There should have been an overdue ceremony at Stirling County's Bridgehaugh ahead of next week's vital BT Scotland Premiership second division meeting with Kelso.

Instead, there will be a minute's silence today before the home club faces Aberdeen GSFP in the BT Cellnet Scottish Cup.

Before he passed away this week, Ken Crichton, who was due to have formally received the honorary life membership which his efforts had more than earned, would have taken some comfort from their recent revival.

Very much the driving force behind their astonishing rise from division seven to national champions - still the only club to have achieved that and to have taken the top title out of Edinburgh and the Borders - he had been deeply saddened by their recent troubles.

Indeed it was almost perverse that, at a time when his efforts had seen him elevated to national office - where he was testing his man-management skills to the limit as the SRU's chief negotiator with the new body of rugby playing professionals - the club into which he put so much time and effort was falling apart.

For all that much of the complaining from elsewhere has been as great, if not more so, Stirling County was, among Scottish clubs, the biggest victim of the sudden decision to make the sport open.

A combination of their success in winning the title that year, 1995, while committed to an ambitious ground redevelopment proved disastrous.

Short on cash because of the new construction, they could not compete for the signatures of their own players.

In turn, the loss of those players deprived them of competitiveness and glamour, costing the club spectators and sponsors just as they looked ready to thrive.

Nor did some poor decision-making of their own, not least the sorry series of events which cost them the services of league-winning coach Brian Edwards, help.

Two years ago, then, I witnessed the nadir as they exited the Scottish Cup at Linlithgow, the home team boasting more members of County's title-winning side (Kenny Harper and John Gibson up against Malcolm Norval) than their visitors.

Relegation followed that defeat by a club from five divisions below them and it was time to reassess.

Fortunately, realisation dawned that, instead of the short-term fixes attempted with recruitment of players and coaches, they would have to turn to what they do best - extracting the maximum from local talent.

With former player Eddie Pollock in charge of the first team, two of the then promising youngsters from the 1995 team - Matt McGrandles and Craig Sangster - returned to help nurse the next batch of young talent.

Slowly but surely, the feeling generated by Crichton's series of ambitious, but achievable, five-year plans, which took them from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, is being regained, then.

''The sense of community is coming back,'' McGrandles reckoned, when we spoke this week.

''The team is the reverse of the one that won the league.

''Now we are the older heads in the backs and we have an extremely young pack (average age less than 20, except when Glasgow Caledonian Reds professional Gareth Flockhart plays).

''However, the old feeling is there again.''

That is enhanced by the involvement of several of the class of 1995, highlighted by the fact that the aforementioned Harper, on the first team bench, and Gibson, in the seconds, are back playing their rugby at Bridgehaugh.

Furthermore, Gibson's company, Harmony Recruitment, sponsors McGrandles, while three other local companies - Deanston Distillery, Sportsters Bar, and The Stirling Observer - respectively sponsor cars for Murray Fraser, Craig Reid, and Sangster, their cars being the only perks any players receive.

In many ways, then, Stirling's experience has been a metaphor for Scottish rugby's. Torn apart as all concerned sought their piece of the action when money came into the sport, they have endured a great deal of pain.

Yet, largely reamateurised, every indication is that a corner has been turned and that the goodwill and sense of collective purpose is returning.

As Stirling's bankers would confirm, they are by no means out of the woods.

However, most involved seem to have stopped looking for people to blame and are instead looking for ways to improve their lot.

The old bear that was Ken Crichton would heartily approve.

His spirit lives on.