Robert Gavin Calder, farm manager, financial planner and sportsman. Born: February 20, 1952 in Haddington, East Lothian. Died: August 11, 2017 in Coldstream, Berwickshire, aged 65.
The huge gathering at St Mary’s Parish Church on a balmy Thursday afternoon in mid-August to celebrate the life of Gavin Calder stands testament to the understated but far-reaching contribution he made to east coast Scottish life for 65 happy years, before his sudden death from a heart attack on the 4th tee at Hirsel Golf Club in Coldstream.
Born to Robin and Betty Calder, Gavin was the eldest of four brothers from one of the great Scottish rugby clans. In their youth, the quartet would play the game they loved in the field in front of the family home from dawn to dusk, laying the foundations for the youngest siblings – twins Jim and Finlay – to become two of the best Scottish back-row forwards of all time.
Gavin would often joke that he had “taught those boys everything they know and they ended up better than me” but in reality he took great pride in their achievements. Big brother was a handy enough player in his own right, playing tight-head prop for Scottish Schools out of Melville College, and then for North and Midlands, Scottish Universities and British Universities while studying agriculture in Aberdeen. After university, he played briefly for Gordonians whilst based in Stonehaven but his heart – as far as rugby was concerned – belonged elsewhere.
He served Stewart’s-Melville RFC as a player, captain, coach, committee member, president, 2nd XV cheerleader, general dogsbody, opposition greeter, match-day announcer and chief reporter on the club website, right up until his death.
Moira and Gavin’s paths first crossed as 18-year-olds on the 106 bus from Haddington to Edinburgh in the early 1970s; Moira invited Gavin to a friend’s party and the two never looked back and married in 1975. After a period as a procurement officer – buying cattle – for Donald’s of Portlethen, the family returned south in 1979 when Gavin became farm manager at Drumelzier near Peebles, later taking the same role with the Ramsay family on Langrig Farm, Leitholm.
With eldest son Robin joined by Laura, Cheryl and Gavin (Wee Gav), family life became the great preoccupation. So much so that in the late 1980s he took a break from Stewart’s Melville to coach at the closer Berwick rugby club.
The children attended Eccles Leitholm Primary School, and when the girls got into swimming he was not content with driving them to training and race meets all over Scotland, he became timekeeper and race starter too. In 1993, when Duns Swimming Pool came under threat of closure Gavin came up with the idea of making it the first pool in Scotland to go into trust status.
Cricket was a great passion for Wee Gav, but local club Manderston did not have a youth section, so Big Gav set up under-13 and under-15 teams.
He was a long-serving elder at Leitholm Church and by the turn of the century when it was apparent the days of farm management were numbered, Gavin took the bold move of pursuing a career in financial planning. He started to wind down his professional career earlier this year, dividing his time between family, rugby and his latest passion, golf.
Gavin leaves a loving wife, four children and ten grandchildren. DAVID BARNES