Jack Dun

Born: November 7, 1925;

Died: 11th October 11, 2023

Jack Dun, who has died aged 97, was a Melrose rugby man through and through, one who made an outstanding contribution not only to his beloved club but also to the game in Scotland.

He did so in different capacities – as player, referee, official and historian – and will be particularly well remembered for his lifelong association with the Melrose 7s, a tournament that captivated him from an early age and at which he was a virtual ever-present since first attending in 1933.

He also enjoyed a successful business career as principal for many years of the well-established family firm of John Dun and Co, Agricultural Merchants, Galashiels, which served a loyal clientele stretching from Caithness to Wales. Jack was an expert grass seedsman whose extensive knowledge and experience led to appointments in positions of responsibility in trade organisation bodies.

John Dun was born to Johnny and Kate nee Thin, a younger brother to Kathleen, and brought up in Melrose where family roots reached back many years.

He attended St Mary’s Prep School before going to Merchiston Castle where his sporting abilities shone. Scrum half and captain of the 1st XV in his final year, it was recorded that he was “a very promising player with good rugger sense”. He also featured in the running team, earned colours at Fives and was a senior prefect.

His mother had taken him to watch the 1933 Melrose 7s final which marked the start of his love affair with the tournament. From an early age he began collecting rugby-related materials especially about Melrose but also the game generally which he maintained meticulously to create a valuable archive. Broadcasters and journalists regularly consulted him when preparing features.

After school, Jack joined the Edinburgh University Officers’ Training Corps, helping transport injured servicemen to Bangour Hospital following D-Day. By 1946 he had made his 1st XV debut for Melrose but appendicitis and officer training with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers put rugby on hold. Commissioned into the KOSB, he was posted to India in 1946 where he joined the Border Regiment, principally engaged in riot control in Bombay and elsewhere during the lead-up to partition. A challenging period but alleviated somewhat by playing occasional rugby.

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Following discharge he resumed playing for Melrose by early 1948, going on to play 174 games for the 1st XV, and captaining the side in his final season, 1955/56, having previously been vice-captain. Highlights included Melrose’s first Unofficial Scottish Championship win in 1951/52 when a draw with Stewart’s FPs clinched the title, a game in which Jack featured prominently according to a press report. He also shared in two Border League title wins, 1949/50 and 1953/54, won a Kelso 7s medal and played one game for South of Scotland against Glasgow in October 1954, an 18-11 win.

A 17-year distinguished refereeing career then followed. Considered strict but fair he was highly regarded and over a long period was a valuable mentor to many referees. Unfortunate not to be appointed to an international, he was honoured twice as touch judge in matches against Wales and France in 1964 and 1973.

He was a member of the Scottish Rugby Union’s laws committee, referee selection panel, a referee assessor and a founder member of the Borders Rugby Referees Society.

He was immersed in the organisation of Melrose, entailing a period as club secretary, as a long-standing committee member and as an extremely valuable member of the 7s committee with referee selection responsibilities alongside much else.

He refereed many times at the tournament, including several finals. Jack retained great memories of wonderful players and teams who appeared there, his favourite player being Eddie Oxley [Heriot’s] who he recalled “played when I was a young boy and was magnificent ... he certainly inspired me to get involved in rugby.”

He was club president in 1983, the 7s’ centenary year, when the Duchess of Gloucester was a guest and last year was delighted to be inducted into the Melrose 7s Hall of Fame, being awarded a cap of honour. It was reckoned he had attended some 81 tournaments, missing only two while in India and two through Covid, since his first appearance.

In November 1956 in Ancrum, Jack married Jean Dagg, a farmer’s daughter whom he had met locally. The couple enjoyed a long and happy marriage of almost 65 years during which they lived in Melrose, and had three children, Fiona, Jock and Alistair.

Family life, business and rugby occupied Jack’s time fairly fully but he enjoyed watching cricket and used to take part in curling with the Lauderdale club. He was interested in sheep farming and regularly attended the Kelso tup sales, sometimes even missing a Melrose game to do so. His lifelong interest in compiling his rugby archive was time consuming but a pursuit he relished.

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He was very sociable and blessed with a quick, dry wit and well known for his deadpan one-liners. Fortunate to have friends from different parts of the country and all walks of life, till fairly recently he still went regularly to the Greenyards for a coffee and chat.

Jack is survived by Jock, Alistair, grandchildren Matthew, Bethan, Ben, Elissa and Jack and several great grandchildren.