Former Scotland international Nairn MacEwan, one of the most talented rugby players to come from the Highlands, has died at the age of 76.
MacEwan, who was born in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, would make the 400-mile round trip from Inverness to Galashiels in the Borders three times a week to train and play for Gala when they were a major force in the Scottish game.
He won the first of his 20 Scotland caps against France at the Stade Colombes in Paris in January 1971.
MacEwan played in four victories over England during his international career and scored the only try in Scotland’s 23-9 victory at Murrayfield in 1972.
We are saddened to learn of the death earlier today of the 20-times-capped former @Gala_Rugby & @HighlandRFC back-row forward Nairn MacEwan. Nairn went on to coach Scotland for three years from 1977. https://t.co/yPb6RPrK6p #RIP
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) May 31, 2018
In 1977, MacEwan took on the role of ‘advisor to the captain’ and coached the Scotland national team for three years before being succeeded by Jim Telfer.
The flanker was a prominent figure at Highland and helped the club climb from the fourth division to the top national league.
Highland head coach Davie Carson said: “He helped Highland climb the divisions in the 1970s, culminating in winning promotion to the top division in 1976.
“That was a massive achievement for a rugby club outside of Edinburgh and the Borders.
“He set up the Highland and Islands rugby youth initiative and that was when I really got to know him as I was involved in that for eight or nine years.
“We organised massive rugby festivals around the Highlands and Islands. He was very passionate about giving people opportunities to play no matter where they lived.
“He was always wanting to try something different.
We are saddened to share the news that Nairn MacEwan has passed away. Our thoughts are with the family and close friends at this time.
A great servant to the club and Scottish Rugby. He will be missed by all that knew… https://t.co/JKtVjSEPZY
— Highland Rugby Club (@HighlandRFC) May 31, 2018
“As a coach, I learned a huge amount from him.
“He told me not to be afraid to try new things and always think outside the box.
“That was what he did and he had a great ability to get the best out of players.”
MacEwan underwent heart surgery in 1980 but continued to work in the game with coaching stints at Rovigo and Piacenzo in Italy as well as spells in Sweden and Ireland.
He was regarded as an innovator who believed in an expansive style of rugby long before it became popular and also coached at Glasgow Accies and Glasgow HSFP.
In 1997 he was appointed by the SRU to develop rugby in the Highlands, Islands and Moray.
MacEwan’s former team-mate and captain Ian McLauchlan yesterday described him as a “very good player who was extremely dedicated and a real student of the game”.
MacEwan also owned a restaurant in Strathconon in Ross-shire.