Obit: Tom Purves, Galashiels

Tom Purves  for Obituary
Tom Purves for Obituary

Over the decades, Gala Rugby Club has produced many players, coaches and administrators who have had a major impact on the game.

Players of the calibre of ex-Scotland captains Peter Brown and Jim Aitken, together with the likes of Gregor Townsend, Chris and Duncan Paterson; coaches such as Johnny Gray, and administrators and referees like Bob Burrell.

And past president and life member Tom Purves, who died earlier this month aged 91, deserves to be listed among them.

One of the famous Netherdale club’s greatest servants, Tom had an immense impact on rugby in his home town and the wider Borders.

Also a past president and life member of Gala YM, Tom was instrumental in ensuring rugby survived in the town during the war and flourished afterwards.

By 1940, and a keen player himself, Tom was helping organise the Gala Juniors side and after being demobbed in 1946, following war service as a Lancaster bomber navigator, he returned to the town and Gala Juniors, who eventually took the name Gala YM.

He captained Gala YM and was president from 1953 to 1979 before becoming a life member in 1980.

He was invited in 1979 to be vice-president of Gala RFC and went on to become president from 1981-83 . He was also honoured as a life member.

A former president of the Border League and Scottish Borders Club, he served on the South District Union, Gala Junior Rugby Council and the Gala Sports Lottery.

Sadly, Tom was never able to turn out for the Maroons himself, despite being named three times in the club’s senior side. His first missed his chance was while on leave from the RAF. He was recalled early, along with all aircrews. The second was a Dunfermline fixture which was postponed, while the third occasion saw Tom pull a muscle in training before the game.

Tom managed to find time for other sporting interests, being a former president of Gala Bowling Club and giving 30 years’ service to Ettrick & Lauderdale Sports Council, including five years as chairman. And it was in 2005 that Tom received one of the highest honours in Borders sport, when he was presented with the Scottish Association of Local Sports Councils/sportscotland award for his contribution to sport in the district. Born in December 1923, Tom left school in 1938 to start work with local tailor Hepworth’s and later became an apprentice with the firm of William Irvine painters.

Aged 18, he volunteered for the RAF and was called up in the summer of 1943 for training in South Africa as a navigator. He was demobbed in 1946 after serving in Lancaster bombers with No. 44 Squadron.

It was in 1952 that Tom married Myra Purves, and they went on to have two children – Neil and Judith.

In the spring of 1955, Tom joined the taxi hire department of Adam Purves & Son in Galashiels, spending nine years there before transferring to its sales department in 1964.

Made redundant in 1982, he continued in car sales in Edinburgh and Hawick until 1986, when he joined the software distribution department of McQueen Ltd – now Sykes. He eventually moved to its business services department until retiring in 1990.

Other interests saw him president of Galashiels Speakers’ Club and Gala Burns Club. A past manager and elder of St Aidan’s Church, it was Tom who chaired the committee which oversaw the merger of St Cuthbert’s and Ladhope churches to create St Aidan’s in the late 1970s and in 1998 he was made convenor of Galashiels Local Relief Fund.

And through all these years of service, Tom was never slow to praise Myra, Neil and Judith for their support.

Tom is survived by his children, their partners and his grandson, and they, Border 
rugby and Galashiels are all the poorer for his passing.