Christy Elliot, Langholm rugby player and former Scotland rugby internationalist

Born: February 24, 1933

Died: September 5 , 2020.

CHRISTY Elliot’s first Scotland cap was a surprise one. National captain Arthur Smith went down with ‘flu on the morning of the 1958 Calcutta Cup match and Elliot was summoned to Murrayfield to replace him.

He kicked Scotland ahead with a trademark penalty, early in the second half, only to see this cancelled out by a similar score from England’s G.W. Hastings.

He also came closer than anyone to scoring a try that day. The great England captain Dickie Jeeps injured himself stopping a thundering run to the line from the Langholm man that afternoon. It was a brave tackle, as the burly Elliot at full speed took a good deal of stopping.

The Glasgow Herald’s rugby correspondent noted that Jeeps had in fact been knocked unconscious in trying to halt Elliot; another England player, P.B. Jackson, experienced a similar fate, also a yard from the corner flag, when diving for the legs of the charging N.S. Bruce.

But Elliot more than played his part in a stirring Scotland performance. As this newspaper noted at end of a 3-3 draw, “not an Englishman left Murrayfield on Saturday who did not feel profoundly relieved that his side had escaped with a draw and so retained the trophy as well as completing a run of nine internationals without defeat”.

Elliot, who has died aged 87, was a towering figure in the long history of Langholm and South of Scotland rugby.

Over 25 playing seasons he served the Muckle Toon’s scarlet-shirted XV man and boy. He wore the South’s red and white hoops with distinction. He also wore the famous black and white hoops of the Barbarians, and won 12 Scotland caps between 1958 and 1965.

He toured Canada with Scotland, played for the Co-optimists, captained a Scottish Districts XV to victory against the touring Springboks in 1965, and he faced touring All Blacks, Wallabies and Springbok sides. But he was perhaps happiest playing for Langholm.

He was one of the stars of the club’s magnificent 1958-59 season. scoring over 250 points as they went through the entire campaign unbeaten, winning both the Border League and the Scottish Unofficial Championship, plus their own sevens. During that season, in the final game, away to Melrose, Elliot scored all the points in Langholm’s 9-6 victory, which clinched both championships.

British Lion Billy Steele, who as a young man learned at Elliot’s knee in the Langholm side, may be the club’s most-capped player but he gained the bulk of his 23 Scotland caps playing for the RAF and Bedford. Elliot’s 12 caps were all won with Langholm.

He won them. too, at a time when he was also holding down a day job, rising through the ranks to eventually become the manager of the Arthur Bell woollen mill, one of the most significant employers in Langholm.

After his 1958 Calcutta Cup debut, Elliot was not capped again until the French match of 1960, and was then overlooked until the Calcutta Cup game of 1963. His best Scotland season was the 1964 campaign, when he was an ever-present in the Five Nations, while also playing a key defensive role in the famous 0-0 draw with Wilson Whineray’s All Blacks. One of his tackles during that tour, on Bruce Watt, is still spoken of in awed tones in the Borders heartlands.

The Glasgow Herald’s match correspondent made several mentions of Elliot’s contributions and referred in glowing terms to “the pace, fitness, and magnificent fighting spirit of the entire team. Technically outclassed and crushingly outweighted in good forward play, they made up for their defects by chasing every suggestion of a chance in the loose as if their lives depended upon it ...”

Then in 1965, Elliot took his international tally to 12 caps by appearing against France, Wales and Ireland.

His friend, the former Scotland captain Peter Brown, has recalled Elliot’s famous “hip swerve”, which left opponents either bruised or bamboozled.

Brown also noted: “He was the most terrific thrower-in at the lineout, as that was part of a winger’s duties then. He had exceptional timing.”

Elliot’s final game for Langholm came in 1972, signing off in a Border League battle with Hawick at Mansfield Park, in which he scored a try, which was even applauded by the watching “Robbie Dyes” from the home club.

He had amassed over 2,000 points during his long career with Langholm, where he played for some time alongside younger brother Tom, a flanker, who followed him into the South and Scotland teams and now lives in South Africa.

Like his contemporaries, Christy Elliot had to do his two years of National Service. He did his bit, as befits a Borderer, with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, including a spell on active service in Korea.

Back he then came, to work at Bell’s woollen mill, to play rugby, to marry Mary and raise his children, Laura and David. They survive him, with his five grand-children.

Christy Elliot’s passing will leave a gap in Langholm life, where he was a highly regarded and well-respected pillar of the community.