Boyhood hero

Boyhood hero

A Story by Beavo

A story about growing up, playing schoolboy rugby and following a Scottish Rugby star.

 I grew up in the small town of Lasswade, 6 miles south of Edinburgh during the 1970s and 80s. I attended Hawthornden Primary School from the age of 5, where I first met a certain Peter Hugh Wright, a boy of considerable size, strength and relative speed even at that young age.
Peter wasn’t a friend as such in those days, we came from different sides of town, but he was someone to be respected for his ability to catch you and give you a good thumping, no matter how much of a head start you had on him. I was to experience many of those thumpings over my early years, because quite simply, I was a cheeky little sod who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Even though I knew it wouldn’t end well, I still couldn’t resist handing out the kind of abuse that would see me chased across the playing fields on my way home after class, being tackled to the ground and forced to eat grass or suffer some other form of schoolboy retribution. Peter wasn't a bully, but he was uncompromising in his handing out of punishment. 

Before the end of our time at Primary School however, Peter and I had gained one thing in common, an interest in playing Rugby, Peter, most likely because of his size and strength, and me because I was totally hopeless at all other sport. Rugby was always the sport in my house growing up, some of my earliest memories are of my father roaring at the television on winter afternoons, when Scotland would be playing in the 5 nations championship. I would sit with him and get excited, listening to Bill Maclaren’s commentary and cheering when ever my dad cheered. And so, about the age of 10, one freezing Sunday morning I was taken to my first  training session at Lasswade Rugby Club, and my love for the game began.
By the time we had moved up to Lasswade high school, Peter Wright was already showing great promise as a player. He was just so much bigger and stronger than all the opposition, my team mates and I would watch in awe as he took the ball and ran straight through any would be tacklers to score try after try, he was a one man team. I swear, I once saw him hand off an opposition player catching him right under the chin with one hand and lifting him clean off the ground.
It wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the talent scouts of the Scottish Rugby Union and at the age of --, Peter represented his country for the first time in an under  " international against ------.
 A few months before leaving High school, at the age of 16, I started training with the adults at Lasswade Rugby Club and soon began turning out for the 3rd team on a Saturday afternoon. Peter was already established as the first choice prop for the club by this time, and he would give most opponents at that level a hard time. He moved on from Lasswade after a season or two and joined Boroughmuir, a Scottish 1st division team. we all said then that he would play for Scotland one day.
I continued to play rugby at Lasswade into my early twenties , enjoying the social side of the game immensely. I would sign up for any trips to Murrayfield to watch the Scotland national team play and I also enjoyed several tours to Wales, Ireland and France during that time. Rugby became a passion and almost an entire way of life, even if I still couldn’t catch a ball. It was this touring side of Rugby which had the biggest influence on me, I loved visiting other countries and meeting the opposition players and supporters, there was always an instant bond between us, and plenty of laughter when the beer flowed. 
As a result of these early experiences, I decided in 1991 I would pack in my job as an engineer in Edinburgh, and head to Australia and New Zealand for a year to sample some southern hemisphere rugby adventures. I spent the first 4 months of this trip backpacking around Australia, meeting lots of great people, seeing all the sights, partying and having fun, before moving on to New Zealand to do the same. Whilst working on a farm in the South Island I manage to turn out For Tapawera Rugby Club near the city of Nelson one Saturday afternoon. I played badly however, and was dropped for the rest of my life, but It was a great experience and ever the sociable club man, I fully enjoyed myself at the after match celebrations.
In the days before email there were letters from home and in early 1992 I picked up a letter from my dad at the post office in Wellington. He had written to tell me that the Scotland team would be playing in Sydney in a couple of months time, and that Peter Wright was likely to get his first full international cap. The next day I went straight down to a travel agent and bought a flight back to Australia, I had to be in Sydney for that game.
I duelly attended the game at Sydney Football Stadium, and cheered to the rafters when the Scotland team, including Peter, ran onto the pitch. We lost that day 27 - 12, but it mattered not, I was proud and pleased to have seen my one time team mate play for the national team. After the Sydney game, I travelled up to Toowoomba in the Queensland outback to see Scotland play against the regional team. Here I managed to get a message to Peter that I was in town for the game and to my surprise he turned up at my Backpackers dorm that very night. 'What the hell are you doing here? he said, 'come up and stay at the team hotel'  and so I packed up my bag and joined him, delighted to see a friendly face from home after being on the road so long.
 Up at the hotel Peter introduced me to some of the players, gave me a ticket for the second test match against Australia and fixed me up with an official tour t- shirt. He looked after me well, it was a great deal for me to meet some of my rugby heroes and I was in awe. 
I watched Peter get his second cap for Scotland in Ballymore stadium, Brisbane, a few days later and I sat in the stand beside his Granny. Together we cheered raucously when ever Peter was in action, she was quite a character and we both had a fantastic day despite losing again.
I returned to New Zealand when the rugby was over and continued on my year of adventure, travelling home via stops offs in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto in Canada and Hawaii and Seattle in the USA. It was a huge, life changing experience and I now had many new ideas for future travels and adventures.
Back home was pretty dull for a while, nothing was changed of course and I was now unemployed and penny-less. The guys at the rugby club were pleased to see me when I walked back in one evening, and it seemed like I had never been away. The big news was that there was to be a reception dinner at the clubhouse in honour of Peter and to celebrate his rugby achievements. He was due to present his Scotland jerseys to the club and was to receive an engraved piece of Edinburgh Crystal in return. He had by now been selected for and toured with the British and Irish Lions to New Zealand, the pinnacle of any rugby players career. 
The night arrived and everybody and anybody involved in local rugby was there. There were club presidents, referees, Captains and even our old School head master all making speeches and singing Peters praises, it was the Peter Wright show and he had pride of place at the top table. When the speeches were finished and all the official business of the evening was over, I saw my chance to make my own congratulations, I hadn’t seen Pete since Australia and I wanted to thank him for looking after me out there. By this time everybody in attendance including myself were well oiled, and I swayed across the hall to the top table to say my piece. ‘Ah, Peter’ I slurred, ‘You’ve played rugby for Scotland and the British Lions and all these people here tonight think they know you, but I have a stab mark in my leg where you stuck me with a pencil at primary school.’ 
It was reference to one of Peters harsh retributions I had no doubt deserved back in the day, a line designed to highlight my relative closeness to a local sporting hero, and someone who I was proud to know. 
Peter looked at me with a big grin on his face, it was a look I knew well and he answered me with the killer line which I’ll never forget, ‘Ye ken this Ian,’ he said, ‘I’ve played for Scotland and I’ve played for the British lions, but I f*****g enjoyed that more than anything!’

I was horrified. I stood there cowed into silence, my pride more than a little hurt for what seemed like an eternity. I could feel my face burning with embarrassment and I became aware of one or two by standers looking at me with looks of amusement. As a ripple of laughter grew around me however, Peter suddenly burst out laughing and held out his hand to be shaken firmly and my blushes were saved. I instantly forgot all insult and injury and laughed too, happy to have been the butt of our local heroes joke. 
The rest of that night is a bit of a blur, but I have recounted the tale many times to fellow rugby fans over the years and it has earned me a good few laughs and maybe a pint or two. Peter has gone on to be a successful Rugby coach and radio pundit with BBC radio Scotland, but has always kept his feet firmly on the ground. He is a local lad who done good, and I for one am very glad he did.

© 2020 Beavo

Author's Note

This is really just a bit of fun for my Friends to read but feel free to have a look

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Added on February 16, 2019
Last Updated on May 21, 2020
Tags: Rugby, hero, travel, adventure, scottish, scotland, growing up



Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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