Viv Sharp: ‘One of Hawick’s great men’

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OBITUARY: Former plumber, singer, rugby enthusiast, soldier and friend, Viv Sharp was born at the Haig Maternity Hospital on October 2, 1935.

Named after Vivian Grieve, the 1929 Cornet, he had one sister, Gladys, and they didn’t have far to travel to school from their Dickson Street home to Wilton Primary.

Then it was on to the high school where the highlight of the day came with the dinner-time bell! This started off a race between Viv, Jake Short and Colin Peffers. Wearing tackity boots and with sparks flying, the three would run through the playground, across the Common Haugh and up Wilton Path, the winner being the first to reach the bottom of Dickson Street.

He left school aged 15 and started an apprenticeship with Grieve the Plumbers under Tom Gilligan at Grapes Inn Close, Buccleuch Street. The firm had several tradesmen as well as four apprentices and his first working day was on January 4, 1951.

During his early working days he took an interest in motorbikes which was to grow into something of a passion. He bought his first machine, a 1930 Rudge Sports Special for £10, and thought he was King of the Road. Along with fellow bike enthusiasts Freddie Nardini and Danny White, he could tinker with bikes for hours on end.

However, in those days journeys were not too far afield and a long trip for Viv and company would be to St Mary’s Loch. He did nevertheless venture to the Isle of Man for the TT Races and although he always wanted to keep it a secret – he went at the Common-Riding!

Viv was called up to do National Service with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. He served in Singapore and Malaya, going out by plane and returning by boat. He enjoyed every minute of his days in uniform and felt it was a great experience, especially spending Christmas and New Year in the heat and sunshine.

And it was during his time in the Forces that he first become seriously involved with rugby.

On returning to civilian life, he resumed work as a plumber, maintained his love for motorbikes and took up rugby for the first time in his home town, having a few games for the YM before being persuaded to move to the Linden to begin what was to become a long association with the club. His first game for the Royal Blues was against Stewarts College ‘A’ at Inverleith.

Operating as a prop, he was to fill a Linden jersey for the next nine years, captaining the club as well as being a member of the side which won the Border Junior League in the 1967-68 season. He also played for the Greens, making his debut against Hartlepool Rovers aged 27.

On retiring from playing he became increasingly involved behind the scenes with the Linden. Club president from 1990-92 as well as being an active committee member, he put as much into the game as he got out of it as a player.

Through rugby, Viv also got involved in singing, another of his favourite pastimes. He loved nothing better than to join in a sing-song when socialising after a match and these were the first steps which were to take him high in the local entertainment scene.

From Common-Riding functions to Burns suppers, concerts and club dinners, he was a real favourite.

He sang for the first time at the Overseas Night and never looked back, admitting one of his greatest thrills was his annual appearance on stage at the Colour-Bussing. While his performances at the Thursday Morning Hut were always eagerly anticipated and will become the stuff of legend.

Viv met his wife-to-be at the Crown Hotel and at the age of 25 they were baptised at Wilton Church before being married by the late great George Watson.

They had children Lorraine, Michael and Natalie. A loving father he was also a much-loved Papa Viv to his five grandchildren.

As well as being a proud Mosstrooper, Viv was also made a life member of the 1514 Club this year. Club president Andrew Johnson said at the time: “There’s some folk you call singers and others you call entertainers. I would call Viv an entertainer. From Burns to I like Auld Hawick, to I’m Still in Love With You, he’s Mr Versatility.”

On receiving the honour, Viv said: “This is very much appreciated. I don’t think I’ve done that much for everyone.”

The huge turnout at his funeral yesterday at Wilton Church proved otherwise.

Reverend Lisa-Jane Rankin told the assembled mourners: “We’ve lost one of Hawick’s great men and gentlemen, but the memories he leaves behind are warm and wonderful.”