Kelso rugby fan Mary now into her eighth decade of cheering on Kelso

Kelso Rugby Club supporter Mary Callander turned 86 last month, and that means she has now been watching games at Poynder Park for seven decades.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 7:10 pm
Mary Callander presenting a Kelso Sevens player of the tournament trophy to Watsonians’ Lewis Berg. Photo: Gavin Horsburgh

She started to follow the club in 1951 and has taken great pride over the years watching people close to her – such as her brother Bert Taylor, son Gary Callander and grandson Torrie Callander – represent Kelso.

“I was 16 when I first went down to Poynder Park to watch Kelso play and I remember those days well because there was a player called Jock Rae there,” Mary, surnamed Taylor prior to marrying her late husband Eck, recounted.

“He was the best friend of my boyfriend at the time who would later become my husband.

Sign up to our daily The Southern Reporter Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mary was there for Scotland's last match with fans present, their Six Nations game against France at Murrayfield last March. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

“We watched him for a good two or three years and then after he had finished, my brother Bert Taylor was playing for the team.

“He was a great athlete and won a lot of sprints in his time, so he played on the wing for Kelso, but unfortunately he broke his leg.

“There were some great players like Tom Laing, Roger Baird Snr and many more, while those early days were also brilliant for socialising and it was great to meet up with so many friends on matchdays.”

When Mary’s son Gary, 61, capped six times for Scotland between 1984 and 1988, began to play in Kelso’s sevens team, she and her husband used to travel all over to watch tournaments with Margaret and Davie Riddell.

Kelso's Poynder Park ground. Photo: Stuart Cobley

“We went all over the place to watch Gary playing sevens, including Twickenham and Hong Kong when he was playing for a Borders select team,” Mary, winner of the Scottish ladies’ sprint championship in 1952 and a relay-runner for Scotland, recalled.

“Hong Kong was something different and very exciting. Gary was young then, but he was good and was coming through the ranks quickly.

“Indeed, the whole Kelso sevens squad was very young – a lot of them 18 or 19 – but they were a fine side and they enjoyed playing together. They won a number of trophies and they could have run all day.

“I followed Kelso home and away with some great friends during that era and have wonderful memories.

“It was also great when Torrie came through to play in the first XV at Kelso and I watched him then and when he helped Watsonians to win the Kings of the Sevens trophy in 2009.”

Mary also used to travel to Murrayfield regularly to watch Scotland play and remembers vividly driving up to Edinburgh for test matches.

“We would watch Watsonians play Kelso in the morning at Myreside and then park the car at the west end and head along to Murrayfield for the games,” she said.

“I also went to Dublin and Cardiff quite a few times, and I was at the last Scotland match before lockdown came last year, against France on March 8.

“There are strong links between Kelso and France, and we got a bus up the road with some French people.

“Going back in time, in the 1980s it was a real thrill to watch Gary play for Scotland, and for him to also captain them was amazing.”

During season 2019-20, Mary was still attending Kelso pre-match lunches and games with her friend Jack Utterston and she always presents the player of the tournament award at the Kelso Sevens.

“I have been very lucky over the years. Rugby has been good to me because I have been able to watch some brilliant players represent Kelso and then go on and play for Scotland,” she said.

“The biggest thing I have taken away from rugby has been the friendships I have made at the club, along with the great trips I went on, whether just to away club matches or further afield following the national team.

“A lot of those friends made through rugby have passed away now, but those of us still here remember the good times.

“Fingers crossed, club rugby can get back to normal for season 2021-22 and I can get back down to Poynder Park once again and cheer the boys on again.”