Having outlined the various stages, practical and
legislative, through which the Rugby game has passed, I shall now endeavour
to place events and players in chronological setting. As a preliminary, some
reference to the conditions under which the game was played is due. The
Edinburgh of the 'sixties and 'seventies was not the Edinburgh of to-day.
Imagine, if you can, a Saturday afternoon in winter without a football match
of any description in the city!
What the people did with themselves is a social question
outwith the scope of these articles. A few of them occasionally played
football, as I am endeavouring to show, and for the rest the population of
the city only numbered somewhere about 190,000. Merchiston Castle was in the
country, and Craigmount lay on the southern outskirts of the city. Pinkie
was far afield, and not only so, but the citizens of the time would more
readily associate the scene with an historic battlefield than with a
When the Academy came into possession of the field at
Raeburn Place, the builders were beginning to erect Fettes College. Holyrood
ground, gifted by King Edward when Prince of Wales, was within reasonable
walking distance—a term which then implied rather more than it does now.
Lord Kingsburgh, who was an Academical of Academicals and who attended the
matches at Raeburn Place almost up to the last, records the great glee there
was amongst the Academy boys when the field was acquired in 1853. 'We had
not much luxury,' he says: 'a small loft over an outhouse, approached by a
wooden ladder, was our only pavilion. We had no basins and no lockers, and
we used to sit and chat till it was dark enough to go home without
observation.' The location of Myreside was described as 'near Edinburgh'
when the Watsonians entered into possession.
The period almost up to 1870 is enshrouded in mist,
records are meagre, and altogether the impression conveyed is that the
players must often have struggled against circumstances that were not
encouraging. Indeed, it is wonderful that the game survived at all. Ground
equipment and conveniences for players were most primitive. Few of the
fields were good, and some of the clubs had no fields at all. It was no
uncommon experience for a team to appear on the ground minus several
When the Edinburgh Academicals visited St. Andrews in
February 1871, they arrived five men short, and the Academicals were at that
time the leading club of the day. Teams had constantly to be completed by a
section of 'given men.' That old term has long since become obsolete, but at
one time it was in common use in the phraseology of the game. School teams
frequently contained a complement of old boys. Thus in the Academy-Loretto
match of 1871, Loretto played four Lorettonians—'given men.'
In an announcement of the opening of the season of 1870, it is said
of the Glasgow Academicals : ' This rising young club have not only arranged
two matches with the Merchistonians and two with the West of Scotland, but
intend to play the Liverpool and Manchester clubs in England, and will meet
St. Andrews University on the Edinburgh Academy ground at Raeburn Place
during the season.' They did go to England, and won one and drew the other
of their matches.
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
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 standard.
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 more clear:
'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
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 be named.
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
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 also noticeable.
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 Ninian Finlay.
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
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 Wanderers.
J. Reid was an elder brother of the Edinburgh Academy
boys, A. P. and Charles Reid, and in physique bore a strong resemblance to
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
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 International player.
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 time.
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 position.
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
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 Institution (F.P.).
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
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 the game.
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 movements issued.
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 playing full-back.
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
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
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
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 it.
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. |
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 goes.
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
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
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
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 observed.
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
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 his
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
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.
When all the other home clubs were playing the hard
slogging forward game, the back play of the West of Scotland in combination
was not equalled until C. Reid had R. H. Johnston, H. J. Stevenson, and J.
Duncan in his half-back line. After M. F. Reid left Loretto, he played
centre for the 'West' until he went abroad. With Reid in the centre, and A.
E. Stephen and R. G. Eaglesham on the wings, the
'West' had about their best scoring three-quarter line.
C. E. Orr went to them from Loretto a few seasons later
than M. F. Reid, and J. E. Orr, a half-back when in England and a forward
when in Scotland, came in about the same time. A couple of virile players
were the Orrs, both a trifle peppery, 'Jack' rather more than his brother.
There is no question that C. E. Orr was a thoroughly good quarter in his
earlier days. Latterly, he got spoiled in his play by continual worrying
with the forwards. But that was the work the quarter of the period had to
perform if he were to be of any use. The man behind the scrum who would not
get down to a forward rush or stop the movement at its inception did not
command much respect.
J. D. Boswell played all his club football with the West
of Scotland after he left Oxford University, and still they kept getting
Lorettonians, such as Harold Paton, a clever and plucky little player. Later
still half the team were Merchistonians. There were George, Gordon, and
Willie Neilson of one branch of that family, and Hugh Neilson, the Cantab,
of another; and about the same time another Merchistonian International
forward in J. N. Millar was with them. They had always good forwards, and
none served them better or longer, unless it were D. Morton, than the
Fettesian, H. F. Menzies. R. G. MacMillan also played for a season or two
with the 'West' before going to London.
The old-time Glasgow Academical-Merchistonian connection
almost disappeared. Now and again the Academicals would get an odd good
player from Merchiston, such as A. N. Woodrow and A. W. Walls, but the
early-day attachment between Glasgow Academy and Merchiston was gone, to the
detriment of the Academicals and the benefit of the West of Scotland.
Withal, the Academicals maintained a good position during
the 'eighties. D. W. Kidston was in their back division early in the decade
when their leader in the pack was J. B. Brown, one of the cleverest forwards
who have played for Scotland. A. W. Walls came to them from Merchiston as a
powerful addition to their front rank. Walls was a big strong useful
forward, though he never had the skill of ' Johnny ' Brown nor yet of H. T.
Ker or J. French, who were too light to owe their success to anything but
cleverness. F. M'Indoe succeeded D. W. Kidston as a full-back of the sound
and safe national pattern, and A. N. Woodrow, the Merchiston marvel, was in
the Academical team of 1886 and for some years later. The club left the old
field at Burnbank at the end of season 1882-83. Mutual associations and old
relationship demanded that the first visitors to Anniesland should be the
Edinburgh Academicals. So it happened, and as a happy augury the Glasgow
club opened their new home with a win. They were a better team at this time
than their Edinburgh brethren, and they were stoutly disputing local
supremacy with their rivals the ' West.' In 1884-85 they renewed
relationship after a ten years' interval, and beat the Royal High School,
who were championship holders. They lost the autumn match of the following
season to the West of Scotland by three goals and a try. The game is
memorable for the fact that all three goals were dropped by M. F. Reid, who
thereby accomplished the crowning achievement of his career in club
football. Reid set himself almost exclusively to score from drop-kicks, and
the other members of the team systematically aided him. It was very rarely
that he did not drop at least one goal, but he excelled himself in the
record success of 1885.
The West of Scotland were a strong side in 1882-83, when
they won the championship. D. Y. Cassels had among his forwards several
International men—A. Walker, the Lorettonian, and elder brother of J. G.
Walker; D. Morton, a duplicate in a measure of D. Somerville; J. Jamieson
and D. M'Cowan.
There were two old Loretto boys in the back division, A.
J. W. Reid and C. Dunlop, school contemporary of A. G. G. Asher, and also
the Edinburgh Academical, A. P. Reid, the elder brother of C. Reid, a very
fast man and a good player. They beat the Institution, the championship
holders, by three tries, and by a coincidence A. P. Reid, coming to
Edinburgh for the occasion, scored the winning try for the Academicals
against the Institution, thus indirectly helping the 'West' on their way to
the title. The Institution team was beginning to break up by that time.
Let us here divert our course a little in order to touch
upon some lateral influences affecting the general position. Oxford
University, in the early 'eighties, was the leading team in England. Their
football was accepted as the model upon which the game should be moulded.
When therefore Edinburgh University team, led by the Fettesian R. F. S.
Henderson, beat H. Vassall's Oxonians at Oxford in 1881, the result was very
significant in several respects. Oxford had not lost a match for three
seasons. Henderson had only his ordinary club team with him. Frank Hunter,
the Fettesian, was in the back division along with three Watsonians playing
regularly for the University, J. Glegg, M. Morton, and W. Brooke. The match
reflected favourably on the strength of Scottish club football. Two years
later, Oxford came to Edinburgh and wiped out the stain on their reputation.
Still, there was none to beat Oxford until Edinburgh University repeated
their success in 1885. In 1881-82 there were four Lorettonians (J. G.
Walker, A. R. Paterson, A. O. MacKenzie and A. G. G. Asher), and also the
Edinburgh Academical, E. L. Strong, in the Oxford team. The following season
a further contingent from Loretto (H. B. Tristram, G. C. Lindsay, and C. F.
MacKenzie) was added. When A. G. G. Asher was captain of Oxford he had with
him six Lorettonians : H. B. Tristram, G. C, Lindsay, A. S. Blair, C. W.
Berry, A. M'Neill and R. C. Kitto. These were the days of the ' Oxford
game,' when the University was holding up the torch to the rest of England;
but the light had been kindled in Scotland, and it was the Scottish
schoolboys who were the torch-bearers.
Contemporary football at Cambridge Universitv did not
feel the influence so strongly for the reason that Scottish schoolboys there
were less numerous. Edgar Storey and A. R. Don Wauchope, who had played
together at Fettes, were two of the earlier additions who impressed their
personal powers upon the teams at Cambridge. J. G. Tait and the brothers
Sample from Edinburgh Academy, Hugh Neilson from Merchiston, C. J. B. Milne
and W. M. Macleod from Fettes, were all Cantabs of the early 'eighties.
From the numeric strength and playing power of Loretto
and Fettes at Oxford and Cambridge sprang the inspiration for the foundation
of the Fettesian-Lorettonian Club which started
inl881-82, but was not completely organised nor at its full power until the
following season. All International men or ' Blues,' the early ' F.L.' team
flashed into football as new stars in the firmament. We in Scotland only got
glimpses of their brilliancy. In fulfilment of one of their functions as a
holiday club presumably, most of their matches were played in touring the
North of England. No club team that I have ever seen or heard of could
produce such a back division as H. B. Tristram,
D. J. M'Farlan, E. Storey, G. C. Lindsay, A. R. Don
Wauchope, and A. G. G. Asher. Five of these men have never been excelled,
and two at least of them have never been equalled in their positions as
International players. Tristram is still the best full-back that has played
for England, and none has arisen in Scotland to bear comparison with A. R.
Don Wauchope at quarter or half-back, where he and A. G. G. Asher still hold
claim as the greatest pair that have played together for the country. None
of the North of England teams could stand against the 'F.Ls.' till Bradford
began to aspire to universal club championship about 1884. At least two
great matches between the pair found them on tolerably level terms.
Bradford's connection with Scotland introduces another phase of this
diversion. C. Reid was building up his Edinburgh Academical team, and among
other successes he had abruptly cut short the West of Scotland's run of club
triumphs in the autumn of 1884. That season the Academicals had been beaten
at Bradford by a snap try scored from their own goal-line by the Yorkshire
team's full-back, Archer, in the last minute of the game.
When Bradford, seeking more worlds to conquer, came down
to meet the Academicals at Raeburn Place in November 1885, they were
prepared for a great battle, and so far they were not disappointed. It was a
Homeric struggle if ever there was one. There was no quarter given or asked,
Bradford had a strong back division, but Reid's forwards held them in a firm
grip, and only once did the Academical crowd get a shiver. Ritchie, the
fastest sprinter in England, cut away along the touch-line, and it looked
all up when C. Reid, who had taken a diagonal course behind his halves,
intercepted Ritchie at the '25' flag and saved the situation. Strange to say
that, though I seem still to see that tackle clearly and distinctly, a
well-known Academical of the period is just as sure that it was T. W. Irvine
who stopped Ritchie.
Rawson Robertshaw, who was England's International
centre, seemed to become affected by the excitement, but the two quarters,
Bonsor and Wright, stuck to their work, and the Yorkshiremen in the pack
laid about them just as lustily as their opponents.
It was two of the smallest men engaged, D. M. M. Orr and
A. P. Moir, who worked out the Academical score by a straight dash for the
line from inside the '25.' When it was all over there were as many limp ones
among the Academical spectators as among the players. It was certainly a
strenuous encounter, but to my own personal knowledge some of the most
bitter newspaper criticisms were written by people who did not see the game,
and the same critics took no exception to similar happenings in local
The Academical players who won that historic championship
game were: F. Saunders; G. H. Carphin, H. H, Littlejohn, and R, H, Johnston;
D. M. M. Orr and H. G. Kinnear; C. Reid, T. W. Irvine, M. C. M'Ewan, A. T.
Clay, A. P. Moir, R. O. Adamson, P. M. Matthew, V.
A. Noel Paton, and P. W. Hislop.
From that date till the end of the 'eighties the
Edinburgh Academicals dominated club football in Scotland. During the
earlier seasons of this term, Reid had to depend almost entirely upon his
forwards. His backs, H. H. Littlejohn, G. H. Carphin, D. M. M. Orr, and H.
G. Kinnear, were primarily defensive players. The forwards were the greatest
pack that has played in Scottish club football. I do not stand alone in that
expression of opinion.
The team was at its best in 1887-88. During that season
the only scores recorded against the Academicals was a try by Hawick and
another by the Fettesian-Lorettonians. On the latter occasion the ' F.Ls.'
were beaten for the first time in the club's career proper.
Hawick gave the Academicals more trouble than any of the
city teams. They had a strong set of forwards, who disputed every inch of
ground with Reid's pack. J. Jackson, big and fast, was one of their leaders.
Dr. Wade was another. Their captain, A. Laing, was a good man. Behind the
scrum they had the Langholm quarter, J. Veitch, and three good halves, W.
Wilson, T. Crozier, and the elder 'Billy' Burnett—no relation to his
successor of a later period.
In December of 1887 the Academicals hit the West of
Scotland the hardest blow they had suffered under for five years, beating
them by five tries. Yet it was a strong 'West' team, and included C. E. Orr,
R. G. MacMillan, D. Morton, and W. Auld—all International men.
A mistaken idea seems to prevail as to the weight and
physique of C. Reid's forwards. He himself was a giant among men. About 6
feet 3 inches and between 15 and 16 stone—nearer 15 perhaps—he carried no
superfluous weight, and was as active as a well-trained 10-stone man. M. C.
M'Ewan would be about 14 stone, and A. T. Clay and T. W. Irvine about 12½
stone each. T. B. White, the prettiest dribbler and most scientific player
in the team, would be fully half a stone lighter, and the others, except J.
Methuen, who would be nearer 13 than 12 stone, were all a little over 12
stone or thereabouts. Their power lay in their combination, quick breaking
up, and tackling.
Reid had little use for players who could not tackle and
bring the man down. He had them drilled to perfection, and held a complete
command over his team. On a big occasion no back division could settle down
against these forwards.
Four of them—'the quartette'—Reid, M'Ewan, Irvine, and
Clay—were first choice International forwards for several years, and T. B.
White latterly increased the number to five. Reid still stands as Scotland's
greatest forward production. No player has yet appeared who could do on the
field the things that Reid did. M. C. M'Ewan occupies a position in the
highest ranks, and there will always be a wholesome difference of opinion as
to whether R. Ainslie or T. W. Irvine should be regarded as the greatest
tackier among forwards. That is a class of question that can be left open,
to the satisfaction of all concerned. In 1888 the Academicals had seven
players in the International team—W. E. Maclagan, H. J. Stevenson, and 'the
quintette.' This representation, which is a club record, conveys an idea of
the strength of the team of that time.
A. T. Clay was another of the early-day Borderers who
obtained International honours. Of a Kelso family, he was wicket-keeper and
one of the best bats in Hay Brown's Academy team of 1880. Before returning
to the Academicals he played football for a time with Gala.
C. Reid obtained a scoring back division when he
introduced from the Academical second fifteen the three halves, R. H.
Johnston, H. J. Stevenson, and J. Duncan. In Stevenson, Reid had found one
of the most wonderful players Scottish football has produced. In a
contemporary reference the Scotsman described him as 'the greatest
football player in the world.' He was equally good at quarter, half, or full
back. Along with D. J. M'Farlan he formed the most potential scoring
half-back combination at the Scottish Rugby Union's command. At full-back he
was one of the best who occupied the position for Scotland, and at quarter
he astonished every one by practically beating the Watsonians off his own
bat when they were running for the championship.
Without W. E. Maclagan's great physical advantages,
Stevenson's defence was just as sound. When it was the practice for a back
to fall on the ball in front of a forward rush, Stevenson nipped the ball
from their toes, kept on his feet, and replied by kicking or breaking
through. No one had ever seen saving done in that fashion. His offence was
equally strong, and the number of tries he got out of his wings sufficiently
testified to his powers of combination. Stevenson and A. R. Don Wauchope
were two of the marvels of middle-time football. Stevenson refused to submit
to the dictation of the Union committee as to what he should do and how he
should play. Hence the explanation of the transitions from centre to
full-back, and from full-back to centre.
R. H. Johnston had learned most of his football at an
English public school. Many will probably remember him more clearly as a
cricketer, and I may add that W. G. Grace once said of R. H. Johnston that
he was the finest schoolboy wicket-keeper he had ever seen. He used to
sprint down the touch-line at a great pace, but few knew that even then H.
J. Stevenson had to nurse him. If he sent him off too soon, he was sure to
fall before he got to the line. His brain was too active to get the response
from his body, and the goal-line did not come to him soon enough.
J. Duncan's heart was not in football. As a schoolboy he
kept tally of the salmon he had landed from the Tay, and though he was a
good cricketer and a marvellous fielder at point, and might have been a
first-class wing half, give him a rod and line and you might have had all
the glories of the football or cricket field for those who desired them.
Club football was very strong in the later 'eighties. The
Royal High School, Edinburgh Wanderers, Edinburgh University had all good
teams, and on the Borders Hawick was already in the first grade, with Gala
fast establishing strong local rivalry, and Melrose and Jedforest as healthy
centres of the game. The Wanderers owed much of their strength to the
Fettesian-Lorettonian element. A. R. Don Wauchope played all his club
football with them after leaving Cambridge. A. G. G. Asher was also one of
their regular players on his return to Edinburgh from Oxford, and C. J. N.
Fleming, while on the teaching staff at Fettes, played centre half for the
Wanderers for a number of seasons.
The decade had closed before another new name was
inscribed on the club championship roll. Beginning with second fifteen
fixtures, the rise of the Watsonians was gradual. Under John Tod, who, as I
have suggested, is entitled to be regarded as the 'father' of Watsonian
football, they achieved one of their first notable triumphs when they beat
the Edinburgh Academicals in 1883. In October of 1884 I saw them create a
great surprise in practically running down a team of the Edinburgh Wanderers
which included M. C. M'Ewan of the Academicals, Conrad Mackenzie, Oxford
'Blue,' H. L. Fleming, Blairlodge, and R. D. Rainnie, one of the best of the
old stock of Wanderers forwards. A. W. Cameron was already making a name for
himself as full-back in the Watsonian team. Most of their players behind the
scrummage were fast, and they had acquired a fine open style of play. In
front of Cameron, the brothers Laing and J. D. Mackenzie were very speedy
players, and J. Carmichael, uncle of the present-day Watsonian wing
three-quarter J. H. Carmichael, was a sound serviceable quarter. The
forwards were light, but energetic and clever. Nothing gave the Watsonians
more satisfaction than a couple of successive wins over the Royal High
School while the 'School' were still holders of the championship. J. Rankin
had succeeded John Tod as the Watsonian captain. In his pack were a number
of good forwards: A. B. Easterbrook, W. M. Heron, W. Inglis, and C. White.
The team was doing so well a little later that they were very hopeful of the
result of their encounter with the Edinburgh Academicals, but C. Reid's
forwards were far too powerful for them, and they got no chance to exert
N. Leggatt, an elder brother of H. T. O. Leggatt and a
most reliable half-back, came into the team later on. W. Bruce was such
another as the elder Leggatt, safe and sound in every detail, both capital
specimens of the all-round half-back of the period. When the Watsonians won
their first championship in 1892-93, R. M. M. Roddick had under him a young
and vigorous pack, in which H. T. O. Leggatt physically stood head and
shoulders above any of the other members. On the touch-line, in the
scrummage, or in close work outside, he was an invaluable player and a
Later, when he became captain, he exercised a strong
influence over the team. H. O. Smith and Andrew Balfour were thoroughly
good-class International forwards, and though it took the Union a long time
to recognise the fact, W. B. Cownie was the most scientific forward in
Scotland. To the prejudice of his International prospects, the Watsonians
made a handy man of H. B. Wright. Abnormally strong, he revelled in the
loose work outside the scrum, and there was nothing he would not face and
little he would not bring down. When 'Willie' M'Ewan and Wright were in
opposition, the field was not big enough for them.
J. Muir surmounted obstacles in a very direct way, and T.
S. Paterson was always working in the shadow of Cownie, and along the same
lines. P. G. Gillespie, W. P. Drummond, and A. W. Falconer were sound, good
'Safety first' was the rule behind the scrum. They were
not really a scoring side. Robin Welsh was fast, and got his International
cap, and the others—H. H. Forbes, G. S. Wilson, and H. A.
Forrester—were more defensive than offensive players, though W. L. Bruce,
Forrester, and Forbes could all cut through smartly and cleverly into the
open. But there was little organised or combined offensive work behind. A.
W. Cameron, like R. M. M. Roddick, had waited and worked long for the day,
and no two players ever did more for Watsonian football. With John Tod, they
formed a connecting-link between the base and the summit of the club's
A. W. Cameron was the cleverest full-back of his
time. He was a ' finished player,' fast and clever, a great and fearless
tackier, and a fine kick, but he lacked weight and physique, and, like many
more, he seemed to be too sensitive to do himself justice on representative
occasions. The Watsonians have not yet produced a successor to Cameron.
H. T. O. Leggatt's team earned a niche in history in
January of 1894, when they travelled to South Wales for a match with the
Newport team, which was at that time exploiting the four three-quarter
formation to such purpose that there were few club teams in England or Wales
that could make a respectable stand against them. Leggatt, depending upon
his forwards, adhered to the usual formation behind the scrummage, and the
game resolved itself into a test between the Scottish and Welsh national
styles. In the end there was nothing between the two teams, and although
Newport won by a coal to a try, the victory was more moral
than real. The game aroused great interest in both countries, and as an
experiment its teaching ought to have been more closely observed in
Scotland. The fixture marked the opening of the Watsonian relationship with
Welsh clubs which has been maintained until the present time. From the date
of their first championship success in 1892-93 the Watsonians have
maintained a leading place in club football, and have never declined to a
low or mediocre position nor fallen into an inferior style of play.
To the consternation of the Edinburgh Academical
constituency and to general public surprise and regret, H. J. Stevenson
prematurely retired from the game in 1892-93. The Watsonians continued to
hold the championship through season 1893-94. Their strongest adversaries
were the Edinburgh Wanderers, who had one of the best teams that has
represented the club. C. J. N. Fleming was playing regularly for them at
centre half, as the position was still termed, and they were particularly
strong at quarter with a big Irish International man, A. C. M'Donnell, and
H. T. Methuen, small, smart, and clever. Ben Greig, the Fettesian, who
latterly played for Jedforest, and W. K. Laidlaw, neither of whom were much
if anything outside International class, were two of the best of a powerful
pack of forwards. In that they won one of their matches and drew the other,
the Wanderers had the better of their immediate relationship with the
Watsonians. L. G. Thomas, much in the same capacity and doing much the same
work as D. J. Simson had done in an earlier dark period, was scoring greatly
needed tries for the Edinburgh Academicals. The Institution were doing quite
well, as may be incidentally inferred from their wins over the Royal High
School and the West of Scotland, and Border football had never been so
strong. The Gala team of Ninian Kemp, A. Dalgleish, and the Murdison
brothers, was meeting on level terms the Hawick fifteen of Matt Elliot and
D. Patterson, T. M. Scott, W. L. Watson, A. B. Storrie, and R. Scott, while
at the same time W. S. Oliver, J. T. Mabon, and R. Douglas were in the best
team that Jedforest had yet had. These were stirring times in Border
football, and the 'steer' was not confined to the ' big three,' for Melrose
startled the football world in the early weeks of the following season by
beating Hawick two goals and a try on their own ground. That, too, was one
of the best, if not actually the best team Melrose ever had. Three at least
of their backs, J. Milton, J. Mair, and F. D. Hart, were exceptionally
clever players, and there was power and play in the backbone of the forward
division, G. Frater, J. Moffatt, G. Bunyan, and the brothers Telfer. That
Melrose team should not have been far out of the championship. The season
was spoiled by frost, which set in before the New Year and held till March.
Indeed, when the Watsonians played at Myreside on the 16th of that month, it
was their first appearance on their own ground from the 17th of November.
Season 1895-96 was a Border one, and the club
championship was won by Hawick, who had very strong opposition to face, not
only in the cities but among their own kith and kin in the near
The Edinburgh Academicals, Watsonians, and Edinburgh
University were powerful teams. Hawick knew something of the University
Irish three-quarter, H. Stevenson, one of the best players Ireland sent to
Edinburgh. Robin Welsh, H. O. Smith, H. B. Wright, R. A. Bruce, and T. Muir
were playing at Myreside. W. M. C. M'Ewan, J. M. Reid, J. I. Gillespie, A.
W. Robertson, and A. M. Bucher were in the Academical team.
C. J. N. Fleming was with the Wanderers, Mark Morrison
and J. W. Simpson in the Royal High School ranks, and Jedforest were fast
approaching the championship pinnacle. The general standard in club
football, therefore, was very high.
Hawick lost to the University, and the destination of the
title was left to the deciding match with the Watsonians at Hawick in the
last weeks of the season. Both sides played four three-quarters, though the
formation had not yet become thoroughly established. Matt Elliot was unable
to play, and Hawick's team consisted of
D. Corbett; W. Lindsay Watson, T. Scott, J. Sharp, and B.
Hills; A. M'Kie and D. Patterson ; G. Johnston, A. Laidlaw, W. Marchbank, R.
Scott, A. B. Storrie, W. M'Lean, and T. M. Scott.
That was the first occasion on which the club
championship went to the Borders. Perforce the merit of the players in the
South had thereafter to be recognised. The Union had been very stingy with
their honours, and I do not know that they profited thereby.
I never could quite follow the reasoning that precluded
the selection of D. Patterson and M. Elliot as an International pair. Each
was chosen separately, yet as a pair the combination had possibilities that
might have stood comparison with some of the best national pairs. Tom Scott,
as already stated, was a Langholm man. and T. M. Scott belonged to Melrose.
With R. Scott, five of the Hawick championship team were capped. So in that
respect they fared very well.
Border football had been gradually gaining ground from
the middle of the 'seventies. Fortunately they had exclusively adopted the
Rugby game, and hard hit as their teams often have been by defections to the
Northern Union, football would never have got its head above water had they
adopted the Association form and entered into competition with the wealthy
professional clubs. There would have been no premier position for any of
their teams, no championship for Hawick, or for any of them, and to-day
their clubs would have been struggling in an impecunious third grade.
From about the beginning of the 'eighties the principal
strongholds were Hawick, Melrose, Langholm, and Galashiels. There were three
clubs in Hawick until well on in the 'nineties. That was an overplus of two,
and it was not until the 'Greens' became the sole
representatives of the town that Hawick football attained a permanent
position in the first grade. True, the ' Greens ' were strong in the middle
'eighties, as I have shown in their interchanges with the Edinburgh
Academicals, but they were merely getting firmly planted on the first
step-stone of the upward flight.
Earlier than that Langholm was a strong centre, but the
isolated situation of the town was always an impediment, and the marvel is
that the game has been able to keep going there. They saw little or nothing
of city football. One year the Wanderers went down to give them a help on,
but outside their own district they had to rely for variety on the
Cumberland clubs. In their earlier matches with Jedforest, the games took
place at Hawick.
Langholm had a pair of quarters of wide reputation, J.
Veitch and J. Scott, in the middle 'eighties. Veitch helped Hawick in some
of their matches with the Edinburgh Academicals at that time.
There were too many Langholm Scotts for me to identify.
Of course, we all know T. Scott, the International three-quarter, and his
doings. I recollect another of the clan, C. B. Scott, captain of the
Edinburgh University team about the time of W. J. N. Davis and the ' Irish
brigade,' but further than that he was an old Craigmount and Langholm boy I
do not know from what branch of the tree he sprang.
I have a very clear recollection of T. Scott, or 'Langholm
Scott,' as he was known in the cities, showing a clean pair of heels to
Larry Bulger at Belfast, and Bulger was no mean sprinter. It occurs to me
also that Scott scored a very similar try against the Irishmen at Powderhall,
and the other Tom Scott, the Melrose one, kicked a goal from the touch-line.
He was an expert place-kick. Mainly through having practised the art as a
pastime on the Greenyards at Melrose, he became so proficient that they said
he could kick goals within reasonable range with his eyes closed. There is
more in knowledge of the ground than is generally supposed. Lucius Gwynne,
in the Irish match referred to, punted the ball over the Scottish bar, and
when H. Stevenson, who was in the Irish half-back line, asked why he did
that, Gwynne replied that he had no idea he was so close to the goal.
I think Gala were at their best under Ninian Kemp and
when Adam Dalgleish, the Murdiesons, D. Rutherford, and J. Ford were
playing. Kemp was a very clever forward, but he had not the weight of, let
me say, D. Bunyan, the first of the Melrose family still represented in
present-day football. Otherwise Kemp possessed all the International
In season 1900-1, Gala just failed to win the club
championship. Undefeated until the end of March, they lost their last two
matches, and the title just escaped them. Still, I think Ninian Kemp's was
the better Gala team, although Gala were nearer the championship in the
later year than in Kemp's time.
Jedforest's day was near at hand when Hawick gained the
Melrose occupied an interesting position in middle-time
football. They saw more of city football than any of the other towns, and,
small as the population is, the game flourished almost from its
introduction. Melrose missed the honour of providing the first Border
International player by a hairbreadth.
When D. Sanderson, their quarter, played in the East
v. West Trial match of 1884, he was reckoned to be in the running with
A. R. Don Wauchope and A. G. G. Asher; surely in itself sufficient tribute
to his abilities. An absurd story to the effect that Don Wauchope resented
Sanderson's intrusion into the partnership gained wide currency. Personally,
I cannot imagine Don Wauchope taking up such an attitude. On the contrary,
he was the first to approach Sanderson before the game, and gave him his
choice of the side of the scrummage on which to play. The only difference
recognised at that time was right or left; a player accustomed to a
particular side stuck to it. We may take it as certain that Don Wauchope was
as anxious to make the partnership a success as if he had been playing with
A. G. G. Asher. Sanderson's football was so much appreciated by the Union
that he was made reserve quarter to Wauchope and Asher for all International
matches of that season.
Melrose had another fine quarter, A. Haig, in association
with Sanderson. As the man who invented, or discovered, the seven-a-side
form of football, Haig has been one of the greatest benefactors of the game
on the Borders. Without its financial aid the clubs would be sore pressed to
keep the fires burning.
T. M. Scott in 1883 was Melrose's first International
Adam Dalgleish had preceded Scott by a couple of seasons,
but there were hosts of good forwards of International class on the Borders
then and later. It was curious that when T. Riddle went to London from
Melrose and played for the ' Scottish,' he was at once nominated for his
cap. Previously he was unknown beyond his own district. But Riddle was only
one of many.
J. Ward (Galashiels) was a particularly hard case. When
in 1892 the South representative team swamped Edinburgh there was hardly a
man in the Border pack that was not of good International class. T.
M. Scott and R. Scott were capped on different occasions, but others, such
as B. Greig, A. Moffat, R. Douglas, A. Laidlaw, R. Veitch, R.
Laidlaw, D. Elliott, were of much the same stamp, and
there were many more.
All club football is not confined in the small circle
drawn round two or three of the most successful teams. When Hawick were
winning, another team, the Clydesdale, were working onwards, and still
another, Heriot's F.P., further in the rear, were busy erecting the first
stages of the fabric on the foundation laid in 1890 by one of the masters,
Mr. D. L. Turnbull, and a few ardent workers. An old-established club, the
St. George, were pursuing an eminently respectable middle course, and Daniel
Stewart's former pupils were building on the base-work laid by a little band
of enthusiasts, who weathered the storms and stress of football infancy at a
time when every man's hand was against the aspiring branch of football
society currently known as the 'rising clubs.'
Kelvinside Academicals may be included in the same
category. Add to these the legion of older teams indirectly concerned in the
championship, and it will be realised that the struggle for the title no
more represented the whole battlefield than did the ring round the Scottish
King at Flodden. Clydesdale and Kelvinside Academicals increased the Glasgow
constituency to overcrowding, and to the direct detriment of the West of
Scotland, whose monopoly of Edinburgh schoolboys not associated with the
Glasgow Academicals ceased in the 'nineties, and with its cessation the
decline of the 'West' set in.
During all the middle and later 'eighties, and until well
on in the 'nineties, the Glasgow Academicals, with the exception of a few
brighter intervals, occupied varying positions in the intermediate region,
and did not reach within several steps of the top of the ladder until the
time of R. S. Stronach and Louis Greig after the turn of the century.
In season 1899-1900 the Kelvinside Academicals had gone
undefeated up to January, when they lost by 14 points to the Academical team
just mentioned, a notable occurrence generally and a disruptive one locally.
During all the 'nineties the Kelvinside Academicals
attracted attention by their fast open style of play. They were a clever and
successful team, and passed out a number of noted players during this time.
J. C. Woodburn gained his International cap as a wing three-quarter in 1892
; G. A. W. Lamond, also an Internationalist, was a very fine three-quarter.
J. Knox, in the same category, who came to them from Merchiston, was of the
hardy type of half-back, and the Wingate brothers were Lorettonians. G. R.
Muir, J. T. Tulloch, and C. France were all of the same pre-eminently clever
type of players, contributing to make the play of the Kelvinside team
Some teams of the time, very jealous of their record and
reputation, were just as keen to keep out of Kelvinside's way as to
meet them. They were dangerous.
When I compare the Kelvinside Academicals with the old
St. George, successful as that team was, the contrast suggests a deal of
plodding work. For about twenty years the St. George held quite a good
position. About 1890, a little earlier and a little later, they were at
their best. John Brown, who had led them for years, was a first-class
forward and ought to have gone further than inclusion in the Inter-city
team. John Pratt was the best three-quarter the club produced, but the camel
and the needle's eye applied as well to Pratt as to Brown.
For a long number of years the club was fed from Daniel
Stewart's College, and, naturally, when Stewart's themselves started, the
St. George felt the drain. Pratt was from that school, likewise the brothers
Elder and J. Maclndoe, a very strong three-quarter. They had two Dollar
Academy half-backs one year, W. Robertson and G. Anderson, and in the same
position Alec Clapperton served the team well through several seasons.
'Billy' Arnot, one of the pillars of the club, was a
Londoner, and F. A. Lumley, from the same quarter, did a bit of football
with them when he was not boxing or aiming at sprinting honours at
Powderhall, where J. J. Allan, one of their forwards, won the 100 yards
Quite a good club in their day, the St. George played
most of the first-class teams, and beat as many as they lost to, A crowning
achievement one year was when a youth from Kelso, J. Ferguson, scored a try
for them that beat the Edinburgh Academicals. The St. George were still
strong in 1892, when the infant Heriot's team surprised themselves by
beating 2nd Clydesdale and 2nd St. George on successive Saturdays. On the
latter occasion the triumph was achieved by a drop-kick from their
full-back, W. P. Short.
D. Drysdale has dropped many goals, and important goals,
too, but he is not the first Heriot's full-back to acquire the faculty, and
none of his successes outweighed in club gratification that one of 1892.
Short dropped another goal against the Collegiate. The habit with Heriot's
full-backs is therefore an old one. In the spring of the following year
Heriot's drew with Stewart's College, and a year later progress was
demonstrated in a victory over the St. George. J. W. Cownie, P. J. Lawrie,
J. Reekie, and A. J. Thomson were in that Heriot's team, captained by R.
By the end of the 'nineties the team was well
established. In 1903 they were reckoned a smart side. They had then quite a
number of clever players—T. W. Smith, J. W. Frew, J. S. B. Wilson, J.
Wilson, J. W. Drever, G. Cownie, the brothers Potts, W. M. Douglas, and T.
and W. H. Clark. This was the team that made the position for Heriot's.
Their back play was almost a revelation, and some of the club's friends
consider that it has not been excelled by a Heriot's team even yet. Like
many more 'rising teams,' want of weight clogged their aspirations. W. H.
Clark and J. A. Potts were two thoroughly good forwards, but the earlier
packs were light and ability was a diminishing quality from the leaders
downwards. No better forward than Potts has yet come out of Heriot's.
In 1912-13, Heriot's had to be seriously reckoned with by
all comers. One of their wins was at the expense of Hawick. Heriot's team at
that time contained several players who will be recognised by present-day
friends of the club-—J. A. Hardie, J. D. Morrison, A. B. Falconer, R.
Badger, C. W. Badger, J. Docherty, J. Lamb, J. C. Dobson, W. G. Dobson, G.
L. Davidson, T. Wilson, G. W. Simpson, W. S. Kerr, C. G. Sinclair, and J. B.
Laidlaw. That was one of a number of victories.
Keen rivalry subsisted between Heriot's and Stewart's
College F.P. For several seasons before the war, Stewart's were a strong
team. In 1910 their full-back, J. G. Bell, was fancied for International
honours. In 1911-12 they had a powerful pack of forwards, led by Finlay
Kennedy, and including D. Lunan, G. M. Beaton, and W. L. Kerr. A. D. Lambert
came in later on, and when T. R. Tod and Ivan Tait were in the three-quarter
line, the team was one of the best in the country.
It had taken Stewart's about twenty years to establish
themselves in the first rank. Back in the early 'nineties, when the club had
left Gorgie and were playing on a not particularly good field, but the most
accessible to the boys, at Ravelston, they were fighting hard for
recognition. The pioneers were a hardy band of enthusiasts, led by D. G.
Smeaton. They took their task seriously and trained assiduously.
Like all teams of the time, they depended upon their
forwards and asked for little more than safety from their backs. A try went
a long way with them. The try by which they beat the Royal High School in
1890 was a precious donation, subscribed by their quarter, D. Smith, who
stood well by the club in the stormy times. In their back division they had
W. B. Morrison, brother of Mark Morrison; Tom Morris, a very sturdy player
and an Englishman who naturally, perhaps, agreed with me that Briggs and
Varley had played correct football when the crowd hooted them for exposing
the weakness of Darcy Anderson and C. E. Orr.
They had a most excellent full-back, G. R. Turner. R. W.
Hepburn was a worker at half, where J. Dick, another of the true pioneers,
was smart and clever, and they had a number of good forwards, including J.
M. Gow and big T. Cowan. The club removed to Inverleith in 1896, where two
of their earliest products were a clever little three-quarter, W. A.
Gilbert, and their forward leader, A. M. M'Donald, who obtained minor
They lost an excellent forward about that time when A.
Mann went to Glasgow and joined the Clydesdale. As I have indicated, this
club was one of those that was eating into the strength of the 'West.'
Gradually they worked their way onward till, in 1896-97, they shared in the
unique triple distribution of the championship between themselves, Jedforest,
and the Watsonians. As the result implies, it was a very open competition,
and besides the winners, the teams most intimately concerned were Hawick and
the Edinburgh Academicals, while Stewart's F.P. played a distinctive part in
the settlement. The Academical team, with W. M. C. M'Ewan, A. M. Bucher, A.
W. Robertson Durham, J. M. Reid, C. P. Finlay, and E. C. Comrie Thomson
among their leaders, were recovering from a temporary decline, and after
beating the Watsonians they looked very likely winners, till Jedforest got
the better of them by a penalty goal, in the same week as the Academicals'
journey to Cambridge.
The Watsonians improved as the season went on and closed
very strongly with victories over the Academicals and Hawick. In their later
matches they developed strong scoring powers. R. Welsh was in the back
division, but T. Muir was the cleverest of the lot and had double the number
of tries that fell to R. A. Bruce, M. W. Robertson, and G. C. Robertson.
The forwards were not up to the best standard. Most of
those who had placed the club in position had retired, though J. Muir and H.
B. Wright were still playing. J. D. Dallas was in the pack, but Dr. Balfour
had gone to Cambridge. Incidentally he had warned the Cantabs they would get
it very hot from the Edinburgh Academical forwards, as they certainly did,
and were well beaten, as was also Oxford by the same team. Many will
remember W. M. C. M'Ewan's dash from the ' twenty-five ' which beat the
Oxford team, whose full-back, T. A. Nelson, familiarly known to the Oxford
men as ' Tommy,' and nothing but ' Tommy,' smiled perceptibly when M'Ewan,
like the young Hercules he was, cleared all obstacles out of his way. T. A.
Nelson was a beautifully scientific player, a great Academy favourite, and
equally esteemed at Oxford.
Clydesdale were a sound rather than a brilliant side. T.
L. Hendry, their forward leader, who played International on four occasions,
was a fine type of a player. E. Spencer was an old Blair-lodge boy and a
good three-quarter. D. M'Laurin, from the same school, was in the forwards,
and their full-back, J. D. Smellie, was a player of repute. In A. C. Cameron
they had a very active quarter.
Jedforest had been working their way upwards for some
seasons. They had a robust pack, led by Ben Greig, the Fettesian, and R.
Douglas. J. T. Mabon was at half, and W. Oliver at centre three-quarter. How
Oliver missed representative distinction was always puzzling. All the others
in the back division, J. Lowrie, Elliott, Ellis, and Brownlie, were active,
The third portion of the championship represented a
season's good work.
Clydesdale's share is the monument to a club that has
passed out of football.
That two Border teams should have been associated with
the club championship in successive seasons as Hawick and Jedforest were in
1895-96 and 1896-97 is sufficient testimony to the strength of the game in
that district. Up to the outbreak of war the high-level standard was
maintained, the form of these teams varying and fluctuating in normal
manner. In the cities, the greatest strength, during the period mentioned,
was concentrated in a group composed of the Edinburgh Academicals, Edinburgh
University, the Watsonians, and the Glasgow Academicals. During these years
the game was kept going so merrily that the period could quite justly be
regarded as one of the brightest in the life of Scottish club football. And
not only were rivalry and competition of themselves very strong stimulants,
but methods and style of play attained a high degree of proficiency. In the
earlier years of the period, the back play of the Edinburgh Academicals and
Edinburgh University, supplemented by good forward work, reached a standard
of efficiency bearing its own witness and testimony in the 1901
International team that swept all in front of it. The pronounced success of
the Watsonians followed eight or nine years later, though all the while
their teams were sharing in the finish round the ultimate championship
winners. That they did not, while at their zenith, contribute to the
national success to the extent that the Edinburgh Academical-University
combination did, was anomalously due, I think, to their own pronounced
efficiency as a team. They perfected their combined work, and at the same
time engendered the incipient weakness of interdependence of the parts.
Separated, or taken in sections, their effectiveness was appreciably
reduced. The team of the Watsonian era, from about 1908, made a great
contribution to the popularity of the game. Contrasted with the Edinburgh
Academicals no club stands comparison in the recurring periods of prominence
from the establishment of the game onwards. After the teams of C. Reid, M.
C. M'Ewan, and H. J. Stevenson had, we might say, exhausted themselves in
the early 'nineties, the Academicals were beginning to revive when Hawick
were winning the championship, and in the year of the triumvirate, Jedforest,
the Watsonians, and Clydesdale, 1896-97, the most direct challenge to the
trio came from Hawick and the Edinburgh Academicals. Stewart's College F.P.
' staggered humanity' and steadied the expansion of the championship by
beating Hawick, and among other incidental happenings the Glasgow
Academicals conceded 8 goals and 3 tries to their Edinburgh brethren, who
maintained the honour and credit of Scottish club football by beating both
Oxford and Cambridge. The following season their own player, J. E. Crabbie,
won the Academical match for
Oxford and repeated the performance two years later. From
1897-98 the Academicals held the championship for four years, though in one
of the intervening seasons, 1899-1900, they finished even on results with
Hawick and Edinburgh University. This was a strong period in Academical
football. In 1897-98 W. M. C. M'Ewan was at the head of their pack, and
behind him were a fine, evenly balanced set of first-rate young forwards, L.
H. I. Bell, F. P. Dods, L. Craufurd, G. Moncreiff, and W. Dove, a forerunner
of J. N. Shaw in appearance and in style. There were four International
players in the three-quarter line, Phipps Turnbull, A. W. Robertson (later
Robertson Durham), A. M. Bucher, and W. H. Morrison, who came to the
Academicals from Blairlodge and could play half-back or three-quarter
equally well. J. I. Gillespie and a younger Morrison, J. N., were the
regular halves. The Watsonians were strong and had Ian Graham, M. F.
Simpson, J. D. Little, and the Robertsons behind the scrum, in which H. O.
Smith, A. Balfour, H. B. Wright, J. D. Dallas, and F. A. Falconer
constituted the leading section. L. M. Magee, subsequently Irish
International half, was playing in the Wanderers.
The fluctuations in the championship from 1900-1, when
the hold of the Edinburgh Academicals was loosened, tells its own tale of
keenness and widespread efficiency. In consecutive seasons, Edinburgh
University gained the title outright, and shared it, first with the
Watsonians and then with the Glasgow Academicals. Next year was eventful and
memorable for the restoration of the Glasgow Academicals to the leading
position after a lapse of years dating back to the early 'eighties.
The Edinburgh Academicals resumed supremacy in 1905-6,
and to accent the variations Jedforest came to the top the following season.
Edinburgh University had another term of honours, and next a fresh pair,
Hawick and the Watsonians, had their claims divided. Myreside supremacy in
seasons 1909-10 and 1910-11 was followed by Edinburgh University
participating in honours in 1911-12. The Glasgow Academicals again became
supreme in 1912-13 and finished second to the Watsonians in the year of the
outbreak of the war.
It will thus be realised that, from the opening of the
century on to war year, there was considerable stir, and sometimes a little
commotion, round the top of the table. Historically, it is notable to
observe one of the oldest clubs and one of the pillars of early-day
football, Edinburgh University, take precedence for the first time. From the
days of J. H. L. M'Farlane, in the early 'seventies, the University
maintained a strong position in club football. In 1881, R. F. S. Henderson's
team, as has been recorded, did a very notable thing when they beat Oxford
University of H. Vassall's time.
Edinburgh University were holding their own in the best
class of club football during the 'eighties and 'nineties, and contributing
to International and other representative teams. In the late 'eighties, when
Irish students were numerous, they had four of Ireland's International
forwards, R. D. Stokes, J. N. Nash, W. J. N. Davis, and T. M. Donovan, in
their pack. H. F. Chambers, the Scottish full-back, was playing for the
University about this time, and also a smart Merchistonian three-quarter, W.
C. Smith, a Borderer with a Kelso connection. Again, in the middle of the
'nineties, University football was very strong, so strong that a place could
not be found for A. B. Timms, who was playing in the Wanderers team of C. J.
N. Fleming and H. T. Methuen. At that time the University had the best
three-quarter, H. Stevenson, who ever played for the club. Stevenson was one
of the 'Irish Brigade' then so numerous. There was not a back division he
could not score against. I saw him go through the Jedforest defence in the
year Jedforest shared the championship, and not a man of them, not even the
full-back, who saw him coming all the way, could get within yards of him. He
did the same thing against the West of Scotland and against Hawick on each
of the three occasions, lifting his team out of a critical situation. He was
equally strong in defence, a resolute and safe tackier.
Good players were numerous at the University about this
time, both forwards and backs, including A. B. Flett, who was with them when
the first championship fell to Edinburgh University in 1901-2. The other
forwards at that time were the schoolboy, Hugh Martin, and also A. B. Mein,
whose family resided in the district and whose father was one of the
Scottish twenty in the first International with England. There was a
sporting ring about the whole function, and when Jedforest drew the match
Mr. Crabbie, senior, father of the Oxonian Academical, entertained the teams
in the Spread Eagle Hotel at Jedburgh. 'Jeddart' folks still retain
recollections of that day. It was the first time their team had won the
championship outright, but even at that, it was a wonderful feat for a
little town on the confines of the Rugby area with no regular source of
supply of players and an active list that for championship purposes did not
much exceed the regular fifteen. The Foresters who raised the slogan 'Jeddart's
here' were : J. T. Robson, G. M. Oliver, J. B. Wilson, W. Purdie, J. L.
Huggan, W. Fish, C. W. Stewart, A. Renaldson, W. B. Jardine, T. S. Waugh, W.
Hall, M. Drummond, W. C. Balfour, R. Lunn, T. Aitken. Huggan played some of
his football with Edinburgh University and was one of the Scottish wing
three-quarters in the 1914 English International at Inverleith and one of
the many in that match who fell in the war.
One of the old clubs that had not raised its head for
many years came very prominently into the running in 1907-8. Up to February
of that season the Institution team of J. H. Lindsay, A. B. Davidson, J. B.
Stewart, and J. Ainslie were unbeaten till they lost the Royal High School
Ultimately they finished second to Edinburgh University
and thus made a nearer approach to the championship than any Institution
team had done since that of Nat Brewis and the brothers Ainslie at the
beginning of the 'eighties. It was not a great University team that won the
title that season. J. R. Izatt, their captain, was rather a 'dour' type of
half-back, and there was nothing out of the way in the rest of the back
division, but the forwards included D. R. Bedell-Sivright, T. Smyth, J. M.
Mackenzie, and L. Barrington-Ward, who played for England.
The Heriot's team of T. Smith, A. Falconer, J. Drever,
and J. A. Potts did something to establish the club in public opinion when
they beat Jedforest, the championship holders. Jedforest, like themselves,
were light and just the type of team that Heriot's would show to advantage
against. Their football was as good as that of the best when not suppressed
by an overbalance in weight.
Like the Institution and others the Royal High School had
for years pursued the even tenor of their way in eminent middle-place
respectability. The team of G. Sanderson, A. W. Gunn, T. Sturrock, George
M'Laren, J. Hume, A. C. Brown, and A. D. Laing of 1909-10 was the best the
'School' had had for many years. Gunn played International in 1912,
and it will be remembered what a useful half-back J. Hume was in
representative football after the war. A. D. Laing was International,
ante-bellum and post-bellum. A hard-working forward they called him in
conventional language, but there was always a bit more than that in him.
The Watsonian team that won the championship in 1909-10
and retained the title over the next season was A. A. Morison, W. M.
Robertson, J. Pearson, A. W. Angus, J. T. Simson, J. Y. Henderson, E.
Milroy, L. M. Spiers, J. C. M'Callum, J. Thorburn, W. G. Stuart, J. W. G.
Horne, W. Oliver, A. F. Wilson, J. Martin. The vital force in the back
section remained unchanged till the war stoppage, except that T. C. Bowie
took stand-off position vacated by J. Y. Henderson when he went abroad. C.
S. Nimmo deputised for Milroy a good deal. Edinburgh University broke the
Watsonian run of success with a division of honours in 1911-12. It was a
good University side. A. S. Taylor (three-quarter) and S. B. B. Campbell
(forward) were Irish International men. L. G. Thomas (full-back) just missed
his Welsh cap, and J. M. Mackenzie, J. L. Huggan, and F. Osier played for
I have always held in great esteem, for the soundness of
their football and the reliability of the greater number of the players, the
Glasgow Academical team which won the championship in 1912-13. G. Ure-Reid,
C. W. Andrew, A. D. Laird and the Warrens were dependable in any sort of
game. Little T. Stout went along the touch-line with an exhilarating rattle.
I saw him score the winning try at Myreside and I likewise witnessed some
West of Scotland players treat him in not quite a sportsmanlike way, but I
also remember the team falling badly before the Edinburgh Academicals. There
was a reason for that. Some of the English Union were down to see J. H. D.
Watson play, and 'Bungy ' gave them an exhibition of how he could win a
match single-handed. We lost the greatest centre of modern times when we
allowed England to acquire Watson. The Watsonian period of domination began
in season 1908-9 and extended practically till the opening of the war in
1914. The struggles of John Tod's time and the culminating triumphs of the
teams of R. M. M. Roddick and H. T. O. Leggatt mark two distinct stages in
the life of Watsonian football. The third was the brightest, and left a more
permanent mark in that the Watsonian team of that time set up a model and
cultivated a style that it became the general aim to copy. By an intensive
system of practice and rehearsal they perfected their combination and
acquired a machinelike accuracy of movement that, while disconcerting to
opponents, provided a most attractive spectacle to onlookers. The key to the
team's success behind the scrummage lay in the conjunction of the centre
three-quarters, A. W. Angus and J. Pearson, and the halves, E. Milroy and J.
Y. Henderson, and latterly T. C. Bowie. The rest of the back play was more
or less auxiliary. This pivotal group, working almost intuitively 'according
to plan,' generated the energy from which the others derived the supply. The
forwards, when the team was at its best, were by no means an automatic
service source for the supply of the ball to the backs. L. M. Spiers and J.
C. M'Callum were two of the best International forwards of immediate pre-war
years. The team was fortunate in its possession of E. Milroy, the best scrum
worker that has been produced in Scotland since the position became
specialised. While the Watsonians were working upwards Hawick in 1908-9
formed the principal obstacle, and at the end of the season the pair claimed
the championship between them. Hawick football was particularly strong at
this time. Walter Forrest was in the back division along with W. R.
Sutherland and W. Burnett. T. Neill at half was above club class, and W. E.
Kyle's long International career testifies to his rank as a forward. The
team imported a breeziness into the competition, and there was always a full
measure of liveliness when Hawick took the field. Sutherland was a most
popular player. Variety clung to 'Watty' Forrest wherever he played. In that
respect his football was in marked contrast to that of his fellow Kelso
townsman, Carl Ogilvie, steady and almost staid. T. Wilson played, again,
the game in his own characteristic way. Hawick football would have been
minus an important concomitant without ' The Bottler.'
The position of the clubs in the war year was that
although the Watsonians won the championship they were twice beaten, and the
general standard was not above an average level. If there was a feature, it
lay perhaps in the upward tendency of the middle section. The Wanderers,
strengthened by the Merchiston Macfarlane brothers, R. H. Lindsay Watson,
and three University forwards, C. L. Marburg, G. M'Connell, and J. A. S.
Ritson, had their best team for years. They beat the Watsonians in their
early match, but afterwards fell before Heriot's, who had J. D. Morrison, C.
W. Badger, W. G. Dobson, and G. W. Simpson in their team. The Edinburgh
Academicals had the Sloan brothers, C. C. Winchester, G. H. H. Maxwell, and
J. W. F. Neill in that team that beat the University, but fell to the
Watsonians and Glasgow Academicals. The Glasgow team lost to the Watsonians
and finished the season with three defeats.
The regular Watsonian team of the season, as near as can
be judged, though there were changes from one cause and another, was E. G.
Pyott, F. Hislop, J. Pearson, A. W. Angus, G. G. Marshall, T. C. Bowie, E.
Milroy, J. Thorburn, J. Martin, E. F. Rankin, J. J. Maybin, R. Menzies, R.
F. Kilpatrick, J. M. Dunn, and J. W. Jenkins. Rather under average strength
forward, it was not a great Watsonian side, and depended altogether on the
work of the quartette at centre three-quarter and half-back.
It is an old saying that ' there is always room at the
top.' Club football since the resumption after the war is chiefly noticeable
for the advance of two new teams : George Heriot's F.P. and the Glasgow High
School F.P. Heriot's career resembles the path the Watsonians were forced to
tread before they arrived at the summit. The High School again have arrived
more abruptly. During the war we saw signs of coming events in the quality
of their schoolboys. When you bring the Glasgow Academicals and the
Watsonians into focus you have encircled the little group that has
monopolised the title during the past five years. There is nothing new under
the sun, not even in Rugby football. Heriot's won their first championship
by virtue of their forward play just as championships have been won many
times since the earliest recognition of the competition. Honours fell to the
Glasgow Academicals mainly by exercise of force of combination behind the
scrummage. To carry the simile further, the contributions from Fettes and
Loretto are doing for the Academicals what the same schools did for the West
of Scotland in the 'eighties and 'nineties. In the wider perspective it will
be seen that the rise and fall of teams is one of the main characteristics
of club football. At the same time we may venture to assure ourselves of a
degree of permanency in the addition of Heriot's and Glasgow High School to
the list of leading clubs. Before the war neither of them had entered that
class. Heriot's success in 1919-20 was achieved by exercise of the old-time
forward game of quick breaking up and safe tackling. They had no methodical
style of play behind the scrummage, and their backs were more proficient in
stopping the other side's progress than in making way for themselves. D.
Drysdale graduated from stand-off half through three-quarter to full-back,
where he has had a full share of honours, and yet there remains a doubt
whether he is not a natural centre three-quarter. W. G. Dobson has the
distinction of being Heriot's first International player. J. Greenshields
and K. G. P. Hendrie are of the handy active type of forward that used to
appear as prominently in all classes of football. The first Heriot's players
to win the club title was F. T. Brand, E. J. W. Brown, J. D. Morrison, A. S.
Officer, D. Drysdale, R. J. Anderson, D. Benzies, C. S. Broadwood, G. W.
Simpson, W. G. Dobson, J. Greenshields, K. G. P. Hendrie, R. Bryce, A. M.
Murray, D. Cattanach, A. E. W. Maclachlan, J. Anderson. There were frequent
changes of positions in the back division, and a fairly regular call on
Heriot's receded the following year, when the title went
to the Watsonians, for whom the old pre-war men, A. W. Angus and C. S. Nimmo,
were still playing. J. A. R. Selby and J. H. Carmichael filled positions at
scrum half and wing three-quarter, which they have retained since then, and
have been two of the best post-war Watsonian backs. D. M. Bertram, A. C.
Gillies, and J. P. Thomson were prominent members of a useful pack of
Another change took place in 1921-22, the third in three
seasons, when the Glasgow Academicals became championship holders with a
first-rate team in which R. Simpson, J. C. Dykes, R. C. Warren, J. B.
Nelson, and E. B. Mackay were the inspiration of a clever back division.
Simpson is one of the best all-round players the Academicals have had for
many years, and there is no more clever back in club football than J. C.
Dykes. A. K. Stevenson and G. M. Murray were good International-class
Heriot's accomplished a very fine performance in coming
through season 1922-23 unbeaten.
A number of new players had come into the team, and their
back play in style had improved greatly. D. Drysdale was now playing
full-back, and making such a success of it that ere long he had practically
no rival for the position in the International team. In G. W. Somerville and
G. M. King they had found a couple of good wing three-quarters. King indeed
looked like developing into International class when he was unfortunately
injured in one of the Trial matches. Gow Brown and W. A. Fairbairn made a
clever pair of halves, and R. M. Kinnear a centre of whom, good as he is, we
may not yet have seen the best. D. S. Kerr was the most valuable addition to
the forwards, though as a skirmisher J. M. Graham more than paid his way.
Rivalry between the High School and the Academicals had
been the feature and inspiration of Glasgow football from the date of the
resumption of the game. The 'School' had been a good team and had quite
worked for their reward when they shared the championship with the
Academicals in 1923-24. They had produced a number of fine backs, including
R. L. H. Donald, A. Browning, J. M. Tolmie, W. C. Johnstone, and no better
forward than J. M. Bannerman has played since the war. L. M. Stuart, son of
the old Royal High School player of the early 'eighties, has all along been
one of the most effective forwards in the country.
Heriot's and the Glasgow Academicals fought out the
championship in 1924-25, and in a couple of sensational matches, one
particularly so in Glasgow, honours were even between the pair, but with the
clearer record the title went to the Academicals, whose most notable
addition to recent teams was H. Waddell at stand-off half.
Beyond the championship group, club football has not
reached a particularly high standard. The Edinburgh Academicals in earlier
years under A. T. Sloan, and with J. N. Shaw and R. I. Marshall in the
forwards, promised well, but fell off for want of qualified young players in
the later seasons. The Border clubs have not yet touched the pre-war
standard, and some of the older city teams have descended to a lower level
than they have been accustomed to.