G.P.S. MACPHERSON (1903-1981)

ONE of the finest attacking rugby players ever to grace the dark blue jersey of Scotland, GPS Macpherson, universally known as Phil, was the captain of the first Scottish team to win the Grand Slam.

Born in Newtonmore, Macpherson learned his rugby at Fettes College in Edinburgh, before moving south to Oxford University where he gained a double First in Classics.

It was there that he and three fellow backs, Ian Smith, George Aitken and Johnny Wallace, formed a Scottish unit who proved irresistible in attack and stonewall in defence in one of the finest and most important matches ever staged at Murrayfield.

The final game of the 1925 season was also the first international to be played at the famous ground, and followed Scottish victories over France (beaten 25-4 in Edinburgh), Wales (24-14 in Swansea) and Ireland (14-8 in Dublin). Playing outside Macpherson, winger Ian Smith scored four tries against France and four against Wales - he was the second ‘Flying Scotsman’ to play alongside Macpherson, the other a certain Eric Liddell.

In those days the term Grand Slam was yet not in popular usage, but the chance to beat the Auld Enemy and secure the championship in the new stadium brought over 70,000 spectators crowding into Murrayfield on March 21, 1925.

Such was the demand for entry that the kick-off was delayed. The match was hugely exciting, the lead changing hands three times before Herbert Waddell’s drop-goal clinched a 14-11 victory. It was 59 years before a Murrayfield crowd could acclaim the next Scottish Grand Slam.

First capped in 1922, Macpherson won 26 caps for Scotland, 11 as captain. After leaving Oxford he spent a year at Yale in the USA before returning to play for Edinburgh Academicals. He played on several occasions for the Barbarians whose attacking spirit perfectly suited his own approach, though Macpherson was also one of the pioneers of the modern ‘drift’ defence.

As well as his achievements on the rugby field, Macpherson was an all-round sportsman. He was both an excellent cricketer and an outstanding athlete - he was Scottish long jump champion in 1929 and represented his country in that event and also on the athletics track over hurdles.

After war service in the Eastern Mediterranean theatre - he ended the war with the rank of Brigadier - Macpherson went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career in the international financial services industry.

Last year, Macpherson was the only international from before the Second World War to be chosen for Scotland’s Greatest XV, and was named the best attacking Scottish player of all time.

Only on St Andrew’s Day, however, will we discover if Scotland’s first Grand Slam captain is to be named in the inaugural 50 for the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.

MARTIN HANNAN