John Gibson: Rugby hero casts a giant shadow

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Bigger than big. I’d been forewarned. The man, the colossus I was scheduled to interview midday, would cast a giant shadow. But I wasn’t to panic. The sudden darkness wouldn’t signal the end of the world. This was only Ian Milne entering the room. The same Ian Milne who’d been a major figure in Scottish rugby. Forty-four caps. Wedged into a chair (just one of the Dome’s chairs, I checked), the interview began on a weighty topic. Fellow diners had been watching.

‘‘I scaled 16 stones and four pounds when I started playing and when I was at my peak I was 18 stones. As a matter of fact I prefer not to dwell on my weight but I was 11lbs 3oz when I was born – and you can put that in the paper.’’

Throughout our chat Herioter through-and-through Ian wore the broadest heart-warming smile but it hadn’t been there from birth. There was good reason for his exceptional girth, I discovered. And for the swift demolition of his mince and tatties, prompted by another of the game’s bulky big shots, our host trencherman and former Boroughmuir and Scotland prop Norrie Rowan.

Me, the wee cock sparra in middle. Ian’s revelation: “I feel I’ve a legit reason. Comfort eating for six or seven years, when I suffered seriously from depression.’’

Depression can be hell but the condition wasn’t to plague Ian until well after his happy school days at Blackhall Primary, before Heriot’s. He had turned up tieless, while Rowan chose to mark the occasion wearing a Scottish Cup 2000 winners tie. Careful not to blemish it with mince overspill in the giant’s shadow.

Afterwords . .

. . I wined and dined once in Edinburgh with Max Clifford. Does that necessarily make me a bad person? Answers on a postcard, please. Usual rules and conditions apply.