Tom Brown – a superb Selkirk sportsman

Few sportsmen can have left such an enduring legacy in their own community as Selkirk’s Tom Brown, who died on Sunday at the age of 90.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 2:20 pm
Selkirk’s 1953 team which won the Scottish Championship and Border League double, with Tom Brown second from left in the back row.

Recalling that famous game, Brown was typically modest about his contribution, writes John Smail.

“I remember Davy Walker kicked the ball into the middle of the field. I picked it up, side-stepped my opponent and dropped a goal.

“It was in front of the posts and quite simple, really. I certainly didn’t realise it was going to be as important as it was.”

Selkirk’s 1 st XI won the Border League title in 1965. Tom Brown, who captained the side, is second from left in the front row.

Selkirk’s 3-0 victory over Gala was followed by a 3-0 win against Jed-Forest, securing the Philiphaugh club a Scottish Championship and Border League double.

One spectator at Philiphaugh that night was Bert Duffy, who went on to captain Selkirk and rise to become president of the Scottish Rugby Union. “I remember Tom’s drop-goal very well, with the huge crowd giving out a mighty roar when it went over,” he said.

“Tom was a natural, no matter what the sport, and you couldn’t meet a more modest or unassuming guy.

“ He always took a keen interest in the club and would stop and have a chat about rugby whenever we met.”

A strong-running, skilful centre, Brown also won selection for a crack South district side bristling with Scottish internationalists, including Robin Chisholm (Melrose), Hawick’s Jack Hegarty and Hughie McLeod, as well as Dod Burrell (Gala) and Selkirk’s own Jock King and Jim Inglis.

Brown’s rugby career was ended prematurely when a back injury sustained in a match against Hawick forced him to hang up his boots while still in his early 20s.

In the summer months, he would hop over the Philiphaugh fence to play cricket for Selkirk, where he made a massive contribution to the local club’s fortunes in a 42-year playing career.

An unerringly accurate fast bowler and a fine stroke-player, Brown was 12th man when Scotland took on the Pakistan Eaglets at Philiphaugh in a three-day match in July 1963.

Although taking the field several times as a replacement fielder, he was not awarded the international cap many thought he deserved.

His wife Liz acted as Selkirk’s official scorer over many years, having taken over the role from Wat Henderson. She was succeeded by the couple’s son, Derek.

Making his senior debut as a teenager in 1949, Tom Brown’s best season for Selkirk came in 1959, when he took 101 wickets and scored 1174 runs.

He went on to take over 1500 wickets for the club and, at the time he stopped playing in 1984, was the 10th highest wicket-taker in the history of Scottish cricket.

His final match at Philiphaugh came at the age of 63 when playing for the 2nd XI against Kelso 2nds in August 1992. He opened the innings and scored a half-century.

Also playing in the home team that day was his son, Derek. Selkirk won the game – the perfect end to a magnificent career.

Tom captained Selkirk 11 times and was skipper of the South district team for several seasons. His qualities as a captain shone as soon as he led his players on to the pitch.

“Tom was a great competitor,” said former team-mate Bobby Wilson. “He would never admit defeat until the last ball was bowled and always led by example. Out in the field, he just needed to give you a look and you always did as you were told!”

Another Selkirk team-mate, Malcolm Ford, added: “Tom was the most respected captain I ever played under.

“He and Ronnie Simpson epitomised everything that Selkirk Cricket Club stands for and always played the game in the right spirit.”

As well as being appointed a life member of Selkirk Cricket Club, Tom was also a life member of Ettrick Forest Bowling Club and was an equally gifted carpet bowler, having been a member of boththe Heatherlie and Lindean clubs, winning numerous tournaments over the years.

Thomas Preston Brown was born at Longcroft Farm, Lauder, on August 26, 1929 to George Brown and his wife Helen (née Middlemas).

A shepherd at Longcroft, George Brown was also a champion sheepdog handler and, in the early 1930s, purchased Lindean Moor Farm, near Selkirk, where he continued to breed and train collies.

Tom attended Lindean Primary School, later moving up to Selkirk Public School, which he left at 14 to work on his father’s farm, as a result of which he was excused National Service.

He took up a sales post with local haulier R. G. Stark, after which he became South of Scotland sales representative for Hadfields Fertilisers and then Norsk Hydro Fertilisers following a takeover.

After taking early retirement, he worked as a caretaker, gardener and driver for Lady Askew at Sprouston.

At Kirkhope Parish Church in 1952, Brown married Elizabeth (Liz) Grieve, a farmer’s daughter from Helmburn, Ettrickbridge. The couple had five children – Derek, Mary, Linda, Carol and Susan.

The family lived in Selkirk’s Ettrick Terrace, with Tom and Liz moving to St Boswells in their later years. Tom was predeceased by Liz in 2008.

A member of Selkirk Merchant Company, Brown was appointed its Standard Bearer for the 1972 Common Riding, with Liz acting as his lady busser.

“Tom was a lovely man,” said Selkirk Rugby Club vice-president Jim Harold.

“Everyone at Philiphaugh is extremely saddened by his passing. He was a great ambassador for the club and, undoubtedly, one of its finest players.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Selkirk Cricket Club chairman Roger Arnold.

“The contribution he made to the club, both on and off the field, was incredible. He was an inspiration to everyone and will be sorely missed.”

Mr Brown is survived by his five children, 10 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

He was father-in-law to Alison, Billy and Barrie.

Although the funeral is private, at 12.30pm tomorrow (Friday), his hearse will leave The Toll at Selkirk and travel up Bleachfield Road to Scotts Place, pausing at Ettrick Forest Bowling Club,before going along the High Street and leaving Selkirk via Ettrick Terrace for the private interment in Mertoun Cemetery.