A SPECIAL day for Scotland and Watsonians rugby captain Gavin Hastings

was tinged with tragedy yesterday.

One of his closest friends in the game, Watsonians club president

Allan McNish died after suffering a heart attack at his Edinburgh home.

He was 55.

Hastings said: ''I am totally stunned. Allan was one of the great

figures of the game in Scotland, someone who epitomised the spirit of a

club president. He devoted his life to rugby and Watsonians and was a

heck of a nice guy into the bargain.

''What has happened is an absolute tragedy. I'm sure I speak for

everyone in Scottish rugby when I say how sad I am. All my sympathy goes

to the family.''

Mr McNish's death came as it was announced that Hastings was to be

awarded an honorary blue by Heriot-Watt University. The award, believed

to be the first of its kind in Britain, is for the player's contribution

to sport at a national level.

Mr McNish, who was married with two children, had planned to go to

Twickenham to watch Hastings lead Scotland out against England in the

Grand Slam decider on Saturday.

Mr McNish, a chartered surveyor, was a top-rated back-row forward in

his playing days at Myreside and a regular member of the Edinburgh

District side. The highlight of his career was being picked to play for

the Barbarians.

After retiring from playing, he coached Watsonians and the Edinburgh

team against the All-Blacks in 1983. He was also a past-captain of

Mortonhall Golf Club.

Current Watsonians club coach Peter Gallagher said: ''As a president,

Allan performed like he played -- a real grafter. If you wanted

something done quickly and efficiently you asked him. He and Gavin did a

tremendous amount of work together for Watsonians and he and his brother

Scott will be devastated.''

Mr McNish's death comes just 24 hours after that of the father of

former Scotland and British Lions captain, Finlay Calder. Mr Robin

Calder, who was in his seventies, was a former Royal High and Haddington


Meanwhile, before hearing of Mr McNish's death, Heriot-Watt announced

details of their special award to Hastings. It will be presented to him

by Principal Alistair MacFarlane at a ceremony in May.

In a letter to the university, Hastings said the award was a great

honour and he was delighed to accept it. He is the first sportsman or

woman from outside the university to be given such a sporting honour,

which equates with the long established principal of conferring honorary


For the last 29 years, Heriot-Watt has been awarding a blue to

students who excel at varsity sports. It was decided to widen the scheme

to make an annual award to someone who had made an outstanding

contribution to sport.

Mr David Mieras, director of physical education at Heriot-Watt, said

the discussions on the honorary blue award had taken place before the

Five Nations tournament so people had not been influenced by the

personal success of Hastings or the Scottish team's victories.

Mr Mieras said the decision to honour a player from outwith the

university was made to get away from ''the ivory tower image, not to be

inward thinking, and to be aware of the sporting world out there''.

The university sports union president, Mr Mark Lucas, said: ''We were

very pleased when Gavin told us he was willing to accept the blue. We

were also particularly pleased at the success he and the Scottish rugby

team have achieved in the Home Nations tournament since we first invited

him to accept. We will be cheering them on at Twickenham on Saturday.''

Professor MacFarlane said: ''Sport plays a very important role in the

life of the university. I am delighted that the sports union has

developed an honorary blue and that such a distinguished sportsman has

agreed to be honoured in this way.''