Win Ian Smith’s terrific autobiography

Ian Smith, a Scotland full-back from 1969-72, was approached to write rugby reports while serving in the Army overseas. The Hong Kong Standard paid him for his efforts, which meant he had to use an alias to avoid breaching the game’s amateur regulations.

Under the byline Peter Stewart, he wrote reports of matches in which he himself played. Discussions would arise in the bar as to the identity of this reporter whom nobody ever met. So to deflect suspicions that it was actually him, Smith would frequently and heavily criticise his own performance!

You can learn about Smith’s colourful life in his autobiography A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Propread a review of the book here.

Further down this article is an opportunity to win a copy in our competition. First, enjoy a tale from the book that relates to an encounter Smith had with a broadcasting legend…

Heriot's FP Hong Kong VII

Scots abroad: the Heriot’s FP Hong Kong sevens team in 1974, with Smith front right

My first indirect involvement in regimental rugby happened before I went to Hong Kong in 1971, Smith writes. This was shortly after Scotland had decided my services were no longer required. I had a mysterious phone call, asking if I would like to share the radio commentary for the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) of the final of the UK Army Cup.

That was a shock which turned to absolute delight when the voice said I would be sharing the commentary with none other than the legendary Cliff Morgan. What a thrill to be asked, because Cliff had been one of my heroes from when I was a little boy. I remember seeing him on a grainy film scoring a fantastic try for the 1955 Lions against the Springboks.

Ian Smith

A dream fulfilled: Smith played eight Tests for Scotland

What was best of all was meeting this god of a man and discovering he was even nicer than I had imagined he would be. We had a very good lunch in the Parachute Brigade officers’ mess, and Cliff explained how simple broadcasting on the radio was.

He told me we would arrive at the ground, the Aldershot Services ground, about ten minutes before half-time. When the half-time whistle went he would introduce me. All I had to do was answer his questions, plus make a comment about the first half.

The weather was appalling and when we arrived at the ground the players were virtually unrecognisable. As I sat next to Cliff awaiting the start of the broadcast as the first half drew to a close, with the score I believe 3-3, he explained about the lip microphone. Unless it was pressed against my top lip, the listeners wouldn’t hear what I was saying.

Ian Smith after scoring try v South Africa 1969

Debut try: after scoring the winner v South Africa. Note the empty terraces due to anti-apartheid protests

As the half-time whistle went, Cliff introduced himself to the listening audience in BAOR. I was introduced as the Scottish international full-back and Army dentist. Cliff finished with, “We’ve just seen an exciting first half, so I’ll hand you over to Ian to summarise.”

At which point Cliff put down his microphone with the words “If you get stuck, just say something like, ‘And what do you think, Cliff?’ and I’ll come back and help you out.” He followed that with, “I’m off to the loo.” And with that he disappeared out of the door.

This left me, with no programme and 30 unrecognisable players, a score of 3-3 and a match that had obviously been pretty awful so far. The rain continued to teem down and I somehow lasted through the five-minute break, at which point Cliff reappeared.

“I was outside the door in case you got stuck,” he said. “But there didn’t seem to be any danger of that. Well done, any time you want a job just call!”

All in all, it was a remarkable afternoon spent in the company of a legend of the game.

A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Prop is published by Arena Sport, RRP £17.99. You can buy it here. We also have six copies to give away.

For a chance to win Ian Smith’s autobiography, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 28 July.

1971 Lions pre-tour get-together

Listen up: the 1971 Lions at a pre-tour get-together – but who is the coach holding court? (Fox Photos)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 11.59pm on Tuesday 28 July 2020.

Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book ‘A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Prop’ by Ian Smith.

Normal TI Media Limited competition rules apply. Competition details form part of these terms and conditions. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland except employees (and their families) of TI Media Limited, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions. The winners must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required. Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition. Entries made online using methods generated by a script, macro or the use of automated devices will be void. The prizes are as stated, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions. The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition. The winner agrees to the use of his or her name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by TI Media Limited relating to any post-winning publicity. The winners will be chosen from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material. Winners will be confirmed in writing. Reasonable efforts will be made to contact a winner. Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize. If they cannot be contacted, or are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random. Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered into over this decision. Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time. The Service Provider and contact details are specified within the promotional material. When you enter this competition you are consenting to be added to the regular MBR newsletters and that TI Media Limited and its partners may contact you about relevant products or services and research via email. You can opt out at any time via the unsubscribe messages in the emails you are sent.