RUGBY refereeing has lost one of its leading lights, following the death of Selkirk’s Billy Bryson, who died in the Borders General Hospital on Saturday, January 9, at the age of 84.

A life-long interest in rugby union saw Billy quickly rise up through the refereeing ranks, becoming one of the Borders’ most senior whistlers.

After injury curtailed his career on the pitch, he switched his energies to supporting referees in an administrative role.

A founder member of the Border Rugby Referees Society in 1962, Mr Bryson was widely respected in rugby circles throughout the country.

'Always willing to lend a hand'

“Billy was the face of the society for 30 years or more,” said Bill Calder, a former chairman of the Border Referees Society.

“As the organisation’s appointments secretary, he acted as the interface between clubs and referees and did sterling work.

“He was in every sense the society’s ambassador during that time. He also had a very successful track record when it came to negotiating with sponsors, greatly helping to improve the lot of all Border rugby referees.”

As well as playing a pivotal role in ensuring the region’s refereeing requirements were met, Billy served for many years on Selkirk Rugby Club’s general committee, and for a time was its fixtures secretary.

“Billy will be a big miss at Philiphaugh,” said Selkirk RFC chairman Dennis Henderson, “and was always willing to lend a hand, no matter how onerous the task.”

Trained as a painter

Mr Bryson was born in Selkirk on September 19, 1936, to Thomas Bryson, who worked as a weaver in a local mill, and his wife Grace. He had an older sister, Charlotte, and a younger brother, Douglas.

Billy attended Philiphaugh Primary and then Selkirk High School, and on leaving enrolled as an apprentice with local painter Willie Nichol. He then joined the Selkirk painting and decorating firm of Heatlie & Scott, and later worked with Melrose-based firm Michael Vee Design.

From 1957-59 Billy undertook his National Service, serving as a Corporal with the Cameronians in the regiment’s motor transport platoon. His tours of duty took him to both Kenya and Oman.

'Extremely proud of grandson'

In 1960, shortly after returning to the Borders, Mr Bryson married Irene Todd, who hailed from Galashiels. The couple were blessed with a daughter, Susan, born in 1962.

After graduating from Bath University with a BSc in pharmacology, Susan gained a PhD in the same subject at the University of Strathclyde, rising to become executive director and global head of medical writing, with drug development company Covance.

Mr Bryson was extremely proud of Susan’s son Craig, his grandson, who after qualifying as a doctor now works in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In retirement Billy became a keen golfer, taking out a membership at The Woll Golf Club, Ashkirk. There he enjoyed playing with a regular group of friends, as well as organising numerous competitions.

After suffering a small stroke in 2016, the following year Mr Bryson moved into Mungo Park Court in Selkirk, later transferring to Galashiels Nursing Home.

Mr Bryson was predeceased by his wife Irene in 1991.

Selkirk Rugby Club wishes to extend its condolences to Susan and the family.