A Bernera man is to be awarded his international rugby cap by Scottish Rugby – almost 44 years after he played in the match that qualifies him for the honour.
Ken Macaulay of Kirkibost in Great Bernera says he is ‘chuffed to bits’ after hearing that he’s one of 18 players from 10 different clubs to be added to the sport’s roll of honour, recognising their contribution to international matches.
Ken’s name is the last to be added to a list of players dating from the 1940s to the 1980s, who played in Scotland matches which have been re-classified as international tests.
Scottish Rugby Union president Colin Rigby said: “The response to our retrospective caps’ initiative has been heart-warming and a source of great pride, especially for the players and families who now hold that much-cherished status.
“The rationale behind the retrospective capping was to be inclusive, while at the same time protecting the integrity of a Scotland cap, so it was important that we looked at the circumstances around individual games and remained true to our overall philosophy.”
That rationale has led to re-evaluation of an international contest way back in April 1980, when Ken Macaulay was one of the players picked for a Scotland squad which travelled to meet a France Select team in Bordeaux, for a series of three matches.
Speaking to welovestornoway.com today (Thursday 30 November) he said: “There was no expectation that we would be considered internationals, but that didn’t mean we weren’t very proud.
“Everybody else in that squad went on to become internationals apart from me, which I think is part of the reasoning for them trying to put things straight now.”
Scottish Rugby has already awarded 57 retrospective caps this year, now augmented by this further batch of 18.
Ken’s cap, to be awarded at a ceremony at Murrayfield stadium on 23 February, will be number 1215, and he will finally get to wear it just short of 44 years after pulling on his boots for the match which now qualifies him.
At the time he was playing for Gala Rugby, one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world, in Selkirkshire in the Scottish Borders.
He had already captained the 1st XV at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield and played for Yorkshire Schools, North Eastern Counties (Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland) and North of England.
As a schoolboy he played for Morley RUFC in Leeds, one of Yorkshire’s most successful clubs, making his 1st XV debut at the age of 17, on Boxing Day 1974.
After moving to Scotland to study at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels he joined Gala, where he played a total of 317 games over 14 seasons and scored 35 tries.
He moved to Heriots when his job took him to Edinburgh and became player-coach at North Berwick in 1993, remaining with that club for 20 years.
Even once he’d finished playing, he continued to coach at North Berwick, at the same time taking on the roles of fixture secretary and youth co-ordinator.
He stayed on as director of rugby until the end of the 2012-13 season and, when he handed over the reins, it took three other people to fill all the responsibilities he had taken on.
In the year of his retirement Ken was awarded the SRU Spirit of Rugby award at a national awards evening at Murrayfield.
It’s to Murrayfield he will return to collect his international cap, finally, alongside three other Gala players and on the day before the Scotland v England international match.
Ken said: “I am chuffed to bits, although it’s a wee bit surreal and I had almost forgotten about it after 40-plus years.”
Nowadays Ken devotes his time to helping out neighbours with gardening and a dog-boarding business which his wife Pat runs, and to spending time with family on the mainland, but there’s very little rugby in his life.
He said: “I devoted a lot of time to grassroots rugby and I know it’s a great thing to be involved in, so I do go down to Bayhead from time to time to see Stornoway play and I keep in touch with the game, merely as a spectator.
“I’m chuffed to be included in all of this alongside the other recipients. However late, it’s nice to be recognised!”
The pictures show Ken at the SRU Spirit of Rugby award in 2013, in a match between Gala and Hawick in the 1980s (he is left of centre wearing a headband), and with his son Richard after his last ever game of rugby for North Berwick in 2006.