STALWART rugby sevens supporter Jack Dun could be heading for the record books as one of the sport’s most dedicated fans.
The pensioner has attended the Melrose Sevens tournament an incredible 71 times as a spectator, referee and official – and will chalk up his 72nd attendance next month.
Jack, 86, who lives a few hundred yards from the Greenyards ground where the fast-paced tournament is played each year, says: “Nothing could keep me away – it’s the highlight of my year. There is a real buzz round the whole town and there can hardly be anyone in this area that does not have some kind of connection to the Melrose Sevens.”
Jack is counting the days until the 2012 Aberdeen Asset Management Melrose Sevens, on April 14. Melrose, which gave birth to rugby sevens 129 years ago, is home to 2,000 people, but plays host to more than 10,000 fans during the tournament. Teams from all over the Borders and the UK will line up at the event, alongside Singapore, Hong Kong Scottish, London Scottish and Bay of Plenty from New Zealand, .
Jack, a retired agricultural seedsman, watched the Melrose Sevens tournament as a youngster, and pulled on the black and yellow jersey of his beloved team for the first time in 1946. He only played in three games before he was posted to Bombay in India with the 2nd Border Regiment.
“As soon as I got home I wanted to get back playing for Melrose,” said Jack. “There weren’t any trials or talent scouts – you just turned up at the ground for training and if you were good enough you got picked.
“I played at scrum-half, for eight seasons for Melrose – as captain in my last season. We won the unofficial championship in 1952 – now known as the Scottish League Championship – and we won the Borders League twice.
“When my playing days were over, I decided to become a referee. I did that for 17 years and thoroughly enjoyed still being able to play such an active role in the Melrose Sevens.
“I joined the Melrose Sevens committee 36 years ago, and was put in charge of the referees because of all the years of experience that I had. That’s still what I do, though I’m now second in charge of the referees.”
Rugby sevens was invented by Melrose Rugby Club duo Ned Haig and David Sanderson in 1883. Played at a much more frantic pace than its big brother, the seven-a-side version is seven minutes in each half with 60-second break.
Teams from all over the world clamour to take part in the Melrose tournament. Like Jack, thousands of fans make the annual pilgrimage to the Greenyards to watch, while hundreds of thousands more watch live on BBC television.
“I have been a rugby fan all my life,” Jack added. “I’m incredibly passionate about the Melrose Sevens. I am extremely proud to have such a long association and I intend to keep being part of it for a long time to come.”
Tickets for this family event are available via the website www.melrose7s.com.