Tributes paid to former Scotland cap Hart

TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to John Hart, the former Scotland rugby internationalist, who has died. He was 79.

Hart, who also represented his country as an athlete at the Empire Games, was a stalwart member of the Watsonians club but won his only cap out of London Scottish.

A tall, athletic winger, he was picked to play for Scotland in the infamous 44-0 thrashing by an inspired South Africa side in 1951 at Murrayfield.

Hart, who also played for Edinburgh University, was arguably an even more talented athlete than a rugby player, representing Great Britain as a hurdler in 1946 and 1949 and competing for Scotland in the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950 in the 440 yards hurdles.

He went on to become a distinguished rugby administrator and served as secretary of the International Rugby Board from 1971-1986.

One of his team-mates at London Scottish and in that 1951 match was Donald Scott, also a Watsonian. He recalled: "I was doing national service when I met John at London Scottish. He was a big chap, well built and quick. He wore glasses, which, with contact lenses only coming in around then, meant, like many good players, when he took the glasses off he didn't see too well.

"But he was a very good player nonetheless and very unlucky not to win more caps. In fact, I was extremely lucky. I was the only back picked for the next game after the South African international; only four forwards kept their place.

"That was a terrible result, but South Africa played a type of game we'd never seen before. It wasn't long after the war and this was their first tour so we hadn't seen what they'd been up to for years. We'd been brought up being told that there were three things a guy running at you will do: pass, kick or try and beat you.

"Then they arrived and added a fourth: run straight over you. They ran hard, making no effort to beat you, and had supporting runners in behind to take flip passes. Of the nine tries they scored I think about seven came from the forwards doing that. It was hard for the wingers to do much about it."

Though living in London, Hart remained passionate about education and, particularly, his former school, George Watson's College. He was a past president and a loyal member of the London Watsonian Club and a valued supporter of the George Watson's Family Foundation.

Scott added: "John was involved in so much. According to athletes in Scotland he had been an outstanding hurdler before he played rugby, but I got to know him better later on and he did a lot of very good work with the International Board. He was always good company and you felt very relaxed with him.

He will be much missed."

Hart is survived by his wife Anne, children Catherine and Louise and grandchildren Clare, Peter, Thomas and Hannah. A thanksgiving service is to be held in the St Lawrence Jewry Church in Gresham Street, London on 28 June at 11.30am.