GROWING up in Lynwood Billy Finn was raised in the school of hard knocks.
In the tough neighbourhood he admitted, in many instances, it was fight or be fought.
But that was ideal preparation for a boxing career that has seen him star on both sides of the ropes.
He told the Hawick News: “It was a tough upbringing growing up at Lynwood. It was nothing like the Gorbals or anything like that but it was hard. You had to fight for everything you had.
“We didn’t have Christmas presents or anything like that, what you got you accepted because your parents had a hard time as well. They were working to survive.”
As well as Billy, Lynwood produced an array of top fighters including John ‘Jonky’ Sharkey, Davie Paterson, the Redmonds, Wallaces and Colvilles.
They were all taken under the wing of legendary local trainer Jock Thorburn in the former St Cuthbert’s School, where Stonefield is now.
Billy said: “At Lynwood there was always a crowd of us mucking about down in that area. As youngsters we were always wandering about and we went down and Jock was there. I think we were messing about and Jock pulled us in and it just led from there really. We went in and started training.
“When you look back now I suppose it was a way of getting rid of your violence, getting it out in the open, keeping yourself out of trouble, although it didn’t stop me getting into trouble.”
Jock recalled: “When I moved up to the old St Cuthbert’s School I got a whole influx of boxers from Lynwood. I picked out the boys who had talent and there was the likes of Billy, John Sharkey and Davie Paterson.
“Billy was a very good boxer. He was a bit wild, but he was a great trainer and he boxed some really good boys.”
At the tender age of just 11-years-old, Billy had his first fight at light welterweight, in a local contest against Kenny Williamson. And although he lost, he was undeterred as he kept on striving to improve.
And improve he certainly did, going on to win the Scottish, East District and Boys Club Championship at junior level.
But very often, with notoriously difficult judges, the journey was as memorable as the bouts themselves.
“It was tough going because we had to travel to box and it was always the Edinburgh area and it would take us two hours plus to get there,” he said.
“The roads weren’t what they are nowadays and neither were the cars. We would be driven up by Jock, Sandy Douglas, Colin McIntosh or Andy Turnbull.
“You were never going to win a fight up there. The judges were worse than they are nowadays. But it was an experience for us to go away somewhere.
“I always remember the first time we went up to Edinburgh to box. It was quite a famous club and we got the train up. I couldn’t believe it – the train. I was fair excited.
“I wasn’t bothered about the boxing, I was just looking forward to the journey on the train.”
There were memorable bouts against John Bambrick, who went on to win the British ABA title and compete in the Commonwealth Games. In a see-saw affair, the two boxed seven times, Bambrick winning four and Billy three. He also boxed John Lawless, a future British champion and another Commonwealth Games representative, fighting three times and winning once.
Sadly, family and work commitments saw him drift out of the sport, but many years later he returned, older and wiser, to pass on his experience as a coach.
He said: “As a teenager when I should have been shoving on, I didn’t and I got involved in different things and I left the club for quite a while when I got into my later teens because of family commitments.
“When the club started up down at the Albert I got involved because I was working back at home again. Davie Fraser and Jonky Sharkey were running the place. I got in touch with them and they were quite happy for me to come in and give them a hand.”
That was during a particularly purple patch for the club with young tyros Colin Bain and George Telfer starting to make their mark.
His input certainly helped them as they turned professional. And he has been an inspiration to hundreds of others at Hawick Amateur Boxing Association, with his coaching and dedication, often travelling the length and breadth of the country with boxers.
“I’d never thought of coaching before. People say it’s always in the blood but it’s something you don’t know what they’re on about until it happens,” he said.
“It’s just putting something back into the sport where you think you’ve possibly missed out yourself.
“If you coach the right guys you know within yourself that you’ve done something right, just by the way they box. You can say, ‘I’ve done something right’.
And he is proving as big a hit in the corner as he was in the ring.
Sharkey said: “When Billy and I worked in the corner together he was the best I had ever worked with and his reading of a contest won many a bout for the boys.”
With someone as dedicated as Billy, it’s clear Hawick Amateur Boxing Association is in safe hands.