Obituary: Gordon Waddell, rugby player and businessman
Born: 12 April, 1937, in Glasgow. Died: 13 August, 2012, in London, aged 75.
In a remarkable rugby career, Gordon Waddell won 18 caps for Scotland and was captain on five occasions between 1957 and 1962, toured twice with the British Lions and often played for such representative sides as the Barbarians.
He also won three Blues for Cambridge – but for knee injuries it would have been four. He was a fleet-footed stand-off who could read a game with a keen authority and his kicking was accurate and totally reliable.
Waddell proved an excellent tactician and was often the instigator of tries. For example, he delivered a perfect pass to George Stevenson to gain a valuable try against France in 1958 and to Norman Bruce against Wales in 1959.
In 1962, at Cardiff Arms Park an immaculately placed “up-and-under” by Waddell was snaffled up by the second row forward Franz ten Boss who scored a vital try for the Scots – their first victory at the Arms Park in two decades.
Ken Scotland, a contemporary and another Scottish rugby legend, told The Scotsman: “Gordon and I first played together for the Scottish Schools in 1954. We then were in the same teams at Cambridge, Scotland and the Lions.
“He had an ability to control and manage a game helping his forwards with territorial kicking. But I think Gordon was under-rated as a runner with the ball. He was probably at his peak at Cambridge before his knees gave him problems.”
Gordon Herbert Waddell was the son of a distinguished Scottish rugby player and Glasgow stockbroker, Herbert Waddell. He attended St Mary’s Melrose and Fettes then Cambridge University and did an MBA at Stanford University.
It was at Fettes that Waddell showed the talent for sports that was to define his life.
He was an outstanding member of the Fettes 1st XV who went for five seasons in the mid-1950s without being defeated by any Scottish school. Waddell was selected while doing national service in the Royal Marines to play in the Calcutta Cup in 1957.
There was some controversy over the selection as his father was a senior official with the Scottish Rugby Union.
Waddell twice toured with the British Isles. He went to New Zealand in 1959 when university examinations and injury limited his appearances to ten (including scoring seven tries) and South Africa in 1962, when his 12 appearances included the first test and a total of 17 points. He remains the only Scottish fly half to be a double Lion.
It was while in South Africa that Waddell met his first wife Mary Oppenheimer, daughter of Harry Oppenheimer, the country’s wealthiest man who controlled such international companies as De Beers and Anglo-American Investments.
The marriage was a major social event in Johannesburg, with event the traffic being stopped. But the marriage did not last.
Harry Oppenheimer, nonetheless, recognised in Waddell an astute business mind and retained him in his employ and Waddell rose to major international posts within the organisation.
Waddell, for example, became an important figure in De Beers negotiating the international price of diamonds in the face of fierce competition from the Soviets. In the 1960s, he held highly secret negotiations in Moscow – despite being spotted at the Bolshoi – to determine a new way of establishing the world price of diamonds.
Waddell also played a significant part in the anti-Apartheid movement. He was elected to the South African Parliament in 1974, representing the Progressive Party and as an MP joined the campaigning Helen Suzman with Waddell speaking on economic affairs for the party. He was a strong and early supporter of Nelson Mandela. In a speech in 1975, Waddell proclaimed, “We cannot start to find a solution unless Mandela is part of the process.”
He married Kathy Gallaher, also of South Africa, in 1973 and for a time the family lived in Kelso.
Waddell joined the Scottish business community and sat on the boards of several investment trusts: Gartmore Scotland Investment Trust, Scottish National Trust and London and Strathclyde Trust as well as Shanks Group and Cadbury Schweppes.
Waddell retained his competitive nature to the end despite poor health. He was unable to attend the 50th anniversary dinner of the all-conquering Cambridge XV in 2011.
Scotland remembers his friend with much affection: “Gordon was a very good and loyal friend.
“We became close when we travelled up from Cambridge for trials and international matches. We used to have much fun working out scissors movements and dummies on those journeys. Gordon, invariably jovial, cheerful and friendly, had a shrewd understanding of the game.
“He wore the Scottish jersey with immense pride.”
Gordon Waddell, who was a keen golfer and a member at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, and Muirfield, in East Lothian, is survived by his wife Kathy and their children Inca, the actress Justine, and Jamie, along with Victoria and Rebecca from his first marriage.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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