Sandy Carmichael: One of Scotland’s bravest rugby players dies at age of 77

Sandy Carmichael, one of the most courageous forwards in Scottish rugby history, has died at the age of 77.

Scotland great Sandy Carmichael pictured during the 1976/1977 season. Picture: SNS Group
Scotland great Sandy Carmichael pictured during the 1976/1977 season. Picture: SNS Group

The versatile prop won 50 caps for his country, a record for a Scottish forward at the time, and toured with the British and Irish Lions twice, in New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later.

Playing out of the West of Scotland club, Carmichael made his international debut against Ireland in 1967, losing 5-3 in a close game at Murrayfield.

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He was a key member of the side that defeated France in 1969, making two try-saving tackles in a rare Scottish victory in Paris. It would be 26 years before the Scots won again in the French capital.

He also played in both matches when Scotland beat England on consecutive Saturdays in 1971. The first game, in the Five Nations, was won 16-15 at Twickenham, with Peter Brown slotting over the winning conversion with the last kick of the game. It was Scotland’s first win at Twickenham since 1938.

Carmichael was in the side again seven days later as the Scots made it a double, defeating England 26-6 at Murrayfield in a match to mark the centenary of the world’s first rugby international between the sides at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh.

His last cap came against Ireland in 1978 and was another narrow defeat, 12-9 in Dublin.

He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and Birthday Honours in 1977.

Sandy Carmichael, left, with Scotland front-row team-mates Duncan Madsen and Ian McLauchlan. Picture: Jack Crombie

During his induction into Scottish Rugby’s Hall of Fame in 2010 he was described as “one of the bravest and fairest players to grace the game”. But he suffered for his bravery.

He was notoriously subjected to a brutal attack while playing for the Lions against Canterbury in 1971. Multiple punches left him with five fractures to the cheekbone and although he played on until the final whistle, he was invalided out of the tour.

He never disclosed the name of his assailant. “Nae chance,” he told The Scotsman’s Aidan Smith in an interview in 2015, “I’m taking the guy to my grave.”

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Carmichael needed all his resolve to cope with life after his playing days. He underwent six hip operations and a heart bypass.

Scotland's Sandy Carmichael tries to find a way through against Wales. Picture: SNS Group

He will be remembered as a cornerstone of the Scotland side of the late 1960s and 1970s when he was part of a formidable pack alongside the likes of Ian McLauchlan, Gordon Brown and Alastair McHarg.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the SRU said: “Scottish Rugby is saddened to hear former internationalist and Lion Sandy Carmichael MBE has died earlier today.

“He was a giant of the game in Scotland in many ways and our thoughts and condolences go to his friends and family at this time.”

The British and Irish Lions said: “Carmichael was part of the revered 1971 & 1974 squads and was recognised as one of the bravest as well as fairest players to grace the game. Our thoughts go to his friends and family at this time.”

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