THE game of rugby lost one its most committed ambassadors towards the end of last month when Jim Rae, a former president at Grammar, but first and foremost a Hawick man, passed away after a short illness.
In the 26 years I was privileged to write about the game in the North East, I was greatly influenced by many in the local game, but none had greater impact on my scribbling than Jim, who was a constant inspiration throughout.
Jim was intelligent, thoughtful and acutely aware of the issues facing the game. Indeed, had he taken upon himself, I believe he could have devised a masterplan for rugby in the Granite City, thus avoiding the uncoordinated loose structure which currently exists. Alas, for whatever reason, he chose not to thrust himself into such a leadership role, instead confining himself to taking on the presidency at Rubislaw – a job he relished, enabling him to implement his traditional values and integrity in a sport he loved.
Strongly influenced by his own father, who in turn was a close friend of commentating legend Bill McLaren, Jim fitted seamlessly into the North East scene after moving with his family to Aberdeen as primary school kid in the mid-1960s, while still keeping links with his Border roots. Indeed, his name kept coming up in my my many trips to Border country where his wisdom was greatly respected in the committee rooms of that fair part of Scotland.
While I was not au fait with his professional career, I was well aware of his ability as a wordsmith, putting my own feeble efforts to shame, and yet for some reason, still choosing to support my work with the Aberdeen Journals over two decades.
I was similarly lacking in knowledge of his playing career in the area but recall asking him who he thought was up there as one of the best players in the region. He surprised no end when without hesitation he named Jim Sugden, who went on to become president of derby rivals Gordonians,.
”Suggy was not only a good player, but a man of integrity who had vision for this great game,” said Jim, during one of our many chats over the years
Come to think of it, the Sugden/Rae combination would have been well equipped to lead North East rugby out of the doldrums, while bringing together factions who instead of warring could have been equal partners, and a challenge to other regions.
But while my friend of 20 plus years will be remembered for his public relations skills and commitment to a game he graced, he will also be affectionately recalled as a loving father and grandfather.
I was proud to call him my Border chum. Rest in peace old freen.