Obituary: Dougie Morgan, influential and successful Scottish rugby internationalist, coach and manager

Dougie Morgan, rugby player, coach and manager. Born: 9 March, 1947. Died: 4 April, 2020, aged 73

Dougie Morgan has died at the age of 73
Dougie Morgan has died at the age of 73

Dougie Morgan, who has died aged 73, was a major figure in Scottish rugby over many years and made an outstanding contribution as player, coach and manager at both club and international level.

A skilful, combative scrum- half, he was capped 21 times for Scotland between 1973 and ’78 and was captain during the Five Nations’ Championship in his final season. In 1977 he toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions playing 13 matches including two Test appearances and also represented the Barbarians and Co-optimists several times.

At club level his career spanned almost 20 years, initially with Melville College FPs and then from 1973 with Stewart’s Melville FPs, following the clubs’ amalgamation. In addition to his prowess at the 15-a-side game he excelled at Sevens and was central to many Stew-Mel triumphs, including the prestigious Melrose and Middlesex tournaments.

Underscoring his success was a deep love of rugby allied to an unparalleled will to win, losing being alien to his vocabulary. An expert kicker, he constantly sought to gain an edge over his opposite number. Thorough knowledge of the game and effective communication skills helped fashion his coaching career from club and district to national level before assuming managerial posts with Scotland.

He was also a talented cricketer who could have aspired to a Scottish cap had rugby not become his priority. An excellent all-rounder for Melville and Stew-Mel, he was 12th man for Scotland at Lords against the MCC in 1968, once notched a record 154no in the East League and also represented Scotland Colts, Scottish Cricket’s President’s XI and East of Scotland.

Douglas Waugh Morgan was born in Edinburgh, eldest of three sons of George and Catherine nee Lamb. Younger brothers Alastair and Colin also became accomplished rugby players with all brought up in a rugby-oriented household. Father George, company secretary of Jenner’s department store for almost 40 years, had also been a scrum-half for Melville FPs and Edinburgh. The family lived in the Duddingston area and between 1952 and ’65, Dougie attended Melville College where he shone at sport and was head boy.

He was in the 1st XV for three seasons, initially at fullback before switching to scrum-half and was captain in his final year. The same year he also captained the cricket and hockey XIs and won awards for swimming and athletics, a sporting polymath. To burnish the accolade further, he later became a single handicap golfer as a member of Royal Burgess, having begun playing during North Berwick family holidays.

At school he received encouragement from games masters Bob Fleming and future international referee Jake Young. His father’s enthusiasm for the game and knowledge of the position he imparted also furthered Dougie’s development.

After school he joined the FPs for whom he soon became a mainstay of the 1st XV. Although not a one-man team, he was undoubtedly the star of the show in an under-performing side. Loyalty kept him at Ferryfield rather than leaving for better prospects elsewhere with his performances leading to selection for Edinburgh in the late ‘60s. His tenacious displays led to captaincy of the combined Edinburgh/Glasgow team against the All Blacks in 1972 followed by his international debut against Wales at Murrayfield a year later. Earning a cap while playing in a weak club side was eloquent of the lofty standard of his own play. In direct opposition that day was Gareth Edwards, the world’s best scrum-half whom he harried relentlessly to help secure a memorable victory.

After the Stew-Mel amalgamation of 1973 he was pivotal in the club’s rise to top league status along with fellow international Ian Forsyth and several sets of brothers including Brewsters, Calders, Scotts and others. Although in the amateur era his attitude was professional.

Jim Calder recalled: “He was a very inspiring figure with total self-belief who set high standards which everyone bought into. A natural captain, he prepared well for every game and was a great influence on all of us, he really was ahead of his time.”

When his international career finished after the 1978 Calcutta Cup game his club rugby continued. In Sevens he won nearly all the Border tournaments, the Melrose success of 1979 giving particular pleasure after two previous final defeats. In 1982, aged 35 and against the odds, he led Stew-Mel to victory in the Middlesex Sevens at a packed Twickenham against favourites Richmond, celebrating the final whistle with a spontaneous handstand. His ‘predatory instincts’ were praised in the press. He also played in the Melrose final in 1983 but lost to the French Barbarians, Serge Blanco and all.

After hanging up his boots he began coaching initially with Edinburgh then became involved with the national set up, contributing to the 1990 Grand Slam and Scotland reaching the 1991 World Cup semi-final. In 1993 he became Scotland coach initially with limited success but in 1995 led the team to a Grand Slam decider after overseeing Scotland’s famous win in Paris, their first in 26 years. Following a World Cup quarter-final place that season he moved into team management, rising to national manager before retiring in 2003. Many warm tributes have been paid to him from celebrated rugby figures.

On 28 March 1970 in Edinburgh he married Doreen Cowper, originally from Montrose, a chiropodist, whom he had met socially through rugby. They enjoyed a long happy marriage during which they had two daughters, Mandy and Nicola. Dougie became a chiropodist himself, based for many years in Jenner’s where Doreen replaced him while he was on tour. He and Doreen were a great partnership, family and rugby being his dual passions.

He is survived by his wife, daughters, brothers, sons-in-law Graham and David and grandchildren Charlie, Lois, Josh and Nathan.