RECOGNITION of talent, endeavour and character was the order of the evening as the great and good of local sports communities came together for what could be the last of the James McLean Trust Celebration of Sport Awards in its current format.
Held at the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso on Saturday night, and expertly hosted by The Scotsman’s chief rugby writer David Ferguson, the annual event did not pass without controversy.
In his opening remarks trust chairman Graeme Donald shared his disappointment at Scottish Borders Council’s decision to ditch the local Sporting Hall of Fame – which became a popular addition to the annual awards ceremony in 2004 – following the recent transfer of sports development, active schools and running of local sports facilities to Border Sports and Leisure Trust.
And a lively debate, under the heading of Sporting Questions, took place prior to the award presentations, demonstrating that the majority of those present felt the Hall of Fame should be continued. With no SBC representative present, however – Councillor Graham Garvie had been invited but was disappointed that he was unable to attend due to a prior engagement – no conclusion to the matter was reached.
The event was hailed a great success with nominees from the region’s four local sports councils being recognised for their achievements in a wide range of sporting activities.
The main agenda of the evening was to announce the overall winners from the nominees – and the naming of Peebles Masters athlete Linda Nicholson as Sports Personality of the Year for 2011 proved a popular choice.
In 2010, Linda won the Scottish and British indoor 60m sprint and long jump titles, the Scottish outdoor 100m and long jump titles, and the British outdoor long jump title (with bronze in the 100m). She set new Scottish records in both indoor and outdoor long jump, equalling the GB championship best performance.
In March this year Linda was selected for the GB team at the Ghent European Masters Indoor Athletics Championships, reaching 60m and long jump finals, and narrowly missing out on medals, but breaking Scottish age-group records in both events.
Her athletics and netball coaching continued with five national team age-group champions and three individuals attaining international selection.
Unfortunately there were no Berwickshire winners this time around but Duns Rugby Club coach Peter Gallagher (rugby) was named a James McLean sports ambassador.
Peter’s citation read as follows:
“Peter is a quiet, self-effacing man, but has become one of the most engaging and pioneering of ambassadors for Borders and Scottish sport.
“As a schoolboy rugby player of note from Berwickshire High School, Peter went to PE teacher training college at Jordanhill and came under the wing of Bill Dickinson, Scotland’s first national rugby coach.
“He started his teaching career at George Watson’s College, captained Watsonians 1st XV to their first national league title in many years, and skippered an Edinburgh team featuring top internationalists Andy Irvine, Dougie Morgan and Graham Hogg.
“Appointed to the post of head of PE and community sport and assistant head back at his alma mater Berwickshire High School, he coached Duns RFC up through the national leagues and built a Watsonians 1st XV into the championship winners they became in 1998.
“Always at the front of sporting development in Scotland, Peter was involved in the launch of the Borders School of Sport in the 1980s, welcomed the Queen to Duns, coached Scottish schools and youth rugby squads (pioneering successful tours to New Zealand and Australia), overhauled the SRU’s coaching programmes at Murrayfield, and launched Scotland into the first World Sevens Series.
“Due to cost-cutting at the SRU he left Murrayfield in 2005, only to help resurrect Duns RFC again, winning leagues and a Bowl at Murrayfield.
“Peter has helped develop most of the current Scotland squad, coached in Dubai, Malaysia, Borneo and Mongolia on behalf of the IRB, and even turned out for the select Penguins team at Twickenham against the Houses of Parliament XV, and in Sydney against the Australian Parliament XV - in the past two years!”