Obituary: John Percy Friebe, Class of 1950

Born: May 9, 1931; Died: May 17, 2019

PERCY Friebe, who has died aged 88, was a businessman, Scotland rugby internationalist and a legend of Old Anniesland in Glasgow. He held the unique distinction of having his name on four different honours boards at the club. He was a past captain, past president both of Glasgow High Kelvinside and of Glasgow High School FP, and he had his name on the internationalists’ board.

His Scotland career was short, making a solitary appearance for the national side in a loss against England at Murrayfield in March 1952. The match was the seventh in that disastrous run of 17 straight losses between 1950 and 1955, so, in being discarded after just one cap, Friebe was not alone.

One of the performances which helped him achieve capped status came on 31 October, 1951, when he gave a stand-out performance for a combined Glasgow and Edinburgh XV, who lost 43-11 to the mighty Springboks – who would later thrash Scotland 44-0 at Murrayfield.

The Cities side lost wing forward Edwin Hendriksen of Royal High School after 23 minutes, but the performance of Friebe was picked out for special praise in The Herald’s match report. His line-out game, against much taller opponents, was particularly noted.

He had a long association with Glasgow High School FP, then GHK and latterly Glasgow Hawks, as a key member of the great High School teams which were a major force in Scottish rugby in the 1950s. He captained the team to victory in the unofficial club championship in 1957, and was a contemporary and team mate of such legends as Angus Cameron, Jimmy Docherty and Hamish Kemp both at club level and for the Glasgow XV.

Percy Friebe also had the distinction of scoring the first try at Burnbrae, when the West of Scotland rugby club moved there in 1960.

As well as playing for High School and Glasgow, he also, while serving in the RAF, represented his service and, stationed in the English Midlands, he played for Worcester Warriors.

He was schooled at the High School of Glasgow between 1940 and 1949, playing in the first XV. On leaving he went into accountancy, serving his apprenticeship prior to two years of national service in the RAF. On returning to Glasgow, he rejoined Glasgow High School FP and began his serious working life with India Tyres in Inchinnan.

He had a spell with Mallard Brothers, the manufacturers of fishing tackle, before joining Stoddart Carpets at Elderslie, eventually rising to the position of managing director of Carpets International, which meant reallocation to Birmingham, where he got his rugby fix with Moseley.

On retirement, with time on his hands, he accepted a final business appointment as non-executive chairman of Intersport, the sportswear retailers.

He did not allow marriage to interfere with his rugby, although he had hung up his boots by the time he married Laura in 1966. They had no children, but, were inseparable until old age and the effects of Parkinson’s Disease forced him to spend his final months in the care of the Erskine Home for Ex-Servicemen.

He was an excellent, old-fashioned corner-flagging number eight, one of the best in his position in Scotland at the height of his career, but, like so many capped during that terrible run of Scotland losses in the early 1950s, he was ill-served by a selection committee who panicked and indulged in change for change’s sake – he might well have won more caps.


Credit: The Herald
Obituary: John Percy Friebe, Scotland rugby internationalist and businessman