NORMAN Mair, who has died aged 86, after a long battle against Alzheimer's, was Scotland's foremost rugby writer. If Bill McLaren was the Voice of Rugby, then Mair was the Word of Rugby.
He was not so much a reporter, more an essayist, and his match reports over many years, principally for The Scotsman, are rare examples of erudite, beautifully-crafted explanations of what actually happened.
It helped, of course, that Mair had been there, done that and had worn the thistle on four occasions, as a feisty hooker. The son of the professor of Greek at Edinburgh University, he went from Merchiston Castle School and Edinburgh Academy to Edinburgh University, where he succeeded JG Abercrombie - himself an international hooker, in the middle of the university's front row, then for the Edinburgh inter-District team and finally for the full Scotland side, when he was first capped, in a narrow 14-12 loss, at Colombes Stadium in Paris, on 13 January, 1951.
Three weeks later he was a member of the Scotland team which pulled off a remarkable and unexpected 19-0 win over Wales at Murrayfield, before holding his place for the two remaining internationals that season, a 6-5 loss to Ireland at Murrayfield and a 5-3 defeat in the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham.
He was left out for the next international, the 44-0 Murrayfield drubbing at the hands of the South Africans and, as things went from bad to worse for Scotland as they racked-up that horrible 17-game run of losses, he was quick to remind the SRU Selectors, things had gone from bad to worse, to catastrophic after they dropped him.
By writing about rugby, of course, he was deemed to have "professionalised" himself, which meant the end of a playing career in which, as well as representing his university, he played for Melrose.
By the end of that run of international losses, he had moved to The Scotsman sports desk, where he would for the next 30 years combine trenchant criticism of the Murrayfield Mandarins, with insightful pieces on rugby, cricket and golf. His report on the 1971 Twickenham Calcutta Cup victory, for instance, is a wonderful example of elegant writing on an emotive occasion.
His experience as a player meant he could make points for which lesser journalists would be castigated by the authorities. He also, by the fact he had played with so-many of the Murrayfield "blazers", had the inside track on so much that was going on.
If principally a rugby writer, he was no-less proficient and authoritative on golf, writing a particularly well-received book on Muirfield, for instance.
He was also one of that small band of double internationalists, having won his single Scotland cap at cricket against Worcestershire, at New Road, in 1952. A left-handed batsman and occasional slow left-arm bowler, he was four not out in his solitary innings in the match. Indeed, Mair is unique amongst the rugby/cricket caps in being a forward, as all the other "doubles" were rugby backs.
He occasionally covered rugby for STV during the Scotsport days, and, in 1981, he left The Scotsman to join the short-lived Sunday Standard, one of a stellar cast of sports writers with Ian Archer, Hugh Taylor and Doug Gillon, amongst others, under the sports editorship of Harry Reid. On the demise of the Standard, he soldiered-on as an in-demand freelance, writing for an impressive range of titles such as The Herald, The Scotsman and The Observer.
He wrote for Rugby World and edited the Scottish Rugby newspaper and wrote or contributed to an impressive volume of written work on rugby, as he became the eminence grise of Scottish sports writing. He was on the induction panel for the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame and for the International Rugby Board's equivalent. His long experience and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game made him a shoo-in for both roles.
Just last year, he was himself inducted into the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame, although, sadly, he was too weak to attend the inauguration dinner personally.
His long marriage to Lewine made them arguably sports-writing's ultimate power couple, although he would not like that phrase. He was one of the most-authoritative voices in rugby, she was golf correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.
He is survived by Lewine and their four children: sons Logan and Patrick and daughters Suzi and Michelle and their grand-children. The Mair family home was close to Colinton Tennis Club, where the children played to a good standard, with Suzi, now a producer with STV, and Michelle both winning Scottish titles.