Masters hockey in Scotland is the poorer for the loss of George Black, the ‘faither’ of Scottish veterans (now Masters) hockey.
George Morrison Black was born in Durisdeer, Dumfriesshire, on 3 August 1926 and passed away at his home in Stepps on 21 February 2022 at the age of 95. He leaves behind his widow Anne, daughter Elspeth, sons Neil and David, and six grandchildren. A true gentleman and respected all over the world, he will be sadly missed.
In an era when players were seen as past it when they hit 30, George Black was an outlier, still turning out for the Scotland senior side at the age of 46. Retirement was never on his mind, and he continued to play club hockey and to turn out for his District side in the annual Freddie Gruber inter-district veterans tournament until it came to an end in the early 1980s. At that time, there was no international masters hockey but George was a regular in the Scottish Veterans touring side which took part in international tournaments on the continent.
Twenty years on, the remnants of that touring side formed the Scottish Veterans LX club, initially to take part in the 2002 European Superveterans Tournament in Paris. At the age of 76, George was first choice for keeper! The following year, the club was given approval to represent Scotland in the 2003 tournament in Hannover and George was selected for the first of his 41 Scotland Over 60 caps. He won the Bronze Medal in the 2006 European Superveterans Championship in Bra, Italy with the Scotland Over 60 team. A further nine caps for Scotland Over 65 brought his total to a round 50 caps when he finally gave up his place in 2012 after winning two Over 65 caps in the Home Internationals in Dundee aged of 85.
Faither’s long and illustrious hockey career lasted through eight decades, all of them as a member of Stepps Hockey Club which he joined at the age of 17, playing for the club while working as a Bevin boy at Sauchie Pit. He went on to be Captain, Secretary, President and Honorary President of the club, playing with them in four Scottish Cup Finals, two of them wins.
George first pulled on a pair of pads for Stepps when they were short of a goalkeeper and Stepps Captain, George Sime, who won a Silver Medal playing for Great Britain in the 1948 Olympics, persuaded George to go between the sticks. He turned out to be a natural, and never looked back. He represented West District first in the annual Baxter Trophy matches, then had his first of 48 caps for Scotland against Ireland in 1953, continuing to represent his country until 1972. Though he never emulated his club captain’s feat of playing in an Olympic Games, he did represent Great Britain on a tour in India and Pakistan, and was a reserve for the 1964 GB Olympic hockey team.
Though he was a sociable and welcoming person off the field, he was a tough nut on the pitch. George’s philosophy as a goalkeeper was simple: don’t let players get in a shot, and if they do, don’t let it go between your legs. Many a forward was made to tremble as George charged out of his goal towards them wielding his shortened stick which he used to sweep the ball away after trapping the ball with his pads.
His close friend and team mate Peter Monaghan tells a story of how George got the better of Scottish International and ICI Grangemouth player Charlie Donald in a West-East Baxter Trophy match at Dawson Park in Dundee. After George had stopped him in his tracks, Charlie told his opponent that next time he was going to go right through him and put the ball into the net. George said nothing but when the forward ran at him with the ball on his stick, George dropped his shoulder and flipped Charlie into the air, somersaulting him into a rose bush in the garden behind the goal.
George wasn’t only a player but an integral part of the administration of his club, his district (of which he was Honorary President for 25 years) and of the Scottish Veterans Hockey Club, serving as founder President from 2002 until 2013. He was a life member of Scottish Hockey, and was awarded the 1980-81 Robert Thistle Trophy for distinguished services to hockey. He was a true ambassador for Scottish hockey at home and abroad, and a friend to all he met in the bar afterwards.