RUGBY lost a giant earlier today [Wednesday] with the death of former Scotland and British & Irish Lions prop Sandy Carmichael, aged 77, after a period of illness.
Playing out of West of Scotland, Carmichael was the cornerstone of the national pack between his debut against Ireland in February 1967 and his final match against the same opposition in January 1978. He collected 50 caps in total, which was a Scottish record at the time.
Carmichael toured twice with the Lions, and is near the top of the list of players most cruelly robbed of Test caps for that side having suffered five fractures of the cheekbone during a brutal encounter with Canterbury the week before the first match against the All Blacks in 1971. He played on until the final whistle but was sent home the following day and insisted thereafter that he would take the name of the perpetrator of the assault to his grave. “The reason is that if I tell then the story ends,” he explained. “I don’t want them ever to forget and if I leave it this way they can’t forget.” The episode remains one of the most notorious in international rugby history.
“Sandy is the bravest guy I know, he would do anything that needed done on the rugby field, except he wasn’t interested in punching,” said his great friend and propping partner Ian McLauchlan years after their careers had finished. “He would scrummage hard, he would tackle hard he would go down on the ball, he would get trampled over – but that side of it was totally alien to him.”
Carmichael also toured with the victorious Lions in South Africa in 1974 but did not make the Test team. “We were a squad of 30 men who had gone there to win the series, and there was never any griping about selection from me or any of the other guys who missed out on the Test team,” he later stated. “That must have been the strongest Lions squad that ever toured, and just to be part of it was astronomical.”
He was awarded an MBE in the 1977 Silver Jubilee and Birthday Honours.
Carmichael’s son Trevor – one of four children and a cohort of grandchildren – is currently head coach of GHA, who play in the Tennent’s Premiership, the top-flight of amateur rugby in Scotland.