Ceremony caps memorable day as Scottish Rugby honours Armistice
Always a poignant event in the Scottish Rugby calendar, our Armistice Service offers the opportunity to pay respects to the Scotland internationalists who did not return from duty in conflict.
Our Memorial lists some 46 names to have given their lives over the years, in conflicts from the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century and in both World Wars. We remember the sacrifice made by so many of our rugby clubs and the wider communities throughout Scotland when our players signed up in their thousands and so many did not return.
This year’s Armistice service provided added emotion as it was followed by a capping ceremony to honour some of those who, through completion of Scottish Rugby’s recent retrospective capping initiative, wore the thistle with pride and distinction in the Services or Victory internationals during and after the Second World War.
With this year representing the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Scottish Rugby Union, we wanted to look afresh at our history and recognise the rich and enduring contribution those players have made to our game.
In a timeframe spanning the 1942 Services International between Scotland and England at Inverleith (the home team importantly winning 21-6!) up until a 1998 Rugby World Cup qualifier against Spain, in August of this year the Scottish Rugby Union Custodian Board ratified an initial 57 identified players, with 18 more following last month.
Today’s capping ceremony incorporated 16 of those players who were part of teams between 1942 and 1946, with around 100 friends and family in attendance as SRU President Colin Rigby and Scotland’s most prolific points scorer, Chris Paterson, narrated proceedings.
After collecting Scotland cap 1157 on behalf of his father Jock, Derrick McClure said: “It’s a real honour and it would have meant an awful lot to my Dad. He was not only a great rugby player, he was a fantastic enthusiast for the game. He kept playing for Ayr until he was nearly 60!”
Ethne Cumming, who took receipt of her father Eric Hunter’s Scotland cap, said: “The whole day’s been beautiful. We live in Arran and had a terrible job getting here because the ferries were all broken, but it’s been worth every single minute. It’s been far better than I thought it was going to be. The whole ceremony was very emotional and very well done.
Her son Robbie, who laid a wreath at the earlier Armistice service, added: “A wonderful day, really emotional and well done Scottish Rugby Union for arranging this for everybody because although these guys are long since deceased, it’s a wonderful thing for these families to come here and be rewarded with these caps.”
Players retrospectively capped from the 1969-1998 era will be invited to a capping ceremony in February 2024.
Players who represented Scotland Women and Scotland’s referees who took charge of internationals in the men’s and women’s games will also be the subject of a similar research project.
Note: Given our retrospective caps initiative, we are finalising research, but we believe we will be adding a 16th name to that Second World War roll of honour, Lieutenant J M Blair, who played at scrum-half in the Services International at Inverleith on 27 February 1943 and who, it would seem, died of his wounds in Normandy in July 1944.