Willie Morton, who has died suddenly aged 58, was one of the best known and most popular figures in the Scottish cricket scene over many years.
A talented player whose slow left arm spin bowling was his forte, he represented Scotland sixteeen times and enjoyed two seasons playing county cricket with Warwickshire between 1984 and ’86. Had the county been prepared to release him for Scotland fixtures, he would undoubtedly have added to his tally of caps.
He marked his debut for Scotland as a 21-year-old against Worcestershire in July 1982 by claiming a total of five wickets and thereafter was a regular wicket taker for the national team. Away from the international arena, his bowling claimed several famous scalps including the renowned Indian and Australian Test players, Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist, two of the world’s all-time greatest batsmen. While at Edgbaston, he rubbed shoulders with many top players during several county matches and games against the touring Sri Lankans and Zimbabweans.
In Scotland he played his club cricket for Stirling County, Watsonians, initially as their professional and Penicuik where he was also club Vice President. As a highly regarded coach, he accompanied the Scotland under-19 team to World Cups in New Zealand and Bangladesh, in 2002 and 2004 respectively while his comprehensive knowledge of the game and eye for a player was recognised with appointment as a selector for the full national side. Head groundsman at George Watson’s College at Myreside for some 30 years, he successfully coached many school sides and was a source of inspiration to many aspiring youngsters.
While the achievements and statistics of his career resonate, his personal attributes brought an extra dimension. Although he played enthusiastically to win, he also enjoyed the post-match fraternisation. A familiar and extremely popular figure in clubhouses throughout the land, known affectionately as “Morts” to many, he was a gregarious and generous spirited individual whose company and fund of stories brightened up a room and left his companions with smiles on their faces. As a coach he combined experience, technical knowledge and eye for detail with an ability to mentor players on shortcomings in a calm conversational manner which encouraged positive responses from his charges.
William Morton was born in Drip Road in Stirling, the youngest of seven children – Donald, Harry, Jimmy, Mary, Jean and Alexis. Their parents were Donald, a miner, and Jean. He initially attended Raploch Primary before going on to Wallace High School in Stirling. After leaving school he worked for the local council as a gravedigger at Logie cemetery.
His cricket career began by chance in his early teens. While out one Saturday with brother Donald, the opportunity arose to play in an under age game at Stirling County’s old Williamfield ground. His natural aptitude and coordination was soon noted by County’s coach Raymond Bond who developed his left handed technique. With the coach’s input his game improved through lower teams to playing for the 1st XI. His ability attracted national selectors’ interest and he was picked for Scottish junior colts against Yorkshire under 16s in 1977, claiming four wickets. That was the first of several under age Scotland appearances while in 1981 he represented Scotland B for the first time. A year later he debuted for Scotland against Worcestershire soon followed by an appearance at Lords against the MCC when he secured two wickets and a match against the touring Pakistanis in Glasgow. In two matches against Ireland he took a total of nine wickets while he also performed creditably alongside West Indian star Desmond Haynes against English county sides in the Benson and Hedges Cup, including a haul of three wickets for 17 and four for 47 in two games against Gloucestershire. His performances were attracting wider interest leading to trials with Worcestershire, Somerset [then with Botham and Richards] and Warwickshire whom he joined in 1984. Unfortunately in his first county match against Surrey he injured his back while batting with England Test player Gladstone Small, his flatmate, and had to retire hurt on 13 runs, his highest score for the club. The injury hampered progress at Edgbaston during his time there when during the winters he played for a South African club, Uitenhague, in Port Elizabeth.
After his contract finished, he returned north as professional for Watsonians for four seasons and captain for another two, totalling 148 matches, scoring almost 3,500 runs and notching 279 wickets. He continued representing Scotland with his last appearance coming against Essex in 1990.
He later rejoined Stirling County for a few seasons before finishing his career with Penicuik playing over 100 games where the highlight was appearing in the Scottish Cup Final in 2008 alongside son Keith, currently Heriots’ captain. His last full season was in 2009 although he played an occasional game thereafter and maintained his connection with the sport.
In 1986 he married Donna Green from Stirling and they had son Keith. They divorced in 2011 but remained on good terms and in 2014 he married Katie Sanders from Edinburgh.
He was highly regarded for his work at Myreside where he consistently produced pitches in excellent condition for rugby as well as cricket and was known to don his boots as a reliable full back for the lower XVs. A fan of most sports, he enjoyed darts and was a season ticket holder at Hearts.
His sudden death prompted a flood of warm tributes, highlighting the affection and respect in which he was held across the board and how much he will be missed. He is survived by his wife, son, brothers and sister Mary.