At that time, and for a number of years later, there
was a close connection between the Glasgow Academicals and the
Merchistonians. The early Academicals included a strong Merchiston
contingent — A. Thew, J. E. Junor, J. W. Arthur, A. G. Colville, and the
brothers Cross—in their more important matches. By and by the two were
merged, and as a regular playing team the Merchistonians disappeared. In
the Merchiston connection the brothers Roland, who were Merchistonians,
raised a team about 1870, and under the designation of 'Rolands' Rooms'
played a number of matches.
Walter Roland was a good football player, but gained
a higher reputation as wicket-keeper in the Dalkeith cricket team of the
Craig brothers. Ernest Roland, the youngest of the brothers, played
against England in 1884, the year of the ' Dispute.' Presumably the
'Rooms' were Rolands' Fencing and Gymnastic Academy, off Queen Street,
Edinburgh, and the team were composed of the men who gathered there.
The descriptions of the matches of that period were
neither long nor lucid. Of a Merchistonian match we read: 'W. Roland
made some fine winding runs.' 'There was no hacking, but a number of
heavy spills were taken good-humouredly.' 'The Wanderers were three or
four short'—an indefinite description of a not unusual occurrence at the
time. Playing for the Wanderers against the Royal High School, we are
told that 'R. W. Irvine was conspicuous for his dash and there was much
fine dribbling,' and that in an Academy - Loretto match, 'Mr. Balfour,
with his usual precision, kicked two goals.' That was characteristic of
'L. M.' as we knew him in later years.
In the Craigmount-Wanderers (fifteen a side) match of
1870, C. W. Cathcart (Loretto) and R. W. Irvine (Edinburgh Academicals)
played for the Wanderers. Both no doubt played well, but the only player
singled out for special mention was Mr. Webster, who 'wriggled in most
praiseworthy manner' for the Wanderers. The Institution, under J. H. L.
M'Farlane, played the Royal High School under Angus Buchanan. Both teams
included present and past pupils.
The Edinburgh Academicals - Merchistonian match of
that season is interesting by reason of the number of prominent players
engaged. The Academicals included the Hon. F. J. Moncreiff, the first
Scottish International captain, R. W. Irvine, T. R. Marshall, J. F.
Finlay, E. M. Bannerman, W. Marshall, J. A. W. Mein, and L. M. Balfour,
all subsequent International men; and among the Merchistonians were the
International players, T. Ritchie, M. Cross, with the Roland brothers,
and Hall Blyth, one of the promoters of the first match with England,
and who would have played in that game but for a physical ailment which
incapacitated him for the time being. L. M. Balfour was still at school,
but T. R. Marshall had left. M. Cross was captain of Merchiston school
team in the same year.
Angus Buchanan, although shown in most records as an
Edinburgh University player, had only the same casual connection with
University football as those outside players who in recent years have
augmented the playing strength of Edinburgh in the English and Irish
inter-University engagements. In 1871, when J. H. L. M'Farlane, who
helped to found the Institution (F.P.) Club, was captain, the Edinburgh
University team for their match with Glasgow University included Angus
Buchanan (Royal High School), the brothers Cathcart (Loretto), along
with three leading Academical players, R. W. Irvine, J. F. Finlay, and
J. A. W. Mein. History therefore repeats itself in the modern composite
Edinburgh University teams.
Although the number of clubs was small, and matches
were not numerous, many of the players, especially those of reputation,
obtained a good deal of football. When a team arrived short, and from
the limited membership it was not always easy to muster a full
complement, especially when playing twenty a side, the 'given men' were
in demand. On many occasions it was agreed to play fifteen a side, and
that long before the reduced number became officially recognised as the
Season 1871-72 was a bad one for the Edinburgh
Academicals, who, having avoided defeat for seven years, were beaten at
Raeburn Place by the West of Scotland by a goal and a try to three
tries, and later lost at St. Andrews in a very unsatisfactory match in
which, owing to the irregularities of their opponents, the Academicals
left the field. The match was fifteen a side, and is the game referred
to when the Academicals arrived five men short.
J. W. Arthur and T. Chalmers, Scotland's first great
full-back, were in the Glasgow Academical team which met St. Andrews
University at Raeburn Place that year. The St. Andrews side included P.
Anton, who became a prominent personality in early Scottish Rugby, and
whose opinions on the 1873 International, in which he played, are
reproduced in their appropriate connection.
Finally, as an indication of the general conditions
in the year of the first International, the following extract from a
newspaper resume of the season's work will help to make the position
'The leading club, the Edinburgh Academicals, played
five matches, lost two, and won three.'
'Edinburgh Academy beat Loretto and drew with
Merchiston. Both opponents of the Academy included some former pupils.'
'Edinburgh University, who depended upon members of
other clubs, beat the Royal High School, Loretto (with eight "given
men"), Craigmount, and Merchistonians, and lost to Glasgow University.
J. H. L. M'Farlane scored 8 of the University's 17 tries.'
'The Royal High School, one of the youngest clubs in
the district, played six matches, lost three, won two, and drew one.'
'The West of Scotland played five matches, lost two,
drew two, and won one.'
'The Glasgow Academicals, who promise to become one
of the strongest as well as most enterprising clubs, played seven
matches, beat the West of Scotland twice, drew with St. Andrews
University, lost and drew with the Merchistonians, drew with Liverpool
and beat Manchester. It is hoped the Edinburgh and Glasgow Academicals
will arrange a match for next season.'
This then was the state of the game in the country
when the challenge to England was issued.
I think we may all raise our hats in recognition of
the courage of these early Scots.
In January 1872, the Edinburgh and Glasgow
Academicals met in the first of the series, which still continues, and
which, almost from its inception, was regarded as the great club match
of the season. From that day till the present, it is tolerably safe to
say that a greater number of International players have participated in
inter-Academical matches than in any other club combination that could
That first match between the clubs was played at
Burnbank, and resulted in a scoreless draw. It is recorded that ' the
play was really fine.' L. M. Balfour and J. Dunlop narrowly missed
scoring from drops at goal.
The teams were :
Edinburgh Academicals —T. R. Marshall (captain), L.
M. Balfour, J. F. Finlay, R. W. Irvine, J. A. W. Mein, D. R. Irvine, J.
A. Ross, W. Blackwood, D. Robertson, R. G. Dunlop, T. A. Bell, A. B.
Finlay, T. W. Lang, R. E. Wood, and C. K. S. Moncreiff.
Glasgow Academicals — J. W. Arthur (captain), T.
Chalmers, W. D. Brown, W. Cross, T. A. Drew, C T. Sloan, D. Drew, J. K.
Tod, H. W. Allan, G. R. Fleming, J. K. Brown, C. C. Bruce, W. Harvey, J.
Paterson, and W. Brown.
The match was fifteen a side, and it will be observed
that quite that number of International players took part. The
Merchistonian-Glasgow Academical connection, previously referred to, is
In the spring of 1872, J. M. Cotterill, of cricket
renown, was playing in a Wanderers team which beat the Merchistonians,
and in an important match in Glasgow the Royal High School drew with the
Glasgow Academicals. The 'School' team included A. Buchanan, G. Rayner,
A. G. Petrie, and A. Wood, and we find J. S. Carrick making one of his
early appearances for the Academicals. Carrick ultimately succeeded T.
Chalmers as a pillar of the Scottish team at full-back. A very active
player, Carrick had a huge and lofty punt and was a defender of whom it
was said that the only player who ever got past him in a fair field was
We have the Collegiate playing in 1872, and also
Blairlodge under the captaincy of Le Messurier.
In club football up to the end of 1871, the Edinburgh
Academical ascendancy had hardly been challenged. For a few seasons they
showed signs of falling back, and, coincident with their decline, began
the rise of the Glasgow Academical-Merchistonian combination. None of
the others so stoutly assailed the positions of the two Academical clubs
as did the Royal High School. In 1871 the 'School' were recognised as a
rising young team. The following year, when the Glasgow Academical side
contained W. Cross, J. W. Arthur, A. Drew, J. S. Carrick, T. Chalmers,
and J. K. Tod—all International men—-Angus Buchanan's team accomplished
a notable achievement by drawing with the Academicals at Burnbank. Three
of Buchanan's principal supporters on that occasion were A. Gordon
Petrie, A. Wood, and G. Rayner, two of whom were International forwards
in the following year.
In January of season 1873-74 Edinburgh University
beat the Royal High School at Bonnington in a match which is memorable
as the last appearance in football of J. H. L. M'Farlane, whose tragic
death a month later created a deep impression in Scottish Rugby circles.
M'Farlane, in the course of a run, stopped suddenly and dislocated a
knee. While under treatment he developed rheumatic fever, aggravated by
heart and chest complications, and did not recover. Having some time
previously obtained his degree, Dr. M'Farlane had been acting as one of
the resident assistants in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. His funeral was
attended by a large number of the leading Rugby men of the day, and by
five hundred Edinburgh University students.
The defeat in question was the first the 'School' had
sustained in local football for two years. Their team included A.
Buchanan, A. G. Petrie, A. Wood, Rayner, Robertson, Knott, Brewis, and
Nat Watt. That selection shows that the 'School' were a strong side.
Besides J. H. L. M'Farlane, the University included J. M. Cotterill, A.
K. Stewart, and also J. Reid, who played most of his football with the
J. Reid was an elder brother of the Edinburgh Academy
boys, A. P. and Charles Reid, and in physique bore a strong resemblance
to C. Reid.
J. H. L. M'Farlane was succeeded in the captaincy of
Edinburgh University by A. K. Stewart, a fine 'quarter,' who filled
M'Farlane's place with distinction in the International at Kennington
Oval that season.
Angus Buchanan was the first Royal High School
International player. He was the leader of the early-day High School
football, an 'indefatigable leader' indeed, in the phraseology of the
time. In one of the matches of that period it is particularly recorded
that the High School team were weakened by the absence of Mark
Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson, now over fourscore years of age, still
maintains his connection with Royal High School football and is
occasionally present at the matches. If not the sole survivor of the
introduction of the game, he must be one of the few patriarchs of Rugby
who are alive. The Sanderson family have played a notable part in High
School sport. George and Fred Sanderson will be remembered by the older
generation as first-class cricketers in the Royal High School eleven. G.
A. Sanderson, of A third branch, played in all the Internationals
as a forward in 1907.
To the Royal High School belongs the record of the
first score against England, and when Angus Buchanan obtained his try at
Raeburn Place he was the first player to score in International
football. J. H. L. M'Farlane was the first Edinburgh Institution
The ' School,' whose ground was then at Bonnington,
whence a little later they removed to a field to the south of the
Meadows in the Warrender district, played another great game with the
Glasgow Academicals. The Edinburgh Academicals, who were fast recovering
their old position, beat the Royal High School in the later weeks of
season 1873-74 at Bonnington.
The club event of the season, the Edinburgh and.
Glasgow Academical match in February, resulted in a draw. T. R.
Marshall, R. W. and D. R. Irvine, R. Duncan, G. Q. Paterson, R. Mac-nair,
A. Finlay, J. A. W. Mein, and the two schoolboys, J. H. S. Graham and
Ninian Finlay, were in the Edinburgh side, and T. Chalmers, W. D. Brown,
D. H. Watson, J. W. Arthur, J. K. and J. S. Tod, G. Heron, and G. R.
Fleming played for the Glasgow team. That joint representation explained
in a measure the popular opinion that the two clubs embodied the
Scottish International team. The conclusion may have been a trifle
overdrawn, but there is no question that the Academicals of Edinburgh
and Glasgow constituted the main pillars of Scottish football of that
That season the Edinburgh Academicals renewed their
fixture with the Merchistonians after a three years' interval. The
function took the form of a reunion with a match played under the old
rules and a dinner in Merchiston Castle. The composition of the teams is
interesting in itself. Among the Academicals were the brothers W, and J.
R. Blackwood, A. and T. A. Bell, R. W. Irvine, D. R. Irvine, R. Macnair,
G. Q. Paterson, J. H. S. Graham, and the entire Finlay brotherhood,
James, Tom, Alexander, Gardine, and Ninian. Some of the Merchistonians
were Malcolm Cross, William Cross, B. Hall Blyth, W. and G. Roland, A.
Arthur, and W. Speed. Time has made its ravages on that company, but I
dare say those who remain will remember the occasion well.
The Edinburgh Institution (F.P.) Club, formed late in
1871 or 1872, experienced a difficulty at the outset in getting players.
Old Institution boys were fairly plentiful, but were already in
membership with other clubs. J. H. L. M'Farlane, for example, was the
captain of Edinburgh University, and Nat Brewis was playing with the
Royal High School.
R. M. Neill, the father of two prominent later-day
Edinburgh Academicals, and who still attends Raeburn Place, was at that
time playing for the Wanderers, but he was one of those who assisted in
founding the Institution Club. Under the leadership of J. J. Deuchar the
team struggled along, and gradually worked upwards. A few years later
Nat Brewis assumed the captaincy, and within ten years of their start
the club had reached the highest pinnacle in club football in Scotland,
and had wrested the championship from the Edinburgh Academicals.
The Watsonians started about the same time as the
Institution, but their path to the summit was a longer and steeper one,
and it was not until R. M. M. Roddick's and H. T. O. Leggatt's time
—nearer twenty than ten years from the club's formation—that the
Watsonians won their first championship. They had good teams and good
players, notably J. Tod, their first Internationalist, long before that,
but they were not quite good enough as a team to reach the supreme
In season 1874-75 the Institution, then under Nat
Brewis, were aspiring to recognition among the front rank of the clubs,
though the membership was still low. They got a bad beating from the
Edinburgh Academicals in October of that season. Ninian Finlay got one
of the three tries scored by the Academicals and dropped a couple of
goals, which was not by any means an unusual feat for him.
Real compensation and gratification came to the
Institution a little later, when, to general surprise, they beat the
Wanderers, but they were progressing, and even a two goals beating by
the Warriston in one of the concluding matches of the season did not
diminish their enthusiasm nor check their aspirations. Want of players
was still their principal drawback. Like R. M. Neill, many Institution
players were attached to other clubs.
Frequently R. M. Neill and J. M. Cotterill played
together at 'quarter' in the early Wanderers
team, and as a coincidence it may be mentioned that in later times their
sons, R. M. Neill and D. Cotterill, were associated in the same position
for the Edinburgh Academicals.
With great diffidence, and fears of intrusion on a
touching memory, I venture to add that the fathers are still with us,
but the boys are not.
An informative situation may be traced in a series of
events in which the Watsonians drew at Bainfield with St. George, who
had previously beaten Stewart's College (F.P.).
Season 1874-75 saw the West of Scotland in exceeding
prosperity, with a largely increased membership and a strong playing
team, including the brothers M'Clure and W. H. Kidston. The 'West' drew
with the Glasgow Academicals and promoted a strong public attraction in
a match at Partick with a Liverpool club fifteen, which included J. R.
Hay Gordon, an Edinburgh Academical, who at a subsequent date played
'quarter' for Scotland. The same season A. N. Hornby, the Lancashire
cricketer and International full-back, brought the Manchester team to
Glasgow, where they were beaten by the Academicals. Manchester and
Liverpool were at that time the two great strongholds of the game in the
North of England.
The Glasgow Academicals were still a powerful team,
but had to lower their flag to the Edinburgh Academicals, who in the
first match between the pair scored a try to nothing, and in the second
won by a goal dropped by Ninian Finlay to a try. R. W. Irvine was then
captain of the Edinburgh Academicals, and led a very fine team,
especially when reinforced by the best of the Academy boys. They were
altogether too strong for most of the local clubs, so much so that in a
game with the Wanderers a friend wagered ' Bulldog ' a pound to a
shilling he would not drop a goal. Now Irvine had never tried and was
not expected to drop goals, but he led his forwards in his usual
strenuous manner, and whether there were some of the others in the plot
and helping him I cannot say, but he found his opportunity, took it, and
won his bet.
St. Andrews University had lost some of their earlier
prominence. There were minor teams in Perth and Dundee, and the Paisley
club, that played their first match in Edinburgh in 1873 and drew with
the Institution, were reckoned to be a fairly good side.
Rugby had been started on the Borders after the first
Scottish victory over England. There were clubs at Langholm and Hawick
and a combination of Galashiels and Melrose playing at Galashiels in the
early 'seventies, but it was some years later before the Border teams
participated in the general rota of club football.
In the first match between Hawick, or Hawick and
Wilton as the club was then called, and Langholm, which was played at
Hawick, neither side were very sure about the rules. Langholm, supported
by the regulations governing a hybrid game then in vogue at Carlisle,
contended that a goal could only be scored by the ball passing under the
bar. The Hawick men felt certain that the ball must pass over the bar
for a Rugby goal. The difference, however, was regarded as too trifling
to be of serious consequence, and the players, concerning themselves
very little about goals, proceeded with the game and found in it a lusty
sport admirably suited to the Border temperament.
The development of Rugby during that period is
exemplified in the publication in London of a paper, The Goal,
which was devoted to football news. In one of its issues the editor was
much concerned about the roughness of the Scots in their club matches,
not so much on account of the methods of play as of the effects, which
were causing an inconvenient shortage of players.
From the autumn of 1876 to the spring of 1880 more
club football was played in Scotland than during any previous period of
similar duration. The Edinburgh and Glasgow Academical rivalry still
produced the most important events, but early in that term the monopoly
threatened to be disturbed by the Wanderers, and later by Edinburgh
The 1876-77 team of the Wanderers was one of the
strongest the club ever had. J. Reid led a particularly heavy set of
forwards, including C. Villars, H. Hawkins, Arthur Budd, and some other
weighty members. J. Montgomerie, a virile type of player, was at
half-back, and E. J. Pocock joined the club that season. Budd and Pocock
were Englishmen, who troubled Scotland a great deal, each in his own
way. Budd played for England later, but I am perfectly sure that had he
been eligible for Scotland he never would have been selected or even
have been in the running. He and Mr. Rowland Hill made themselves very
prominent in their antagonism to Scotland in the years of the Dispute,
and in that connection the two names were seldom mentioned on this side
of the Tweed except as a co-partnery antagonistic to all things
Scottish. And with all his English fervour, Mr. Hill was an Irishman.
Pocock played quarter. He was another of the 'Quinty'
Paterson type. Very quick, he scored a lot of tries for the Wanderers.
What the Scottish Union overlooked when they selected him for the 1877
International, and they had first to obtain the consent of the English
Union, was that Pocock in his club matches was playing behind a huge
protecting barricade in the Wanderers forwards. In the International,
where every man had to stand on his own legs, Pocock had to be propped
up. Probably he was injured—I cannot say—but they put him in the
scrummage, where the other forwards carried him along. Gerry Scott, who
was then playing for the Royal High School, had a dropped goal that
saved them being beaten by the Wanderers.
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow Academicals had to exert
themselves to the uttermost to get the better of the Wanderers. The
Royal High School were a good team. P. W. Smeaton, who was a sort of
handy man, sometimes in, sometimes out of the forward division, stole
away from a throw-out and 'galloped' over the line for the Edinburgh
Academical winning score in the 'School' match. Smeaton had a style of
progression peculiarly his own. It was more a gallop than a run.
Like hundreds more, I blamed T. A. Bell for losing
the Glasgow Academical match at Raeburn Place. That judgment was as
severe as it was unjust, for Bell was sticking to his post when he had
been badly hurt, and in the course of the game we could only see his
failure to tackle D. H. Watson when he broke away from about the ' 25,'
and did not know of the handicap he was labouring under. Watson was a
strong, forceful runner, and not an easy man to stop. ' Tommy ' Bell, as
he was affectionately termed, and he was brother man to all men, was a
good three-quarter, very fast and second only to Ninian Finlay as a
drop-kick. He was an expert hurdler, and I rather think he held some
records ' over the timber.' Ninian Finlay
played no football at all that season.
When we reach seasons 1875-76,
1876-77, we have left behind us what, for convenience sake, may
be regarded as the more primitive period. Rugby football had established
for itself a position as a popular sport equivalent to that already
attained by cricket.
The Saturday list now consisted of a string of
matches varying in grade and importance from those of the leading clubs
down to second-fifteen club and school games, with an intermediate
section containing the St. George, Cronstadt, and Watsonians in
Edinburgh, two or three teams in the Dundee and Perth districts, a club
at Kirkcaldy, several on the Borders, and even one at Portobello. The
game was being played at Aberdeen in the North and at Dumfries in the
South. In the West country, the Paisley club were competing with the
first-class teams and holding their own very well.
At the October meeting of the Scottish Union two
clubs in Dundee were admitted to membership, one at Aberdeen, one each
at Broughty Ferry (the Abertay), Clackmannan, and Dumfries, and two in
Edinburgh (the Carlton and Collegiate). All of these have passed out of
existence, but their presence at that time is evidence of the spread of
Some points of procedure in the play were still
creating a conflict of opinion. B. Hall Blyth identified himself very
intimately and energetically with a movement having for its purpose the
prevention of the forwards picking up the ball except when it was
bounding. The proposal, after being referred back to the Union for
further discussion and for the opinions of the club captains, was
ultimately accepted and submitted to the English Union, who were still
the law-makers. It did not meet with the approval of the English rulers,
and, whether they were right or wrong, it was a drastic and far-reaching
proposal practically cutting out a root and deflecting the growth in a
direction opposite to the tendency of modern Rugby. Yet it was in
consonance with the Scottish idea that the game of the forwards was
footwork. They were putting their brains as well as their bodies into
the game. In fact, it was from Scotland that all the earlier progressive
By season 1877-78, T. J. Torrie, the first
International product of Fettes, had retired from the Edinburgh
Academicals, and Gardine Finlay had gone abroad. The team thus lost two
of its best forwards. Frequently reserve, the youngest forward of the
Finlay family would almost surely have secured his International place
had he continued in the game. Ninian had returned, and he and W. E.
Maclagan formed the strongest halfback division the Academicals so far
had had. L. J. Aitken, a notable school player and runner, had gone
among the forwards, there to rub shoulders with P. W. Smeaton, who could
not get his place outside so long as 'Quinty' Paterson and J. Younger
were available. E. S. Balfour, the younger brother of 'L. M.,' was
In the autumn of 1877 the Watsonians joined the
Scottish Rugby Union. John and Malcolm Tod were playing for them then.
John Tod stuck to the club; indeed, I would be inclined to say he was
the 'Father' of the Watsonians; but Malcolm went over to the Wanderers,
for whom he did good work at quarter during several seasons. W. H.
Masters, who was playing for the Royal High School, was another who
transferred his affections. Before the season was over he was firmly
installed, with W. Sorley Brown, at quarter for the Institution.
Nat Brewis was building up his team. He got W.
Somerville from the Cronstadt, or 'Leith Cronstadt' as everybody called
it—a club which played down Easter Road way on a field that had a
two-feet drain cut across it. This club beat Loanhead, who were under
the captaincy of R. Ainslie. Soon afterwards Robert joined his brother,
T. Ainslie, in the Institution Club.
That season the championship came back to Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh Academicals beat the Glasgow Academicals by a try in each
match, and both tries were scored by W. E. Maclagan following up
unsuccessful drops at goal by 'Quinty' Paterson. The second of these
matches, played at Raeburn Place, attracted a crowd of almost
International dimensions. All the Glasgow team behind the scrummage were
International men, J. S. Carrick, R. C. Mackenzie, M. Cross, J. A.
Campbell, and A. T. Nelson. Pat Russel was full-back for the Edinburgh
Academicals, and in front of him were N. J. Finlay and W. E. Maclagan, 'Quinty'
Paterson, and J. Younger. The forward divisions were largely composed of
the same class of players.
Naturally, the meeting produced a great game, and it
was team work and combination that gave the Edinburgh side their
advantage. When they scored it was from a run by J. Younger, followed by
a combined movement in which Ninian Finlay carried on and transferred to
Paterson, who 'foozled' his drop at goal, for Maclagan to dash in and
score the winning try. J. A. Campbell, who was still at Merchiston,
played best among the Glasgow backs.
J. H. S. Graham's team held the title till deprived
of it by the Institution, who, even in the season under notice, could
claim to be a good third to the Academicals of the East and West. Frost
set in about the middle of December 1878, and did not break till near
the end of the following February. Except for a few weeks at the
beginning and the end, the season was a blank. L. M. Balfour had
returned to football, and was playing full-back for the Academicals, who
in October opened the new ground of the Institution at Coltbridge. The
Academicals won by a goal and a try, but even then the Institution
forwards were beginning to command attention.
The continuity of Gerry Scott's career had been much
interrupted, but he started the season with the Royal High School, who
were not strong, and in one of the few matches played lost to the
Academicals by 4 goals (all kicked by L. M. Balfour) and 3 tries.
The Wanderers and Edinburgh University also fell
heavily before the Academicals. E. J. Pocock had left, and J. Reid, who
had been the Wanderers' leading forward for about half a dozen seasons,
had given up the game.
Season 1879-80 was a busy one in club football. The
brothers Ainslie were then with the Institution, for whom W. Sorley
Brown and W. H. Masters formed a strong scoring partnership. Behind the
quarters the players were essentially sound in defence, and although
Boyd Cunningham and A. Philp could score on occasion, it was in the
quarters the danger lay. Masters was the more showy man, but Sorley
Brown was the sounder player. He was one of the first quarters to carry
on with his feet and thus beat opponents who had been specially told off
to watch him. For a light player he escaped injury marvellously, and had
a much longer career than Masters. When playing together the two backed
each other up so well, and were so quick and clever in their movements,
that they kept most teams on edge.
Malcolm Cross, who was then captain of the Glasgow
Academicals, beat the Institution by his place-kicking in a hard game,
in which each side crossed the other's line twice. Only one inter-Academical
match, resulting in a draw, took place that season, and as the Edinburgh
Academicals beat the Institution, the strongest local aspirants, the
title remained at Raeburn Place. 'Quinty' Paterson had retired, and P.
W. Smeaton and J. Younger were the Academical quarters. 'Jimmy' Younger,
as he was currently called, was a fine player.
A notable player in Scottish Rugby appeared in the
Royal High School team of this period, J. P. Veitch, who in after years
became one of the stoutest defenders and soundest full-backs who ever
played for Scotland. C. D. Stuart also came into the team
as a forward. Always a strong, heavy player, he went into the heart of
the scrum, and held the 'School' pack together in the hottest matches of
a period when forward work was of a particularly strenuous and vigorous
type. In later years he had the satisfaction of seeing two of his sons,
C. D. Stuart (West of Scotland) and L. M. Stuart (Glasgow High School
F.P.), go into International teams.
Edinburgh University were then playing at
Corstorphine, where John Smith returned to the Association game, and
Frank Hunter, whom Gregor MacGregor declared to be the fastest bowler
ever he kept wicket to, reverted to the football he had learned at
Fettes. W. A. Peterkin and Hunter took a turn at full-back for the
University till Peterkin found his true place forward. When he was
champion sprinter of Scotland, Peterkin was in the International pack.
Scotland in these days was often faster in the scrummage than outside of
The Watsonians were getting their heads above water.
The brothers Tod, A. Glegg, and H. Vibert were in their team which lost
to the Royal High School by a try. Vibert became walking champion of
Scotland, and went to London, where he made a name for himself on the
stage. J. W. Parsons, who was at Fettes with Edgar Storey, a noted
Fettes captain and equally prominent Cambridge University and ' F.L.'
player, was playing for the Wanderers. Parsons was the best jumper
Fettes has produced, and won both the Scottish and English high jump
championships. His best jump was 6 ft. ¾ in.
By the middle of the 'seventies the game had become
firmly established on the Borders. Earlier progress was mainly confined
to Langholm and Hawick. Gala and Melrose were still represented by a
joint team, occupying a field at Galashiels. It would be contrary to
Border character and temperament if two sections remained in union for
any length of time. By and by the Gala men and the Melrose men
apparently got tired of each other's company, and one dark night the
goalposts disappeared from the field at Galashiels. By exercise of the
wizardry Sir Walter Scott imputes to the district, the posts, the
following morning, had sprouted out of the earth, and were standing
erect on the Greenyards at Melrose. Clearly, the occult powers indicated
separate and independent courses for Gala and Melrose, so the story
Towards the end of the decade clubs existed at
Berwick, Kelso, Duns, and Earlston. One of the Earlston players was a
member of the Murdison family—grandfather, it might possibly be, of the
youth who played for Gala a season or two ago. Both J. P. Veitch and
George R. Wilson, Royal High School, had a Border connection.
An effort was made to stimulate the game north of
Edinburgh by a series of fixtures played in Perth between representative
teams of Edinburgh and those chosen from St. Andrews, Dundee, and the
North generally, but, in spite of all encouragement, Rugby did not take
the same hold as it did on the Borders. In fact, until comparatively
recent times, no football of any kind appeared to appeal to the people
in the North.
The extension of the radius in the East v.
West game as an International trial was not very productive, for, as a
matter of fact, with the exception of Paisley the clubs outside
Edinburgh and Glasgow were not strong. D. Lang, Paisley, who played
against England in 1876 and 1877, and L. J. Auldjo, Abertay, in 1878,
were the only discoveries of the earlier matches.
I remember the Paisley team. They played in
green-and-black striped jerseys. The Royal High School of the period
affected broad red and blue stripes. The University, when they took up
house at Corstorphine, were wearing a maroon jersey. The Institution
school colour was scarlet, too pronounced for the Former Pupils, who
played in white jerseys, red stockings, and white knickers. That sort of
thing never affected the West of Scotland. They have been blazing
scarlet and yellow all the time I have known them, symbolic, they say,
of the popular Glasgow dish of ham and eggs.
For a number of years the Royal High School had been
well represented in all the important matches, but, good as some of them
were, none of their backs compared with Gerry Scott, who came into the
team in 1875-76. He was the best product of 'School' football up to that
time as far as back play was concerned. Not such a wonderful player as
Ninian Finlay, he resembled the Edinburgh Academical more in style and
play than Malcolm Cross did. A strong body of opinion advocated Finlay
as centre half to Cross and Scott for the 1876 International, and, as
events subsequently showed, that arrangement, and a change at quarter,
might have made all the difference between the winning and the losing of
the match. Scott unfortunately contracted a leg trouble that broke the
continuity of his career, and prematurely stopped him entirely.
The 'School' had still a good team. N. Watt was
playing behind the maul, sometimes with Scott at half-back and sometimes
with T. L. Knott or Rutherford at quarter. A. H. Schneider helped to
complete a first-rate club back division. They had lost a good forward
in A. Wood, but found a strong pair in J. C. Robertson and R. B. Murrie,
who was possibly a better cricketer than a football player. He certainly
was one of the best fast bowlers in the East.
Fifteen a side had been generally adopted in club
football, and applied to some of the representative matches two years at
least before the repeated appeals from the Scottish Union for the
reduction was accepted. About that time dissatisfaction with the scoring
rule began to find expression, and at the autumn meeting of the English
Rugby Union in 1875 the try was established as a substantive score.
Scoring by points was already being discussed, but neither Union felt
disposed to do more than recognise the principle.
Club rivalry was beginning to get very keen. The Scot
has always been credited with clannish-ness as a natural attribute. Some
time later than the period under notice this characteristic revealed
itself in aggravated form, and only a very fine line of distinction
could be drawn between club and faction. Everyday personal relationship
was hardly affected, but on the field and in the council chamber 'club
jealousy' was currently accepted as an explanation for multitudes of
sins of omission and commission. The curious feature of this phase of
the game was the nice discrimination exercised. Every man's hand was not
against his neighbour. Each club had one pet aversion, upon which they
accumulated and bestowed all the love that could reasonably be
translated into chastisement.
Scotland reared a race of hardy players. All
old-timers will remember that invariably when play was interrupted in an
International, it was to allow an Englishman time to recover. Not that
the Scot was rougher than the Saxon, but he was hardier, partly by
racial inheritance and partly by his football upbringing. An old
military man, of many campaigns and an International player, has told me
that one of the stormiest times he ever came through was in an Edinburgh
club match in 1874.
James Finlay, one of the last of the Scottish twenty
who played in 1871, retired at the end of 1874-75. Chosen for all
representative matches during his career, he was one of the heaviest,
most powerful, and athletic of the Scottish forwards. Inside the ' 25 '
there was no stopping him if he got fairly set for the line.
Personal reference is due to many of these old
players of the 'seventies. Some of them are bearers of names which are
still mentioned and discussed at the present day. There are those who
consider that T. R. Marshall was not only a great football player, but
as a cricketer was the best bat Scotland has ever produced. After his
return from abroad, he played cricket in M.C.C. elevens, and
occasionally appeared in Scotland. By that time he had lost much of his
earlier agility, attributable no doubt to the climatic influences
incidental to his sojourn abroad. His fielding was thereby affected ;
otherwise he would have been classed as a Gentlemen of England player.
T. Chalmers was also a very prominent cricketer.
Loyalty to their own evoked the opinion in Glasgow that Chalmers was the
best Scottish bat of his day. B. Hall Blyth could play cricket too. I
recollect Hall Blyth taking wickets on the Academy ground, and saw
Chalmers drive R. Macnair clean out of that field for a 6, and not many
6's were hit off Macnair.
J. Finlay was a member of a notable brotherhood. I
cannot claim to personal recollection of him, but I saw Ninian Finlay
from his schoolboy days, and perfectly remember Gardine Finlay, who
would probably have gained International honours had he not gone abroad.
There never was such glamour and reputation attached to any Scottish
player as there was to Ninian Finlay, until A. R. Don Wauchope reached
the zenith of his powers.
To detail L. M. Balfour's career would occupy a
volume in itself. I saw him play football as an Academical, watched his
cricket many and many a day, saw him at lawn tennis at the time he won
the Scottish Championship, heard of his triumph at St. Andrews in a game
I know little about, and probably from observing him and that Sussex
County gentleman who played football for the Wanderers in 1873, J. M.
Cotterill, the hardest hitter in England and the greatest bat in
Scotland, had it ingrained in my being that a cricket ball was a thing
that was intended to be hit—a fundamental that is not universally
In the mid 'seventies there was a J. Smith playing
full-back for the Wanderers and Edinburgh University as occasion
offered. A big fellow, you might see him stand with his arms folded over
his chest in idle moments. He was that John Smith of Mauchline,
afterwards Dr. Smith, leader of the Queen's Park forwards, and
International successor to the great George Kerr, 'Prince of Dribblers.'
He is now of Kirkcaldy, and occupies a high place among Scottish
bowlers. In 1876 he was selected reserve full-back for Scotland. Had he
played, the unique distinction of representing the country under both
codes would have fallen to him.
Angus Buchanan, although he continued to lead the
Royal High School for a number of years later, only played in the first
International. However, before retiring, he had brought the 'School'
into the front rank in club football. In 1874 the Glasgow Academical-Royal
High School match at Bonnington attracted one of the biggest crowds seen
at a club game up to that time. The 'School' was then playing a fast,
open style of game in which 'chucking' and 'backing-up' were features.
However, on that occasion their play did not reach" its usual standard,
and they were beaten.
A. Gordon Petrie and A. Wood, of that 'School' team,
became International forwards.
One of the greatest cricketers of that time was T. W.
Lang, who played football in the Edinburgh Academical side of 1872.
While at Oxford University he was one of the best bowlers, slow or
medium, in England. In the 1874 game against Cambridge he took no fewer
than ten wickets. I recollect hearing a story, but cannot vouch for its
accuracy, that on one occasion he bowled the great W. G. Grace for
'duck.' 'T. W.' was a Selkirk man, brother of Andrew Lang of literary
fame. There were three brothers. The family did a great deal to
establish cricket in Selkirk.
J. H. S. Graham was one of the greatest forwards the
game has seen. A fair-haired, enthusiastic schoolboy, he possessed from
his early days the gift of leadership, and as captain of the champion
school team, captain of a great Academical champion team, and captain of
the International fifteen, he gained all the honours the game could
give. Of very powerful physique, it was his skill as a dribbler that
carried him into his first International match in 1876. He played the
game heartily and vigorously, and was always as willing to make
concessions to an opponent as he was ready to acknowledge the merits and
encourage the efforts of his own players. Whether he passed the ball to
Malcolm Cross, or some one else did, it was characteristic of Graham
that almost as the ball cleared the bar he was endeavouring to hoist
Cross shoulder high there and then. No forward of his day played the
game with more intelligence, skill, and effect than Graham. He was one
of the most advanced players of his time, and one of the great products
of Scottish football.
W. St. Clair Grant was the first great product of
Craigmount, a school that in its day held its own in competition with
the best of its rival scholastic institutions. When we consider its term
of existence, Craigmount may be said to have provided both Scotland and
England with a wonderful list of players of the highest status. St.
Clair Grant not only went into all the representative football teams of
his time, as a first choice man, but, as a cricketer, was reputedly one
of the best bowlers in Scotland. The pink field jacket and cap of
Craigmount were the prettiest 'creation' in cricket attire.
J. H. L. M'Farlane lived before the days of
authentically recorded athletic performances, but we know that as
a long jumper and as a sprinter and middle-distance runner he was the
best all-round man of his time in Scotland.
J. A. W. Mein, who played in the first International,
is a Border laird in the Jedburgh district. His two sons were prominent
Edinburgh Academy players between 1904 and 1907. In the latter season
the younger, A. B. Mein, was captain of the school fifteen.
C. W. Cathcart—in 1872—was the first Loret-tonian to
be capped, or rather selected, for 'capping'
was of a later date. In the photographs of the first International
teams, several of the players can be observed wearing the conventional
cowl previously referred to.
As St. Clair Grant was the first Craigmount
International player, H. Springman, a Lancashire boy, of the same
school, was the first Scottish-trained schoolboy who played for England.
Neither Edinburgh Academy nor Merchiston had any particular first
International player. Each school supplied a batch to the team of 1871.
The Institution team, which won the club championship
in seasons 1880-81 and 1881-82, was of distinct character and strength.
N. T. Brewis had laboured long and arduously toward the consummation of
The title had been in possession of the Edinburgh
Academicals from season 1877-78. J. H. S. Graham led a powerful team at
the peak of its strength. By season 1880-81 it had begun to crumble, and
a year or two later the Academicals entered a tolerably long journey
through the wilderness until they were again led into the ' promised
land' by C. Reid and his virile collection of young forwards. W. E.
Maclagan had gone to London, but was brought down specially to face the
new challengers. Two Academy schoolboys, C. Reid and Frank Wright,
already building up reputations for themselves, were included. But it
was of no avail; the Academicals were beginning to decline, and even if
they had been able to put off the evil day, the fall would only have
been deferred. The game was played at Coltbridge, and I have a tolerably
clear recollection of W. H. Masters running in for the winning and only
score of the match.
I cannot recall two brothers playing together as
forwards in one team who would bear favourable comparison with R. and T.
Ainslie. In the great International triumph at Manchester in 1882, it
was they who scored both tries. When R. Ainslie, or 'Bob' Ainslie, as he
was known to the world, scored, A. N. Hornby, the English back and
Lancashire cricketer, stooped too soon in his attempted tackle, and
Ainslie jumped clear over him. When Tom Ainslie scored again, the crowd
were actually on the goal-line, and his problem was to get through them
and at the same time evade Hornby.
Behind the scrummage the Institution's scoring power
lay in the quarters—W. Sorley Brown and W. H. Masters. They were both
small men, but fast, active, and nimble-witted. In fact, they conformed
in all essentials to the ideals of the period. The others were
pre-eminently safe men and sound defenders. W. H. Masters went abroad
after a season or two, but Sorley Brown had a long and successful career
in club and International football. Over and above that he did a good
deal of practical missionary work in forming a connection between the
Institution and the Border teams. He and Masters were the best scoring
club pair who up to that time had played together.
Actually ten of that Institution team were
International players. R. Maitland, the heaviest man on the side, was a
thoroughly sound forward; D. Somerville's long reach rendered him a most
useful player at the throw-out, and he brought both feet and hands,
along with a keen scent for a score, into operation on the goal-line.
A. Philp was wonderfully light on his feet, in spite
of his rotundity, and he earned all the honours that came to him. I used
to think Boyd Cunningham a very fine player of the type equally at home
in any class of game, winning or losing. They were a very sound pair of
halves. W. Gordon, a young Irishman—how Nat Brewis unearthed him I don't
know—was a clever back. It was therefore a powerful, well-balanced team.
The Institution men who beat the Edinburgh
Academicals in November 1880 were : W. Gordon; A. Philp and Boyd
Cunningham; W. H. Masters and W. Sorley Brown; N. T. Brewis, R. A.
Brewis, T. Ainslie, R. Ainslie, R. Maitland, D. Somerville, A. Drummond,
J. Fraser, J. Chisholm, and — Adam. In rather an indirect manner the
Royal High School won the championship of 1883-84. The West of Scotland
had the misfortune to be weakly represented in their match with the
Institution, which they lost; and when they came to play the Wanderers
they were faced by a team reinforced by Edinburgh Academicals and
Fettesian-Loret-tonians, and they went down very decisively. The Royal
High School brought Walter M'Farlane from London specially for their
match with the ' West,' but they were beaten by a goal and a try.
The 'West' were the best
club team of the season, but the Royal High School were the champions.
It was an anomalous position, no doubt, but the competition bristled
with incongruities. A. R. Paterson, the Fettesian-Lorettonian forward
and Oxford 'Blue,' helped the Wanderers to beat the 'West,' and assisted
the 'West' to get the better of the 'School.'
At that time, and for a number of years afterwards,
the Royal High School were well supplied with players; so well, indeed,
that they ought to have been in closer running for the championship than
they were. Their team in the 'West' match was: J. P. Veitch; W.
M'Farlane and W. A. Scott; P. H. Cosens and C. Robertson; N. Watt, C. D.
Stuart, A. M'Farlane, R. Roy, J. W. Walker, W. M. Gossip, D. A. Gray, J.
Horsburgh, C. Paisley, and W. M'Donald.
The following season the 'School' ought to have had
even a better team, for they had several notable additions, particularly
G. Wilson, a halfback, who had a meteoric career; A. Duke, an
International forward; W. R. Gibson, also an Internationalist; and Dr.
Rutherford lent his assistance on occasion. The best they did was to
make a strenuous fight at Grange Loan against the Edinburgh Academicals
in a game that was unfinished 'owing to a dispute.'
Until the middle 'nineties the 'West' continued to
exert a leading influence on club football, and for a great part of that
time quite put in the shade their local rivals the Glasgow Academicals.
Indeed, the new century had almost dawned before the Academicals began
to re-establish themselves in their old position among the leaders.