Memory of tragic Hawick teenager lives on 10 years after fatal car crash

Richard Wilkinson playing for Hawick Wanderers.
Richard Wilkinson playing for Hawick Wanderers.

A decade after his tragic death, family and friends of a teenage rugby ace from Hawick have gathered to remember him and ponder on what he could have gone on to achieve in the game he loved.

Richard Wilkinson, considered a player of huge potential, was just 17 when he lost his life in a car accident on the way back from playing in a sevens tournament for club side Hawick Wanderers on April 4, 2009.

Emily Wilkinson with with mum Sandra and dad Tommy.

Emily Wilkinson with with mum Sandra and dad Tommy.

Also in the car that day was his best pal and teammate Stuart Hogg.

Scotland favourite Hogg has always maintained that Richard had enough talent to be playing alongside him on the international stage today.

That was a theme echoed when more than 100 of Richard’s friends, family and former teammates gathered at the Volunteer Park clubrooms in Hawick for a fundraiser in his memory, yielding more than £4,400 for the charities Brake and Hearts and Balls.

The organiser was his younger sister Emily, 17, and she said: “It was a very emotional night. Everyone was thinking what he could have gone on to achieve, how he could have taken his rugby career so much further.

Emily with brother Matthew.

Emily with brother Matthew.

“Thinking about that got people tearful, but it was also a happy night remembering him.”

Rugby played a massive part in Richard’s life.

He was a consistent performer as a stand-off in the 15-a-side game and played sevens too.

Emily explained just how much the sport meant to her elder brother, saying: “He played every Saturday and never wanted to miss a game.

Hawick's Stuart Hogg in action for Glasgow Warriors. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Hawick's Stuart Hogg in action for Glasgow Warriors. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

“It wasn’t just a hobby to Richard – it was something he really wanted to take further and potentially make a career from but sadly never got the chance to do so.”

Glasgow Warrior Hogg, now on 67 Scotland caps, has never shied away from talking about the car crash and has featured in a number of road safety initiatives since the accident.

The 26-year-old’s ‘W’ celebration in Richard’s memory has been a trademark of his game since he turned professional, and Emily said that means a lot to her family.

It was, therefore, appropriate that it was Hogg who led the tributes to mark a decade since his pal’s passing.

On Thursday, exactly 10 years after the accident claimed Richard’s life, he took to social media to pay his respects by saying: “10 years on and not a day goes by that we don’t all think about you.

“Hope we are doing you proud, pal. Love you.”

Emily organised a fun race night featuring mechanical pigs to raise funds for causes close to her family’s heart.

She added: “My mum and dad have been to quite a few race nights in the past.

“We live on a pig farm, and I was keen to do something a bit different, so I thought a pig race night would be the best idea.

“When Richard died, both charities offered us a lot of support as we grieved.

“Brake works with communities and local organisations to promote road safety and Hearts and Balls provides assistance to the families of rugby players after adversity.

“It was great to have such a big mix of people from different backgrounds who knew Richard, so to enjoy their company and listen to their memories was quite humbling.”

Richard, of Newmill on Slitrig, was a front-seat passenger in a Peugeot 306 GTI which went out of control on the A698 Jedburgh road.

He had been playing for his club at Kelso Harlequins’ semi-junior sevens at Poynder Park and was heading for a night out in Selkirk with fellow players at the time.

An under-16s rugby sevens tournament in Richard’s memory is being held by Hawick Albion at the town’s Volunteer Park tomorrow, April 12, starting at 6pm.