The South of Scotland reunion dinner held at MacDonald’s Cardrona Hotel, Peebles, has been hailed as one of the greatest functions of its kind in this area, writes Stuart Cameron.
Attended by a packed audience which included almost 50 ex-South players, it was a joy as memories came flooding back through stories of the good old days when the cream of the region’s club players took on opposition which included the touring All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks.
Through footage and Bill McLaren’s commentaries for the BBC spanning three decades, the crowd watched mesmerised as they saw extraordinary images. They included the South of Scotland beating Australia 9-6 in 1984 with Peter Dods in the audience to witness, for the first time in 27 years, his three kicks which gave the South an historic win against the men in gold jerseys. He was shown running off with the match ball into the gloom of Mansfield Park. And afterwards he confirmed he still has that ball in the house as a memento.
The night was in aid of the Bill McLaren Foundation and Bill’s daughter Linda Lawson kicked off proceedings with a speech telling about Bill’s love for the South of Scotland team. The South had a special place in his heart, and as the night went on it was so clear exactly what the team meant – and still means – to the Borders.
Bryan Redpath made the journey from Gloucester with Carl Hogg to be in the audience and he took time out to explain how important the team was.
“It was a culture and friends were made for life,” he said. “There was something unique about playing in the red and white hoops and being awarded the famous South tie which is only handed over to players who have played for the South – it is so special.”
John Jeffrey added: “You would knock seven bells out of other local players when you played against them at club level, but when all the Borders teams came together as one there was a strength there – a bond that is just so special.”
Richie Gray, the current team manager of the South, was there to assure people that the side was back and the upcoming match against the mighty Barbarians (who have never played against the South of Scotland) will be the real relaunch following the match against Northumberland in December 2009 which was supported by more than 2,000 people in arctic temperatures at Netherdale.
The team kit sponsor was unveiled as www.rugbystore.co.uk with part of the proceeds from the sale of replica shirts going to the Bill McLaren Foundation. As well as inventing his Collision King rucking machine which you may have read about in last week’s Southern Sport, Richie also designed the new South top which has red and white hoops – naturally – but also a new logo and the emblems of the Kings of the 7s and the Border League on each sleeve.
Ian Barnes was host for the evening and did a marvellous job interviewing the likes of Derek Brown and Jim ‘Basher’ Inglis, recalling their playing days for the team in the 50s, and Norman Suddon in the 60s through to Richie’s father John who coached the South to that victory in 1984 against Australia.
A unique print from the South game against Australia in 1988, featuring David Campese and Michael Lynagh, has been produced and is expected to go on sale soon. It will be limited to just 50 copies and will be signed by around 50 ex-South players, many of whom attended the evening. Anyone wanting a copy is advised to reserve it now with Bill McLaren Foundation secretary John Thorburn on 07929 655132.
John Spencer of England, Scott Glynn, Ian Landles and Scocha provided the after-dinner entertainment.
And such was the undoubted success of the night the Borders can rest assured there will be another South of Scotland reunion in the very near future.