Obituary: Jim ‘Basher’ Inglis, rugby internationalist

Born: Selkirk, 1928. Died: 20 November, 2015, in Selkirk, aged 87.

Jim Inglis, rugby internationalist who was a Borders man to his core. Picture: Contributed

Jim Inglis, who has died from cancer, was one of the most weel-kent figures in Borders, and indeed Scottish, rugby.

He gave more than 70 years of service to his home-town team of Selkirk, first pulling on the famous blue shirt as a 16-year-old in 1945, going on to play for the first team, before, in retirement from playing, becoming a long-serving and dedicated official. Indeed, at the time of his death, he was still the club’s referees secretary, charged with looking after the needs of the teams of officials covering games at Philiphaugh.

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Known universally as “Basher”, Inglis had something of an annus mirabilis in 1952. In January of that year he had propped the South of Scotland pack which, although hugely out-muscled in terms of height and weight, gave the mighty Springboks, less than two months on from their 44-0 thrashing of the full Scotland XV an almighty fright at Hawick – the ’Boks emerging with a 13-3 win, the South team with huge credit for their efforts.

Less than two months later, on 15 March, 1952, Inglis became only the third player from his club to win a full Scotland cap, when he was named at tight-head prop for the Calcutta Cup game against England, at Murrayfield. The visitors won 19-3 to complete a whitewash season for the Scots.

This loss was the seventh in the disastrous run of 17 straight defeats suffered by Scotland, between 1951 and 1955. By this time, panic had set in in the Murrayfield committee room and Inglis, who survived being trampled by the English pack in the second minute to earn the accolade of being “the best of the newcomers”, was never capped again.

Selkirk were on a roll at this time. The following season, 1952-53, saw the Souters do the double by adding the then unofficial Scottish “Newspaper” Championship to the Border League title. Their formidable front row, in which Inglis and skipper George Downie propped hooker and Inglis’s fellow Scotland cap Jock King, were an integral part of that great XV.

He continued to play for Selkirk until 1957, before switching to the administrative side of the game. He filled several committee roles at Philiphaugh, and was twice club president, from 1987 till 1989 and again in season 2001-02; he also served a term as president of the Border League.

Jim Inglis, and Mary, his wife of 60 years, were a continuing presence on the touchline and in the club-house at Philiphaugh.

Mary is the club’s fixture secretary and their devoted service to their club and the game was recognised at the SRU Club Awards in May this year, when they were jointly awarded the Spirit of Rugby prize.

But he might have gone elsewhere in the world of Selkirk sport. As a young man, Selkirk FC “borrowed” him to play in goal and he made such a positive impression that they tried to convert him to the round ball. The call of Philiphaugh was too-strong, however.

During his national service, some of which was spent in Egypt – where he managed to find some representiative rugby to play, he was a member of a fearsome King’s Own Scottish Borderers XV.

He also played for the Scottish Borderers and for the invitation Co-Optimists XV.

If the Selkirk rugby family was important to Jim and Mary, he also lavished time on his family. In their 60-year marriage, he and Mary had four daughters – Sandra, Muriel, Lesley, who died some years ago, and Laura; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Away from rugby, he enjoyed walking in the Borders countryside, often with his daughter’s spaniels. He had a feel for the Borders countryside; within three days of leaving school, as a 14-year-old, he had begun what was to be a lengthy career in forestry, although he later had other jobs.

Jim Inglis was a Borderer through and through. He loved his native region and the passion for rugby there. During the all-too-short life of the professional Border Reivers, Jim and Mary Inglis were committed supporters of the team and he immensely enjoyed Friday nights at Netherdale, watching the team and recalling past times with the other Border rugby greats he had encountered over his long life in the game.

Jim’s funeral will be held at Selkirk Parish Church, at 1pm on Wednesday, 2 December, followed by the committal, at Shawfield Cemetry, Selkirk.