Tributes paid to Selkirk rugby referee Billy Bryson after death at age of 84

Rugby refereeing in the Borders has lost one of its leading lights following the death of Selkirk’s Billy Bryson.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 8:18 am
Late Selkirk rugby referee Billy Bryson

Billy died in the Borders General Hospital at Melrose on Saturday, January 9, at the age of 84.

A life-long interest in rugby union saw Billy quickly rise up through the refereeing ranks, soon becoming one of the Borders’ most senior whistlers.

After injury curtailed his career on the pitch, he switched his energies to supporting referees in an administrative role.

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A founder member of the Border Rugby Referees’ Society in 1962, Billy was widely respected in sporting circles throughout the country.

“Billy was the face of the society for 30 years or more,” said Bill Calder, a former chairman of the society.

“As the organisation’s appointments secretary, he acted as the interface between clubs and referees and did sterling work.

“He was in every sense the society’s ambassador during that time.

“He also had a very successful track record when it came to negotiating with sponsors, greatly helping to improve the lot of all Border rugby referees.”

As well as playing a pivotal role in ensuring the region’s refereeing requirements were met, Billy served for many years on Selkirk Rugby Club’s general committee and was also its fixtures secretary for a time.

“Billy will be a big miss at Philiphaugh,” said club chairman Dennis Henderson.

“He was always willing to lend a hand, no matter how onerous the task.”

Billy was born in Selkirk on September 19, 1936, to Thomas Bryson, a weaver in a local mill, and his wife Grace. He had an elder sister, Charlotte, and a younger brother, Douglas.

Billy attended Philiphaugh Primary and then Selkirk High School and, on leaving, enrolled as an apprentice with local painter Willie Nichol.

He then joined the Selkirk painting and decorating firm of Heatlie and Scott, later working with Melrose-based company Michael Vee Design.

From 1957 to 1959 Billy undertook national service, serving as a corporal with the Cameronians in the regiment’s motor transport platoon. His tours of duty took him to Kenya and Oman.

In 1960, shortly after returning to the Borders upon completion of his stint in the armed forces, Billy married Irene Todd, from Galashiels, and the couple were soon blessed with a daughter, Susan, born in 1962.

After graduating from Bath University with a BSc in pharmacology, Susan gained a PhD in the same subject at Strathclyde University, rising to become executive director and global head of medical writing with drug development company Covance.

Billy was extremely proud of her and her son Craig, his grandson, who, after qualifying as a doctor, now works in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In retirement Billy became a keen golfer, taking out a membership at the Woll Golf Club at Ashkirk. There he enjoyed playing with a regular group of friends, as well as organising numerous competitions.

After suffering a small stroke in 2016, Billy moved into Mungo Park Court in Selkirk the following year, later transferring to Galashiels Nursing Home.

Billy, predeceased by Irene in 1991, will be interred at Selkirk’s Shawpark Cemetery this Thursday, January 21, at 1.30pm.

His cortège will pass along Selkirk High Street before arriving at the cemetery.

Friends wishing to attend the graveside service are asked to contact Susan via email at [email protected]

“Selkirk Rugby Club wishes to extend its condolences to Susan and the family,” said a spokesperson for the club.