Obituary: John Howard Wilson, ex-rugby player, 85

John Howard Wilson played for Scotland in 1953. Picture: comp
John Howard Wilson played for Scotland in 1953. Picture: comp
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A one-cap Scotland rugby internationalist has died a week after his 85th birthday.

John Howard Wilson, known as Howard, was one of Scotland’s oldest rugby internationalists, making his sole appearance at the age of 22 in 1953 against Ireland at Murrayfield in a 26-8 defeat.

He was born at Boghall Farm at the foot of the south side of the Pentland Hills near Flotterstone, where his father managed the farm on behalf of Edinburgh University.

There his love of the outdoors was nurtured as he spent much of his youth walking and exploring.

After leaving school he undertook national service between 1947 and 1949 in the Signals Regiment in Germany, where he represented the British Army of the Rhine at rugby.

Mr Wilson’s family had been involved in sheep farming in the Borders for generations and on being demobbed he himself became involved. At the same time he began playing for Watsonians and also represented Edinburgh twice in the early 1950s.

Then in late 1954 he took the opportunity to go to Tanganyika to work for the Colonial Service as an agricultural adviser, where he stayed for over three years. There he met and married Sheila Brooke, who was working as a nurse, and the couple would go on to enjoy 59 years of happy marriage.

Daughters Leslie and Lindsey were both born in Tanganyika, in Kahama and Bukoba respectively, while son Murray was born in Scotland after their return in 1958.

Leslie remembers how she and Lindsey were initially ticked off at primary school in Scotland for speaking Swahili, which they had picked up from their nanny. Both Mr Wilson and his wife had very fond memories of their time in Tanganyika.

Mr Wilson resumed playing for Watsonians and latterly some games for Howe of Fife. He was employed in the agricultural sector in different capacities and dabbled in a few small business ventures of his own. Once he stopped playing, he coached at Watsonians for some years. His enthusiasm for rugby and its social side remained unabated throughout his life and his family thought of Myreside, Watsonians’ ground, as virtually their second home for years.

In the mid-1990s, Mr Wilson and his wife moved from Edinburgh where he was a High Constable to live in retirement in Elie, Fife, the scene of happy childhood holidays.

Declining health last October necessitated his admission to a nursing home south of Edinburgh, in sight of his beloved Pentlands.

Despite infirmity he remained determined to make it out there for a hike in the hills but had to content himself with walking in the confines of the home, which he did frequently.

A photograph of Mr Wilson in his Scotland playing kit had pride of place at his bedside, a much cherished memento. He died on March 10 and is survived by his wife, daughters and son.