Archie Scott, cricketer. An appreciation

ARCHIE Scott did not look a few months short of 102 and neither did he ever act his age. He climbed his last Munro (Ben More, Mull) at the age of 85. He distilled illicit bottles of whisky at 92 and passed his Advanced Driving Test later the same year - the oldest person in the UK ever to do so. For over a century he walked without a stick and drove his car up to six weeks before his death on 1st November after a short stay in an Inverness care home.

His sharpness of mind, sense of humour and distinguished crop of white hair frequently caused new acquaintances to express astonishment at his durability. To which he invariably replied, ‘Well, I don’t recommend it.’

He was born in Edinburgh in 1918 and called Andrew for the first two years, roughly the age of picking up his first rugby ball. The game was in his genes. His father was the revered JMB Scott - 21 caps for Scotland between 1907-1913 - and on his mother’s side was Uncle Fred, FH Turner, whose 15 caps included captaining Scotland five times. He led Scotland in the last Calcutta Cup match before WW1, the conflict which ended their playing days; JMB wounded in the leg by shrapnel, FHT killed at Ypres.

Archie went to Edinburgh Academy and then, aged 14, followed in JMB’s, FHT’s and his brother Jock’s footsteps to Sedbergh School in Yorkshire. Classroom lessons were endured and regarded as obstacles to the essence of what he later referred to as among the happiest days of his life: playing cricket and rugby.

He excelled with the bat and applied himself to fielding with rapacious dedication. On the rugby pitch his speed and agility was used equally as a centre or scrum-half, the latter being his favourite position because he was ‘always in the thick of it’. He even stayed on an extra term at school just to captain the 1st XV, only to find the previous season’s captain had unexpectedly done the same. That season he was selected for the Scottish Schoolboys XV.

By the outbreak of war he was in the Territorial Army and working as a trainee distillery manager for Scottish Malt Distillers (now Diageo) who continued to pay his £8 a month salary throughout his army service, a kindness he never forgot.

As a gunner with the Royal Artillery he first entered France on a mission that climaxed in a near-disastrous evacuation from St Malo. Finally he landed at Normandy and fought his way into Germany, taking part in 11 named battles, narrowly escaping a shell which killed two companions in the turret of a Sherman tank, and once looking down to find his heel on the hinge of a schu-mine.

It was in the Reichswald, however, that his bloodiest battle experiences took place and this fuelled his indignation decades later when, revisiting the area, he was given a parking ticket in a nearby village! His war ended in

Bremen, playing rugby for the British Army of the Rhine.

One evening in 1946 he received a phone call from the secretary of the Wayfarer’s Cricket Club which he knew was about to embark on a lengthy tour of Ireland. He was told he’d been selected to play but he felt he couldn’t ask his employer for more time off and declined. Over lunch the following day he picked up the Evening News and read the names of the Scottish XI chosen to play Ireland in Cork; his was one of them.

It transpired that the Wayfarer’s secretary was also the selector of the national side. Too late, he’d turned down his chance to play for his country. After a panicked phone call of explanation - and his replacement magnanimously standing down - he joined the team, hitting three fours (third highest score) in a match that was drawn.

In 1952 he married Anne Donald, a nurse who tended to him while recovering from a minor operation. She was the twin sister of professional golfer Jean Donald, multiple Scottish Champion and Curtis Cup player. (There were genuine fears newspapers might seize on this match under the banner, ‘Son of well-known rugby player weds sister of famous golfer’.)

For 43 years he worked for SMD, as manager of Banff Distillery initially and latterly as a director in charge of housing and safety. A man of scrupulous fairness and probity (except over the German parking ticket which he ignored), he was not afraid to step out of line to improve conditions for the workforce.

His accelerated programme for proper sanitation in the company’s 500 tied houses met with strong managerial resistance - but he prevailed - and once, when his concerns over unsafe machinery resulted in no action by his superiors, he simply called in the factory inspector who shut down the distillery for a week until adequate protection was in place.

Despite these skirmishes with head office, his responsibilities were extended to overseeing the workings of the company’s puffer, Pibroch, which serviced island distilleries, and its Piper Aztec plane making him, as Diageo’s retirement notice remarked, the only DCL employee ‘whose remit extended over land, air and sea’.

In retirement he was a keen gardener, mountain walker and car enthusiast. Aged 92 he fulfilled an ambition of making illicit whisky by downscaling the process from his accustomed 3,000-litre formulas to a homely five litres, successfully.

The same year, worried car insurers might declare him too old to drive, he sat and passed his Advanced Driving Test and became the oldest person in the UK to do so. Optimistically, he bought his last new car at the age of 100 and for 21 months he used it for shopping, touring and going fishing.

Anne predeceased him by four months after 68 years of marriage. Their combined age came to two months short of 200 years. He is survived by his daughter Jane, and son, Alastair.