Me and Rugby Union

Rugby Union....

I am an avid rugby union fan since I took up the sport in high school the age of fourteen. I am a particular fan of Southern Hemisphere rugby, particularly the all blacks and the New Zealand approach to rugby.

I admire New Zealand’s distilled approach to rugby and the pursuit of excellence. I like that general approach to any human endeavour.

I once played a casual game of rugby for an oldies team (North Shore rugby, home of several All Blacks including Buck Shelford) while visiting Auckland on a backpacking trip.

Despite drinking some beer in the changing room and laughing and joking before the game when these guys took the pitch they were totally focused on performing and winning.

The commitment and mental attitude even at that level was awesome and inspiring. Those tackles, those passes and that approach to the game made a big impression on me, in relation to not only sport, but life in general.

Brian Johnstone before a game of rugby

Cowal RFC - pre game!

Cowdenknowes High School 1st XV

I don’t consider myself a sports fanatic but I do love the idea of trying many things at least casually. I discovered Rugby Union in high school and loved everything about the game…. except playing in the cold, wet and windy Scottish weather.

Traveling round Scotland in winter to play on muddy pitches exposed to the wind and rain and coming close to hypothermia on a several occasions can toughen you up as a young player but can get a bit less attractive when you get older.

I finished my career with a bang, literally. On a ‘rugby tour’ in the USA I tackled a large Samoan player (arguably with my poor technique). I was knocked out, concussed and suffered a separated shoulder and broken collar bone. The picture shows the immediate aftermath and me smiling at ‘the birdies’ I was seeing when I came round.

Fortunately my insurance and a visit to Salinas Community Hospital got me fixed up and able to join my tour party afterwards.

My doctor was called Dr Stubblefield.. but I never found out if he was a relation to Clyde (James Brown’s drummer)

Farewell to Rugby Union

The Final Tackle

Smiling at the birdies (in Santa Cruz, California) flying round my head
with my concussion, separated shoulder and broken collar bone

Other Sports 'n Things

I have tried many other sports and pastimes on a very casual basis including, mountain/off road biking, badminton, volleyball, football, tennis, lawn bowls, caving, canoeing, scuba diving and even tandem paragliding.

On a backbacking trip which included Australia I decided to do a scuba diving course. Inexplicably (as I am a poor swimmer and not very comfortable in, on or under water) I decided to embark on a 3 day diving course based on a boat on the Great Barrier Reef – gasp!

I figured it would be great to see  this and if you are gonna learn to scuba dive this seems like the ideal place. With my poor water skills, sea-sickness and previously collapsed lung (a rugby injury from the past) I still can’t believe I actually paid money to do that.

Coming back to Scotland soon put an end to that short term hobby – the freezing cold waters in Scotland are very different to the warm bath of The Great Barrier Reef.

I like to try everything once but with a few exceptions : bungee jumping and skydiving are off my list.

"Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby – but none of them serious."

Doc Mayhew

Rugby and Music - the common element?

Throughout my life I have cross referenced lessons between rugby and music: from rudiments, to teamwork, to discipline application, preparation and execution.

Indeed virtually every aspect of attainment and development. A journey of self improvement: keep trying and getting better.


Stewart Smyth - The Mentor

My high school rugby coach and mentor, Stewart Smyth, was a huge influence on me. He instilled the classic rugby values of discipline, respect, commitment and application.

Being my Mathematics teacher his influence was apparent on and off the pitch. Not only did he give me a true appreciation of the beauty of mathematics but my very first song co-write (with Billy Harron and Pete Jamieson) was called ‘Maths is Fun’ to the tune of Jingle Bells.

The words were proudly posted on his wall behind his desk.
I like to think my songwriting has progressed a bit now!


GHA Gazelles rugby (circa 1997?)

GHA Gazelles (circa 1997 or 1998?)