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Wee George made us fit to be champions – tributes paid to former Seaforth Highlander George Welsh who was was right hand man to Nairn County manager Innes Macdonald who has died at his home in Hopeman aged 97

By Donald Wilson

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George Welsh.
George Welsh.

A Highland League football trainer and coach who worked with many young army recruits in the north during World War II has died at his home in Hopeman, at the age of 97.

Former Seaforth Highlander George Welsh was right hand man to Nairn County manager Innes Macdonald who guided the Station Park club to their only Highland League title in 1975-76.

Mr Welsh’s son Garry said: “He had an amazing career which took him all over the world as a physical training instructor and his happiest years in football was that time at Station Park.

“Only a week before he died he spent an afternoon at his home reminiscing with Richard Konczak and Sammy Forsyth [members of the championship winning play-off against Fraserburgh].”

Educated at Ardersier Primary and the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane for children of ex-servicemen, Mr Welsh joined the Seaforth Highlanders as a boy soldier at the age of 15 in 1938 initially as a Highland dancer.

“His father served in World War I and for much of World War II dad was with the regiment in the south coast of England as part of a dancing display team,” Garry said.

“They were sent back to Fort George in 1942 with the Seaforths and he was stationed to Pinefield Barracks in Elgin where his role was to get many of the young recruits fit for active service.”

Mr Welsh then served overseas with the army in Ceylon, Malaya, Hong Kong and Egypt. In 1964, he was coach to the GB and Ireland hockey team at the Tokyo Olympics.

On leaving the army in 1965 he was appointed physical training instructor at Gordonstoun School.

“After his retiral in the 1980s he still went back to the school where he was an ambassador and coached hockey and athletics,” Garry said.

Mr Welsh teamed up with Macdonald at Borough Briggs for Elgin City in the late 1960s when they were the top side in the Highland League, and they enjoyed considerable success. When Macdonald left the club, Mr Welsh followed then they renewed their double act at Station Park in 1973.

It wasn’t long before they reignited the fortunes of County and soon were knocking on the door at the top of the table culminating in a dramatic play-off when they defeated Fraserburgh 2-1 after extra time at Borough Briggs 45 years ago.

Garry said: “Dad always said the players and people at Nairn County were a very special group. He trained teams all over the world but his happiest football days were at Nairn.

“We hoped to join some of the players for another reunion last season, but it was not to be because of Covid.”

Mr Welsh is survived by his son and he was predeceased by his wife Elizabeth in 2012.

Goalkeeper Konczak said: “Innes MacDonald [who has also passed away] and George Welsh were the main reasons we won the league in 1976.

“It’s so sad that both of them are now gone. George’s contribution to us winning the league was immense. Wee George, as he was affectionately known, made us the fittest team in the league which proved vital in the play-off when it went into extra time.

“At the end of the 120 minutes our legs were still strong and we have George to thank for that. He was loved and respected by all the lads and we all held him in the highest esteem. He was a gentleman of the truest sense and a true Nairn County legend and will be sorely missed.”

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