Heriot’s tribute will honour Andy Irvine career

Andy Irvine, right, in action for Heriot's in Septernber 1973. Picture: Jack Crombie
Andy Irvine, right, in action for Heriot's in Septernber 1973. Picture: Jack Crombie
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The sporting achievements of one of Scotland’s greatest rugby players are to be celebrated by nearly 400 people at an event in Edinburgh tomorrow night.

Andy Irvine, who played for Heriot’s with great distinction for many years, earned 51 Scotland caps between 1972 and 1982 and went on three British and Irish Lions tours as a player between 1974 and 1980, will be present at the event being held in his honour at George Heriot’s School.

Born in 1951, Irvine was educated at James Gillespie’s Primary School before moving to George Heriot’s School, starting a relationship with it and the wider Heriot’s community that has existed until this day.

Regarded by many as the classiest back to have pulled on a Scotland jersey, Irvine was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame 12 years ago and since then has been president of the Scottish Rugby Union, chairman of Celtic Rugby and chairman and tour manager for the British and Irish Lions.

The event has been organised by Heriot Club president Grant Simpson and George Heriot’s School principal Gareth Doodes.

“Many of us in the wider Heriot’s community have felt for a long time that it is important to mark Andy’s achievements in sport with a special event,” Simpson said.

“As many will know he is a busy man, so to tie down a date proved quite tricky, but we are delighted that on Friday night Andy will be at the school along with current pupils, former pupils, members of Heriot’s sports sections and people from the wider community to celebrate with him and hear from him.

“He has achieved so much over the years and for the youngsters in the audience especially, it will be interesting for them to hear how you focus on reaching the highest level that you can and how you keep your performance levels consistent,” he added.

“This will not only help aspiring young rugby players from George Heriot’s, but also those keen to progress in hockey and other sports.”

When Simpson left George Heriot’s School in the late 1980s, he was lucky enough to play two matches for the Heriot’s second XV alongside Irvine.

“As a teenager coming into the senior second XV it was pretty daunting anyway, but then when you looked at your team and saw that Andy Irvine was there, it was just really exciting,” he said.

“He was very good with the new players and helped us through matches and it was a mark of the man that as his playing days were coming to an end, he wanted to play for the second and third XV and bring the next batch of players through.

“I was also fortunate enough to then be coached by him at Heriot’s and if ever there was a man who you listened to when he was giving you advice about rugby then it was him.

“Prior to all of that, when I was still at school I can remember going down to Goldenacre most Saturdays and being in awe of the talent that was on show. Then, of course, internationalists were playing for club sides and to see players like Andy up close was just brilliant.”

The event tomorrow night will be compered by former Scotland captain and now BBC pundit Andy Nicol, and after the crowd has heard from 
Irvine there will be a question and answer session.

Also on stage at this point will be Kenny Milne, another Heriot’s, Scotland and Lions 
legend, Ken Scotland, who was also a talented full-back for Scotland and was on the 1959 Lions tour, and Guy Richardson, who was operations director on last year’s Lions tour.

“The blend of those three as well as questions from the audience should be cracking and will enable us to find out even more about Andy’s career and in general have an interesting discussion about the changing face of sport as the years have gone on,” Simpson said.

“We’re all excited and looking forward to the night, while it is great to see the enthusiasm the school’s new principal has for putting on such an event.”