Scotland rugby internationalist

Born: April 30, 1931;

Died: August 28, 2017

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JIMMY Maxwell, who has died aged 86, his later years blighted by Alzheimer's, holds a special place in the long and distinguished history of Langholm Rugby Club – the oldest club in the Borders.

Yes, he was a Scottish internationalist, of course, he played for the South with distinction, but, in the “Muckle Toon”, he will forever be known as the man who captained Langholm to their amazing double triumph in 1958-59, when they not only won the Border League, but also, going unbeaten through the season, they won the then unofficial Scottish Championship for the only time.

Maxwell, a fierce competitor on both the rugby field and golf course, was a running stand-off, at a time when Scottish tens were more-known for their kicking game. He first pulled on the scarlet Langholm shirt as a 16-year-old, and he would play for the club for 16 seasons, during which he also represented the South of Scotland 21 times.

But, even in their 1950s heyday, Langholm were always a somewhat unfashionable team, so the Scottish selectors tended to look elsewhere when giving out caps – even during the national side's long losing spell in the early 1950s, when to have a Scottish name and have gone to the “right” school or university was seemingly enough to secure a call-up.

Maxwell played in several Scotland trials, before and after his turn came for the Irish match, in February, 1957. Scotland had already beaten France and Wales, without being too expansive, so, for the Irish match, the selectors decided to switch Tom McClung, a “kicking” ten to centre and give Maxwell his chance to showcase his running game, outside his regular South of Scotland half-back partner, Arthur Dorward of Gala.

Unfortunately, the match was played in horrible conditions of driving snow. Handling was well-nigh impossible and, midway through the first half, Maxwell and McClung swapped places, since it was clearly a day for a kicking game.

Scotland lost 5-3 and, when the selectors met to select the team to go to Twickenham for the final international of the season, they opted to blood the very young Gordon Waddell at ten, and Maxwell was consigned to the ranks of the “one-cap wonders”.

He soldiered on with Langholm and the South, however, and played his part in that iconic 58-59 season. Unbeaten, no tries surrendered between December and the end of the season in April and, as if that league double was not enough, Langholm also won their own Sevens, beating Heriot's in the final.

In 1961, he was invited to play for the celebrated Barbarians on their traditional Easter Tour to South Wales, while two of his South appearances were against the All Blacks, at Gala in 1953 and Australia, at Hawick, four years later.

Jimmy Maxwell finally hung up his boots in 1962, when he decided to take a break from rugby. For a few years he turned to football, watching Carlisle United and Queen of the South, before returning to Langholm RFC to be a respected Langholm and South administrator and selector. He was followed into the Langholm XV by his sons Roger and Geoff, who, like his father, led the club.

He was a Langholm native, leaving Langholm Academy at 14 to begin his apprenticeship with his father's plastering firm, which, when Jimmy took over, expanded greatly and today, as James Maxwell Building Contractors, is still run by his sons.

His national service in the RAF saw Jimmy based at Dalcross in Inverness, but he was able to hitch a flight down to RAF Carlisle each weekend, to play for “the Toon”. He also captained the RAF, for whom he played in the centre.

In retirement he and wife Audrey – their wedding was the true highpoint of that memorable year of 1959 – travelled widely, while Jimmy Maxwell's sporting passions were partially salved by playing golf, down to a handicap of six.

Jimmy Maxwell is survived by Audrey, sons Roger and Geoff and daughter Deborah, seven grand-children and one great-grand-daughter.

MATT VALLANCE