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“Our sun, moon and stars”: A tribute to Siobhan ‘Shibby’ Cattigan

By Gary Heatly

In memory of Siobhan Cattigan (April 11, 1995-November 26, 2021)

The family of Scottish rugby internationalist Siobhan Cattigan, who sadly passed away last month, are aiming to raise £5,000 for causes that were close to her heart in a bid to continue her legacy.

The 26-year-old died on November 26 and on December 5 there was a match at Stirling County’s Bridgehaugh ground in her honour against Watsonians.

Representatives from the other top flight women’s clubs – Hillhead/Jordanhill, Corstorphine Cougars, Heriot’s Blues and Cartha Queens Park – were also there on the day, along with many others from the Scottish rugby community, to pay their respects.

“Siobhan had so much good work still to do. She spent her life putting others first and herself last, was kind, compassionate and a listening and a supportive ear to so many. She was entirely selfless,” her family said in a statement via their JustGiving page.

“There are simply no words descriptive enough to explain how much she loved and was loved in return. Our sun, moon and stars. The dazzling sunrise and stunning sunset. The very air we breathe. Siobhan was passionate about helping others in need, particularly animals and hated any form of abuse or suffering. In one way or another we would very much like to continue Siobhan’s legacy.

“Weʼre raising £5,000 to create a legacy(ies) in Siobhan’s name to go towards causes she was passionate about and ensure her name lives on.”

She was the kindest, most caring girl

Being brought up in Callander in Perthshire, Siobhan’s rugby journey began when she was a youngster in the mini section at McLaren RFC, the local club that her dad and brother were already associated with.

“From very early on it was clear that Siobhan had something special and was going to be a very good player, she was powerful, fast and elusive,” Jim Chesham, who was the McLaren mini section convenor and a coach when Siobhan was involved, recounts.

“At that time, McLaren didn’t have a girls team and Siobhan was happy to be part of the boys/mixed team. She was greatly underestimated by the opposing teams – that is until the game started!

“When she wasn’t outrunning players, she was running through them. In addition, she was a good listener and above all a team player. She was strong with ball in hand, but would always look for support and bring other players into the game.”

McLaren minis current committee add:  “We are very proud that Siobhan was the first McLaren minis player to represent her country at full international level. Despite all of her success she remained the kindest, most caring girl she had always been.

“Siobhan returned to McLaren minis to present silverware at awards presentations, showing our young players what could be achieved by hard work, determination and having a dream.

“McLaren RFC send condolences to the Siobhan’s family but are grateful for all that she did for the club and for the sport.

“Siobhan’s legacy will live on in all those she inspired and encouraged.”

I was blown away with her work ethic and passion for the uni team

In her teens, aside from a season with Monklands, Siobhan stepped away from rugby, but picked it up again when she headed to study at the University of Stirling after her school days.

She signed up at the Sports Fayre in her first year and, after her first training session with the team, it was clear she was no beginner!

Three tries in her first game strengthened that belief and her new team mates were delighted to have her on their side.

One of her proudest moments on the pitch was when she captained the student side to victory in their 2016/17 BUCS league in her third year.

Whilst at university off the pitch she studied a degree in Criminology and Sociology before going on to receive a masters in Sports Psychology.

Friend Jodie Hutton recounts:  “The year before Shibby joined us in the university rugby set-up the team had a pretty bad year, we lost every game, but we had a good time off the pitch!

“When a lot of players graduated and such like, the next season seemed like it was going to be more of the same. Then entered Shib. I was blown away with her work ethic and passion for the uni team.

“In her final year of uni we played 10 and 12 together and Shibby called us ‘Shibby Bill and Jode Barrett’ which was great fun. I was definitely not close to the best 10 she played with, but she always made sure I felt confident. Indeed, she always made sure everyone left rugby feeling good, that’s why she made such a great captain.

“Moving forwards, it wasn’t a surprise when she got picked for Scotland because of her talent, but that doesn’t take away from the work she put in to get there. I just knew, everyone did, that she was destined for it.

“Away from the pitch is where we had the most fun though, she loved a dance in [Stirling nightclub] Fubar or a ‘sing off’ at a rugby party.

“The four of us [Jodie, Siobhan, Lauren Hagan and Heather Davis] had some of the best times on rugby nights out full of endless laughs. I can’t put all those memories into words, but they were filled with so much happiness.

“That’s the way I’ll remember Shibby, dancing and singing!”

She was always up for laugh and she was extremely thoughtful

Jodie mentions that herself, Siobhan, Lauren Hagan and Heather Davis could often be found on a rugby night out during their university days together.

And Lauren remembers that she knew they would all be great pals for life straight away during their time at the University of Stirling.

“I knew right away when Shibby joined the uni rugby team that she was our kind of person, she just slotted right in with Jodie, Heather and I from the off,” she states.

“We all had a great laugh and we stuck together in most things we did.

“She was one of the most focused and determined people I know with her uni work and with her rugby, but she definitely knew how to have fun.

“Shibby was always up for laugh, a day out and a night out – I have hundreds of videos of her amazing dancing in Fubar!

“We would always be messaging asking each other for advice, whether it was ahead of a rugby game or about what dress to wear to Sports Ball. I could always rely on her and she was just genuinely so lovely that she always wanted to help out.

“She was kind and extremely thoughtful, she would always message me after a game asking me how I got on or letting me know I played well.

“Shibby played a massive part in things for me in recent years and I’m so glad I got to be a part of her life.”

Shibby was a great friend, I’ll never forget the memories

The fourth member of the quartet, Heather, believes that “Shibby was one of the best rugby players I have ever had the opportunity to play with”.

“Whether she was tearing it up through the centre, sitting down anyone that tried to stop her or making huge hits from the back-row, Shibby always gave her all no matter what shirt she was wearing and I always enjoyed the pre-game chats and debriefs after our uni games or, in more recent times, our Stirling County games,” Heather said.

“I was always waiting for one of her famous Sonny Bill Williams-type offloads to fire me through a wee gap after she’d done the hard work!

“More importantly Shibby was a great friend. From the day she started playing uni rugby I knew she would be someone I’d get along well with.

“It was hard work keeping Shibby out of Fubar in her first year and one of my favourite memories of Shib was when she’d had a few too many – likely vodkas – and took a wee stumble and her hair had fell in a puddle!

“However, the girls rallied with the hairdryer and straighteners and Shib still made it to the nightclub where she always enjoyed a good dance!

“Shibby and I often met up for catch ups with her dogs, Digby and then Breagha, where we would walk and talk for hours followed by coffee where we would sit and chat for a few hours more.

“She was such a kind and caring person and she was always ready to listen when I, or anyone else, needed someone to talk to. I am glad I got to be a part of Shib’s life and I will never forget the great memories I have.”

She was truly a wonderful person and an amazing team mate

As Heather touched on, as well as university rugby, Siobhan also played for Stirling County RFC and was very proud to represent the club.

Over the years she helped them become a Tennent’s Premiership side and County reached two Plate Finals, just falling at the last hurdle to Stewartry and Watsonians respectively on the back pitches at BT Murrayfield.

This season the club have made it into the Premiership title play-offs and Siobhan, who played her last game for the club in October in a thumping home victory over Watsonians, will very much be on the other players minds when the campaign resumes in January.

Ailsa Luke currently plays for County and she said:  “When I think of Shibby as a person I think of someone who was calm, kind and thoughtful. Her personality put you at ease, whether it be on or off a rugby pitch, she was always willing to help and support her team mates and friends.

“Shibby would show her kindness through thoughtful actions, I remember being down at County watching the men’s team play with her and I brought out a chocolate orange as a snack. Quickly I ended up sharing it with other girls who were down watching and I didn’t think much of it.

“At the next training session Shibby handed me a chocolate orange, she said it was because she knew how much I loved them and felt bad that I had had to give away most of mine.

“That kind nature summed her up, she was truly a wonderful person and an amazing team mate.”

She had the respect of all of her team mates

Gillian Duncan, another County player and team mate, believes Siobhan was a “great role model” to the next generation of female players at the club and beyond.

“Before I returned to playing a few years ago I used to coach the girls teams down at Bridgehaugh and as Siobhan was someone who was making great strides in the game it was always a boost when she came down and spoke to the youngsters,” Gillian recounts.

“Then when we took the girls to some of the Scotland international matches they got very excited when they saw Shib and Megan Kennedy from the same club as them on the pitch playing for their country.

“We were so proud to see her playing for Scotland after all the hard work that she had put in.

“With County, whenever we had Shib at No.8 and Lauren [Hagan] at seven we knew that we had two back-rowers who would be looking to carry ball whenever they could!

“Shib was never the loudest in the dressing room, but on the pitch she would lead by example with her actions and there was no doubt she had the respect of all of her team mates.

“She would keep herself to herself, although after a couple of drinks she was known to sing and dance!

“I just think she was a great role model for the young players coming through at County and beyond. She carried herself in the right way, was such a good team mate and the team always came first. She will be sadly missed by many people.”

Shib and myself shared a lot of special memories

It was mentioned by Gillian that centre-turned-back-row Siobhan played for Scotland with her County team mate Megan Kennedy.

Front-rower Megan had to retire earlier this year due to injury, but earned 18 caps for her country.

And it was so fitting that the first of those caps was on the same day as her great friend Siobhan made her debut too against Wales in the 2018 Six Nations in Colwyn Bay.

Siobhan would go on to earn 19 caps – the last of which came off the bench in the win over Spain in the World Cup qualifiers in Italy in September – and Megan was privileged to share many good times with her.

“Shib was kinder than most people I have ever known,” Megan said.

“She never let me leave a single training session without telling me to take care and drive safely and she was always first to check in and make sure her friends were getting on okay.

“I often judge a person’s kindness on how they treat animals, and I have never met anyone who cared for dogs more than Shib did. This is something we bonded over, going on long dog walks at the beach – and giving the dogs silly voices!

“From a personal perspective, Shib and myself shared a lot of special memories. We started out international rugby journey together, we got our first caps together, experienced our first Six Nations together and, in the beginning, of that all we had was each other.

“She helped me believe in myself and kept me going during every early morning gym session, wintery drives to training and the long rugby camps.

“I’ll never be able to make a cup of tea without thinking of one night in camp where we wandered the hotel hallways laughing until we cried at the terrible cup of tea I had made her.

“Being a tea connoisseur, the tea stained mug of hot milk was not up to scratch for Shib, I think we found this so funny because we were both so exhausted from the hard day of training!

“This tired, hysterical laughter was something that appeared often between the two of us.

“Without Shib I wouldn’t have made it through our Sports Psychology masters degree at the University of Stirling. We would meet at the coffee shop to get caffeinated and often sit in lectures with knee braces, thumb splints or on crutches because of rugby, but nevertheless we made it through a long two years.

“Shib was talented, in rugby and in everything else in life, more so than she ever believed.”

Shibby was such a great support to me

Siobhan and Megan’s breakthrough with the national team gave other County-reared players the confidence to push on and claim Scotland caps and the likes of Evie Gallagher and Evie Wills, who came through the ranks at Bridgehaugh, are now in the international mix.

Another who took confidence from what her good friends Siobhan and Megan were doing was Rachel Shankland and the two full XVs caps that the winger has gained so far came when the former was in the matchday 23 too.

They were against France in 2020 and England this year and Rachel said:  “To see Shibby and Megan getting their Scotland caps in 2018 was such a proud moment for all of us at County.

“And when I broke into the squad it was great to have Shibby alongside me to keep me calm and focused and a real boost to have someone who I knew so well constantly reassuring me.

“I will never forget my first cap when we drew at Scotstoun last year with France, I scored a try, but the thing I will always remember from that day is that I got to share it with one of my best friends in the shape of Shib who was such a great support to me.

“Going back a few years, when Siobhan came into the uni rugby team I was getting towards the end of my course and she was at the start of hers. As a result we only managed to play a couple of years together there, but we certainly made the most of it!

“Even though I was a bit older, I was brand new to the sport at uni while she was younger and a bit more experienced, so we paired up as a centre duo and that was a lot of fun.

“She played at 12 and I played at 13 and we formed a pretty instant connection on and off the pitch.

“When we got to County a lot of the experienced players had retired or moved on, so there was a spell where we had to regrow things and build the squad back up again.

“Shibby and I were there in the early days of that when numbers weren’t always great and we sometimes had to scrape a team together, but we all stuck together and wanted to be part of something – and things kept getting better and better.

“We had some excellent times at County and you always wanted Shib on your team because she was such a good player.

“She used to come out of her shell on a night out, she was a great squad member who everyone loved being around.

“So many of us will miss her a lot, but we will always have such great memories of Shib to look back on.”

To donate to the family’s fund-raiser, click here

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article and to everyone who contributed photos for use including Bryan Robertson, Rugby People, McLaren RFC, Jodie Hutton and Rachel Shankland

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