Obituary: Tom McGlashan, rugby internationalist who won eight caps

Tom McGlashan, rugby internationalist and dentist. Born: 29 December 1925. Died: 17 September 2020, aged 94

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 10:00 am
Tom McGlashan
Tom McGlashan

Tom McGlashan, at 94, was Scotland’s oldest rugby internationalist for a period of ten days following the recent death of Logie Bruce-Lockhart. A redoubtable prop forward and colourful character who earned eight caps between 1947 and 1954, he also represented the Barbarians, the Co optimists and Edinburgh District in a long career.

At club level he played for Royal High School F.P.’s for over 20 seasons, notching up a total of 249 games while helping the team finish runners-up in the old unofficial championship in 1951/2 as well as a Jedforest “sevens” success in 1947. McGlashan was the epitome of the highly valued, loyal, popular club man who made an outstanding contribution on and off the field, serving three terms as President and being appointed Honorary Vice President in recognition of his services. He was also Honorary President of the Co optimists, whom he accompanied on trips to Zimbabwe and Hong Kong in the 1980s.

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For many years he was the highly regarded Honorary Dentist to the Scottish Rugby Union, regularly treating injured players in his surgery and was one of the pioneers of the use of gum shields, in addition to advocating their role in reducing the effects of concussion.

Although rugby was undoubtedly his first love he was also an accomplished heavyweight boxer and field events athlete.

His talents first shone at Royal High School where in his final year he was vice captain of an outstanding 1st XV which won 18 of 19 matches, while in the athletics arena he was credited with a Scottish Schools record in the shot putt. During wartime he played for the school in the morning and F.P.’s in the afternoon, making his senior debut in 1942/3 aged 17 and bowing out with a final appearance aged 38 in 1964, against Penarth, although he continued playing in “Old Crocks” tournaments. A strong, durable scrummager, he first achieved international recognition aged 19 when selected for Scotland in two wartime Services’ internationals against England in 1945 and earned his first full cap against France in Paris on New Year’s Day 1947.

This was the first full post-war international and the whole trip was quite an experience for McGlashan, one of 14 new caps with only one pre war cap, Ian Henderson. The party travelled by train and were housed in the palatial grandeur of the Hotel Lutetia, previously Gestapo HQ. The game was a win for the hosts but the Scots were consoled somewhat with post-match champagne, a visit to the Folies Bergeres and a banquet in the Eiffel Tower. He won another two caps that season and was delighted to be selected for the Barbarians’ Easter tour, playing in victories against Penarth, Newport and East Midlands.

Selectorial inconsistency meant he had to wait seven years for his next cap, against France in January 1954, a month after which he played in his most memorable international, against New Zealand at Murrayfield. The Scots lost by a penalty, with the outweighed home pack excelling itself. Another three caps that year brought the curtain down on his international career.

In the boxing ring he trained initially with Leith Victoria before joining the Edinburgh University team, with whom he won the Scottish Universities’ heavyweight title in 1950. A fairly laid back character, apparently he had to be awoken from a nap in the changing room before contesting the final. He also competed successfully at shot putt for the F.P.’s athletics team, even figuring in the Scottish ranking lists at age 34.

Thomas Perry Lang McGlashan was born in Edinburgh, the younger son of James, a solicitor, and Eliza nee Lang. Older brother Peter also played rugby for Royal High School F.P.’s as a prop forward. The family lived in Durham Square and as a youngster McGlashan enjoyed summers spent in Pitlochry where his grandfather was a blacksmith. He enlisted for the war effort as soon as he could and was posted to the Marines, where he had his first taste of boxing. Much of his service was spent in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, a country whose culture he found fascinating, as illustrated in letters home.

Once demobbed he matriculated at Edinburgh University to study dentistry and in 1947 married Doris Young, a Glasgow University science student. She was an athlete who won a “Blue” for hurdling and indeed, first met Tom at an athletics meeting in Fife when she offered to help carry trophies he had won. The couple set up home initially in Comely Bank, Edinburgh, while Doris taught at Broughton High School before children Shona, Morag, Jean and Hamish were born.

After graduation he practiced in Musselburgh before setting up his own surgery in the family’s home, by then in Willowbrae. Next he practiced in the West End and latterly in a surgery in the family home in Great Stuart Street. He and Doris enjoyed a happy marriage until she died in 1985.

He was a “well kent” figure around Edinburgh, often to be seen in his kilt. Although associated with demanding physical sport, he also drew, painted and sculpted. A car enthusiast who when younger had various Rolls Royces, he also enjoyed spending time at his second home in Gullane.

Daughter Shona said: “He was a very kind, sociable and compassionate person, interested in others and their experiences.” His club’s 1968 booklet stated: “He was a bastion of the front line, unassumingly effective and peacefully powerful except when roused.”

He is survived by his children, three grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.