Rugby captain who brought consistency to Scotland’s game
In an era when Scottish rugby veered from peak to trough with dramatic regularity, Charles Dick provided an element of consistency as one of the leading mid-field players in Britain. He signed off his international career, moreover, with a try in the match historians regard as a classic encounter between England and Scotland, that of 1938 at Twickenham when Scotland won the triple crown.
After the Second World War he emigrated to New Zealand and became one of the country’s leading physicians. He was appointed the Queen’s honorary physician in 1958, and became the first medical superintendent of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch, achieving an international reputation for the hospital before his retirement in 1978.
Robert Charles Stewart Dick – rugby cherished its initials in those amateur days and R C S Dick received his full quota – was born in Sevenoaks, the son of a doctor from Edinburgh. He went to Sherborne at a time when the school was producing several outstanding rugby players; he followed John Tallent (obituary, April 30) to Clare College, Cambridge, and won a Blue at centre against Oxford in 1933 alongside the Wales international Wilf Wooller. Another Shirburnian, Peter Candler, followed him into the Cambridge centre in 1934.
His medical training continued at Guy’s Hospital under the tutelage of Sir Arthur Hurst, and Dick played club rugby for Guy’s and Blackheath.
Both England and Scotland were aware of his ability, but whereas England offered him a trial at an unspecified date in the future, Scotland offered him one “next Saturday” and he took the chance. The first of his 14 caps was won against Wales in February, 1934. “This tall three-quarter has pace and thrust” read a contemporary report. “He can go through a defence at great speed and possesses a beautiful swerve.”
Dick showed this by scoring two tries against Ireland in his second international and was a try scorer in the 18-8 defeat against New Zealand in 1935, the season in which he captained Scotland twice. After scoring two tries against Wales in 1937, he was forced to withdraw from the other two internationals of that season but played in all three in 1938, when Scotland were unbeaten and played a vivid style of rugby, culminating in the 21-16 win over England in what became known as Wilson Shaw’s match after the Scotland fly half and captain who had made his debut at the same time as Dick.
Dick’s developing medical career prevented him joining the 1938 British Isles tour to South Africa, and he was described in The Times as “one of the finest centres of his day” when the outbreak of war ended his playing career. He was a regimental medical officer with the British Expeditionary Force in France, and in 1941, became a medical officer at the military hospital for head injuries in Oxford. This led to a lifelong interest in neurological illnesses. A year later he was posted to No 3 mobile neurological unit of South-East Asia Command, based in India.
When he moved to New Zealand he took up private practice in Christchurch before joining the management staff of the Princess Margaret Hospital. His wife, Ann, died in 1991. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.
Charles Dick, rugby player and doctor, was born on July 26, 1913. He died on May 19, 2004, aged 90.
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