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Hwyel hangs up his whistle after three decades in the middle

10 months ago By Mark Brown

He's represented Broughton in the middle for some 30 years however it's time for Hywel Williams to hang up the boots and whistle.

Pre-season may be underway with bleep tests, pitch runs and tackle bags being introduced along the way but for one Broughtonian, the new season will see him hang up his boots - or more appropriately his whistle - after many decades of service.

Having turned 73 years of age in May, Hywel Williams has called finally blown the whistle on a refereeing career that has spanned over three decades and has saw him officiate in hundreds of games across the Lothians and Borders.

Hwyel decided to take up refereeing when his playing days started to come to a halt some 30 or so years ago. At the time he was turning out for the Broughton 3rds but by his own admission, that's when "the team was contracting and my age was expanding."

As you can imagine, anyone involved in the game for such a long period, will undoubtedly have a few stories to tell. And Hywel is no different. From his first game to his becoming a member of Broughton, the man from Galashiels shares a few tales with us from across the years:

"My first game was between Heriots School's 2nd Years and Dollar. My wife had a relative who was one of the school masters at Heriots and we had a family party there and he said "I'm really looking for Refs" and I thought "Well, my rugby career is over so I'll take up the whistle.

"Early into the game and it was all rather one way traffic. Heriots were 40-0 up in quick fashion and it was only 20 minutes each way. Then, unexpectantly, Dollar actually made it into the Heriots '25' as it was back then. Alas, there was an interception.

"This little Heriots guy ran all the way up the park stopping in between the posts and just stood there. I said to him "Put it down there and score" but he was egging on the other team. I repeated my request and the kid declined the offer. So, and bearing in mind it was my first game, I blew for a penalty for ungentlemanly conduct!

"To be fair to the kid, he was recalling the incident post-match to his colleagues to which he added, "Ach, I suppose he was right!"

After taking early retirement from the day job, Hywel utilised some of this new found spare time on my hands by refereeing on a Wednesday afternoon at the University games, mainly at Peffermill.

"There was one game I vividly remember about 4 years ago at Peffermill on a cold winter's day. After a wee ruck, two players, one from either side, were still lying on the ground. They couldn't get up. I asked them why and they said that one of the laces of one of the boots had become tied round the finger of the other player in the tackle!

"It was very cold and they couldn't untangle it! The physio didn't have any scissors in his first aid bag and the knot was becoming pretty tight. The captain, in a Eureka moment, goes to ground and tries valiantly to gnaw through the knot. After about 5 minutes, he finally managed to free the finger! I think that's one of the most oddest incidents ever in either my playing or refereeing career."

Hywel's passion for the game saw him continue to enjoy and prefer officiating in the lower leagues where, he notes, there is less back-chat although he does throw caution to the fact that he thinks the modern game is becoming a tad nastier.

"I think I've only had to brandish cards to two people during my time. One was up at Penicuik 2s involving the very short scrum half who I'd penalised for a transgression of some sort and as almost everyone turned away to follow play, the scrum half punched a fairly big guy right in the jaw. I think I relieved him of his place on the park for his own safety if I'm honest!

"The second incident involved a well kent player of the Edinburgh circuit during a game between Moray House and Dick Vet. One of the Moray House forwards cleared out an unfortunate Vet student long after he'd distributed the ball. Moments later, the same player done the exact same to the stand-off!

"Once was perhaps careless twice was reckless so I thought it was time for some action and I'd had enough of this so a brandish a yellow card. The player in question threw the ball down in disgust and launched a verbal volley which earned him an early shower! But in true rugby style, he was the first one after the game to come up and shake my hand!


Not only has Hywel been a stalwart at Broughton and the Edinburgh Referees Society, he remains a Committee member with the Edinburgh Borderers.

"I joined the Borderers when I left Uni. I grew up and went to school in Galasheils however in my last year at school I went to Hawick instead. Jock Turner was my gym teacher at the time and he was also playing for Scotland. Hardly a surprise to note that the Gala Academy had a very good team back then and remained undefeated for a fair wee while.

"I then came to Edinburgh University and was advised to join the Borderers. That was in the early 60s and I am still a member. They went defunct in 1972 as even back in the those days, there were dwindling numbers. When I joined the Borderers, they had three teams and our last game was against Broughton 4ths."

Hywel recalls an amusing tale which is also in the late Adam Robson's history book of the Edinburgh Borderers.

"I was standing at Edinburgh University Playing Fields when Ian Barnes (Barney) came in. It was just a few days after he'd earned his first cap in Cardiff for Scotland. We were playing Broughton 4ths at Silverknowes in early September and come midday I only had 11 players. As a joke, I asked him if he wanted a game. "Aye!" he says, "I'll get some of the Uni boys to come along too."

"Although he had just got his first cap the week before, he was available because up until mid September all the Borders sides played 7s and Barney was never a sevens player and he was told to train up in Edinburgh on his own.

"So, off we went down to Silverknowes on the LRT No. 27 bus. Kick-off comes and moments later, Barney scores! After his fourth try, the Broughton lads thought "Who is this guy, we recognise his face from somewhere..." After the game, we headed back to Wardie and that's when I joined Broughton."

So, the curtain finally comes down, or does it? Has Hywel definately hung up the whistle?

With a smile, he acknowledges, "I think I have. However I have said that if they are struggling, I might help out at a school game or the likes as I'd hate to see a game cancelled due to the lack of a trained referee. I have also offered to assist new referees with match day logistics to ensure they know how to get to the grounds they might just not be familiar with."

A big thanks from everyone at the Club for the service you have offered the game, Hywel. They might be Marmite, but rugby needs more of his ilk. A special breed and even when they are wrong, they are always right!

Updated 12:34 - 4 Aug 2017 by Mark Brown

Where next?

Women at Wardie - Celebrating nine years of female rugby in North Edinburgh Broughton Rugby celebrated nine years of delivering women's rugby in North Edinburgh this week.
Six Nations Ticket Update Scotland v England tickets are going fast


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