Obituaries: Charlie Hodgson, Scottish rugby international and prodigious try scorer
Charlie Hodgson was a top-class rugby player who won two caps for Scotland on the left wing against Ireland and England in 1968. After a decent showing in a Scottish trial match in 1962, it was anticipated his international debut would come sooner but he faced stiff competition from rivals such as Ronnie Thomson, David Whyte and Doug Jackson. A fast, long striding winger with a telling change of pace that confused opponents and sometimes even himself, he was well acquainted with the way to the try line.
He initially played for Glasgow High School FPs with whom he won the unofficial Scottish Championship in 1961/2, thereafter joining London Scottish, one of England’s top teams, where he became captain and claimed a much prized Melrose ‘7s’ winner’s medal. Selection for Hampshire and Middlesex followed whom he represented with distinction in the English Counties’ Championship.
After moving to North America in 1969, he played for Manhattan Rugby Club in New York for many years.
A quantity surveyor by profession, Charlie also enjoyed a successful business career, becoming Executive Vice President of a prestigious construction company in New Jersey. A highly likeable, carefree individual he always had a smile on his face, prompting friends to suggest he had been born that way.
Charles Gordon Hodgson was born to parents Arthur and Jean née McOwat in Lenzie where he was brought up along with sister Elizabeth. Father Arthur was a banker with the Bank of Scotland. Charlie first attended Lenzie Academy where he was introduced to rugby by PE teacher Billy Williamson, a former Rangers footballer of note, and in 1953 went to Glasgow High School, playing rugby and cricket but, surprisingly, unable to secure a first XV berth.
On leaving school he began playing for the FPs and within a year had made his debut for the first XV, soon becoming established.
At the same time Charlie embarked on a career in quantity surveying, combining classes at the Royal College of Science and Technology (later Strathclyde University) with an apprenticeship in a city firm.
On the rugby pitch his form saw him represent Glasgow District and play an important part in the FPs side winning the unofficial Scottish Championship in 1961/2, when he scored 20 tries in 22 fixtures. In the final match against Watsonians, a draw was needed to ensure the title and with minutes ticking away and High School five points down, cometh the hour, cometh the man – Charlie scored a fine try which was converted to claim the title.
For business reasons he moved to Portsmouth and began playing for London Scottish. His consistently good displays saw him selected for the Scottish Trial at Murrayfield in December 1962, a press preview noting ‘ …since moving to London Scottish… he has continued to score tries in bundles…’ while a report of the match stated that Charlie had managed to play well, despite the appalling conditions.
In the years that would ensue before earning his international ‘spurs’, he was a leading player for the ‘Exiles’, with the club winning the unofficial English Championship and the Melrose ‘7s in 1965. During the tournament, Charlie scored five tries, including two in the final against Hawick when he also pulled off a crucial tackle on Doug Jackson leading to Scottish’s clinching score.
He also played for Hampshire and Middlesex in the Counties’ Championship, twice reaching the semi finals with Hampshire and in 1967/8 had the honour of being club captain when he won his caps. Another highlight was leading the club on a successful seven-match tour of the United States, winning the Boston International tournament.
Although Scotland lost both matches in which Charlie played, he and teammates were unlucky in the Calcutta Cup game given the chances the Scots had. In the first ten minutes he was knocked into touch just short of the line while in the second half Charlie crossed the English line but the ‘score’ was ruled out for a controversial infringement.
By then he had moved to London to work for Wimpey Construction and had met future wife Corinne Dalzell, an American then working for a magazine in the capital. The couple had been introduced at a party following a rugby match and would marry on 4 October ,1969 in the Presbyterian Church in Yonkers, near New York, Charlie having moved to the area after a brief spell in Canada. They enjoyed a long happy marriage during which they had four children, Ian, Andrew, Alistair and Lesley.
Initial employment difficulties were overcome when after Corinne had scanned New York Times’ construction company adverts, Charlie walked in ‘on spec’ to the offices of a British surveying company, G.A. Hanscomb, on 42nd Street and was taken on. Some years later he was approached to join Joseph Natoli Construction Corporation, a prestigious company handling various high-profile projects, where he would become Executive Vice President, retiring in 2001 after 26 years there.
Charlie and family had settled in Glen Rock, New Jersey and made return visits to Scotland most years where he would visit family, connect with friends and attend occasional internationals. His accent, which remained largely Scottish, would become more pronounced then.
Other interests included enjoying coaching his children at football and golf. A keen player, he reached a good standard at his local club.
Speaking at his funeral, a former business colleague said: “All the years I knew Charlie and dealt with him, I never met anyone who didn’t like him.” A congenial companion and generous, even tempered individual, he is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren Annabel, Colette, Ainsley, Schuyler, Oliver and Isla.
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