TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of an East Lothian-born rugby stalwart.

William (Bill) Smith, latterly director of rugby and ambassador for Forrester Rugby Club in Edinburgh, passed away on April 21, aged 81.

Bill grew up in Dunbar and played school rugby there, also representing Dunbar RFC.

He worked for a local butcher who also had a shop in Edinburgh. Bill was given the opportunity to work in that shop and it was there that he formed his initial relationship with Forrester. It was also about then that he married Pam, his childhood sweetheart.

Having been born in the Second World War as the only son of a single parent, life as a child and youth were difficult.

With deep conviction that all children should be given an opportunity to develop, he believed that, by playing rugby, they would learn to work as a team, realise what the words respect and discipline were, form lasting relationships and, by doing so, develop into responsible adults.

For nearly 40 years he gained the support of all the primary and secondary school heads in Corstorphine and South Queensferry, allowing him to go into the schools and teach thousands of children basic rugby skills. Then they were encouraged to attend Forrester to participate in mini and midi sessions, which again he supervised.

During this time, Pam would hold the fort and manage the shop in Bill’s absence.

As retirement age neared, Bill had no intention of giving up his rugby commitments. He sold the shop and this allowed Pam to return to the work she liked best, tending to her garden and looking after her grandchildren.

In 2010, Bill was nominated for the ‘Famous Grouse Spirit of Rugby Award’ and he collected more votes than all the other nominations put together.

He was recognised by the City of Edinburgh Council as the most outstanding coach.

People he had taught as children would stop him in the street and ask how he was doing and reflect on the time they had been taught by him.

Pam died in 2012 and, while Bill continued to be active in rugby, a big void in his personal life had been created.

About five years ago, it became apparent that Bill was starting to show signs of memory loss and he decided to step down from his duties as director of Forrester Rugby Club.

His condition deteriorated and he moved into a care home.

During the Covid period, Forrester recognised Bill’s lifetime work by making him an ambassador.

They presented him with a plaque to that effect and it was displayed outside his bedroom for everyone to see.

His funeral service was due to take place last Wednesday.

Tribute courtesy of Scottish Rugby