BT PREMIERSHIP FINAL
Brown facing play-off crunch as Gala look to withstand the Marr challenge
Former Scotland captain Brown caught in middle as his old sides fight for promotion
AS a two-footed footballer whose father Jock had played in goal for Scotland, the 13-year-old Peter Brown’s life changed when he turned up at Marr College in the early 50s.
By the time he left he was such an accomplished rugby player that the school’s FP side accepted that, having already been approached by two senior clubs, he was destined for better things and he duly joined West of Scotland.
A few years later, his accountancy career having taken him to Galashiels, he was playing for Scotland out of one of the most famous clubs in the country, a sometimes lock, sometimes No.8 who kicked goals in the most unorthodox fashion and had such an ungainly gait that he was dubbed ‘the man on the coathanger’.
PC Brown, as he is known throughout rugby circles, brother of the late, similarly maverick Gordon ‘Broon frae Troon’, was to captain his country to one of its greatest ever feats when they beat England home and away in the space of a week in 1971, the second of those games a special match marking the centenary of the first ever international and the first one of only four victories Scotland have claimed at Twickenham in the 106 years since it was opened.
Before, during and after that he was to fill every rugby-related role at the Gala club from player to captain, to coach, to selector, to committee man as his association with the Border club intensified.
While he and Gordon were playing international rugby their other brother John was meanwhile playing regularly for the family’s hometown club.
Consider then PC’s dilemma today as he turns up at Stirling’s Bridgehaugh awaiting the arrival of John among three bus-loads of supporters who are heading up from Troon in the hope of watching their up-and-coming first team relegate Gala from Scottish rugby’s top flight in the Premiership play-off.
“It’s a real problem for me because I’m an honorary life member of both clubs,” laughed Brown.
“It reminds me of when Andy Cameron used to come on stage wearing a shirt that was half Rangers, half Celtic and I was thinking I could maybe wear something that was half the maroon of Gala and half the purple and gold of Marr, but I think I might just wear blue. That should be sufficiently neutral.”
All delivered with his standard bonhomie, but there is a serious side to it all.
“I used to be a ball-boy for Marr FP and used to heat the pies for them,” he continued.
“I twice guested for Marr, organised an international team to open their new ground at Fullarton many, many years ago and when I was coaching Gala I took the whole Gala squad through to Troon to have a practice, but Marr was such a junior club I would never have thought there was the possibility of them meeting one another in a competitive match of this importance.”
His sporting philosophy was also formed in the town where his father passed on the sort of sound advice to be expected from one of three siblings who had played professional football, older brother Jim, remarkably, representing the USA at the first ever football World Cup in 1930, while younger brother Tom played for Ipswich.
“My father was a great sportsman who encouraged us to play everything and had a fabulous attitude telling you to take them on and show them how good you are... stick in ‘til you stick out, no matter what sport we played,” he recalls.
Yet it is half a century since Brown arrived in Galashiels and as well as his magnificent Scotland career his most treasured sporting memories include winning three consecutive Melrose Sevens in a maroon jersey and what was then a rare victory over Gala’s fiercest rivals Hawick at their Mansfield Park stronghold.
“I’m dyed-in-the-wool Gala and can’t understand a player spending two years at Gala and then moving on to Melrose,” he observed, by way of underlining his attachment.
On the face of it, though, up against a Marr team that has become used to winning in the first division this season, the more senior club would look to be up against it just weeks after their long-serving coach George Graham left by mutual consent.
“Marr have wonderful backs but I think Gala have too much power for them and I would worry for Marr going up into the Premiership because the rise in standard is considerable, but then I worried for them when they got into the first division for the same reason,” said Brown.
FLYING THE FLAG: Peter Brown, the former Scotland international, will have divided loyalties this afternoon