You will have noted that a certain Alistair Murning has joined the BBC phone-in team for rugby of a Saturday. Well, we have known Alistair for some time, not least for his playing exploits with Lang-holm when men were men. His side used to soak the ball in the bath before kick-off to slow down the opposition, and sheep in the Borders ran a mile.

Murning played with the legendary Hector Barnfather, who, along with local butcher Cyril Johnston, and a whole clan of tree-felling Hislops, made sure that grown men wept before games against Langholm.

Our man tells of sitting in a team room with Barnfather before a match against the all- conquering Gala team of the time, and spotting that the great man, as a break from deciding who was to be taken out during the match, was swigging from a bottle of bitter lemon as kick-off approached.

Murning asked for a gulp, only to be turned down.

However, as Barnfather took a leak seconds later, Murning grabbed the bottle and attempted to quench his thirst - only to discover that it was laced with a healthy quantity of gin.

Langholm won 7-6, and there was no need for post-match celebrations. Well, not for Barnfather, anyway.

q Those of you curious as to who the Charles Farquhar was that played for Glasgow against Caledonia Reds last week need worry no more.

Our scribe asked coach Kevin Greene for the side, and the Antipodean ran through the names. A Waikato accent applied to Afuakwah was thus scribbled down. Well, it sounded like Faaquaa.

q Congratulations to Ian McClung, of Carrick, who joins a list of veteran Scottish rugby players who can't play rugby any more because they are too old to be covered by the SRU insurance policy.

McClung, who is now 51, has propped for the Maybole side since the tender age of 15 and played last season. Unabashed, his club had a celebration game last Friday night to acknowledge his wonderful service.

The Diary's experience of Carrick was watching them take on Strathclyde Police some years ago at Lochinch. An almighty punch-up was one of the more spectacular happenings. The reason for the punch-up? An un-named prop merely asking his opponent: ''And tell me, constable, what exactly was your wife doing when you were on nightshift last night?''

q Glasgow are to play Ulster on Monday now as you all know. All is not sweetness and light in the province as the men from the North of Ireland attempt to firm their side for the clash with our chaps. They already have a more than handy openside wing forward called Andy Ward, from New Zealand, in their side.

They thought they were to be bolstered by two South Africans, courtesy of former Springbok coach Nelie Smith - a man by the way - who is coaching Ballymena and still has contacts there. However, Smith has been hard to contact. He was last seen fishing with Willie John MacBride and swopping stories.

q Caledonia Reds have been getting into gear, literally, for their European championship games. Part of the training has been on bicycles under the ever watchful eye of Mike Joiner, jettisoning the bikes after long cycles to sprint up the Fife hills. A party of Rob Wainwright, Kevin McKenzie, and Gareth Flockhart was occupied such, when a little road race ensued between the three lads.

The result was a crash of far-cical proportions, with Flockhart depositing himself heavily on the tarmac just outside Dunfermline.

The emergency services were duly called out to do what was necessary, and they did, indeed, repair the dent in the road.

The three wish to apologise for any delays due to resurfacing.

q Thanks to Laura Dick at the SRU's marketing department. The boy Wainwright and me were up in Orkney and Shetland a few weeks ago and auctioned some of Rob's kit and tickets for the game against France. A few grand was raised for the Dugald McArthur appeal.

Only snag was we didn't have the tickets, and the SRU have given them, as well as other items for auction elsewhere, for free. Thanks again.

q This week's sporting quote was the precursor to media training. ''Say nowt, win it, then talk your head off.'' - Brian Clough, football manager, advising on relations with the media.