Obituary: John Alexander Davidson, former rugby player

John Alexander Davidson, Waid Academy's only Scottish rugby internationalist. Picture: Contributed
John Alexander Davidson, Waid Academy's only Scottish rugby internationalist. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 6 August 1932 in Avoch, Ross-shire. Died: 22 January, 2016, in St Monans, Fife, aged 83.

The world of Scottish rugby has been saddened to learn of the death of Jock Davidson who played three times for his country in 1959-60 and who was one of the few players in that era to play his rugby for clubs in several different countries.

It was his local club, Waid Academy FPs, that he was most associated with, and who made him a Life Member as the only internationalist that the Anstruther club – 130 years old next year – has ever produced.

John Alexander Davidson, known as Jock, was born in the Moray Firth harbour village of Avoch on the Black Isle in the historic county of Ross-Shire in 1932.

At a young age, Davidson moved with his family to another harbour village, St Monans in Fife, his father’s home village. He received his education at Waid Academy in Anstruther, then as now a school with a strong rugby-playing tradition.

The Second World War interrupted rugby across the UK, but the Academy was able to maintain rugby training through its PE syllabus, and Davidson came under the guidance of a renowned coach, Joey Hughes, the school’s PE master.

After completing his secondary education, Davidson pursued engineering as a profession, and combined his studies with playing, usually at No 8. A strapping individual standing over 6ft 2ins tall, Davidson combined rugged skills and natural athleticism.

As with so many rugby careers at that time, National Service interrupted, but it enabled Davidson to claim some unique honours in the period 1952-54. While serving with the RAF in Hong Kong, he not only captained the RAF Hong Kong XV but also turned out for the Hong Kong Colony against Fiji.

It was a foretaste of international rugby to come for Davidson. Returning to the UK, Davidson moves south and played first for Penryn and Wasps before spending three seasons with London Scottish.

In the 1957-8 season he was selected for the North of Scotland, effectively the North and Midlands, against Australia at Linksfield in Aberdeen. The Wallabies were in the midst of a tour of Britain, Ireland, France and Canada and the match in Aberdeen ended in a narrow 6-3 defeat for North. It was played four days before the full international at Murrayfield which Scotland won 12-8, and it may well have been that the selectors already had their eye on Davidson.

He certainly showed up well in the international trials, but injury was to plague him at this time.

He won the first of his full caps on 21 March, 1959, against England at Twickenham, playing at No. 8. Also making his international debut that day was a legendary figure of North and Midlands rugby, David Rollo of Howe of Fife, while the team included flying winger Arthur Smith, stand-off and captain Gordon Waddell, British Lions prop Hugh Mcleod, and full-back Ken Scotland while alongside him at flanker was future SRU president Adam Robson.

It was Scotland’s last match in the Five Nations that year, having lost to France and Ireland while beating Wales at Murrayfield 6-5.

Davidson showed up well in defence in particular as the Scots battled to a 3-3 draw which nevertheless was insufficient to stop them gaining the Wooden Spoon.

Business brought him back to Scotland where he played for Edinburgh Wanderers – later amalgamated into Murrayfield Wanderers – and it was while playing for them that he gained his second and third caps.

Though he did not take part in the first two matches in the 1960 Five Nations, Davidson followed up his debut by participating in Scotland’s first win in Dublin in 27 years, the famous 6-5 victory at Lansdowne Road on 27 February.

His third and final cap came in the 12-21 loss to England at Murrayfield on 19 March, 1960.

Davidson’s work as an engineer took him to France where he played for Racing Club Chalonnais in Chalon Sur Saone, making this the third country where he had played top class rugby.

Among his team-mates and good friends in Chalon was Michel Vannier, the 43-times capped French full-back. Davidson went on to play for Racing Club in Paris.

Living in retirement in St Monans, he was a popular figure at the Waid Academy FP club in Anstruther and was a regular supporter.

He was one of the guests at the club’s 125th anniversary dinner in 2012.

A modest man, often it was only after he had been speaking to visitors that club members would have to inform them that they had been in the presence of a man who had played for his country.

Jock Davidson is survived by his wife Jacqueline, son Jack-Paul, grandchildren Kyla and Matt and sister Marjory.