MANY have used selection for the Edinburgh District rugby team as a springboard to even greater honours but few had the oval ball sport in their hearts more than Peter Welsh, an ex-captain of the Leith Accies club, who has died, aged 59.
It is probable that after his family – wife Anne, son Jack and daughters Kirsten and Katie – rugby was Peter’s great love. At his funeral, where the gathering of friends and admirers overflowed into the car park of Warriston Crematorium, the sport was a dominant theme.
There was a poem from the film Invictus which linked the apartheid struggle to South Africa’s success in the 1995 World Cup, while the rugby anthem World in Union was played after a rendition of Flower of Scotland.
Peter debuted as a player in a powerful Edinburgh side that toured France in August 1979 and defeated a Roussillon Select 15-3 at Perpignan.
When the Edinburgh team’s call came Peter interrupted a family holiday with Anne’s blessing to fly out and line up in a back row alongside two future British Lions – Derrick White and Jim Calder. Also included was Bill Gammell, with Andy Irvine as team captain.
Reflecting the fact that Leith Accies were about to record their highest ever league placing – third in Scottish division two – Peter was joined by colleagues Dave Armstrong and Tom Bell, who recalled: “Peter was an uncompromising, committed and gifted player on the field and a hugely respected role model for younger Leith Accies off it.”
Another ex-Leith captain, Frank Sibbald, recalled: “I’ve long memories of a great guy who supported his club on the field and off,” while former team-mate Peter Mitchell noted Welsh “being played out of position as a winger by Leith against Hawick specifically to nullify the threat posed by Bruce White, then the top try scorer in Scottish rugby. White drew a blank that day”.
Captain of Leith Accies in 1980, Peter never strayed far from Restalrig where he was born to Nancy and John, an assistant chief firemaster.
A committed member of the Scout movement and later of Seafield Bowling Club, Peter studied mechanical and productionengineering at Napier College. Subsequently, he became interested in IT and became a systems analyst and later project manager with Christian Salvesens then Agilent Technologies.
A cousin of the best-selling author Irvine Welsh, Peter was married to Anne – whom he met at Leith Academy – for 39 years.
Around 18 months ago Peter was diagnosed with a brain tumour but fought his illness bravely, helped by Anne’s decision to give up teaching at Leith Primary.
He took particular inspiration from a charity art/fashion and music event organised by his daughters which raised £4000 for Brain Tumour UK.
Peter compared his battle for health with times on the pitch, describing the diagnosis as “a tap tackler from behind”.
It was typical that, throughout dark days, Peter Welsh never surrendered his trademark good humour.