News

Glasgow rugby community to come together to celebrate the life of one of their own

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Jim Taylor MBE has lived a fulfilling life, during which he has given so much back to the game he loves.

Although his playing career came to end four decades ago while playing for Kelvinside Academicals, when a rugby scrummage collapsed and he broke his neck, Jim has risen above all trials and tribulations.

When the Glasgow hero found out he had breast cancer in 2015, Jim knew he had the power to pull through, because that’s what Jim does. Time and time again he has beaten the odds.

Now, as Jim approaches this year’s 40th anniversary of him becoming paralysed, he wants to say thank you to all those who have stood by him and shown support throughout the years.

The Hearts Ballsand Balls Festival, A Thank You from Jim Taylor to the Rugby Community, sponsored by Kelvinside Academy, Harper Macleod LLP and BIG Partnership, will take place on 23 June at the Balgray Playing Fields.

Attendees can celebrate Jim and enjoy live music entertainment from British Lion John Beattie’s band.

“I have an endless number of people to thank for the support I’ve received over the years. It’ll be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate and bring awareness to what the Hearts Ballsand Balls Charitable Trust is doing in the greater community,” says Taylor.

The event is set to begin at 6pm, and food and drink will be included in the ticket price. All profits will go towards Hearts Ballsand Balls, ‘helping rugby help its own.’

Jim has been the Glasgow Warriors Partnership Account Manager since 2011 and has been an instrumental part in helping support those who have suffered spinal injuries from playing rugby. He was awarded an MBE for his service to charity in 2015.

Tickets are £30. To book visit Eventbrite.

Hearts + Balls look to find winning ways at NCS Glasgow 7’s on Saturday

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Following the success of last year’s sevens team, the Hearts + Balls Charitable Trust will participate in several more tournaments in 2018 under the direction of Bruce Ruthven.

Ruthven, a former 7s player at Melrose RFC and current Rugby Coordinator at Stewart’s Melville College, understands the aim of participating in these tournaments, is to promote the charity and bring awareness to the work that is being done in the community.

However, Ruthven believes some of the best exposure for the charity is by competing well at these tournaments.

“It is important that the Hearts + Balls squads come together quickly on the day as we want to be competitive at each tournament.  We would like to think we play an attractive style of 7s and provide some good entertainment for the spectators.  If we reach the finals stages of a tournament this can only provide greater exposure for the charity but fundamentally we are there to enjoy the day, engage with club members and the public, and be great ambassadors for the charity,” said Ruthven.

Sporting a brand-new kit, the team travelled this past week to the 51st Orkney Rugby Sevens in hopes of defending last year’s title. Despite a tremendous effort, the team were denied back-to-back titles, finishing second out of 18 sides.

Orkney, led by Scott Russell and Jon Tait, defeated the charity 10-7, claiming their first Sevens title since 2014.

Hearts + Balls now shift their focus of attention to this Saturday’s upcoming tournament at Cartha Queen’s Park RFC.

The team will then wrap up play this spring the following weekend at Jedforest’s 125th Anniversary 7’s.

We give thanks to the following sponsors for this spring’s rugby campaign;

Argyle Consulting – Barclay Gilmour – Rydens – Martin Currie Investment Management – Orkney Builders, Kirkjuvagr Gin – Loganair – Edinburgh Partners Ltd

Date for Your Diary

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On the June 23rd at Balgray, a special event to mark Jim Taylor’s 40th year in a chair will take place.

Johnny Beattie’s band will perform and a whole host of rugby starts from past and present will be in attendance.

This event is expected to be a sell-out so keep your eyes peeled for details of how to get tickets.

Get your tickets to Super Saturday at Balgray to support Hearts + Balls

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On Saturday, March 17th, Italy host Scotland at 12.30pm,  England take on Ireland at 2.45pm and Wales face France at 5pm.

You can enjoy ALL the rugby, Q&As with special guests, a free drink on arrival and food throughout the day for £35, with funds raised going to Hearts + Balls and The Prince & Princess of Wales hospice.

Contact Fergus@tsngevents.com or John@tsngevents.com or call 07979526034 to book your place.

Hearts + Balls Gears Up for Sevens Success

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Rugby brings immense pleasure and a sense of community to millions of people, but occasionally, like other sports, it can result in injury, sometimes serious injury.

Hearts Ballsand Balls aims to ensure that, in times of need, those connected with rugby are supported by the wider rugby community.  The Hearts + Balls rugby playing intuitive ensures promotion of the charity through interaction with clubs, players, organisers, sponsors and communities to spread the great work of the charity and educate people on what the charity is all about.

In April of 2017 the charity played in the Melrose Vets 10s tournament prior to the famous Melrose 7s.  The 7 a-side team also made the trip to Orkney RFC to play in the 50th Anniversary 7s which they won.  Due to the great exposure and positive feedback received the charity has decided to enter three more tournaments this spring once again under the guidance of Bruce Ruthven.  The tournaments which we shall be visiting are as follows;

  • Orkney RFC 7`s on Saturday 28th April 2018
  • Braidholm 7`s on Saturday 12th May 2018
  • Jedforest`s 125th Anniversary 7`s on Saturday 19th May

Players have been selected from clubs around the country at various levels of participation who will act as ambassadors for the charity whilst giving their all for the jersey.  We give thanks to the following sponsors for this springs rugby campaign;

Argyle Consulting – Barclay Gilmour – Rydens -Martin Currie Investment Management – Orkney Builders,  Kirkjuvagr Gin – Loganair – Edinburgh Partners Ltd

A tribute to David Mercer

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On January 20th, David Mercer passed away peacefully in his home. David was injured 50 years ago whilst playing for Broughton Rugby Club. David has been supported by Hearts + Balls and the Murrayfield Injured Players for several years.

Hearts + Balls will continue to support David’s wife Marie. The following is a tribute to David from his friend Howard.

Last February my wife and I, after visiting our son and his family in Dublin, took ourselves off to investigate parts of our native land with which we were not too familiar. We headed for the south-west and booked into a hotel in the little town of Kenmare.

As a rule we never have breakfast in a hotel but go instead to find a wee coffee shop nearby. This we did and were served by a lovely young lady. “Are you from Scotland?” she asked, noticing I was wearing a Ryder Cup polo shirt – not that she thought I was a member of the victorious team.

“No,” I replied, “we’re Irish, but we live in Scotland.”

“We go to Scotland often,” she replied. “We love it. We have a great a pal in Edinburgh. In fact he broke his back playing rugby fifty years ago.”

“Good Lord,” I said, “You’re talking about David Mercer!”

Indeed we were! I was able to produce a photo of David on my phone, for David had asked to speak at one of the monthly lunches of EROS (the Edinburgh Rugby Oldies Society) a few weeks hence, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his accident.

Doesn’t that wee story tell us so much about Dave? Firstly, that he was known and loved and respected in places far beyond these shores. But secondly that he was keen to share his lifetime experience with so many of his pals in the rugby world.

And this Dave did on the fifteenth of March last year. To an audience of well over a hundred folk, he entertained us, he enthralled, he inspired us, he made us feel very humble. I have to admit, I remember very little of the detail of what he said, for I sat in awe and wonder, totally gobsmacked by the fact that I was hearing not a word of resentment, of self-pity, of regret. There were no “if-only”s no “what I missed out on”s no “what I would give to play one more game of rugby.” Everything was positive. His words were full of gratitude, enthusiasm, and fun. It was as though he was telling us that his accident had been a plus rather than a minus.

Indeed I remember at a Broughton Rugby Club dinner many, many years ago, he proposed the Toast to the Guests and I replied. He paid me the compliment of saying that the one great advantage of his accident, for which he was eternally grateful was that he never had to suffer me as a referee!

Though playing rugby was no longer an option, the greater part of the life of club rugby, the off-the-field element, became a huge part of Dave’s commitment. His years of service to Broughton Rugby Club have been well marked. Nor did the end of his rugby career mean the end of Dave’s career as a competitive sportsman. Medals at the 1970 Para-Sport Commonwealth Games were to follow – Gold in the javelin, Silver in the discus, Bronze in the shot. (Try sitting in a chair sometime and throwing a javelin. I don’t think you’ll find it easy!)

Now, though I knew of Dave not long after his accident – one of my closest friends had played in that game in Hawick all those years ago – there was much that I did not know about Dave. I knew nothing about his early life or his life in business.

But help was at hand. On Friday I met with Norrie McLennan and Charlie Porteus. We entered the Café Royal in bright sunshine at a quarter past eleven and emerged in the gloom at a quarter to four. It was one of those glorious sessions that only happens once in a blue moon. We talked of people, of places, of games, of parties. We laughed, indeed the odd tear was shed, too. Before we left, I found myself saying, “Do you know, I had the strange feeling that it wasn’t just the three of us that were sitting here today. I sensed that Dave was here as well.”

Maybe that’s what resurrection is all about. Or maybe it was just the Guinness talking!

Thank goodness Norrie brought with him copies of the Broughton school magazine and some other notes as well, for much of Friday’s conversations had disappeared from memory by the time I came to write these sentences. I do however recall that as a schoolboy Dave was no angel. The word “torag” was used on more than one occasion. I heard that, even after his accident, parties in top floor flats proved to be no obstacle to Dave; his pal Peter Smith was there to provide the necessary transport.

One article in the school magazine recorded Dave’s academic progress on returning to school, progress which led to entrance to Heriot-Watt University and later to a degree in computer science.

Now computer science is to me like the Peace of God, for it passeth all understanding. And when Mike Norman talked to me about what David had achieved in his business career I was again lost in wonder, love and praise. Terms like “coloured book protocols”, “emergent internet protocols” and “performance testing tools” left me utterly bamboozled. But I learnt enough to realize that whilst working in university or in Scapa, Dave was a shrewd, imaginative and energetic operator, with great technological and commercial expertise. You don’t get awarded an MBE for “Services to computer software technology” unless you are at the top of your tree!

And what a great social life was being enjoyed whilst all of this was going on. Not only was he the Laird of Kenmare in Ireland, but he was also the self-appointed Laird of Espéraza in Southern France.

And when Dan Mulhall, now the Irish Ambassador in the United States, was Irish Consul, Dave became an honorary member of the Irish community here. In fact, he is credited with being the founder of the Irish Curry Club.

Behind all of this were medical issues, about which the vast majority of us I’m sure were unaware.

Until I talked to Marie last Wednesday I didn’t know that Dave had contracted Nectrolizing Faciitis or of the reconstructive surgery required. I didn’t know of the months of hospitalization and home care that ensued. I hadn’t heard about the accident last year in Cadiz which injured Dave’s wrists and curtailed his movement. Yes, I had read the medical notes that Marie had circulated before Christmas, but could I begin to comprehend the catalogue of suffering, disappointment and fatigue that Dave had experienced over the years? I could not.

How could a man carry this burden and remain cheerful? How could he bear the pain and not turn his face to the wall? Why did he refuse to throw in the towel?

Was he born with an indomitable spirit that did not know defeat? Was he simply as hard as nails, as tough as old boots, impervious to any hardship that might come his way? Was he the sublime optimist who always believed that life would get better? Probably all of these things.

But there is something else, greater than all that we have mentioned.

Dave made many clever and inspired decisions in his business life, but there is one brilliant decision that he made, which outstripped all others by a country mile – he married an Irish wife.

You have heard today not just the story of a brave and lovely man; you have been listening to one of the greatest love stories ever told.

Earlier, I read to you these words. You have heard them often. They were read at Dave and Marie’s wedding.

“Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or rude; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope and patience never fail.”

That is the love that Dave and Marie had for each other; the love that we have seen daily in action. How privileged we have been to witness these two lives.

We thank God today that He gave life to David. We thank Him for what David did with that life.

And we thank Him that He enabled David’s life to touch upon our lives, making us thereby infinitely richer.

Former Scotland Captain Al Kellock Joins the Hearts + Balls Board

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Hearts + Balls has appointed one of Scottish Rugby’s most famous faces as a director – former Scotland and Glasgow Warriors captain Alastair Kellock. The living legend decided to throw his efforts behind the charity after meeting many of the rugby players supported by Hearts Ballsand Balls.

Al said “These guys are inspirational despite suffering life-changing injuries playing the sport we all love.

“I played for almost three decades, and retired relatively unscathed. Not everyone is so lucky. We, as members of the Scottish rugby community, should do everything we can to support those players in their time of need.”

Al is joined on the board by four Associate Directors, GHK rugby club’s Gregor Hollerin, London liason Harry Campbell-Lamerton, Heriot’s Alex Hagart and Stewart’s Melville’s Bruce Ruthven.

There are now more ways than ever before to be like Al and support the cause. The charity is calling on Scottish Rugby clubs to take part in the Kiltwalk, which has events in Glasgow (April 29), Aberdeen (June 3), Dundee (August 19) and Edinburgh (September 16). It’s a great opportunity to walk together as a club and raise some much needed funds.

While rugby brings immense pleasure and a sense of community, it can, like all sports, bring tragedy. Though it happens rarely, injuries can be life-changing. Hearts Ballsand Balls aims to ensure that, in times of need, those connected with rugby are supported by the sport’s community.

Since 1999 the charity has donated around £450,000 to rugby players and their families, while also identifying and applying for funds and support from other sources.

For spinally-injured players, Hearts + Balls provide new wheelchairs, specialist mattresses, additional carers, specialist home-equipment and more.

This year, the charity is establishing a sevens team to raise awareness and funds. In April, the team will travel to Orkney for their maiden voyage, made possible by the support of Orkney builders and Kirkjugvar Gin.

Chairman Kenny Hamilton added: “Hearts Ballsand Balls depends entirely on voluntary donations and takes many forms – financial and non-financial, short and long-term.  We need help from you, your club, your business and the entire rugby community. “

You can find out how to support through www.heartsandballs.org.uk, and by visiting our Facebook page. To register for the Kiltwalk, visit www.kiltwalk.co.uk,  pick Hearts + Balls as your chosen charity, put on your boots and get walking!

GHK RUGBY CLUB OFFLOADS £23K TO CHARITY

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A rugby club based in Glasgow’s West End has challenged other clubs to match its charity efforts.

The players at GHK rugby club, who play in Scottish Rugby’s BT National League division 2, have been working as hard off the pitch as on it to raise £23,313 for charity.

The boys wore pink for their top of the table clash with Cartha Queen’s Park last season to raise money for Breast Cancer Care, kilts for the Royal Bank of Scotland Kiltwalk to fundraise for Hearts + Balls, and nothing much at all for their naked calendar which raised more than £10,000 for both charities and Beatson Cancer Charity.

Hugh Parker, GHK Rugby club number eight and captain said: “This fundraising helped to bring the team together off the pitch and I challenge every other club in Scotland to do the same. The three charities were chosen because they were very close to our hearts for a number of reasons.

“Rugby clubs can really be a force for good and when we work as a team, we can really make a difference. We’ve got the bug now and this certainly won’t be the end of our fundraising efforts.”

Hearts + Balls, a rugby charity which supports players who suffer life-changing injuries, received almost £16,000 from the club in the last 18 months thanks to a number of different fundraising initiatives, including two Sportsman’s dinners.

The charity’s chairman Kenny Hamilton said: “Our charity’s main focus is to help rugby help its own, and that’s exactly what everyone involved at GHK has done. This money will make a real and lasting difference to rugby players across Scotland who have suffered an injury playing the game they love. This is a great example of the rugby community going above and beyond to provide support.

“Thanks to GHK for what was a real club effort. Rugby players are a competitive bunch and I daresay this sets down a marker for other clubs!”

 For more information, please contact Gregor Hollerin on 0781 332 0162 or gregor.hollerin@bigpartnership.co.uk

I’m Jim Taylor and like to be thought of as ‪#‎JustJim‬

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“I broke my neck at c5/c6 level in 1978 in a rugby scrummage collapse when playing against Old Aloysians whilst playing for my former pupils rugby team Kelvinside Academicals.

I was playing hooker that day – jack of all trades, indeed most sports including squash, tennis, football, ski-ing, but master of none – to allow a friend to attend a wedding in an early season friendly match. Loose head prop was my preferred position but I was happy to pit my ‘skills’ against the then Glasgow hooker Phil Crampsey in the amateur era.
10 minutes or so into the game I was already being taught a lesson before the accident happened.

My complete neck break rendered me a tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for life from age 23.

Doctors in the opposition team – Dr. Roddy MacLeod and Dr. Paul Rodgers saved my life by insisting I wasn’t moved. I was covered in blankets to be kept warm, struggling to breathe. I had watched the rugby ball move out to the opposition backs but could not get up – no pain, but felt like my legs were ‘floating’! I was comforted by non-playing injured friends Charles Berry and Jack Smart who accompanied me in the ambulance to the ICU at the Royal Infirmary.

I still recall the banter as they kept me going and thankfully I did not pass out – I thought the grass and mud in my face were the problem regarding my breathing which obviously wasn’t the case! The ambulance had to be escorted onto the pitch after the rusted/fused gates at Millerston had been broken open and my journey with my comrades started with a clip stretcher being placed underneath me before transfer to the ambulance to start my new journey in life.

I had ‘Heath Robinson’ head callipers drilled into my head with weights hanging over the back of the bed to stretch the spinal vertebrae. Nurses were great during this traumatic time in which it slowly began to sink in that it was a bit more serious than I had originally imagined.

I was transferred to the then Spinal Unit in the West of Scotland based at Philipshill hospital in East Kilbride. I recall umpteen people on either side lifting me onto the transfer trolley on vacation of ITU in the Royal to a more specified hospital to recover – I had made it through the first 7 days!!! Little do you realise the turmoil to parents, family and friends in the outside world.

The ambulance journey was surreal and I felt, for the first time, real pain in my neck – on transfer at destination from trolley to bed, with again a huge team lifting you on both sides and keeping you straight, I felt a huge pain/spring like effect in my neck – apparently my language was ‘blue’. Staff quickly organised telephone directories under my re-dislocated neck and eventually it was made stable with no other major impairment or damage done.

I lay for 6 weeks on my back, being turned every two hours by pelvic hip swivel to ensure no pressure sores and had to rely on folk feeding me as the remedial gymnasts – now Occupational Therapists had made plaster casts to keep my fingers straight and I am to this day indebted to them as I can use a pen to key on a laptop, write, feed myself, do my teeth – the list goes on but it took hours of hard work to achieve ‘the best you can be’.

It was during this 6 week window I realised, despite being pinned down with only a ceiling to look at, amidst the shadows of wheelchairs that I wanted to walk out. The daily checks on my leg feeling had not produced positives and after 6 weeks Dr Seymour advised I would not walk again – for some reason something kicked in – I wasn’t phased – fought the tranquilisers given to me – I knew I was going to win – either the stubborn fool or competitive sportsman inbuilt in me or my positive mental attitude.

I threw everything into my gym work once I had gradually been given a pillow, collar to hold my neck stable after my head calipers were removed and eventually after another 6 weeks into a sitting position. The laughs – and you need them, as bets were placed on me passing out as I was assisted into my wheelchair for the first time. A lot of the incentives and carrots would not be perceived as politically correct in today’s modern world but I was driven and encouraged to succeed as my desire was so strong. I am indebted to Norman who gave me the extra workload that I demanded and he saw something in me that inspired him to assist me to deliver my maximum potential and turn out a decent human being who, despite disability, wanted to strive to return to paid working employment and have a ‘normal’ life albeit with necessary support.

A year or rehab ensued in hospital before ‘release’ home to the outside world and life with my Mum, Dad and David my fifteen month younger brother.

My next challenge was adapting to home life and working to a routine – Mum was my nurse and carer. Whilst in hospital for the protracted time the existing family home had been converted to give wheelchair access and indeed a downstairs bathroom suitable for use. Norman Bennie who played in the team was an architect and he and indeed the whole club rallied to the call for support.

A year later I returned to my employment with the Bank of Scotland on a part-time basis and through excellent, understanding employers, eventually became customer facing and dealt with all aspects of Banking to meeting customer requirements – I hold a strong work ethic and to me customer service is paramount as I’d discovered this through my hospital residency. If you say you will do it you do it!

Much to people’s alarm I started driving and was delighted my Dad’s automatic Fiat could be fitted with hand controls and he spent hours with me driving in car parks to ensure I was capable and competent – my car, despite requiring assistance to load/unload wheelchair and transfer board to access and egress has given me huge independence and with the advent of mobile phones – I am slow but can operate – new horizons have opened up.

I met my wife of now 22 years – Sandra – in the hair dressers and from early friendship we are now a truly formidable team – Sandra my wife, carer, best friend and indeed ‘angel without wings’ who has and still does support me in whatever direction I choose to pursue whilst holding down her own business.

I’ve achieved a wonderful, fulfilling life with marriage, work in the Bank of Scotland until aged 50, followed by employment with Glasgow Warriors as a Partnership Account Manager – back to my roots, as I never held a grudge against the sport nor opposition as it was an accident. I look after sponsors and partners who willingly accept me as a person as do the players and staff who give me huge support, as have my friends and family over the year and I am thankful that my outgoing personality makes it easy for folk to ’buy in’.

Over the years I have always had a desire to give back to those that have supported me in my times of need and indeed attend Queen Margaret University to give a ‘chat’ to Occupational Students to assist those they will assist in the future with spinal injury practical life tips.

I’ve raised thousands of pounds for a variety of charities – Alzheimer’s as my mother died of the dreadful disease, cancer as my father passed away from this, sporting charities – I am an Ambassador for The Hearts Ballsand Balls Charitable Trust and have been for some 10 years – ‘Helping Rugby Help its own’. This is to support seriously injured rugby players and ‘inspire’ them to follow me into the work place via University or learning, subsequent employment and enjoy a lifestyle they desire. I’ve committed many hours to hospital visits and hope I have assisted. Hearts + Balls assisted SIS with Glasgow Warriors to financially assist Clober garden and indeed man power to clear the site.

I love arranging charity fundraisers from my ‘Alternative 21st party to celebrate 21 years in a wheelchair’, ‘silver party to mark 25 years’ ‘Ton of granite challenge – pushing a ton in weight of curling stones for a mile on ice’ to name a few.

I’ve enjoyed curling which I was introduced to whilst President of the Kelvinside Academical Club and am currently President of the Curling section. I have also had tremendous enjoyment from wheelchair curling winning the Scottish Championships in 2006 and 2008 as well as the British in 2008 and the National pairs. I think my team mates did the majority of skill work to achieve success! Helping pioneer wheelchair curling to integrate with able bodied curling teams has been very satisfying.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014 and after undergoing a mastectomy in January, 2015 and thereafter 4 blasts of chemotherapy every 3 weeks and indeed 15 sessions of radiotherapy I am delighted to advise that I was recently given the all clear with an annual review in January, 2016. I was fortunate to again receive wonderful medical support and advice as well as support from my huge network of friends. I managed to work through my various treatments – some from home and some in the office.

I was truly honoured to be nominated for an MBE and received my formal letter in May this year before being released to the public in the Queen’s birthday honours list in June. Investiture will be in October which is very humbling and still surreal in reality.

Now I am able to enjoy life and be the social animal that I am again! I have much to celebrate – my MBE, 60th birthday, winning against breast cancer and celebrating the small part that I played in contributing to Glasgow Warriors winning the Guinness PRO12 championship in season 2014-15 – the first club in Scottish rugby history to achieve this – very proud

Just Jim is what I consider myself and the MBE award I consider as much for Sandra as for myself.

I love living my life to the core values established at Glasgow Warriors and think they epitomise me:-
‘Trust’ , ‘Respect’ , ‘Honesty’, ‘Whatever it Takes’ and indeed my own ’Desire to Aspire.’
I have loved my life and lived it to the fullest with no regrets.”

Jim Taylor
C5/C6 Tetraplegic