George Law Cawkwell was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 25 October 1919. He won his solitary cap for Scotland at lock against France at the Stade Colombes in Paris on New Year’s Day, 1947. He qualified for Scotland through his Scots-born mother, who had emigrated to New Zealand in 1912.
At King’s College, Auckland, Cawkwell had two years in the rugby first XV and three in the cricket first XI, going on to become head boy. He fought in the Solomon Islands during the Second World War and in 1946 he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. He won two Rugby Blues, and when he was asked after one Varsity Match who he wished to be considered for, his unequivocal reply was “Scotland.”
That 1947 match was the resumption of the Five Nations Championship after the War and Scotland’s first game in Paris since 1930. Scotland lost the match 3-8 and both Cawkwell and his second-row partner, Kirkcaldy born John Murray Hunter, were never capped again.
In an obituary on the University College Oxford website, Cawkwell was quoted: “I suppose I was a moderately good player, but the truth is that my heart was never really in it and I can remember reciting Greek verbs as I jogged around the field.” Cawkwell became the longest serving fellow in the history of University College Oxford, a central figure in the study of classics for some 69 years.
In an interview with Scottish Rugby TV in 2015, Cawkwell spoke of the challenges of winning on foreign soil and the many differences between the game in his playing days and now. “I can remember playing in games where the ball was as heavy as a lump of lead. I remember backs used to play with mittens on their hands to stop the ball slithering out of them. The other thing that strikes me about the modern game is the wonderful accuracy of the goal kicking.”
OURFC extends its sincere condolences to all George Cawkwell’s family and many friends.