I AM probably the last person who should be writing a tribute to wee Ron Evans, who passed away in Ayr Hospital on Tuesday. However, needs must.
You see, Ron and I have history, going back 60-years to Ayr Academy v Cumnock Academy games. At Cumnock, we were the “bastard children” of Ayrshire rugby – a plook on the face of the fair game, to be tolerated rather than loved, and only to be acknowledged under duress.
We in many ways relished our notoriety, and when it came to local rivalries in schools rugby, we liked beating Marr College, or Kilmarnock, or Irvine Royal Academy, however, we absolutely LOVED beating Ayr Academy. They were our main enemy, and, while it would be fair to say, they tended to beat us more than we beat them, those wins, either at Cumnock or in Ayr, were to be specially celebrated.
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Rivalries established at school then intensified at club level. Ayrshire derbies were never for the faint of heart, and, where they continue today, that is still the case.
Now Ron was a scrum-half, half-Welsh, half-Scottish. With that mix of blood and background, he could, and frequently was, a really annoying wee so-and-so. I remember once, in a lower XV club game, finding him at the bottom of a ruck, complaining loudly about having just been worked over by the entire Cumnock pack, and doubting our collective parentage.
I carefully placed the sole of my right boot on his nose, before telling him: “Naw Ron, you’re not worth it.” It would have made no difference, he’d still have been chippy, had I put weight on him. However, I have to admit, wee nuisance or not, he loved the game of rugby, was highly-knowledgable about that game and he cared deeply for its good name.
He only got into writing about the game after I had to temporarily leave Ayrshire to work in England, taking on one of the gigs with a local paper which I had formerly held.
To be honest, Ron was a bit too-wordy for print journalism – I remember once, when the loss of a couple of pages brought a “slash and burn” instruction from the Editor, just hours before publication. The only subs still on duty – this was a late night job – were myself and the Chief Sub, who admitted he knew nothing about sport. Thus I had to hard-sub a lot of the sports copy to shoe-horn two pages-worth of reports into one – with Ron’s rugby among the stuff to be drastically trimmed.
I got it up on screen, just under 1500 words, which I managed to cut back to 150, without losing anything important, before press time.
The paper came out and almost immediately after it hit the street, I saw Ron enter the front office. He saw me and immediately realised who had butchered his precious copy. Cue steam coming out of his ears.
He was, however, a terrific broadcast journalist, on both radio and television. He painted great word pictures and deserves credit for his mastery of this genre. His Scottish Rugby TV initiative which provided top rate coverage of the club game in the late 2000s and early 2010s is fondly remembered and deeply missed.
Ron did great work behind the scenes at Glasgow Caledonians (as the city’s professional team was briefly known), helping to build a media presence for the club. In fact, I reckon when they had Ron and the marvellous Bill McMurtrie working on press relations, Glasgow was very-well served by two men who knew their jobs.
However, he found his real niche when he took on the mammoth task of collating club results for the written and broadcast media. This seems simple enough, but is actually a huge job, with many hidden pitfalls.
OK, you’re the guy who has to gather the results for say National League III. You therefore have to have good, trust-worthy contacts, to ensure you get the right results.
Ron had a marvellous and thorough database of numbers: clubhouses, mobile numbers for club officials, referees and so forth. It should be easy – telephone the club, ask for the result, get it, send it on up the line. Except, supposing the telephone at the club is answered by a third XV prop, who thinks it is clever to have the home team win, when they lost, or to come up with a false result. This, believe you me, can happen.
Ron overcame this possibility by building and nurturing a list of trusted contacts right across the country – in fact, I believe he probably had the most-inclusive contacts book in Scottish rugby.
Collating results is also a time-sensitive activity. Ron had roughly two hours after the final whistle blew in which to gather-in all the results from every game being played in Scotland on any given Saturday – and he always delivered. But, at National League level, he also had individual scorers to collate. It was a massive job, which he did with calm assurance.
Someone else will now have to take on that task. They will, whoever gets the gig, struggle to perform it as well as Ron did. I wish them good luck, trying to live up to the standard he set.
He cared deeply about where rugby is going, and, in these difficult times for Rugby Union, his knowledge and passion will be missed.
I personally will miss the wee bugger greatly. If we ever get back to watching rugby at Millbrae, it will not be the same without him. And, if Ayrshire Bulls ever do relocate to Dam Park, I will do all I can to keep my promise to him. If I have anything to do with it, there will be a Ron Evans Memorial Media Room there. He deserves that accolade at least.
Rest in Peace Ron, and, my sincere condolences to his 100-year-old mother, to his sons Greg, down there in Invercargill, on New Zealand’s South Island, and Glynn in Paisley, and to his wider family.
One of the givers In the game, never a taker. The most generous of men who always came back to you, even with late, late requests on a Saturday.
Ron will be sadly missed by all in the game.
It was my pleasure to work with him over the last 20:years. I shall particularly miss our mid week updates. Always interesting and informative.
Rest in peace Ron Evans
When I first started refereeing at a decent level I got a call from Ron Evans. Not sure how he got my number!! He told me who he was and it made me feel important!! He wanted the score of the game and “if you don’t mind could you txt me the score every Saturday wherever you are” I think he had all the Refs numbers!! Well played Ron Evans.
great man great loss, great shame he is gone too soon
Deeply saddened by his passing. A really good guy. When we were growing up he always somehow managed to get us kids a mention in the Ayrshire Post- and we loved it.
RIP Ron and thanks for the cuttings!
Ron is a man who cared for club rugby.
And will be missed by all in club rugby.
My condolences go out to his family and his friends.
What a wonderful tribute for Ron from the master wordsmith Matt Vallance.
Ron’s passing leaves a huge hole in the reporting and knowledge base of the Club Game in Scotland.
Stand at Ease Ron.
Outside rugby, Ron was an avid reader & enthusiastic traveller &, I’m convinced, a potential writer on his various travels in New Zealand & the US.
But his knowledge of rugby, the various clubs at every level, the huge army of club volunteers, players & officials was legendary.
I, amongst many others, will miss the guy. I can still see him coming towards the Millbrae Stand with one shoulder held high with all the “stuff” he needed in his satchel.
Life will be duller without him.
I never met Ron, but it’s sad to hear of his passing as I seem to know him from several years worth of Saturday afternoon phone calls with him collating 2nd xv results.
Sad news. I still have my copies of the monthly Scottish Rugby magazine that was launched by Sean Lineen and co in the heady post-Grand Slam days of the early 1990s. I recall it aspired to have a section on every region, but often a single page by Ron on Ayrshire and the Southwest was as far as that commitment went. I knew nothing about rugby in that area but always enjoyed Ron’s updates, and learned a lot from them.
Sad news. Rest in Peace Ron
Sad news indeed.
One of the great unsung guys in Scottish Rugby.
Always positive, always helpful.
A pleasure to know him.
Fond memories of his clips and coverage of club games.
Big shoes to fill, particularly on the results service.
RIP Ron, enjoy the great clubhouse in the sky.
The fact that two people dislike your post Keith says so much about them.
And nothing good.