We catch up with the remarkable Dennis Carmichael...
This Friday - February 26 - marks 100 years since Watsonian Jimmy Carmichael won the last of his three Scotland caps.
In 1921 he played against France at Inverleith, against Wales in Swansea and against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
The team lost to France and Ireland, but defeated Wales 14-8 with Jimmy on the wing for all three of the games.
Jimmy passed away in 1990, but his son Dennis has made sure that the family connections with the Watsonian Football Club have remained intact until the present day.
Anyone who has been to Myreside on a training night or on a match day over the last many years will know Dennis given all the work he has done for the club off the pitch, so was he a rugby player himself?
“While I was at school at George Watson’s College, I wandered around the pitch lacking in hand to eye coordination,” Dennis, who turns 94 today [Thursday, February 25], recounts.
“Could do anything on the rugby field apart from catch, pass and kick the ball! I could tackle and run, but struggled with the other parts of the game and I played in the lowest team in my school year.
“Over that time, I think I played every position apart from scrum-half and I ended up as a prop. I was highly inefficient, but I gave it a shot.”
Dennis left GWC in 1945 and was then called up before coming back to Myreside when he could to play for the lowest XV at WFC.
It was off the field matters that Dennis preferred thereafter and he said: “I have enjoyed being involved immensely at the club from the day that I stopped playing because I found out that I was quite good at the admin side of things and pretty awful at the game!”
He played his last game of rugby around December 1951 when he was completing his accountancy exams. He then qualified in February 1952 and headed off to London for a spell of work.
“I returned to Edinburgh in 1955 and it was 1962 when Mr Barclay Phillips, the Secretary of the club, asked me to become Assistant Secretary,” Dennis continues.
“At that time selection meetings were held in Barclay Phillips’ office in Coates Crescent and there could sometimes be as many as 40 people at them with the Committee members, Advisors from every team and Captains from every team being present and having their say and the meetings went on forever, it could take two or three hours!
“In those days players heard about their selection via postcard and it was much more difficult to call off from playing at late notice because there were fewer ways to communicate and you had to do it face to face.
“That role went on for a few years and then around 1964 Mr Phillips suddenly resigned from his post as Secretary. Dizzy Kidd, who was the Captain at that stage, asked me to take his place.
“Ever since 1962 I have had some role or other on the Committee and have seen many people come and go.
“Back in the day I was a Partner in a firm of chartered accountants and that gave me some leeway to complete club business as and when it was needed to be done while my Secretary typed up minutes from meetings, team lists and the like.”
“Over the years it has been my privilege and pleasure”
Nowadays Dennis, who had a stint as President in the 1980s, is Team Secretary at the club and is the Honorary President.
As well as rugby, Dennis’ other sporting involvement over the years has been in tennis.
He got involved with that sport in 1959 when he met a Lawyer whom he knew who was Secretary of Scottish Lawn Tennis.
“That was in George Street and he asked me if I’d like to take over the role and I have been involved in that sport ever since too,” Dennis explains.
“That position meant that I represented Scotland on the Council of the LTA [Lawn Tennis Association] in London and because of my roles in Scotland - Honorary Secretary, being on the Council, President etc - I became even more involved with the LTA.
In 1977 I was Vice-Chairman of the LTA, in 1978 I was Chairman of the Council and from 1980-1997 I was Honorary Treasurer - and all of that meant that from 1977 onwards I was on the Wimbledon Committee.
“Nowadays, as well as being the Honorary President of WFC, I am also the Honorary President of Tennis Scotland - and I doubt if I could hit the ball over the net if you asked me!
“Over the years it has been my privilege and pleasure to meet many people through sport and through my association with the Watsonian Football Club.”
“He has put in so much hard work for the club”
WFC President Euan Kennedy said: “People talk about volunteers and club stalwarts or even icons, but none of these terms does justice to Dennis Carmichael’s service to WFC.
“From the days when he used to write the details of a fixture and bus timings on pre-printed postcards and post them to each player in each team following selection meetings, right through to today he has put in so much hard work for the club.
“Even nowadays [when circumstances allow] he can be seen at training sessions and on at matches, meeting and greeting and sorting out team lists to make sure that fixtures go ahead.
“Dennis is simply a Watsonian Football Club legend.”
Words by Gary Heatly
Thanks to Philip Carmichael for the photo of Dennis
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