- Born: 19th August 1930, Hawick
- Died: 9th January 2024, Hawick, aged 93
ERIC GRIERSON, a Hawick man ‘through and through’ who spent his whole life in the Borders town, was a true sporting enthusiast. His own playing career having been cut short by injury, he became an international rugby referee, one of seven to have emerged from Hawick. He was also President of the Scottish Cricket Union, the third ‘Teri’ to have been accorded the honour.
As referee, he was a stickler for fair play and a man of integrity, considered a ‘player’s referee’, a highly respected and popular figure whose good sense of humour leavened occasional moments of tension on the field.
Eric was also an accomplished and enthusiastic cricketer who captained his Hawick and Wilton Club over nine seasons, continuing to play into his 50s. He enjoyed Border League success with the team and twice captained the South of Scotland XI. After ‘hanging up’ his pads, he became a highly regarded umpire over several seasons, his contribution to the game being deservedly recognised with the award of the Presidency of the Union.
Thomas Fleming Eric Grierson was born in Hawick to parents Adam and Jane, and had a brother Adam and sister Joyce. His father, who died when Eric was young, was a hosiery frame-worker at a time when the textile industry was booming. He attended Trinity Primary School before going to Hawick High School where he first played rugby, the start of his lifelong association with the sport.
Standing 5ft 4ins tall, he was ideally suited to the scrum-half position and on leaving school initially played for the local ‘semi-junior’ Hawick PSA side and ‘junior’ Hawick Linden clubs, winning the Langholm junior 7s with the latter in the early 1950s.
His talent soon attracted the notice of Hawick, the town’s senior team known as ‘the Greens’, for whom he made his debut in 1952, going on to play a total of 31 games over the next five seasons.
In November 1952, alongside several internationalists, he played a notable part in the Greens’ Border League win over Melrose who had been unbeaten for two years and whose scrum-half was Jack Dun, later to become a prominent referee himself. Eric had a reliable service to his stand-off and was known for exciting breaks, always alert to scoring opportunities.
He also continued featuring for Linden as well as for the Trades club before having to stop playing because of injury when aged 27.
Fellow ‘Teri’’and international referee Barrie Laidlaw suggested Eric take up refereeing, initially taking charge of school and junior matches before making his senior debut at the Greenyards, Melrose.
He joined the Borders Referees Society when it was formed in 1961 which gave impetus to his career leading to his soon becoming recognised as one of the country’s top whistlers.
His first international was the Ireland versus South Africa match in 1970 in Dublin when his decision to play eight minutes of injury time rankled the Springboks, especially as during that period Ireland scored a penalty to secure a draw.
Between then and 1975, he covered another four internationals, France versus Romania, France versus England, Wales versus Ireland and England versus France. In addition, he was touch judge in several others, including Hawick’s Jim Renwick’s 1972 try scoring debut against France when Eric’s delight was obvious to all.
He took charge of matches involving touring Australian and New Zealand teams and also refereed high profile games involving the Barbarians, an RFU Centenary match, several ‘B’ internationals and the SRU Centenary 7s.
Regarding international teams, according to a press interview he gave, he rated France the best team to referee as they played open rugby, England not far behind, Wales the most professional and Ireland the most difficult, adding: ‘They were like Langholm, they always seemed to have 20 players on the field!”
in April 1976, he refereed his final major match when Hawick played a ‘Rest of the Borders XV’ to raise funds for a Borders’ Club tour of Holland. One leading newspaper declared: “It was a wonderful way for one of the country’s best and most popular officials to bow out the ‘big time’ game.”
In May he officiated at the Walkerburn 7s at the conclusion of which he threw his boots into the Tweed in what ‘The Scotsman’ described as “a pleasing ceremony that delighted the crowd”, prompting him to remark later: “The fishing has never been the same…!”
Eric continued involvement in refereeing and SRU committees and was delighted to be appointed President of the Hawick club between 1993 and 1995.
His cricket career ran in parallel alongside much of his rugby career. A wicket-keeper and middle order batsman, he led the Hawick and Wilton Cricket Club to Border League Championships in 1959 and 1964, and played in their side that won the Borders Knock-Out Cup for the first time in 1967, defeating Selkirk in a replay at Philiphaugh.
He also played for his employers, Pringles of Scotland’s, team, helping them top their League over 10 consecutive seasons. His services to the sport were recognised with his appointment as Vice-President of the Scottish Cricket Union in 1996 and President the next year, while he was also made an Honorary Life Member of the Union.
When Eric left school he joined Pringles as an apprentice cashier going on to earn promotion to an accountants position with the company where he spent all his working life.
In November 1954, he married Isabella Wintrup Heatlie [known as Winnie] from Roberton, Hawick, with whom he enjoyed a long happy marriage for over 60 years during which they had Derek and Carol. Family was all important to Eric who loyally supported his children in their various sporting pursuits and enjoyed family holidays to Spain, Turkey and Greece.
He is survived by his children, sister, grandchildren, Andrew, Louise and Gary and great grandchildren Jaxon, Ayden, Kyle and Robbie.