Bob Burrell

R P Burrell is introduced to H.R.H Prince Charles
R P Burrell is introduced to H.R.H Prince Charles

One of the most colourful and well-liked personalities in Gala and Scottish rugby, Bob Burrell, has died suddenly in South Africa, aged 87, where he had been attending a family gathering.

He had been due to return to Galashiels within the next few days.

As a player, referee and after-dinner speaker, he earned a high reputation and gave freely of his time to charity and fundraising events. His strong sense of humour and fund of stories enlivened many gatherings, not all of them rugby events.

He first turned out for Gala in 1946 against Stewart’s FP, in a team which included his brother Dod, and future Gala internationalists Dod Lyall and Jim Lees.

He went on to play 140 games for Gala, mainly at centre threequarter, scoring 28 tries for the club. His last match was against Edinburgh Wanderers in 1954, but he then had an even more distinguished career as a referee.

His relaxed but knowledgeable control of games saw him quickly rise to the most senior level and he joined his brother Dod and Sandy Dickie as Gala referees who handled full internationals.

Bob himself was in control of five full internationals, including the memorable France versus the All Blacks game in season 1967-8.

He also had the unique distinction of handling the Varsity game, an honour given to very few men who had not yet been in charge at international level.

Bob served as vice-president on the Gala committee before becoming president during the years 1989-91, being made a life member in 2004.

Gala’s current president, Colin Playfair, said that Bob was a true Gala man at heart and was known throughout the rugby world.

He said: “Whenever Gala folk visited other clubs they were always asked how Bob was.”

He was employed for many years with Keyline Builders Merchants and took an active role in the firm’s sponsorship activities.

He is survived by his wife Margaret and a son and daughter. His brother Dod died in July 2001. His grandson Roddy Grant played for Gala before moving on to play for the Scottish seven, Edinburgh and Scotland A.

The cremation took place in South Africa at the end of last week.