.
“He achieved the ultimate accolade of captaining his country for five of his six international caps.
“He was a captain, leader and an outstanding rugby player.He will be sorely missed by his ‘rugby family.’”
Scottish Rugby Chairman John Jeffrey spoke of his former teammate saying: “I was fortunate to play with Gary for Kelso, South and Scotland.
“Gary was a formidable rugby player, highlighted by his numerous winner’s medals at both sevens and fifteens. He was without doubt the driving force behind Kelso’s successful era in the eighties culminating in winning their first Scottish Championship in season 1987/88.
“He had a great rugby brain hence captaining Scotland in five of his six Internationals aligned with an uncompromising physical presence and he was unlucky to only sit on the bench during the peak of his playing prowess.
“By the time he was selected as first choice he was already suffering from back problems which ultimately plagued him for his whole life.”