Davie Rose: An appreciation

DAVIE ROSE, who has died in Jedburgh shortly before his 90th birthday, was an outstanding rugby player, a dual internationalist in Union and League, for Scotland and Great Britain respectively, as well as a Barbarian.

The highpoint of his League career was winning the inaugural Rugby League World Cup in Paris with the British team in 1954, when he scored a try in every match. At Union for Jedforest he made his international debut against France in 1951 aged 19 and won another six caps before joining Huddersfield to play League professionally.

Rose was an exciting player, a powerful fast winger with an effective swerve who was difficult to stop, and he knew where the try-line lay. It was cruel luck that a broken leg obliged him to give up the game as he reached his peak aged 26, when surely more success awaited.

His sporting genes no doubt derived from his father Fred, who in 1924 won the Powderhall New Year Sprint, running as “F. Best, Jarrow”. In conversation with Davie recently

I suggested he must have inherited his father’s speed, to which he responded, typically humorously: “Aye, I could pull the choke out…!”

At the time of his death he was Jedforest’s oldest surviving captain, having held that honour in 1952-53.

David Macmurray Rose was born on February 20, 1931, in Back Bongate, Jedburgh, to Fred and Nellie, nee Macdonald. He was an elder brother of Eric, Walter and Helen.

Fred became fitness trainer to Oldham Rugby League Club and Leicester City FC, but when war broke out in 1939 the family returned to Jedburgh, where Davie continued his education at the local primary school before attending Jedburgh Grammar School, where he was sports champion.

Aged 15 he played a few times for Jedforest 2nds before graduating to the local semi-junior team, Jed Thistle. At 17 he captained them to success in the Borders Championship after an undefeated season, later becoming the first internationalist to have represented the club.

By now he was firmly on the radar of the town’s senior team, Jedforest, for whom he would make his debut – still aged 17 – against Tynedale in season 1948/9 and thereafter became established.

While undertaking National Service with the RAF, which he represented twice, he earned his first cap for Scotland against France in Paris on January 13, 1951, marking his debut with two tries. One report stated: “Glorious bursts by DM Rose …produced two unconverted tries…putting his head back, he went all-out for the line and no Frenchman could lay a hand on him.”

Paris was a happy hunting ground because he also scored there in 1953, and in 1954 in the World Cup Final.

After another six internationals, his last against Wales in February 1953, he switched to League, signing for Huddersfield in September for whom he would play 41 times before transferring to Leeds. His Leeds debut came against St Helens in October 1954, shortly before he was selected for Great Britain for the World Cup.

Initially a reserve as understudy to the famous Billy Boston, he was delighted to be given the opportunity to join the team when Boston withdrew late on. At home for a break in Jedburgh, police appeared at his door to inform him he was now in the side and to head south immediately. After an overnight train journey he joined the party for the coach trip to France. They were reckoned to be complete outsiders in the competition, with no chance of success. However, galvanised by captain Dave Valentine from Hawick, they overcame the odds to qualify for the final, where they beat favourites France 16-12, Rose notching a cleverly taken opening try.

On his first game back for Leeds he broke his leg, writing off the rest of the season and, although he managed some games the next season, he had to retire on medical grounds, a considerable blow aged 26.

In 1957 he married a local girl, Doreen Fairbairn, in Crailing Church, near Jedburgh. They went on to enjoy 63 years of happy marriage during which they had three children, Aileen, Diane and Neil. Initially, they lived in Yorkshire, where Davie worked in the textile industry, before returning to the Jedburgh area in 1974 when he began working for Kelso Concrete Products, as manager and then director.

He became a regular supporter of Jedforest and was a popular figure at Riverside, where he was always welcome. Some contemporaries who switched to League experienced lukewarm recognition or worse at their old clubs, but that was not his experience.

Proud of his Jethart roots, a one-time trombonist in the Jedforest Instrumental Band, he was a gifted storyteller with an excellent sense of humour, well attuned to Borders rivalries.

Modest about his part in the 1954 success but lauding that played by friend and captain, Dave Valentine, he would quip: “Well, I couldn’t let a Hawick man be the only Scot in the team.”

A great family man, he was very pleased to see grandson Andrew Nagle lift the winner’s cup at Jedforest Sevens in 2014, representing Melrose.

Another enthusiasm was golf, which he enjoyed playing with friends at Jedburgh and Goswick, managing to continue till 2020. A delightful gent, he enjoyed a long life well lived and is survived by his wife, children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild.