Borders rugby club do it by the book to mark their 150th anniversary
Titled Voices of Hawick Rugby, that 392-page book, co-edited by club president Ian Landles and fellow local historian Murray Watson, was given a launch attended by 120 past and present players and officials at the Greens’ Mansfield Park home ground last Wednesday night.
“With written contributions and oral history interviews from 172 people, the book is a treasure trove of stories that help explain what has made Hawick such a successful rugby club,” said Landles.
“We gave our contributors carte blanche to share their personal memories and narratives of what they considered appropriate.
“The result is a unique insight into what has made the club tick – the highs and lows, the passion, the commitment, the hard work, the fun, the humour and the lasting friendships.”
Among those telling tales of the Greens in days gone by are ex-rugby and cricket international Norman Davidson and former Scotland scrum-half and Southern Reporter sports editor Greig Oliver, killed in a paragliding accident in South Africa in July.
Recalling sourcing their contributions, Landles told us: “The story that took the most getting was Norman Davidson’s.
“He was a double internationalist, having played cricket as well as rugby for Scotland just after the Second World War.
“He’s living in New Zealand now and he’s 92 but we managed to track him down and he sent us a very vivid memory of playing at Jed Sevens back in the day. That was a really special one.
“The other story that stands out, poignantly, is Greig Oliver’s.”
Watson added: “Without question, Hawick are one of the most consistently successful rugby clubs in the world.
“Our contributors reveal what brought the club success on the pitch, but we also hear from an army of committed volunteers behind the scenes who kept them there and overcame adversity such as the financial problems that arrived when the game went professional and, more recently, the problems of flooding.”
Landles and Watson began work on the book during the coronavirus lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 pandemic, forcing them to interview some of their scores contributors from all over Scotland and as far afield as Canada and New Zealand by video-call rather than in person, with others sending written pieces.
“The oral history approach adopted encouraged the interviewees to reminisce and talk about whatever they considered relevant,” explained Watson.
“The result of this approach was a broad diversity in the range of topics raised, but at the same time, similar themes and issues were raised time and again.
“It soon emerged that Voices of Hawick Rugby was much more than a history of the rugby club – it was about their people and community and the role rugby has played in making Hawick such a special place.”
Looking back over last week’s launch, Landles added: “It went very well. It was quite an emotional occasion.
“The real thing that came out of it was the pride and emotion that come with pulling on the green jersey.
“We had five readings from the book and Kenny McCartney in particular was very emotional reading his bit from the book about playing for the great Hawick sides of the 1970s.”
The night’s other readers were Keith Cunningham, Rob Cowie, Gary Alexander, Evelyn Chelley and Mackie McEwan and Henry Douglas sang a song.
The book, given a print run of 1,000, was produced by Richardson and Son in Hawick.
Priced at £25, it’s available from the club shop, Dorward’s gift shop and estate agent Bannerman Burke in Hawick High Street and ILF Imaging in the town’s Howegate or by mail order from Landles, for £4 more, by emailing [email protected]