Friday 5 November 2010

GPS (Phil) Macpherson - Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame

On Thursday evening Scottish Rugby inducted 12 iconic personalities into its first official Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has been set up to recognise the glorious contribution made by so many individuals over the past 139 years.

Edinburgh Academical FC are delighted to see that GPS Macpherson (Edinburgh Academicals and Oxford University) was inducted as the outstanding individual of Scottish Rugby between World War 1 and World War 2. Macpherson won 26 caps for Scotland. Making his international debut against France in 1922, he played in Scotland’s matches that season and went on to score his first try for his country against Wales in 1924. In 1925, he captained Scotland to their first Grand Slam. Rated the most brilliant attacking centre of his era bar none, he played his last game against England in 1932.

Below is a more detailed description of Macpherson’s rugby career eextracted from The Accies: The Cradle of Scottish Rugby by David Barnes

‘Macpherson was well known for his tactical sense and study of his opponents’ weaknesses. His generalship and inspiration were invaluable both in the international and in the club sphere.

As a player he could find a way through an almost invisible gap by a variety of methods – a sudden burst of speed, a swerve, a baffling “jink” of a kind of stop-start without actually stopping – and he excelled in making openings for his wings.’

Jack Dunn, The Scotsman, 3 March 1981

A centre three-quarter who combined tactical good sense with creative genius to devastating effect, George Philip Stewart Macpherson was by common consent the outstanding player of a golden era for Scottish rugby – and arguably the greatest player the country has ever produced.

He was born in Newtonmore, Inverness-shire, on 14 December 1903, but spent the first few years of his life in India, where his father, Sir Stewart, was a career civil servant. He returned to Edinburgh at the age of six and attended the Edinburgh Academy for seven years before earning a scholarship to Fettes College in 1916. At this point his natural sporting prowess was already evident, and he excelled at cricket, the long jump and hurdling, as well as rugby. His academic ability was almost as impressive and in 1921 he went from Fettes to Oriel College, Oxford, where he gained a double first in Classics.

It was during his time at Oxford that the full extent of Macpherson’s rugby ability became apparent. He played in three Varsity matches between 1922 and 1924, captaining Oxford to victory in 1923; and made his international debut in a 3-3 draw over in France on 2nd January 1922. In 1925 he was captain of the side when the Oxford University three-quarter line – consisting of Ian Smith, Macpherson, George Aitken and Johnny Wallace – inspired Scotland to its first ever Grand Slam success.

Ian Smith might have been the headline grabber in that team, with eight tries in four matches that season and 24 tries in 32 matches throughout his career, but it was Macpherson’s quick thinking and innovative attacking ploys which created the opportunities for the flying winger to rack up this remarkable scoring tally. Of his 24 tries for Scotland, 21 were scored in the 17 matches he played outside Macpherson. When Scotland thumped France 25-4 at the start of the 1925 campaign, Macpherson did not cross the whitewash himself, but he had a hand in all seven of Scotland’s tries that day – including the four scored by Smith. He played two games for the Academicals whilst on vacation from Oxford during the 1924–

25 season, and The Chronicle noted that ‘from the start he made his presence felt’. After finishing his degree, Macpherson spent a year in the USA as a Davison scholar at Yale, before returning to Edinburgh to qualify as a chartered accountant. He began to play regularly for the club during the 1926–27 season and his arrival at Raeburn Place coincided with an influx of good players directly from the Academy and also from other schools. With John Moffat providing vigorous leadership in the pack, and Macpherson the inspiration behind the scrum, the Academicals began to build the team which would win the championship three years later.

Macpherson captained the side for three consecutive seasons between 1928–29 and 1930–31. In the second of those seasons (1929–30) the Academicals won their first championship since 1906–07.

Macpherson was also a superb Sevens player and his time with the Academicals coincided with a period of unprecedented success for the club on the Border circuit. In 1927 they reached the semi-finals at Melrose, Hawick and Jedburgh; and a year later they won at Melrose, which was the club’s first success in any of the Border competitions. The following year the Academicals won three tournaments at Murrayfield, Hawick and Langholm. And then, in a near perfect ending to their championship-winning season, they won the Melrose Cup again in 1930.


From the Archive