ONE of Scotland’s most respected rugby players is leading tributes to the team’s former coach driver – dubbed “the 16th man of Scottish rugby” – who died on holiday in Tenerife earlier this week.
Dennis Wells, 75, is thought to have suffered a heart complication on the Spanish island, while travelling with his wife Martha on Monday.
The father-of-two, who lived in Penicuik, drove the Scottish team coach for around 15 years and rose to fame in 2002 when the bus was hit with a parking fine while the team were tucking into a pre-match meal at the Holyrood Hotel.
Originally from Dumfries, Mr Wells served in the military with the King’s Own Scottish Borderer’s and undertook a series of driving jobs during his working life.
But it was his 15-year association with Scottish rugby which proved most memorable.
Scotland’s most-capped player, Chris Paterson, said Mr Wells had a special relationship with the team.
“This is such sad news. For me Dennis was part of the team whether it was Monday when the squad was coming together or whether it was match day when we were loading the bus to go to the ground.
“Dennis was very much part of the whole experience.”
Echoing this view, Gavin Hastings, a former captain of the national side, said: “I remember Dennis well, he was a great enthusiast who always seemed to enjoy his job and would often go the extra mile for you.
“It’s nice to hear that he felt the same way about us as we felt about him, he was like the 16th man of Scottish rugby.”
Mr Wells’ daughter Lorraine Lean, 46, recalled how driving the team bus was his “pride and joy”.
“He always looked forward to his trips with them and Scottish Rugby treated him very well,” she said. “Dad always spoke of Gavin Hastings with great respect. He was a real character and a very special man.”
Speaking about his death, Lorraine said: “It came as a big shock because he was such a healthy guy. My mum and dad doted on each other. Back in the 50s Dad even turned down a trial with Blackburn Rovers to stay with mum as her mother had just died.”
Mr Muir worked as a driver with coach firm Hunter’s of Lochend for more than 20 years before retiring in 2005. Former boss Ian Hunter said: “Dennis was a terrific driver, very competent. He went all over with the Scottish rugby team around Europe, in France and Ireland it was always taken as read that he’d drive the coach. It was a good marriage, he was well liked and he enjoyed it immensely.
“He retired a few years ago but he’s always been missed. Everyone at Hunter’s Coaches is very sad to hear of his passing and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Rugby Union said: “Scottish Rugby was saddened to learn today of the death of Dennis Wells, one of the unsung backroom men for many years with the national team.”
Mr Muir is survived by his wife Martha, daughters Lesley and Lorraine and grandchildren Fraser and Lucy.