Selkirk butchers holds special place in world rugby’s history

Graham Waters and his wife Moira show Jack Waters' British Lions cap to Bryan Hoggan during last week's visit to Selkirk.  Photo  JOHN SMAIL
Graham Waters and his wife Moira show Jack Waters' British Lions cap to Bryan Hoggan during last week's visit to Selkirk. Photo JOHN SMAIL

The corner butcher’s shop of J. A. Waters & Sons on Selkirk’s High Street is probably best known for its award-winning haggis.

However, what many customers won’t know is the important place the family owned-firm holds in the history of world rugby.

The company was founded in 1911 by John Alexander Waters, who was later joined in the business by his two sons, Harry and Jack. Both were fine rugby players, with the younger of the two, Jack, going on to win 16 caps for Scotland and make 12 appearances for the British Lions on two overseas tours.

If anything, the shop’s rugby links became even stronger in 2007 when the business was taken over by former Selkirk 1st XV captain Darren Hoggan.

In 2011, to mark the 75th anniversary of Jack Waters’ selection for the British Lions’ 1936 tour of Argentina, Darren’s older brother Bryan assembled a special window display at the shop, comprising press cuttings and memorabilia relating to Jack’s remarkable rugby career.

During his research, Bryan discovered contact details for Jack’s nephew, Graham Waters, who now lives in Cheshire. The two men have kept in touch ever since.

Last year the British & Irish Lions issued commemorative, specially numbered caps to each of the 835 players to have represented the Lions since the first official tour to Australia in 1899.

“The first I heard about these caps,” said Bryan Hoggan, owner of Ettrick Valley Giftware, “was when another of Selkirk’s British Lions, Ronnie Cowan, came into my shop and told me how delighted and surprised he’d been to have received his Lions cap [Ronnie toured South Africa with the 1962 Lions].

“I wondered if anyone had received Jack Waters’ cap, so I contacted the British Lions Association [BLA] in Dublin. They didn’t know of any surviving relative, so I was able to tell them about Jack’s nephew, Graham Waters.”

After six months of correspondence to prove beyond doubt the authenticity of Graham’s family link, the crimson Lions cap was duly delivered in its beautiful presentation case to Graham at his Macclesfield home.

Last week Bryan Hoggan and Graham met for the first time, when Graham and his wife Moira were passing through Selkirk on their way home to Cheshire after visiting their grandchildren in Penicuik.

“It’s wonderful to finally meet Bryan,” said Graham, “and to show him Jack’s cap and thank him for the part he’s played in helping to secure it.”

Graham, a Souter, was himself a rugby player of note. After several seasons with Selkirk, he then played for Perthshire and Edinburgh Borderers, making three appearances for the Co-optimists. He packed down against five British Lions props – Hugh McLeod, Ian McLauchlan, Sandy Carmichael, Dave Rollo and David ‘Piggy’ Powell

“My father Harry was three years older than Jack, and both were very good players. However, my father had to cut short his playing days in order to run the business, and Jack always acknowledged that he wouldn’t have been able to have had such a successful rugby career if it hadn’t been for my father’s sacrifice.”

Graham has always taken an interest in his uncle’s exploits, and still has press cuttings and rugby memorabilia relating to his father’s and uncle’s rugby exploits. “Jack was an incredible athlete, not only winning the Powderhall Sprint but holding the Borders shot putt title as well.

“At 15 he became the youngest player ever to appear for the South. As well as being selected for two British Lions tours, he played no fewer than 22 times for the Barbarians – still the record for the most appearances by a Scottish player.”

Away from the rugby field, Graham says his uncle Jack was a shy person. “I remember bringing two touring teams to play at Philiphaugh, Jack came along to watch both matches, but he stood away from the crowd and stayed very much in the background.”

Graham and his wife Moira have three children and four grandchildren. Their oldest grandchild, Murray, is keeping the family’s rugby traditions alive by being selected for the Scotland under-16s tour to France next Easter.

So the next time you look into the Selkirk shop window of J. A. Waters & Sons, remember it’s not only the home of champion haggis ... it was once the lair of an extraordinary Lion.