TO celebrate its centenary, Hawick Angling Club cast the net wide to find speakers and entertainment worthy of the occasion.
And they landed a catch of gigantic proportions – no exaggeration – as they marked their 100th birthday in fine style.
A sell-out audience of 147 crammed into the Burns Club recently to make sure the occasion wasn’t the one that got away.
Gareth Edwards – arguably the greatest rugby player ever – delivered the main toast to the gentle art.
As adept with the rod and reel as he was with the rugby ball, the 64-year-old, who has 53 consecutive caps for his country, as well as three British Lions tours to his name, is also renowned for catching the biggest ever pike (45lb) in 1990 at Llandegfedd Reservoir near Pontypool – a record which stood for two years.
He also starred in the BBC series The Fishing Race and wrote the book Gareth Edwards on fishing.
As well as revealing the first fish he ever caught – an eel – Edwards told many stories about the sport as well as anecdotes about the late Bill McLaren.
And he combined both his passion for rugby and fishing in one particular tale. He said: “We came very close to beating Hawick in the Melrose Sevens many years ago. You had an exceptionally good team but we had a good side ourselves.
“Bob Burrell had fixed me up to go fishing at 5am which I agreed to. I came back absolutely knackered, almost missed the first round and they reckon by the time I got to the final I was absolutely knackered and my friends, to this day, won’t forgive me.”
The former scrum-half, who was introduced to angling at the tender age of five, also believed more youngsters should take up the sport. He added: “I feel if more young people fished there would be less trouble on the roads and on the streets.”
It was in the same year that the Titanic was launched that the town’s angling club was set up. And while there may have been many frozen lochs over the last 100 years, there has been nothing to sink the thriving organisation.
In a special inclusion on the programme, Archaeological Society president and keen fisherman Ian Lowes delivered the informative toast to 100 years of Hawick Angling Club, from its first meeting on October 26 1911 up to the present day.
In congratulating the club on reaching the landmark occasion, he said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all those whose untiring work and dedication to the gentle art has given us the chance to practice the best pastime in the world in the best part of the world.”
Bert Johnston netted some comedy beauties in his toast to the guests and was followed by more side-splitting humour from former referee Johnny Bacigalupo in the reply.
Provost Ron Smith gave the vote of thanks.
A meal fit for the occasion was provided by Debbie Brown and her staff, while proceedings were always under control courtesy of the steady hand of club president Kenny McCartney.
And the entertaining speakers were complemented brilliantly by the performers, Davie Chapman and Iain Scott from Scocha, Michael Aitken, Douglas Telfer and Viv Sharp. There was also a stint from Hawick Pipe Band, who received a cheque from the club and a collection amounting to more than £200.
Presentations were made to the winners of the centenary competitions, Williestruther – Len Douglas; and Acreknowe – Shane Kelly, who was also congratulated on his selection to fish for Scotland at next year’s home internationals.