WHEN Bruce Hay sadly passed away early yesterday morning, the world of rugby lost one of its great ambassadors, as a player, coach and administrator.
Hay's courage as a player was one of his finest attributes, and so it was no surprise that he fought so hard against the illness that finally overcame him.
It is a tribute to the esteem that Hay was held in throughout the rugby world that New Zealand RFU president Andy Leslie, whose two sons Martin and Andy played for Scotland, visited the former Liberton FP and Boroughmuir player in the Marie Curie Hospice last week.
And one of Hay's last visitors on Sunday evening was another rugby great, and also a very close friend, Andy Irvine, former president of the Scottish Rugby Union, and a team-mate of Bruce's at district, international and British Lions level. Irvine said yesterday: "I first came across Bruce about 35 years ago when we both turned out for Edinburgh and it was a privilege and a pleasure to have played a lot of my rugby both with and against Bruce.
"Though Bruce reached the highest heights of the game, he never forgot his roots at Liberton. That, of course, typified the man himself. He made a huge contribution to rugby at all levels - as a player and coach while he was also a manager of Scotland's under-age teams."
Irvine was one of the speakers at the testimonial dinner held in Hay's honour earlier this year. Another who entertained the 500-strong audience that night was Jim Renwick, who was also a team-mate with Scotland, the Lions and the Barbarians
"I think I played with Bruce in every one of his 23 Scotland appearances," said Renwick. "He was such a solid player and a pleasure to play with. He also had an impish sense of humour."
Hay started work as a teenager down the pits at Newtongrange, and although he spent a huge amount of time on rugby, he set up his own commercial chemical business with 1984 Grand Slam captain Jim Aitken. "Bruce was never happy being second best, in life or as a player," said Aitken yesterday. "He was a self-made guy and a great player to have on your side."
Aitken came out of a self- imposed exile from rugby to assist Hay as forwards coach when Boroughmuir won the title in the 1990/91 season. He added: "There was no side to Bruce whatsoever, what you saw was what you got."
That was also Iain McLauchlan's abiding memory of Hay, the former Scotland captain remembering vividly his friend's "100 per cent commitment and dedication to the cause".
McLauchlan said: "He was as honest and straightforward as it was possible to be."
From France, Scotland coach Frank Hadden and captain Jason White took time out from preparations for this weekend's World Cup quarter-final against Argentina to pay tribute.
Hadden said: "It's terribly sad. Bruce's contribution to Scottish rugby has been simply immense."
White, who was in the national under-19 squad that Hay managed in the IRB World Championship in Argentina ten years ago, added. "He was a really genuine guy with the interests of the players always uppermost in his mind."
Born: 23 May 1950, Edinburgh
Clubs: Liberton, Boroughmuir (from 1972). 279 appearances for Boroughmuir.
International debut: 14 June, 1975 v New Zealand in Auckland. Lost 24-0
Final appearance: 20 June, 1981 v New Zealand in Auckland. Lost 40-15
Scotland caps: 23. Tries: 3
Lions Tests 3 (on 1980 South Africa tour). Lions tries: 1 (v South Africa)
Coaching: Boroughmuir, Edinburgh, Scotland B, Scotland Under-19s