Scottish rugby loses an all-time great with death of Sandy Carmichael

Prop won 50 caps for Scotland between 1967 and 1978, which was a record at the time

Sandy Carmichael
Sandy Carmichael

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.


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“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.


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About David Barnes 2756 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

7 Comments

  1. I think it may have been his last cap in 1978 when he came on as an injury replacement for Norman Pender v Ireland – Murrayfield gave Carmichael a huge welcome, a scrum was set & of course the Scot pack marched forward at a rate of knots for the first time in the game- one of the greats

  2. A true great of Scottish rugby. In his long and distinguished career, Sandy Carmichael was the only Scotland player to equal the record of R.W. “Bulldog” Irvine in representing his country against England in ten successive years.

    Irvine was one of the outstanding players in the Scotland team for the first international in 1871.

  3. I believe that for quite a while Sandy was the most capped British or Irish player not to play in a Lions Test a record now held by Rory Best with 124 Irish caps.

  4. I had the privilege of playing in the West of Scotland side with Sandy and as has been described by others he was fearless as well as being one of the first mobile props who was just as effective with ball in hand as he was as a prop. He was part of the wonder try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks. During the summer to keep fit he tossed the caber at highland games! RIP Sandy

  5. A true Scottish legend. I was 8 when he finished his career. But my father spoke of him many times, and he is mentioned as a real stalwart of the game in the many books I have read of that period.

    Honourable, tough and defined what it meant to “play for the jersey”…

  6. Very sad news. Sandy came to our club dinner a few years ago. A lovely guy who revelled in club rugby.

    And he put a lot back into the game being one of the first advocates of Womens rugby.

    Rest in Peace Sandy.

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