Ronnie Nichol: ‘A man of large stature with a heart to match’

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Tributes have been pouring in for hugely-popular townsman Ronnie Nichol who passed away last Thursday following a battle with cancer.

Ronnie, who was 55, is best known in Hawick as a stalwart supporter of the Common-Riding over many years, and in his role as chairman of the Common-Riding Committee (2007-2010) and president of the 1514 Club (1994) and the Callants’ Club (2010).

He was also a long-serving member of the Drum and Fife Band, with whom he would have celebrated his 40th year in 2016.

Ronnie was also well-known in rugby circles as a hugely talented and formidable forward during his playing days with Hawick RFC and Hawick Linden as well as representative appearances for Scotland ‘B’ and the South of Scotland.

He was a keen bowler at the Wilton club and a long-standing member of the Burns Club.

Leading the tributes, Provost Stuart Marshall said: “Our town has lost a gentle giant who lived and breathed everything Hawick. Ronnie was a very generous, caring individual who would do anything for anyone and there will be a great sense of loss not only in Hawick but right across the Borders.”

Common-Riding Committee chairman Ian Scott spoke of Hawick having lost one of its true stalwarts, particularly with regards to the Common-Riding. “A man of large stature with a heart to match, Ronnie was at one time a Common-Riding Committee member and for a period its chairman,” he said.

“His particular involvement and love, however, was the ‘Cornet’s Band’, the Drums and Fifes, with whom he was ever present and a driving force behind their success. I am sure many young Cornets have taken encouragement in knowing that ‘Big Ronnie’ was leading them out with the Drums and Fifes.

“Ronnie’s passing will leave a huge void in Hawick, and the Common-Riding Committee’s condolences go out to Lynn and the extended family at this difficult and very sad time.”

Hawick Callants’ Club president Frank Scott said: “We have lost a stalwart of the club with the passing of our 2010 president Ronnie Nichol. If ever there was a project to be undertaken or works to be done Ronnie was always first to volunteer and he will be a huge miss. His loss to the larger community is immeasurable such was his standing in the town and it is hard to imagine several events without him. Our thoughts are with his family.”

1514 Club president Kenny King said: “Ronnie has given sterling service to not only the 1514 Club as a life member over the years, but also to all other clubs and organisations he was part of. No one can ever imagine the amount of work this true gent has done over his lifetime in Hawick. He will be a great miss to us all.”

A Drum and Fife Band spokesperson commented: “Ronnie was a tremendous leader who will be sorely missed by all of the band. His knowledge of the Common-Riding was immense and we had great fun in his company. He will be a miss to us all and can never be replaced. Each time we play we will remember him.”

Hawick RFC president Ross Cameron said Ronnie was a very popular and talented player who will be greatly missed by his many ex-teammates and friends at Hawick RFC. He added: “All of us at Mansfield Park were saddened to hear that Ronnie, one of our ex-captains, died last week.

“Ronnie played 180 times for the Greens over a long career from 1979-80 until 1992-93 and captained the club in season 1990-91. He was a skilful and powerful prop forward who gave 100 per cent and never took a backwards step on the field. Our thoughts are with Lynn and the family.”

A Linden spokesperson talked of the club’s devastation over the passing of Ronnie. “He was probably the best uncapped player to ever wear the Royal Blue jersey, something he did 204 times for the 1st XV and 25 times for the 2nds,” said the spokesperson. “He first played against Jordanhill on December 17, 1977 and made his last appearance versus Hawick YM on April 4, 2000.

“His team talks were legendary and, whether captain or not, he was a true leader of men motivating many well beyond what they would otherwise have been able to achieve. The thoughts of everyone at the club go to Lynn and family and all his friends.”

Talking of Ronnie’s contribution to the South of Scotland’s famous 9-6 victory over the first ‘Grand Slam’ Australia side at Mansfield Park in 1984, South coach at the time, Johnny Gray, said: “Ronnie played a very important part in that game because up front we held Australia. We weren’t supposed to, but we did.”

He continued: “Ronnie would give 100 per cent to any semi-junior, junior, senior or district side he was playing for – and if every player had the attitude of Ronnie Nichol, we wouldn’t have any worries whatsoever.”

Ronnie will be a huge miss at Wilton Bowling Club, said past-president Duncan Macdougall. He went on: “Ronnie was a real character whose humorous stories kept members entertained. He chaired many of our Burns suppers, and always made time for the club at our Rum and Milk tournament on Common-Riding Thursday, even though he had his Common-Riding duties.

“Ronnie is also a former winner of the Pow Cup with Alan Brady in 2014, a past winner of the Colin Rae single-hand tourney, and was a regular member of our ‘A’ team when he was available.”

Burns Club secretary Michael Hogg said: “Ronnie became a member of the club about 1982 and will be a huge miss. He performed at a number of Burns suppers for us, and he was always there with the Drums and Fifes for the Cornet’s visit to the club. On behalf of the committee and members, I’d like to say that we’re all sad to see him go, as he gave his all to the club.”

Much of Ronnie’s working life was spent with Waverley Housing, and its chief executive Margaret Ross said he was a loyal and valued member of staff who gave so much to the company for 26 years. She continued: “Ronnie was a true character and everyone at Waverley was truly saddened and shocked to hear he had lost his battle with illness. He was an extremely popular member of staff, and liked by all his colleagues and the many tenants he came into contact with when carrying out repairs in their homes. He was the linchpin of the repairs team and will be sorely missed by his fellow tradesmen.”

Ronnie’s funeral service will be held in Wilton Church on Monday at 11.30am, followed by committal at the Borders Crematorium, Melrose, at 1pm.