Tributes to 'a great lad'

TRIBUTES have flooded in this week following the tragic death of promising teenage rugby player Richard Wilkinson, who was killed in a road accident on Saturday night.

The 17-year-old was a front-seat passenger in a Peugeot 306 car, which crashed through a wooden fence and landed on its roof on the A698 Kelso to Jedburgh road near Eckford.

Richard and three of his Hawick Wanderers team-mates and friends, Stuart Hogg, Blair Irving and Sean Goodfellow, were travelling back from the Kelso Harlequins Sevens.

The boys had opted to go by car as they were headed for a night out in Selkirk.

While the other three managed to escape from the wreckage with just cuts and bruises, Richard was declared dead at the scene.

A minibus containing the rest of the Hawick Wanderers Under-18s team and coaches came across the crash scene just a few minutes later.

Wands coach Gerry McGuinness told the Hawick News: "We just couldn't believe that little over 90 minutes beforehand he had been playing in a rugby tie. We were totally numb.

"He was so well liked by everybody and a really talented rugby player. He wasn't the biggest, but he was as brave as a lion."

Richard's parents Tommy and Sandra Wilkinson run a pig farm at Stobs where he lived with younger brother and sister Matthew and Emily. He represented the Border Reivers at under 16, 17 and 18s level and only recently turned out for Hawick YM in a National League Division Two match against Greenock Wanderers.

Redskins coach Jammy McFarlane, who took charge of him at Under-17 and 18 level, said: "He was a model player and easy to coach. Probably the best thing I could say about him is he is the closest I've seen to another Scott Welsh, he was so good. It's an absolute tragedy."

The Volunteer Park stand was opened up on Sunday as friends gathered to comfort one another.

A shrine of flowers and rugby memorabilia has been set up at the stand and on the Crailing Straight, where the accident happened. Tributes have been paid from clubs across the Borders, while there has been a huge outpouring of grief on the Wands messageboard and Richard's own Bebo internet site.

Richard, who was a keen horseman and Common-Riding enthusiast, was a grandson of former Scotland rugby ace and Hawick director of rugby Doug Jackson.

Greens president Donald McLeod said: "I think everyone is stuck for words, it's such a tragic waste of a life."

Police are appealing for anyone who was on the road between 6pm and 7pm and saw a dark coloured Peugeot 306 or a Mitsubishi Colt travelling either together or separately to come forward.

They are particularly keen to speak to the driver of a blue saloon car who may have been overtaken by the vehicles before the collision.

A police spokesman said: "This has been a tragic incident that has resulted in the loss of a young man's life."