Scottish obituaries: Bill Noble, rugby player and Highland Games athlete

Bill Noble brought fun to every task with his sense of humor

Bill Noble was a well-known figure in the Scottish rugby scene, particularly associated with his beloved Boroughmuir Rugby Club whose 1st XV he represented for almost 20 seasons as an accomplished striker.

He played a notable role in the club’s success in the last unofficial championship of the 1972/3 season before the leagues were introduced. His stellar performances earned him several caps for the Edinburgh District in the 1970s and, once retired, he helped coach and mentor young players in the ‘dark arts’ of the game in the front row. He was also President of the Club for an unprecedented five years between 2012 and 2017 and was named Honorary Vice-President in recognition of his outstanding contribution.

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Bill was also a very good “heavyweight” athlete, excelling in the shot put. As a silver medalist at the Scottish Schools Championships, he represented Scotland in the annual Schools International against England and Wales. Competing as a senior, he represented Edinburgh-based Octavians Athletic Club with distinction in the National League and other matches, twice finishing 3rd in the East of Scotland Championships in the shot put. His name appeared regularly in the national rankings not only for the shot put but also for the discus and the javelin.

William Scott Noble was born in Edinburgh, where his father was a stonemason. After primary school he went in 1954 to Darroch Secondary and in 1957 to Boroughmuir High School. His early interest in bodybuilding, first with homemade dumbbells, developed his powerful physique and lent itself to frontline play, in which he showed considerable potential. From 1959, he spent three years in the 1st XV, his profile in the school magazine earning him this distinction: “A pillar forward of great strength; a great enthusiast who gives everything to the game”.

Although strength and commitment were the foundations of his game, he was also surprisingly quick on the court and had good hands, thanks to playing basketball at school alongside Bill McInnes, more later a British internationalist.

In the summer, his attention turned to the athletics arena, where strength aided his development in the throwing events, particularly the shot put, in which he won school podium places. Scottish between 1959 and 1962 inclusive. At the Schoolboys’ International in 1962 held in County Durham he faced formidable opposition between two future British internationalists representing England, while a Welsh rival was Terry Price, the future full-back for the Wales and British Lions.

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After school, Bill attended Napier College in Edinburgh where he took a design course. He continued his athletic involvement with Boroughmuir FP’s and Octavians. On the rugby pitch, he made his debut for the 1st XV in 1962/3 and was effectively ever present in the team until his retirement in 1980, a considerable feat considering the punishing nature of the game in the top tier. . A tough but fair player, he was driven by an irresistible desire to win, any commitment less than 100% being foreign.

Highlights included winning the last unofficial championship by beating Langholm in a cliffhanger final match of the season despite having to play much of the match with just 14 men as the substitutes weren’t then not allowed. Of their 25 matches, 22 have been won, two lost and one drawn. The team continued to do well, finishing third and fourth in the top league in 1975 and 1976 and runners-up in 1978, with Bill’s contribution significant. A 1979 report in The Scotsman of Bill scoring a try against Selkirk gave some idea of ​​his style: “…Noble blasting off a ruck and hammering 20 yards to the line.”

First capped at Edinburgh in 1973/4 for Inter City’s game against Glasgow, Bill played for the district several times against opponents including the South of Scotland, Northumberland and Racing Club de Nice, his last appearance in 1978. Later, while living in Peebles, Bill made an impact with the local rugby club, helping to coach young players and the 1st XV.

In athletics he competed successfully throughout the 1960s and tackled the traditional heavyweight events of the Highland Games, including the Edinburgh Games held at Murrayfield in 1966, when he recorded his best score in the shot put. Earlier this season he finished 3rd in the Eastern District Championships, as he had also done in 1965, while his highest ranking in the national lists was 9th in 1963. Given his ability also in discus and javelin , he was a very useful point scorer for Octavians. in league matches. In 1970 in Edinburgh, Bill married Maureen Baxter, a teacher, and the couple enjoyed a long and happy marriage during which they had sons, Adam and Chris.

Bill has worked in graphic design and printing. Initially he was involved in a business with a fellow Boroughmuir based in the Bonnington area of ​​Edinburgh before taking up a post in the Borders and living in Peebles, where his wife taught.

Back in Edinburgh, he resumed his ties with Boroughmuir, leading to the chairmanship of the club, with the couple latterly living near East Linton.

A hugely popular person, Bill not only worked tirelessly for the club, but brought joy to the task with his sense of humour, engaging company and storytelling skills, qualities which also endeared him to many. as an after-dinner speaker. A gifted artist, he put this ability at the service of the club and the Association of former students of the school. Bill was also a very good guitarist, regularly traveling with his guitar on rugby trips and often leading the vocals. He also sang in a barbershop choir and attended church regularly.

He is survived by his wife, sons and five grandchildren.

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Jennifer R. Strohm