A rugby enthusiast

THE years following the Great War saw a revived interest in rugby as Scottish sports fans — whose allegiance up till then had been mostly given to soccer — suddenly noticed that footballs did not all have to be round.

The September 1920 issue of the Glasgow magazine The Bailie profiled in its prestigious Men You Know column, Bearsden man John M. Dykes, saying it was fortunate for the game that during a renaissance of popular interest, the presidency of the Scottish Rugby Union should be in his capable hands.

It referred to Dykes' own record as an internationalist, his ''enthusiasm, buoyant and effervescent spirit,'' and the organisational and administrative skills of ''this estimable and popular citizen.''

While The Bailie said it would refrain from criticism of football, it also insisted that ''rugby will win on merit, as a developer of strenuous manhood.''

The article, reproduced in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, said that rugby was now attracting thousands of spectators as opposed to the several hundreds who attended games before the war.

''Some sought an easy general explanation in the statement that the war had brought new conditions which set a higher value on every form of athletics. This, however, does not adequately explain the sensational revival of interest in a game which in the circles outside the arena of school and collegiate sport was regarded as moribund,'' said The Bailie.

Returning to the subject of John Dykes, the article said: ''The Man You Know is a native of Glasgow, and went to Glasgow High School in 1885. From his earliest days he played the game, graduating through the class teams into the first XV, and passing out to take his place in the Former Pupils' Club, which he was instrumental in inaugurating and in the progress of which he has evinced the greatest enthusiasm.

''For over 10 years he figured regularly on the football field, playing for the FPs from 1892 onwards. He was capped for his country in 1898, and played in most of the international matches for the following five years.

''This record as an internationalist is one of the most notable in Scottish rugby.'' The Bailie said that Dykes, who lived at Ledcameroch, played in the legendary 1901 team which was remembered for its light and speedy play. He also played for a spell with London Scottish after being sent down south by his father's company to further his business experience.

''Mr Dykes was a forward of the finest calibre, forceful and resourceful, possessing a style, wholly characteristic, in speed and energy, a bustler and a great dribbler.''

The writer was convinced that Dykes' off-the-field contribution to Scottish rugby would be just as significant as in his playing days.

''It comes naturally to an old forward like him to point out that there will require to be great improvement shown by the present day frontal lines if they hope to re-establish the old Scottish tradition of grand forward rushes,'' said the magazine.

''The fast dribbling game won victories in the past, and the morale of a team is not kept at its best if the forwards begin to regard themselves merely as feeders of the backs. That is not the way to develop the pluck of a forward line.''

Dykes was still closely involved with his old school, as president of the Former Pupils' Club and the man who steered through the purchase of its Anniesland playing field.

''In business the Man You Know is a partner of the firm of Messrs Wallace & Weir Ltd, wholesale clothing manufacturers, Argyle Street. On leaving school he entered his father's business of Dykes and Morton, wholesale warehousemen and manufacturers, and in 1899 went to London to gain experience.

''Returning to Glasgow he continued with the paternal firm till about the year 1908, when he joined the firm of Messrs Wallace and Weir. Under his direction the organisation has been perfected, and remarkable development has taken place, branches being established in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Edinburgh, Pontypridd, Swansea, Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham and Darlington. There are three factories in Glasgow and one in Newcastle.''

When the Great War started, the firm turned to the production of military uniforms, devoting 80 per cent of its output to meeting the forces' demands. A lucrative spin-off of this wartime work was that the company had since developed a big market in men's ready-made clothing.

Mr Dykes' had a passion for rugby, but his sporting interests were not confined to that game. The Bailie said it would be hard to name any British sport at which he had not tried his hand. He was a past captain of Bearsden Golf Club and during his sojourn in London joined the West End Amateur Rowing Association, rowing with the fours and eights that won the 50 and 100 guinea challenge cups.

''He is also a keen curler, and on the Bearsden pond has skipped the medal-winning rink every year, save one; he has also skipped a rink against England.

''His jovial laugh has been heard in the winter sports in Switzerland. Hockey, tennis, motoring are also among his hobbies.''

Dykes was also captain of the Boys' Brigade in Bearsden for 12 years. The article added that he was married to a daughter of the Rev Dr Laidlaw, from St George's-in-the-Fields.

''The Bailie has much satisfaction in hanging up in his gallery the portrait of this big-hearted citizen, whose spirit is blithe as that of a schoolboy, and who is esteemed as one of the finest exponents of true sportsmanship in the city of St Mungo.''