Scotsman Obituaries: Eddie McKeating, Scottish rugby internationalist

Eddie McKeating, rugby player. Born: 1 September 1936 in Edinburgh. Died: 2 May 2021 in Newcastle, aged 84

E McKeating, centre, with Scotland teammates K Scotland, A Smith, K MacDonald and J Swan

Eddie McKeating was a six times capped Scottish rugby internationalist who won his caps playing for Heriot’s F.P.’s, making his debut against France in 1957 alongside fellow Herioter and lifelong friend Ken Scotland.

As a schoolboy he was a prodigiously talented young sportsman, excelling not only at rugby but also athletics and cricket and achieving the singular honour of captaining Heriot’s school teams in all three sports. A pacy centre threequarter with good hands, an eye for a break, and a highly effective tackler, he undoubtedly would have won more caps but for the notorious selectorial inconsistency of the era. In athletics he won Scottish Schoolboy titles at 100 yards, long jump and in the relay while his most notable achievement on the track was winning the A.A.A.’s (British) Junior title at 100 yards, relegating future senior British athletics and England rugby internationalist John Young to second place. On the cricket square he was a gifted all-rounder who played six years in the school XI, making his debut aged only 13.

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Edward McKeating was born in Edinburgh to Walter and Matilda, the middle child of three. His father was a director of the footwear manufacturers David Keir and Sons Ltd. Together with older brother Walter and sister Cynthia, he was brought up in the Warriston area, near Heriot’s sports ground at Goldenacre, which in retrospect may have seemed preordained, given its role in his sporting career.

A near neighbour was Ken Scotland, with whom he went through school, playing in the same teams. The sports-mad youngsters used to climb over the wall out of hours into Goldenacre to act out their sporting dreams, sometimes abruptly halted by a groundsman protective of his facilities. At school, games master Donald Hastie nurtured Eddie’s ability at rugby and athletics while cricket pro Arthur Creber and teacher L L Mitchell did likewise with bat and ball.

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As a 15 year old, an injury sustained when selected for the school 1st XV as an “emergency” scrum half required an operation for removal of his spleen, something which would contribute to health issues in later life. Despite that setback he resumed playing and was selected for Scottish Schoolboys against their English counterparts on New Year’s Day 1955, a resounding victory for the Scots with Eddie excelling by scoring three tries. On the track that year he set a record of 10.0s, winning the 100 yards at the Scottish Schools Championships, and claimed the British Junior title at Reading in the same time, against the wind and the first time he had used starting blocks. Placing his performances in perspective, the Scottish and British senior sprint titles that year were won in 10.3s. and 10.0s. respectively.

After school he made his debut for the F P’s in September 1955 and was selected for national trials later that year. By then he was doing National Service in the RAF, initially in England where he played for not only them and Combined Services, but also London Scottish and Kent in the English Counties’ championship.

After a winning debut against France in Scotland’s first win in Paris since 1949 and contributing to another win against Wales, Eddie – for no apparent reason – was not selected again till 1961. Meantime, he resumed as a mainstay of the Heriot’s team, with whom he also excelled at 7-a sides, winning twice at Melrose in 1957 and 1958, as well as playing in another two finals, and was regularly selected for Edinburgh District, helping them win the inter district championship in 1960/61.

He also played for a combined Edinburgh/Glasgow team against Paris in the French capital and the touring South Africans, before being recalled a couple of months later to the Scotland team to play the Springboks at Murrayfield. There he played his part in a “devastating Scottish defence” and in Scotland’s try by Arthur Smith in a creditable 12-5 loss to the unbeaten tourists. He also played in the remaining internationals that season, wins against Wales and Ireland and in a narrow defeat to England at Twickenham in a Triple Crown “decider”, which signalled the end of his international career.

When work required a move to Glasgow in 1963 he played for West of Scotland for a few seasons, and was in their team that shared the unofficial championship title in 1964/65. Later he turned out occasionally for Heriot’s in “Old Crocks” games before finally hanging up his boots.

He was invited to play for Barbarians on their Easter tour in 1961 but, having committed himself to be an usher at Ken Scotland’s wedding, turned down the invitation, which in those days was never extended a second time.

In 1962 Eddie married Catherine Boyce at Colinton Mains Church, Edinburgh, having known each other since schooldays. The couple went on to enjoy over 50 years of happy marriage and had two children, Grant and Gayle. He worked initially for William Thyne and Co in the packaging business and then moved to the Glasgow area, where the family lived for almost 20 years. In the early 1980s, after Eddie’s appointment as Sales Director for Fields Packaging, the family moved to Newcastle, where they remained.

In retirement he enjoyed golf at Northumberland Golf Club and bowls at Gosforth Bowling Club, where he was a popular member. A sociable individual with a good sense of humour and a loyal friend, family was the central pillar in his life. Eddie is survived by his sister, children and grandchildren Euan, Bethan, Kirsty, Lara and Darcy.


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