HAWICK RFC led the tributes to Hugh McLeod yesterday after the death of one of Scotland’s most widely respected internationals.
President Rory Bannerman spoke of McLeod as being “irreplaceable” while former Scotland and British and Irish Lions centre Jim Renwick admitted news of McLeod’s death at the age of 81 had shocked the Borders town.
“He is a huge loss to our club but also to Scottish rugby,” said Bannerman. “He was a man that set the standard for all those who came after him both with Hawick and Scotland by doing everything in a professional manner, developing player skills, fitness and their approach to the sport, and bringing great ideas from his touring with the Lions back into Scottish rugby.
“He is irreplaceable. He won 40 caps for Scotland at a time when it was unknown to reach that figure because it would take so many years and so much consistency in a Test environment he came into where Scotland were losing regularly.
“Hugh was a great figure around our club, and he had a huge affection for the club, and tried always to promote Hawick rugby, and Scottish rugby. It is impossible to describe how much of a loss he will be to us as a person and a supporter.”
In addition to those Scotland caps, McLeod started all six British and Irish Lions Tests on the 1955 and 1959 tours, playing from the first match to the last on the latter four-month tour in Australia and New Zealand and finishing with a try and two conversions in his final game en route home against Eastern Canada.
He was credited with having brought back a professional ethos and understanding of the game with others from New Zealand and South Africa, in particular, which was to underpin the rise of Hawick into the foremost side in Scotland through the 1970s.
McLeod requested a private funeral, but Hawick will work with his son, Roddy, and other relatives on a memorial event at the club. The Hawick sevens squad will wear black armbands in Saturday’s Borders sevens circuit finale, at Jed-Forest, the abbreviated game having been a great passion of McLeod’s.
Renwick commented: “Hughie’s death is a shock to us all in the town because he was the kind of guy you think will go on forever.
“He was a naturally tough guy, a fantastic trainer who played a bit of sevens and even did a bit of goal-kicking. He was pretty direct and said what he thought and wasn’t a guy to be messed with. His legacy at this club is huge.
“I remember a story that Billy Hunter told me about playing with Hughie. Billy was always turning up late for training and Hughie wasn’t best pleased. Billy protested one night that he was working at the skinworks and finished at 6pm and with training starting at half past he struggled to get down in time for the start.
“Well, the next day he gets home from work and there’s a bike at his door. Hughie had got it for him. That summed him up. No excuses.”
The SRU lowered the flag above Murrayfield Stadium to half-mast yesterday.
The SRU stated: “Last November, Scottish Rugby had the great privilege to induct Hugh McLeod into its Hall of Fame to recognise his tremendous contribution to the rich history of our game. He is one of only 22 to be honoured in this way.
“Scottish Rugby wishes to extend its sincere sympathies to all Hugh’s family and friends.”