Sat. Sep 18th, 2021


Former England full-back is backing the Sporting Memories Foundation that helps those with dementia by talking about sport with them

The Six Nations approaches and, with it, the annual rip tide of memories. Can it really be 50 years ago this weekend, for example, since Wales beat Scotland at Murrayfield courtesy of “the greatest conversion since St Paul” by a bushy haired, bearded John Taylor? Or 45 years since JPR Williams’s old-school shoulder charge on the French wing Jean-François Gourdon that helped yield another Welsh grand slam? Unforgettable moments.

They are also the foundation stones upon which today’s tournament rests. It can sometimes be easier to remember Taylor’s finest hour – the highlights of that 1971 game are as evocative as the flanker’s uncanny likeness to Roy Wood out of Wizzard – or JPR’s intervention than the finer points (there weren’t many) of England’s last game against Wales. In this locked-down sporting world, that famous old live album of Max Boyce’s – “I know ‘Cos – I was there!” – feels even more nostalgic.

Not everyone, sadly, can recall everything as if it were yesterday. As anyone who has a family member with dementia will know, even once vivid mental snapshots can fade to grey. It is a cruel scenario familiar to the ex-England rugby international and Gloucestershire cricketer Alastair Hignell, whose father, Tony, suffered from dementia until his death, aged 87, in 2015. Tony Hignell was also a champion sportsman who threw the javelin for Britain, played first-class cricket and loved watching his boy represent his country. Gradually his son saw it all slip away: “By the end he knew he was keen on sport but he couldn’t quite remember why.”

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