I've just been reading 'A Portrait of Scottish Rugby' by Allan Massie, published in the wake of the Scotland Grand Slam in 1984. In looking at great players of the past, in this case full-backs, he writes a great deal about Ken Scotland, but turns to another great writer to sum up his feelings about Ken. He quotes Neville Cardus, the cricket writer, on the subject of Tom Graveney.
"If some destructive process were to eliminate all we know about cricket, only Graveney surviving, we could reconstruct from him, from his way of batting and from the man himself, every outline of the game, every essential character and flavour which have contributed to cricket, the form of it and its soul, and its power to inspire a wide and sometimes and sometimes a great literature."
Massie, of course, argues that this could be applied to Ken Scotland in terms of rugby, and that this places him in a class with Jackie Kyle, Mike Gibson and Barry John. I can't say yes or no to that since I never saw Scotland or Kyle play, although I do remember Gibson and John, and they certainly set the standards for their time. Allan Massie restricted his opinions to players he had seen in action, so I think he probably knows what he's talking about. What I do know is that this is a great piece of writing, establishing a standard to which I might aspire but never expect to reach.
In passing, I did have the privilege around four years ago to be asked to chair my club's annual dinner, at which the speakers were Roy Dingwall, a great entertainer, and A.R. Irvine, one of my personal rugby heroes. It was a pleasure to sit alongside such a legend and listen to him regale us with stories of Scotland and the Lions, talking with genuine pleasure of another legend, the diminutive Welsh winger Gerald Davies, again a player I greatly admired.
Good books. Good times.