Scotsman Obituaries: Norman Suddon, Scottish rugby player
Norman Suddon was one of the great Hawick rugby players. He won 13 caps for Scotland at loose head prop forward between 1965 and 1970, played 16 times for the Barbarians, represented the South of Scotland and Scottish Border Club on many occasions and contributed an important chapter in the storied history of his beloved Hawick, for whom he played 279 times through more than a decade from the early 1960s onwards.
An inspirational and popular club captain, he shared in numerous unofficial Scottish club championship and Border League successes before leading Hawick to a win in the first official Scottish Rugby Championship in season 1973/4 following the introduction of national Leagues.
Norman was also a talented seven-a-side player, a valuable member of the all-conquering Hawick team which in 1966/67 racked up the singular feat of ten consecutive Borders tournament wins, including two at Melrose, with Norman featuring in the 1967 success.
Reflecting the esteem in which he was held and the extent of his contribution to the club, in 2013 he was inducted as a member of the “greatest ever Greens squad” and appointed an Honorary Life Member.
Norman was born at Cavers near Hawick, the elder son of Sam and Mary, and brother of Andrew. Father Sam was an estate worker and Norman attended school at nearby Denholm. On leaving he began working as a frameworker at Renwick’s Mill in Hawick where he remained for 33 years, becoming manager of the knitting department, and after its closure he joined Laing’s Mill as knitting technician until his retirement. For 25 years he was a part-time fireman in Hawick, serving with distinction. His service included a call to attend the Lockerbie d isaster in 1988.
His rugby career began with Hawick P.S.A. before joining the Y.M. club, where he was part of their Grand Slam 7’s team in 1961/62, after which he graduated to playing with the senior side, the famous “Greens”. After a spell playing in the second row and back row, Norman found his best position at loose head prop, having benefited from mentoring by the iconic Hughie McLeod, who significantly influenced his development.
At 6ft, Norman was tall for a prop then, but he worked hard on scrummaging technique to augment his all-round handling, ball carrying and tackling skills. His form caught selectorial eyes and by late 1962, aged 19, he had represented the South of Scotland, the Scottish Border Club and been selected to play in national trials.
A year later he was part of the South team that famously ran Wilson Whineray’s All Blacks close at Hawick, while in October 1964 he made his debut for the Barbarians against Cardiff, the first of 16 appearances which would end during a tour of South Africa in 1969, testament not only to his qualities as a player but also his exceptional personal attributes. Included among those matches was one against Australia in Cardiff when the Barbarians fielded ten British Lions.
Norman was first capped in February 1965 against Wales at Murrayfield, while his final one came against Australia in Sydney in 1970. In his debut season he also played against Ireland and England at Twickenham where Hancock’s famous last-minute try deprived the Scots of a win. Other highlights of his Scottish career included beating South Africa, two successes against Australia, a memorable win against France in Paris in 1969 and another against England in 1970 at Murrayfield. He also toured with Scotland to Canada, Argentina and Australia while with the Scottish Border Club to South Africa.
He was particularly honoured to be invited to play in the R.F.U. Centenary match at Twickenham for a joint Scottish/Irish team in October 1970, as well as the S.R.U. Centenary match at Murrayfield in October 1972.
In domestic rugby, while his Hawick side known as “the Green machine” dominated the club scene he became captain of the first Scottish District team to defeat an overseas touring side when the South of Scotland beat Australia in 1966. He also played for the South against South Africa in 1970, earning a creditable draw, while his final appearance against international opposition was versus the All Blacks for the Scottish Districts XV in 1972.
Perhaps unfortunate not to gain selection for the Lions, he was, however, pleased to be invited to attend their pre-1968 South African Tour camp as a training reserve.
After hanging up his boots he coached first club P.S.A. for a period before serving Hawick for many years as a highly respected committee member and selector.
Teammate and famous Hawick and Scotland three quarter Jim Renwick remembered Norman as a “great leader who made the younger boys feel part of the team and was available for everybody. He had an inner toughness, a genuine guy with a good sense of fun and dry sense of humour.”
In 1962 he met Christine at a dance in Hawick Town Hall. The couple were wed in Wilton Church in March 1967, going on to enjoy 55 years of happy marriage in Hawick, during which they had Keith and Tracey .
Apart from family and rugby, Norman enjoyed a number of interests. He was an accomplished salmon angler, often fishing in the Denholm area, enjoyed beating on the Minto Estate, keeping bees and spending time at his allotment.
Despite serious health issues latterly he never complained and will be remembered as an unassuming, warmly respected, modest gentleman, a loving family man and a “true great of Hawick”.
He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren Rachel, Daniel, Jenny and Emma.
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