Obituary: Norman Mair, journalist, 86

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Norman Mair, former rugby internationalist and award-winning sports journalist, has died aged 86.

Norman George Robertson Mair was born on October 7, 1928, the youngest of 13 children of Alexander William Mair, professor of Greek at Edinburgh University, and his wife, Elizabeth, who lived in Morningside.

He never knew his father who died a month after Norman was born, succumbing to the effects of fumes from a fire in his study.

Norman was educated at Edinburgh Academy and later Merchiston Castle School, then as now famed for its prowess at rugby. He excelled at the sport in his position of hooker and also took up golf and cricket.

He went on to study law at Edinburgh University, and soon played for the University First XV. At the age of 22 he was called up to play for Scotland and first wore the dark blue jersey against France in the Stade Colombes in Paris on January 13, 1951. Scotland lost that match 12-14, but his next game for Scotland was the famous 19-0 win over Wales at Murrayfield. Sadly for him, Norman played only two more matches for Scotland, his last appearance being in the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham on March 17, 1951, which England won 5-3.

His also played cricket for Scotland against Worcestershire in August 1952.

Turning to teaching, Norman qualified at Moray House in Edinburgh before spells on the staff of George Heriot’s School and St Mary’s School in Melrose.

His first forays into journalism were with STV’s Scotsport. Along with another teacher colleague, Bob Crampsey, he found himself reporting on everything from Highland League football to the rugby “championship” of the day. A spell with the Sunday Telegraph followed before Norman was summoned to The Scotsman to become the paper’s rugby correspondent. He reported on all Scotland’s matches for The Scotsman for more than 20 years. And in the summer season, he would turn his attention to golf.

It was at a golf tournament in 1967 that he met his journalist wife, Lewine, who was then 21. Theirs was a happy union of more than 47 years, with four children born in quick succession. Daughters Suzi and Michele were both at one time Scotland’s top woman tennis player, while Lewine herself went on to become the first woman golf correspondent of a national newspaper.

Norman left The Scotsman in 1982 to join the ill-fated Sunday Standard, and later wrote for The Observer and The Scotsman as well as writing several books, including a history of Muirfield.

He was named Sports Journalist of the Year in the Scottish Press Awards six times in ten years and last year became only the second media person after Bill McLaren to be inducted into the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame.

Norman suffered ill-health in retirement and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost three years ago, being looked after by devoted staff at the Thorburn Manor care home in Colinton where he died on Sunday.

He is survived by Lewine, children Suzi, Logan, Patrick and Michele and seven grandchildren.