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: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Recruitment Genius: HR Consultant

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An HR Consultant is required to join thi...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable