Obituary: David Whyte, dual internationalist at rugby and athletics and teacher

David Whyte, sportsman. Born: 21 February, 1940 in. Cupar. Died: 25 November, 2021 in Kirkcaldy, aged 81

David Whyte represented both Scotland and Great Britain at long jump
David Whyte represented both Scotland and Great Britain at long jump

David Whyte was a multi-talented sportsman, a dual internationalist at rugby and athletics and one of the last to achieve that distinction.

As a flying winger on the rugby field he won 13 consecutive caps for Scotland between 1965 and ’67 and in the athletics arena represented both Scotland and Great Britain at long jump, earning four Scottish and five British vests. His outstanding achievement in that event came in 1959 when aged 19, in his first season of senior competition, he notched a landmark success by winning the A.A.A.s [British] Championship at London’s White City. He also claimed three Scottish Championship long jump titles and another at triple jump in addition to several Scottish Universities titles.

Other rugby highlights included David representing the Barbarians seven times, winning a ‘Blue’ from Oxford University after playing in the ‘Varsity’ match at Twickenham in 1963 and captaining the Scottish Universities XV. While his searing pace was undoubtedly a considerable asset, he was sound in defence and had a good rugby brain.

An extremely gifted all-rounder who was also a very good tennis player, he may have achieved even more had it not been for injury problems.

Away from the sports field he enjoyed a successful career in education culminating as Rector of Golspie High School from 1983 for almost 20 years where he was an inspiring and highly regarded figure.

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David James Whyte was born in Cupar, the fourth of five children of parents Alexander, a laboratory technician and Helen. With siblings Helen, Moira, Sandy and Graeme he was brought up in Cupar where he initially attended Castlehill primary before going on to Bell Baxter High School after winning a bursary. Despite suffering the devastating blow of the early death of his father when he was 13, David progressed well at school both academically and at sport where he shone at rugby and athletics.

In the former he captained the school team as well as the North and Midlands schools’ side and played a few times for the local Howe of Fife club. In athletics he first came to prominence winning the Scottish Schools’ long jump title in 1957, repeating the feat in 1958 and setting a championship record. The same year he won the Scottish and British Junior titles in the event, setting another record in the latter, leading to his selection aged 18 for the senior British team against France in Paris.

After leaving school and winning another bursary, David attended St Andrews University to study English Language and Literature. In the realms of university sport his career flourished with representative honours for Scottish Universities and North and Midlands at rugby while in athletics he began collecting national titles and international vests.

After winning the British long jump title representing Dundee Hawkhill Harriers he was selected for another four British internationals, against Germany, Poland, the USSR in Moscow and Finland in Helsinki where his leap of 7.25m bettered the Scottish record but was not recognised as it was achieved outwith Scotland.

David also represented Scotland four times while his excellent rugby form led to his Barbarians debut in their 1962 Easter tour of Wales, noteworthy as he was not yet an internationalist. After graduating MA(Hons) he went to Oxford University to study for a Diploma in Education at St Edmund Hall. While there he played in the ‘Varsity match at centre threequarter to earn a Blue, his ‘elusive running’ attracting favourable comment.

In February 1965 when playing for Edinburgh Wanderers he made his Scotland debut against Wales before collecting another 12 caps with his final one in 1967 against England at Twickenham, a run that included wins over South Africa and Australia and tries scored against France and England.

Meanwhile in 1965 after an injury induced gap he resumed athletics winning both the long and triple jumps at the Scottish Championships, by then representing Edinburgh Southern Harriers. In the face of strong opposition he won each event with his final leap, testament to his competitive steel. Thereafter rugby was his priority until injury combined with family and work commitments ended his career.

In 1963 in Dairsie, Fife David married trainee teacher Judith McKechnie, who he had known since schooldays and with whom he shared a long happy marriage during which they had four sons: Stephen, Geoffrey, Barnaby and Sebastian. His first teaching appointment was at Strathallan followed by posts at Kirkcaldy and Brechin High Schools. Next he was deputy headmaster at Peterhead Academy where he helped found the local rugby club before becoming headmaster at Golspie till ill health led to his retiral in 2002 after a highly appreciated spell at the helm during which he started rugby for boys and girls. He was an encouraging advocate for education and its life improvement potential, particularly given his own background.

During his time in Golspie where he continued living after retiral till 2019 David played a full part in the life of the community. He was a founder member of East Sutherland Rotary Club and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship for his service. Actively involved in the church he acted as an elder for 50 years, almost 40 at St Andrew’s, Golspie.

Other interests included bridge at which he ranked as Life Master, doing quizzes and studying language and etymology. David and Judith enjoyed travelling, making regular trips to France as well as visiting Bali, Singapore, Hawaii, Australia and Canada among other destinations.

A well-rounded, personable individual who loved his family he was always interested in people and had the gift of making all feel welcome. Although a high achiever in sport and professionally, he remained a humble, complete gentleman. He is survived by his wife, children and 11 grandchildren.

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