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

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?