Obituary: Bill Dickinson

Bill Dickinson, rugby coach: born 1917; died Irvine, Ayrshire 7 April 1994.

BILL DICKINSON pioneered international rugby coaching in Scotland with his appointment, in 1971, as 'adviser to the captain'. The creation of such a role was considered revolutionary by the Scottish Rugby Union, who were inclined to equate coaching with the professionalism they dreaded and not long before had thought nothing of billing players who had the temerity to exchange their international jersey.

Under Dickinson's guidance Scotland won 15 out of 30 matches between 1971 and 1977 and began to re-establish credibility at international level. Of the 20 matches Scotland played immediately before his appointment only six had been won. Dickinson provided organisation, motivation and tactical appreciation: previously the approach in had been enthusiastic but uncoordinated. Dickinson had no official say in selection, but was aware that he would not have got the job on any other terms and that if coaching were to be accepted as part of the preparation of the Scottish national squad he had to swallow his pride and make a start where he could.

Lex Govan convened the Scottish selectors at the time of Dickinson's appointment. He recalls: 'I had a bit of a job persuading other members to my way of thinking. Once I had won them round Bill Dickinson was the only candidate. Bill was so enthusiastic and so full of rugby. He was also a very good communicator and once the chaps had confidence in him he took Scottish rugby quite a way forward.'

Dickinson's communicatory skills stemmed from a career in physical education. A graduate of the Scottish School of Physical Education at Jordanhill, a suburb of Glasgow, Dickinson returned as senior lecturer following service during the Second World War with the Highland Light Infantry. Dickinson's interest in organising rugby teams and prescribing tactics flourished and in 1969 he inspired the hitherto unfashionable Jordanhill College club to win the unofficial Scottish club championship.

Members of that side included Ian McLauclhan, the first Jordanhill player to be capped, as a prop forward, after being converted by Dickinson from a schoolboy flanker. McLauchlan said of Dickinson's contribution to Scottish rugby: 'He was a man before his time who took us into a new era. One night he went to a dinner in Cumnock and they asked him if he could speak about coaching for 15 minutes - 1 hour and 10 minutes later he sat down to a standing ovation. Bill was as fly as a box of monkeys but he could be a diplomat as well.'

Another distinguished rugby product of Jordanhill is Richie Dixon, the present Scotland forwards coach, in whom Dickinson saw extraordinary versatility. It was under the guidance of Dickinson that Dixon became one of the few modern players to gain representative honours (with Glasgow) as both a forward and a threequarter. Others to come under the Dickinson wing with Glasgow and Scotland included Sandy Carmichael and Gordon Brown, both of whom, along with McLauchlan, were members of the only British Isles party to have won a Test series in New Zealand, in 1971. Brown's autobiography says of Dickinson:

He welded our pack into one of the finest and most competitive units ever seen at Murrayfield. His lack of technique in coaching the backs was a pity because he certainly knew how to motivate them. He constantly urged them to use their flair to the utmost which they did, but up and coming stars, like Andy Irvine, Jim Renwick, Ian McGeechan and Billy Steel, required moulding as a unit.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas