Former Braw Lad Jack Grierson

Obit: Jack Grierson
Obit: Jack Grierson

BIG, strong and an ex-Royal Marine, Jack Grierson was the epitome of what a Galashiels Braw Lad should be.

Born in 1935, the son of a policeman, he was educated in Galashiels at Glendinning Primary School and the local secondary school.

Growing up, the young Jack was a keen piper with the Boys’ Brigade and, on leaving school, joined the staff of The Southern Reporter, first as a compositor and then a reporter.

A naturally-gifted swimmer, his love of the water stood him in good stead during his National Service with the Royal Marines.

In 1962, Jack married Joyce Anderson, from Galashiels, and the couple would go on to have a son and daughter, Alan and Carolyn.

His prowess as a swimmer was to see Jack gather a considerable haul of medals as a member of both the local swimming club and the Scottish water polo team in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

A centre forward with the Gala Water Polo Club, East District and Scotland teams, Jack was a prolific goal scorer. As a swimmer, he is believed to still be the Scottish record-holder for the 50-yard breaststroke sprint.

Jack was selected as Braw Lad for 1957, with the Braw Lass that year being Elizabeth Turnbull. This was the second time he had filled the role of a principal, having been first attendant two years previously.

However, it was to be the following year and for much less happy reasons that Jack would come to the attention of the Borders public once again.

In 1958, tragedy struck at the Braw Lads’ Gathering, when Selkirk’s Royal Burgh Standard Bearer, Alex Munro, was thrown from his horse and drowned in the swirling flood waters during the traditional crossing of the Tweed by the mounted cavalcade on the Saturday morning.

With raging currents, a number of horses and their riders were soon in difficulty. Eyewitnesses would later report there was confusion in the water and that Standard Bearer Munro’s horse had been seen to stumble, throwing the 31-year-old former Seaforth Highlander into the water.

On seeing Standard Bearer Munro being swept down river, Jack, who had already successfully made the crossing, jumped from his horse into the river without any hesitation in an attempt to intercept him and prevent him from being swept further away.

Local Galashiels motor engineer, Stewart Scott, had also dived into the water in another unsuccessful rescue attempt. While Jack had managed to already pull one female rider from the torrent of water, he could not get hold of the Standard Bearer.

Later he would recount how he believed he had almost reached him, but felt his own riding boots filling with water and starting to drag him under, leaving him with no choice but to get to the bank.

Both Jack and Mr Scott were later commended for bravery in their attempts at rescue. It was this same courage that Jack would be able to draw on over the last year of his life in his battle against cancer, before his death on August 28, at the age of 76.

It was in 1962 that Jack became a rep for the Vaux Brewery.

This was a position that saw he and Joyce spending their married life living in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

By the time of his retiral in 1980, Jack had become the firm’s Scottish sales manager.

He then started his own business as the licensee of four pubs – the Mayfield and Imperial in Hawick and two others in Wishaw.

The two Hawick establishments were run by Jack and Joyce themselves, although Jack was also the licence holder for a number of other pubs around Scotland, including ones in both Orkney and Shetland.

Jack retired from this second career in 1998 and this gave him more time to indulge a passion for golf, which saw him play on courses in Europe and the United States – the latter on more than 20 occasions.

A packed St Paul’s Parish Church last week heard the Rev Leslie Steele speak of Jack’s great love of life and people, as well as his sense of humour.

A keen singer himself, he would no doubt have enjoyed his great friend Alastair Waddell’s rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’ during the service.

Diagnosed with lung cancer and given just three months to live by doctors in August last year, Jack was determined to prove them wrong and survive to celebrate he and Joyce’s golden wedding aniversary on the 23rd of this month.

Sadly, Jack suffered a heart attack.

He leaves a loving family and a large circle of friends who will consider themselves privileged to have been able to count Jack Grierson as a friend.

Jack is survived by Joyce, children Alan and Carolyn, six grandchildren and his sister, Ella.