Arthur Fairgrieve Dorward

Scottish Rugby International

born March 3 1925

died August 4th 2015

With the death of former Scottish rugby captain Arthur Dorward at the age of 90,one of the few remaining links to a different rugby era has been lost.

The first Gala player to captain his country, Dorward’s career coincided with a difficult period for Scottish rugby in the 1950’s when a run of 17 consecutive defeats occurred between 1951 and 1955, including the infamous 44-0 loss to the Springboks in 1952.

It was a period blighted by inconsistency of selection, with the response to defeat being ‘to ring the changes.' Given these circumstances, it was to Dorward’s great credit that he amassed 15 caps between 1950 and 1957. Those who knew considered him the country’s best scrum half of the time.

Donald Scott, a fellow international who played for Langholm and Watsonians, said,”A first class gent,he was a tremendously good rugby player who should have had more caps. He was a player you always wanted in your team.”

He captained Scotland in three matches,against England in 1952, and against France and Wales in 1953. As Scottish scrum half he followed in the footsteps of his older brother and Gala player Tom who won five caps in the same position before the war in which he lost his life while on active service with the RAF.

Arthur was first capped out of Cambridge University whom he represented for three seasons, winning three Blues and captaining them in his final year. He was also selected for the Barbarians several times including their first overseas tour, to Canada in 1957, and was a regular for the South of Scotland in inter-district matches and also against the touring South Africans, All Blacks and Australians.

All his club rugby was played for his beloved Gala for whom he made his debut aged 17, playing his last game aged 32, a lengthy career punctuated by national service and time spent at Cambridge. From 1954 to 1957 he captained Gala for three consecutive seasons, leading them to the old ‘unofficial’ Scottish championship in 1957. Adding extra lustre to a glittering CV, he also pocketed a handful of Border Sevens’ winners’ medals, including among others Gala, Hawick and Jedforest.

A gifted all round sportsman, he also found time to represent Gala at cricket, hockey, tennis ,squash and golf.

In an interview he gave in the mid 1970’s, Dorward remembered the national team in the first half of the 1950’s, "The only response the selectors would make to a defeat then was to change the team, change for the sake of it. When I first captained Scotland in 1952 there were only three survivors from the previous team, Norman Davidson, Douglas Elliot and myself, that said it all." Apart from the vagaries of selection, injuries were also a factor in his not winning more caps.

He played against all the home nations as well as France and also in that Springboks drubbing, from which he emerged free from blame. In the same interview he recalled, ”The basic problem in that game was our lack of fitness and preparation. We had a run around on the Friday and that was it!”

A happier international memory was scoring a wonderful drop goal against Wales at Murrayfield in 1957, from just short of the halfway line and ten yards in from touch which clinched a narrow home victory. Gifted with blistering pace especially over the first 25 yards he had a devastating break, great ball playing ability and was a doughty competitor at the base of the scrum.

Born in Galashiels he first attended St Mary’s Prep school in Melrose and then the prestigious Sedbergh school in Cumbria where he was head boy. His connection with the school remained strong as in later years he would take a team from Gala down there to play the school XV. At Cambridge University he graduated with a degree in French and German before returning to Galashiels where he joined the family textile and clothing business, Messrs. J. and J.C.Dorward, later becoming a director.

In 1960 he married Christine McQueen, also from Galashiels, with whom he had two children. She recalled, "He was a very modest and unassuming man who didn’t talk about himself or his sporting achievements. His enthusiasm for rugby, particularly Gala, lasted all his life and up till about a year ago we went regularly to games at Netherdale. I think he was glad to have played when he did, in the amateur era. He was very friendly with a number of well known players such as Tom Elliot, Cliff Morgan and Tony O’Reilly and I remember when we used to have great fun going to balls in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh after internationals.

"Latterly he also enjoyed walking and always took a great interest in his family, especially his grandchildren whom he adored.”

Noted former Borders rugby player, Nat Carson, another Gala captain and South of Scotland stalwart, recalled Arthur Dorward very affectionately,” I first played for Gala as a 17 year old in the mid 1950s when Arthur was the captain of the team. He was a great captain, ahead of his time and good with all the players. Back then captains tended just to lead the team during games but he prepared us tactically ahead of games and analysed past performances. He used the ‘stick and carrot’ approach, not averse to pointing out your failings but also hugely encouraging. Very competitive on the field but very sociable and great fun off it.

I remember on the morning of home matches he insisted the team met up to go for a walk round the town stopping to chat to people, then going into a café for coffee, all to underline to us the importance of representing Gala on the rugby field. A great guy.”

Dorward played in a different era and professionalism has diluted some of the values he held dear. At a time when international players now appear to be only one size - extra large - his relatively slight stature, 5’ 6” and 11½ stones, might have militated against his appearing in the current international arena but the qualities he brought to that arena, outstanding ability, a big heart and a driving will to win remain very much in demand there.

He thoroughly enjoyed his rugby and while he played to win he also highly appreciated and fostered the sense of community that then infused playing for Gala, with virtually all the players being local men. And when asked what one thing stood out in his 15 years playing for the club, he replied, ”Friendships made and retained.”

He is survived by his wife Christine, daughter Lesley, son Campbell and six grandchildren.