Date of Birth: 16th December 1941
Place of Birth: Troon
Position: No. 8
Internationals: 27 caps between 1964 and 1973
Inducted: England v Scotland (21/03/2009)
Peter Brown experienced each end of the scale, agony and ecstasy, on his trips to Billy Williams Cabbage Patch.
He had to suffer defeat on his debut there in 1965 and that turned into a double on his next visit to South West London four years later, when again Scotland lost.
But when second row Brown returned as the captain in 1971 that all changed on the team and the personal front.
Little wonder then that his view of Twickenham is that the place was stimulating for the away side as well as the home team: “It certainly did not intimidate us.”
That was proved in emphatic fashion on a March day in 1971, when Brown played a key role in an electric climax to the match.
The Scots were trailing 11-15 – Brown having contributed a try, one of three that he scored for his country in a career spanning ten years and embracing 27 caps (an impressive feat in those days when there were far fewer tests) – when centre Chris Rea made a wicked break and touched down to the left of the posts. The score, Scotland’s third try of the game, meant that Scotland just needed the conversion to record their first victory at Twickenham since 1933. The kicker was a certain Peter Currie Brown and he was doubly unusual for being a kicker. Firstly he was a forward; not that that was unique, because Wales had employed the Aberavon second row forward Allan Martin as a kicker in the 1970s, while in the previous decade England had occasionally called on Northampton second row Peter Larter (who lined up opposite Brown in 1971) to put the boot in; the other reason Brown was unusual in the role in those days was that he was a ‘round-the-corner’ kicker, using (in his case) his right instep to make contact with the ball, just like footballers.
Then again that should come as no surprise, since he played a lot of soccer as boy, and his father Jock was a Scotland international and a Scottish Cup winner with Clyde in 1939.
But back to Twickenham on March 20 1971, and the seconds ticking away this was a real pressure kick for Brown, the difference between joy and despair, a chance to create a little bit of Scottish rugby history.
With the crowd noise and the knowledge of what faced him, his nerves should have been shredded, but Brown had broad shoulders – courtesy of his Hebridean forebears – and, much more importantly, he had been awaiting this date with destiny ever since he was knee high and first able to kick a ball.
The former Gala and West of Scotland player explains: “When we were boys our father Jock always had us practising kicking the winning penalty kicks at Wembley, in England-Scotland football matches, so it was my destiny to have to take that conversion.
“On that day in March 1971, when Chris Rea scored the try, my moment had arrived, the moment I had waited and practised for in the garden and the park at Troon, since I was a boy all those years ago.”
Like all good kickers before and after him, Brown had a tried and trusted approach to every kick. It never changed.
“I always went through the same routine,” he recalls. “I’d make a hole in the ground and create a tee for the ball. Then I would place up the seam of the ball exactly in line with the right hand post. Because of my kicking style the ball always had a tendency to move slightly to the right, before veering left. I would keep my head steady, as per the instructions of my father. Dad had also warned me not to place my non-kicking, left foot, too near the ball, because that would cause you to miss the kick.”
He followed the instructions and went through the routine and was rewarded, the ball sailed between the uprights and Twickenham fell silent for a long moment before the Scottish supporters in the huge crowd awoke to the fact that they had just witnessed Scotland’s first post war victory over the ‘Auld Enemy’.
Apparently it took a while for it to sink in with Brown as well. “At the time I didn’t realise what I had done,” he says modestly.
But anyone with half a belief in portents, signs and omens, would have realised what was on the cards if, like the Scotland team, they had been in London’s West End the night before the match.
In those days it was not unusual for a team to go out on the town a little and perhaps have a pint or three. But Brown, who revealed that he never took alcohol throughout his playing days, went with a team tradition on that particular Friday night.
“We always went to a show the night before a match. And in 1971 we decided to go to see Pyjama Tops, at The Whitehall Theatre just off Trafalgar Square.”
Pyjama Tops is not to be confused with the more proper Pyjama Game at the same venue. Pyjama Tops boasted the porn star Fiona Richmond in the lead role of a play with a plot as thin as consommé. The father of a family no longer found his interest aroused by his wife, so a string of women try to do what Viagra has doing to 21st Century man.
And the denouement sees a number of women clad only in pyjama tops coming down a staircase on to the stage, but there is a difference when the last woman appears, as Brown explains: “The last woman to come down the stairs was the French au pair.”
And to the delight, astonishment and disbelief of the Scotland team members: “She was wearing a Scotland international rugby jersey, the real thing,” says an incredulous Brown. It has to be remembered that this was in the days when there were no replica Rugby jerseys.
Brown continues: “The sight of that young woman in the Scotland jersey was an inspiration to us all.” They took it as a sign for the following day. In fact it was also carried over to the following weekend up at Murrayfield, when the two sides met again as part of the RFU Centenary celebrations. This time there was no nail-biting about it, the Scots recorded a thumping 26-6 victory, with Brown scoring another try and landing a penalty to boot.
Brown too remembers the visitors’ changing room and their luxurious facilities. “The baths at Twickenham were very interesting. There were five in the visitors’ changing room, as I remember, and after a game there was always a lot of horseplay among our team members in those baths.”
Browns thoughts also stray back to getting on to the pitch before a game. “A memory that has stayed with me about Twickenham was the way you came out of the tunnel,” he says. “You went down to a level below the pitch, then you had to go up rickety wooden stairs to get on to it.”
Naturally Brown is happy to remind England fans: “And for a kicker it was a good place because the posts showed up very clearly against the background at each end. The last time I played for Scotland was at the Parc des Princes in Paris and I found I couldn’t make out the posts when I was setting up a long range kick.”
The atmosphere at the ground, in particular before the redevelopment took place many visiting players found themselves at times uncomfortably close to the spectators and the noise was deafening.
Brown admits: “The old Twickenham was never quiet. The noise was fantastic, all-encompassing. But that cacophony inspired you to play.”
Article by Dai Llewellyn