Scottish Rugby is saddened to learn of the death of one of the sport’s great characters, former international referee, past president of Gala RFC, and renowned after-dinner speaker Bob Burrell. He was 87.
Burrell was referee in five international matches in the late 1960s – Ireland v Wales in 1966; Ireland v France and France v New Zealand in 1967; and Ireland v England and France v Wales in 1969. He was also invited to referee the Varsity match prior to his international selection, which was a rare honour.
George Murray, former secretary of the South and a fellow referee, recalled: “Bob was a great humorist on and off the field and was a great one for encouraging the fun side of refereeing. He was an excellent referee and quite an inspiration to other referees. Ask anyone in Gala and they’ll have a Bob Burrell story to tell. One of my favourites concerns a young Douglas Morgan playing against Langholm down at Milntown. Douglas broke down the blindside next to the stand but he was caught and ended up at the bottom of a ruck where he was stood on and pushed face down in the mud. “Douglas appealed to Bob ‘What about that ref?’ to which Bob replied ‘If I were you son I wouldn’t go up the blindside again!’
“He was such a personality, the Jim Renwick of his day. He loved his rugby and wasn’t very good at getting home early on a Saturday night.”
Bob enjoyed 17 years as a referee. Before that he was a gifted centre in a Gala side which included such talent as his brother, Dod (who went on to become President of the SRU and also managed the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 1977); Jim Lees, Dod Lyall and Arthur Dorward.
Bob played 140 games for Gala scoring some 28 tries in his career.
When he stood down from refereeing, Bob was a noted after-dinner and after-lunch speaker. In his business life he looked after the sponsorship interests of Keyline Builders’ Merchants. He served on the Gala RFC committee for many years becoming president in 1989 and fulfilling that office until 1991. He was made a life member of Gala in 2004.
In recent years he has taken great pride in the progress of his grandson, Edinburgh, Scotland A and Scotland 7s forward Roddy Grant. Bob passed away on a trip to see his family in southern Africa.
Scottish Rugby extends its sincere condolences to all Bob’s family and friends.