The answer was that John was ". . . out somewhere," which was a pity, because J J would have enjoyed meeting up again with Finlay, his brother Jim, John Beattie, Matt Duncan, Roger Baird, Gary Armstrong, Roy Laidlaw and a host of other Scottish internationals past and present, all gathered in Orkney for a weekend's celebratory rugby and coaching to mark the 25th anniversary of Orkney Rugby Club.
Guest of honour was Pierre Berbizier, the French coach, and, at the Sunday night's farewell dinner, I faced him at the top table as I led the singing of "Flower of Scotland". In my performances of the song I make a point of keeping the first two verses low and subdued in honour of the man who wrote it, my late partner in the Corries, Roy Williamson.
The effect of this is to contain the emotion of the work until the build- up to the end. On this occasion my rugby warriors did not let me down, unleashing the final chorus at a somewhat bewildered Frenchman. Afterwards, Pierre did me the honour of saying that as we sang, he felt a peculiar nervous tingle run up and down his right arm and the hair on the back of his neck bristle and that, at that moment, he himself felt again the wall of fierce pride charging at him as he had so many times before when facing a Scottish XV.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I, in company with the whole Scottish nation, applaud that pride which has surely in large part brought a team from a state of affairs where they suffered crushing and morale-sapping losses to the All Blacks and South Africa to a position where they are now playing for everything.
Being a passionate lover of the rugby game, I remember watching from my seat in the stand at Murrayfield, on a certain day in 1990, an English pack entrench itself on the Scottish line and try to push us over not once, not twice, but three times and even then failing to do so, and saying to myself: "We know you're bigger than us, we know you're heavier than us, but when are you gonna dae somethin'?"
Well those days are past now, and currently the English XV are "daein' somethin" with a vengeance. But then so too are Scotland.
In 1990 the feeling that built up during the season was one of a re-creation of history. The squad had requested that "Flower of Scotland" should be sung officially, and one verse was printed in the programme for the first game against France. How much that meant to all Scots present showed itself in their at least trying to sing "La Marseillase" when it was played. That's the first time I had experienced that. The one verse became two verses when the boys realised, at the beginning of their Cardiff game, that the Welsh anthem was twice as long as ours.
During the whole of the week preceding the final 1990 encounter with England, the streets of Edinburgh were bedecked in saltires and rampant lions, and the Battle of Bannockburn was on everybody's mind. After all, was not this the auld enemy invading our shores once again? In the hype given by all the media England came out as being very arrogant, giving the impression that a win was a formality. This in itself engendered even more hostility in Scottish minds. On the morning of the game the press got hold of the story of Roy Williamson's terminal illness and the singing of his song before the game was tinged with genuine sadness, heightening an already charged atmosphere.
Now in 1995, the atmosphere is a bit different. This time it's more a feeling of fairy story than history. At the beginning of the season Scotland were contending for the wooden spoon. This not only in English minds, but also in the minds and words of former Scottish heroes and, it has to be said, in the hearts of the Scottish rugby fans. We have all long since eaten our words and thoughts.
Scotland's wins against Ireland, France, (how in hell could they ever win in Paris?) and then Wales, have got us all feeling. We still think we're dreaming and we won't waken up until sometime in the middle of next week, win or lose.
This time the English arrogance which annoyed so much has been worked on, although I still question their red, white and blue strip, the colours of the British flag, but then perhaps there is method in this form, when you remember the blue cuff incident in the dying moments of last year's encounter (when Scottish supporters swore that it was not a Scottish hand that touched the ball and gave away the match-winning penalty).
The fact that they are at home this time must weigh heavily in their favour, and we know that our boys will miss those extra voices. However, we can perhaps counter that with the knowledge that a great deal is expected of an undoubtedly talented and powerful English side, which might just work against them.Reuse content