A few remarks on the direct influences which led to the
first International match are necessary. Primarily, it must be observed that
at that time Rugby was the only form of football that had anything like a
general hold, restricted and confined as that influence was, in either
Scotland or England. The Association game was known in Glasgow and in
London, but outside these areas, and even in Edinburgh, it had hardly been
seen. When, therefore, Rugby Scotsmen heard of an International match in
London between teams assumed to represent Scotland and England, and when,
furthermore, it was found that the Scottish side was chosen from residents
in or near London, playing under a comparatively unknown code of rules, a
feeling somewhat akin to resentment was awakened. Incidentally, it may be
added, the impression was not confined to the Rugby constituency, for the
Associationists were stung so keenly that the Queen's Park, as the
representative club of Scotland, threw out a challenge to the Wanderers, the
embodiment of the code in England, to meet them in any town convenient to
the Wanderers and play for medals in a test of national superiority.
The second of the London events evoked a newspaper correspondence to which
Dr. H. H. Almond (Loretto) and Mr. Alcock (England) contributed from their
respective points of view. The correspondence took place in December of
1870, and after a discussion at the termination of the match between the
Merchistonians and the Edinburgh Academicals in Glasgow early in 1871, a
challenge to England was drawn up and signed by the representatives of the
Edinburgh Academical, Merchistonian, St. Andrews University, West of
Scotland, and Glasgow Academical clubs. A committee was formed, consisting
of Messrs. F. J. Moncreiff, the first Scottish captain, Dr. Almond, J. W.
Arthur, Dr. Chiene, B. Hall Blyth, and Angus Buchanan. England promptly took
up the gage, and the match was fixed for Monday, 28th March, at Raeburn
Upon the late Mr. Hall Blyth (Merchiston) devolved the
actual arrangements for the game. Dr. Almond, headmaster of Loretto, acted
as umpire for Scotland.
Scotland won the match by a goal and a try to a try.
There was no scoring in the first half, during which the Scottish team had
rather more of the play. The general indications then were that Scotland had
the better forward division. Their players were more active, and they worked
together with more effect than the English pack.
Early in the second half Scotland was mauling on the
English line. G. Ritchie, the Merchistonian, who was in front, was pushed
over with the ball in his possession, and the crowd cheered frantically for
an apparent score. They were premature, however, for, although Ritchie stuck
to the ball and claimed a try, the Englishmen maintained that one of their
players also had his hands on the ball when it was grounded. The umpires
were in doubt, and it was decided to ' hack off ' at five yards.
Again the Scottish forwards pushed the Englishmen bodily
over the line, and Angus Buchanan hung on to the ball with M'Farlane at his
side, and the others on the top of them. England again protested, but the
umpires, as Dr. Almond has recorded, found it was impossible in the babel to
make out the exact nature of the objection, and the score was ruled valid.
W. Cross kicked a goal from a difficult position.
The reverse stimulated the Englishmen, who thereafter
made great efforts to retrieve their position. F. Tobin (Liverpool) crossed
the Scottish line. The kick, however, failed, and Scotland still held the
lead. Scotland just then were having a bad time. The spectators had been
worked up to a high pitch, and were cheering not only lustily, but most
Gradually England's effort died down, and Scotland again
began to assert an ascendancy. J. A. W. Mein, J. W. Arthur, Buchanan, and J.
Thomson all contributed towards an attack which culminated in Cross scoring
a try, but on that occasion he failed with the kick at goal. There the match
ended, and Scotland won the first International between any two countries,
or in the world, if that will assist in placing the event in its true
The influence that most directly brought about the
Scottish success was the superiority of the forwards. That section of the
team had been selected with particular care, and due regard had been paid to
the players' physical qualities and their athletic attainments, as well as
to their football abilities.
The game abounded with incidents. They were not of the
modern type, perhaps, but they were none the less inspiring and even
thrilling. It was no sport for weaklings. James Finlay, probably the
strongest and heaviest man on the Scottish side, fell into possession of the
ball at one period in the game and made a direct rush for the line. An
equally big Englishman rushed straight at him, and as the pair met in a
straight chest to chest charge both recoiled from the impact and were
stretched on the broad of their backs. Like Hal o' the Wynd, every man had
to be able to 'fecht for his ain hand,' and whatever degree of cohesion or
combination might be attained, the qualities of individualism and
self-reliance were absolutely essentials. Backs had to make their own
chances and fight their own way. Nobody made ' openings ' for his neighbour.
Yet the crowd could be raised to a high pitch of
excitement, as when a man broke away from the ruck and went resolutely
bowling along for the goal-line. There was nothing sloppy or slipshod in
this early-day representative football, and the onlookers were as firmly
gripped in the spell as they are to-day. Three men in the Scottish team,
Cross, Finlay, and M'Farlane, were singled out for special commendation.
Cross, as already mentioned, was a Merchistonian, and captain of the school
team in 1867. He only played in one other English match, and was succeeded
by his younger brother Malcolm, who, with Ninian Finlay, formed the first
great partnership in International football.
Writing of the match some twenty years later in the Rev.
F. Marshall's well-known book on the Rugby game, Dr. Almond said : ' Let me
make a personal confession. I was umpire, and I do not know to this day
whether the decision which gave Scotland the try from which the winning goal
was kicked was correct in fact. The ball had certainly been scrummaged over
the line by Scotland and touched down first by a Scotsman. The try, however,
was vociferously disputed by the English team, but upon what ground I was
then unable to discover. Had the rule been kept that no one but the captains
should speak in any dispute unless appealed to, I should have understood
that the point raised was that the ball had never been fairly grounded in
the scrummage. This I only learned afterwards.'
R, W, Irvine's views are equally interesting. 'It was
twenty a side,' he writes, 'and the Scottish forwards were heavy and fast.
We were ignorant what team England would bring, of what sort of players they
had, and of how they would play, and though assured by Colville, a London
Merchis-tonian—and a rare good forward too—that we would find their
strength, size, and weight not very materially different from our own, many
of us entered that match with a sort of vague fear that some entirely new
kind of play would be shown by our opponents, and that they would
outmanoeuvre us entirely. Before we had played ten minutes we were on good
terms with each other. Each side had made a discovery: we that our opponents
were flesh and blood like ourselves and could be mauled back and tackled and
knocked about just like other men ; they that in this far North land Rugby
players existed who could maul, tackle, and play up with the best of them.
'There was one critical time during the match. Feeling
was pretty highly strung. It was among the first no-hacking matches for many
of the players on both sides. Now hacking becomes an instinctive action to
one trained to it. You hack at a man running past out of reach
as surely as you blink when a man puts his finger in your eye. There
were a good many hacks-over going on, and as blood got up it began to be
muttered, " Hang it, why not have hacking allowed ? It cannot be prevented;
far better have it,"
'The question hung in the balance. The teams seemed
nothing loth. The captains (Moncreiff and F. Stokes) both looked as if they
ought to say "No," and would rather like to say "Yes," and were irresolute,
when Almond, who was umpire, vowed he would throw up his job if it were
agreed to. So it was forbidden, and hackers were ordered to be more
cautious. The match was won by Scotland by a goal and a try. The Scots' goal
was placed by Cross (not Malcolm, but his big brother William) from a
difficult kick, and though many matches have been played since then between
the countries, there has not been one better
fought or more exciting than this, the first one.'
The twenty Scots who won the first International match
with England on the first recognised encounter between two countries in any
form of sport were:
Backs—W. D. Brown and T. Chalmers (Glasgow Academicals),
and B. Ross (St. Andrews University).
Half-backs—J. W. Arthur (Glasgow Academicals), W. Cross (Merchistonians),
and T. R. Marshall (Edinburgh Academicals).
Forwards—F. J. Moncreiff (Edinburgh Academicals),
captain; A. Buchanan (Royal High School), A. G. Colville (Merchistonians),
A. Drew (Glasgow Academicals), J. Forsyth (Edinburgh University), J. Finlay,
R. W. Irvine, W. Lyall, and J. A. W. Mein (Edinburgh Academicals), J. H. L.
M'Farlane (Edinburgh University), R. Munro (St. Andrews University), G.
Ritchie (Merchistonians), A, H. Robertson (West of Scotland), and J. Thomson
(St. Andrews University). Forsyth and M'Farlane were Institution boys.
This match laid the foundation stone of modern Rugby
football, and from that time the superstructure in both countries grew
steadily until it attained its present-day proportions. Rugby football is
under deep obligation to the Scotsmen who issued the challenge for the first
match. They lifted the game from a parochial to a national, or, it might
justifiably be claimed, to a universal position. Their names should never be
allowed to pass out of the annals of Rugby football.
For many years after the first match the Rugby
International between Scotland and England held foremost place in public
opinion as the greatest event in the athletic calendar. It was the first
encounter in any form of athletic competition to bring together a crowd of
over 20,000 spectators, as happened at Manchester in 1882, and although
attendances of these dimensions are nowadays very ordinary occurrences, let
it not be forgotten that popular outdoor sport was then in its infancy. Such
an attendance was regarded with sufficient public significance to evoke
general newspaper comment. The date of the first match may be regarded as
the beginning of organised football in Scotland. That the absence of
organisation had been felt as a weakness is clear from the fact that the
leading Scottish clubs became affiliated with the English Union, and also
that the committee which selected the first Scottish team held together
until the Scottish Union was formed in 1873. The supplanting of the old
committee, if not exactly resented, does not appear to have been conducted
in a manner calculated to evoke unanimous approval. Dr. Almond for one did
not like the method of procedure, and strenuously, but unavailingly, fought
for the inclusion of the public schools. At its inception the Union's total
membership numbered 8 clubs. In 1880 it had increased to 21 clubs.
The ten years' interval represents a period of steady
progress marked by the advent of clubs such as the Institution (F.P.) and
the Watsonians, who were both destined to play a very important part in the
development of the game, and by introduction and establishment of Rugby
football on the Borders, with the formation of a club in nearly every town
in the district. These and many lateral issues may be attributed to the
stimulating effects of the first International match.
The second International with England, played at
Kennington Oval on 7th February 1872, was disastrous and disappointing to
Scotland, but had a chastening and instructive effect. The Scottish team,
buoyed up with their previous success, were very confident, but England had
been taught a lesson, and whereas at Raeburn Place the English forwards had
been well beaten, concentration upon this weakness had evolved a set of men
too strong and too heavy for the lighter Scottish pack.
Only in the earlier part of the game, during which C, W.
Cathcart dropped a goal, did Scotland appear likely to win. Great
expectations had been founded upon the play of the Scottish backs ; indeed,
it was admitted that England had entered the game with great doubts of her
ability to hold her own behind the maul. But the Scottish forwards were so
well beaten that between their failure and the wet ball and slippery ground
the Scottish back play was rendered ineffective.
Apart from Cathcart's success, the only time Scotland
looked like scoring was when T. Chalmers made a mark near the centre of the
field, and L. M. Balfour just missed the goal with a very fine drop.
Scotland's team learned several important lessons from
that match. Firstly, that no matter how fast and clever the forwards might
be, weight was an indispensable factor in the twenty-a-side game; secondly,
that a more systematic arrangement of the back division was essential; and,
thirdly, that the touch-line was more than a mere boundary and could be
worked to the advantage of the team.
It may be added that the playing pitch laid out for the
occasion measured 120 yards long by 70 yards broad. The present rule
limiting the dimensions requires the pitch to be not more than 110 yards
long and 75 yards broad.
England always held out for breadth and professed to be
handicapped by the 55 yards' width of Raeburn Place. The objection can well
be understood by those who remember the old-time English backs, who needed
room and preferred a half-circle to a straight line as their course to the
line. From the first, England's preference for speed was so marked, and in
general practice was usually so ineffective, that it evoked in Scotland
rather a contemptuous reference to ' mere sprinters.'
Each country had won one match at the date of the third
International game in 1873. Important as the event was, and strong and
tempting as were the claims of Edinburgh as headquarters, and Raeburn Place
with its unequalled stretch of lawn-like turf and natural spectacular
advantages, it was decided, in pursuance of the policy of 'spreading the
light,' to give the Glasgow people the privilege
of seeing the game. The response exceeded all expectations. A huge crowd
numbering 6000 assembled on the West of Scotland club ground at Partick. 'Prodeegious
' was the only appropriate term applied to such a gathering at the time.
In considering events that happened fifty years ago, we
must not allow ourselves to forget that we are dealing with the
mid-Victorian era. Changes upon changes in the public and private life of
the individual have taken place since those days. Some of the social habits
of the people were rather more pronounced than they are now, to put it that
way. In those earlier days there was a marked tendency to so closely connect
sport and sociability that it was difficult to separate them.
Fifty years ago a match, and especially an International
match, represented a struggle for supremacy between the two composite
elements of the function, the social and the practical. To illustrate these
phases, perhaps no better example could be chosen than the International
match of 1873. The game was played under wretched ground conditions
following a heavy snow-storm and a subsequent rapid thaw. Unfortunately for
the proselytising effect, the football was not of a type that would appeal
to an uninitiated spectator. Neither side was able to effect a score, and of
the few incidents, a demoniacal drop by the 'demon,' H. Freeman, is one of
the surviving relics of the play. But if the practical side were damped and
dimmed by the prevailing weather conditions, the social side shone out
resplendent in the glory, hilarity, and humour of the period.
To illustrate both phases I do not think I can do better
than reproduce part of an article on the game written for Scottish Sport
on the eve of the English match of 1894 by the Rev. P. Anton, one of the
Scottish twenty of 1873. Although he has not said so, the ' St. Andrews man
' who stuck to the ball during that terrible maul on the Scottish line was
the reverend gentleman himself. This is his story:—
'The air is full of commotion of the coming Rugby
International to be played at Glasgow to-morrow afternoon. "Are we to have
all the play and none of the luck, as usual?'' The formerly high-mettled
racer has become a grocery hack now, and moves in very prosaic ways, but he
confesses that these sounds stir his old blood, and bring back the old days
when he was elected more than once to do battle for his country against the
prowess and heroism of England.
' What a proud man he was that day three-and-twenty years
ago, when, along with nineteen others, he marched out of the little Scottish
pavilion at Hamilton Crescent Park through a dense and greatly admiring and
cheering crowd, and " lined up" in front of the English! Did he not
understand then the feeling of his sires at Bannockburn? In the first half
it was our part to defend the eastern goal.
' The English made a splendid appearance as they defiled
into the arena. All that training could do had been done. The previous year
we had committed a preposterous and silly blunder. We sent to the Oval
swift, light forwards, and we were terribly punished for our mistake, and
still more terribly laughed at. The heaviest player was with us, also the
lightest. Our men had a workman-like look, but the general appearance was
irregular. We missed greatly "Affy" Ross, the St. Andrews crack, who had
shone out at the first International at Raeburn Place, and as fine an
all-round Rugby player as ever dropped, punted, or dribbled. Wanting both "Affy"
and Munro, we had still men whose names were household words. There were
Irvine and Mein, M'Farlane and Chalmers, Moncreiff the Hon., and St. Clair
Grant. Neither the Finlays nor Neilson played that year.
'I do not know how they select their " Internationals "
now, but I can tell you how we did then. In judging merit we took into
consideration the athletic record. It was a point in Irvine's favour that he
was more than fairly good with the hammer. Again, M'Farlane's claim for
place was helped because he was the best quarter-mile runner in the north.
His dash and stride were alike magnificent. At mid " quarter " it was a
sight to see him rising in his stirrups and cutting to pieces the men about
him. At the inter-'Varsity sports he won the silver medal with a broad jump
of 22 ft. Professor Christison, who was standing beside me at the time, said
it was " like the bound of a panther." I remember I wondered if a panther
could do it, but kept a stiff upper lip, not wishing to damp the growing
enthusiasm of my venerable interlocutor. These considerations made good
M'Farlane's claim to quarter-back.
'Thus our team was made up, and we never had a
difference. When the names were published everybody was pleased. There was
not a murmur, and, barring the chances of the game, not a fear. Glasgow as
the field of operations was also a happy hit. It was felt all that was
needed was a hot, rattling game played in the midst of the Glasgow people to
develop the football ardour that then lay slumbering.
'Be it known that at that time, with the exception of the
St. Andrews University, there was not a single Rugby club north of the
Forth, and south of it to the Tweed only four other clubs of notable
pretensions. The Association game was hardly yet above the horizon.
'It was a transition time in many ways. Hacking and
tripping had just been abolished. The Union had also passed a law that the
ball could only be seized on the bound. These reforms had greatly
popularised the game. But little did we think, that wet, sunshiny afternoon,
we were playing in the dawn of such a resplendent football day as was then
about to break over Scotland!
'The game was not without its humours. If a dispute
should arise, it was suggested that Joe Arthur, the Glasgow Academical
captain; should champion the Scottish side. Joe had an irresistible "talking
over" way with him, and seeing he was not in the team, it was thought some
recognition should be made of his special powers! Again, seeing the ground
was to be sloppy, the English team went into a cobbler's to get leather bars
fixed to the soles of their boots. I presume the cobbler was nothing worse
than a "Scots-wha-hae" patriot. At any rate, when the job was done, the
boots and feet could not be got to correspond. There were two or three more
of the latter than the former. Some of the English wanted "lefts" and some
wanted "rights." What was to be done? The hour of onset was near. The
missing boots not being found, the players put on dress boots on the
bootless feet. The Englishmen were late in arriving, but little did we know
the most extraordinary, the most ludicrous, circumstance which had detained
them. Goldsmith put down the cobbler who repaired his boots as a
philosopher. I am not aware, however, that this was the view the English
Internationalists of 1873 took of the Glasgow shoemaker.
'The sun shone, but there had been rain the previous
night, and the ground had a hard bottom and a muddy surface. The fight, from
first to last, was of the most determined character. Several notable things
took place in the course of the match. With the wind and the sun both
against us, we pressed the English in the first half. During the next half,
when, having them with us, we thought we would certainly score, the English
pressed us. Then the mauls presented a strange spectacle. Owing to the
nature of the atmosphere, so soon as the packs were formed, a great column
of steam rose right up from the scrummage, and bent eastward with the wind.
'These were two characteristics of the match, but there
were other two still. In the first half of the game Freeman got hold of the
ball between the English "25" and the centre, and dropped the most
magnificent kick ever seen. Its fame is historical. The ball went high in
the air, and dropped far behind the Scottish goal-line. There was a cry of
"goal," succeeded by a dead silence. The ball was so high up it was
difficult to say how it had gone. The umpire settled matters by declaring a
"poster," and the game again went on.
'When the sides were changed the Englishmen abandoned
their long shots, and determined to lower the Scottish flag by industrious
efforts, bringing about a touch-down behind. The pressure they brought to
bear on us was of the strongest. The English forwards, stimulated by the
example of Stokes, the Blackheath man and captain, worked with desperate
resolution. And they were within an ace of succeeding. They compelled us to
form a maul within three yards of our goal-line and some eight yards from
our goal-post. It was evident the game had reached a crisis, and the
excitement was wound up to the highest pitch. Almost by instinct the
Scotsmen allowed their St. Andrews representative to take the centre of the
'When he gave "down ball," the maul, which has become as
historical as Freeman's "drop," then began. The steam rose in a dense cloud.
For some time there was not a single movement either way. The pressure was
tremendous. The English then pressed the Scotsmen a foot or two to the rear.
Goaded to their utmost, and putting the edge of their boots in their "goal
rut," they stopped their backward movement, and after a space we found
ourselves gaining. Inch by inch we pressed them back, till finally we clove
their ranks in two, and the St. Andrews man, who to prevent heeling had kept
the ball between his boots the whole time, was able to snatch it up, and
make a very creditable run, and so ended in " a draw " as hard, if not as
fast, an "International" as has ever been played. And for these three things
will it remain memorable by players and spectators alike—the great steam,
the great drop kick, and the great scrummage.'
Supplementary to the Rev. P. Anton's description of the
1873 International at Glasgow, a brief summary of an English view may be
Mr. Arthur Budd, in his references to that game, does not
appear to be quite able to make up his mind about the Scottish shoemaker's
treatment of the English boots. He has no doubt whatever that the cobbler
assisted Scotland when he compelled C. W. Boyle (Oxford University), one of
the most dangerous of the English backs, to wear a dress boot on one foot
and an odd boot on the other. To Mr. Budd, the confusion with the boots was
a 'singular incident.' He does full credit to Scottish hospitality, with the
reservation that it might have ended seriously for an English forward, who
was picked up by some of his companions at midnight driving one of Her
Majesty's mail carts round the town.
As I have already said, it must not be forgotten that the
customs of the people have vastly changed in the intervening fifty years. As
the old squire in the ballad sings, ' They were gentlemen then in the palmy
old days,' and when gentlemen assembled of an evening round the social
board, the best gentleman of the party was the one who was the last to fall
beneath the table. Even enlightened Edinburgh, during the period of her most
brilliant literary circle, bowed low at the shrine of Bacchus.
In the fourth International match, played at Kennington
Oval in 1874, the Scotsmen proved themselves to be the better playing team,
and they were decidedly unlucky to lose. Several new players appeared for
Scotland. W. H. Kidston, who for some years had been one of the pillars of
Glasgow football, was introduced, along with his fellow-clubman, H. M.
Hamilton, of the West of Scotland, and the position at quarter vacated by J.
H. L. M'Farlane was filled by A. K. Stewart, who had succeeded M'Farlane as
captain of Edinburgh University. Every one of these men acquitted himself
well, and collectively they completed the best back division who up to that
time had represented Scotland.
A notable addition to the forwards was J. Reid (Edinburgh
Wanderers). Standing six feet four 'in his stocking soles,' Reid was the
tallest man on the Scottish side. A. Gordon Petrie would be perhaps an inch
less, and R. W. Irvine, J. Finlay, and T. Neilson, if not so tall, were
three exceptionally powerful men. The rest of the forwards were all players
of ability, and altogether it was a particularly strong, fast, and well -
Ill-luck, however, dogged the side all through. Play was
conducted on a sodden pitch and under an incessant downpour
of rain. The fast Scottish backs were thus placed at a serious disadvantage.
So apparent was their handicap that the English captain, after the match,
condoned with the Scots, and frankly admitted that England had something to
be thankful for in the weather and ground conditions. During nearly all the
first half Scotland were on the aggressive. Finlay scored far out, and
Chalmers just failed with a fine kick. Continuing to keep the ball in
English quarters, Scotland scored again, but were deprived of the score by a
wrong decision. Stewart had run inside the English '25,' where he was
collared. A number of players on each side immediately proceeded to 'hack
off.' The Scotsmen broke through with the ball in front of them, and
Stewart, picking up, ran over and grounded the ball behind the posts. The
thing was done so quickly that general confusion ensued, and the Englishmen
were in consternation.
The umpire, who apparently had not seen the ball being
hacked off, decided 'no take up,' thereby implying that Stewart had picked
up a ' dead ball.' It was illegal to pick the ball up when 'dead.' If from a
long kick, or any other cause, the ball got out of reach and lay dead on the
field, it could only be brought into play by being mauled or hacked off.
Even then the rules did not specify the number of players who should take
part in the operation, or that one side should wait till the other had
mustered their full array in position. On this occasion Stewart gathered a
rolling ball from a hack-off and scored a perfectly legitimate try.
That luck was dead against Scotland was proved ten
minutes before the finish when H. Freeman, with a 'pure speculator,' dropped
a left-foot goal from near midfield. When I say that goal was a 'fluke' I am
repeating an opinion attributed to Freeman himself to the effect that if he
lived for a hundred years he might never repeat the feat. For the rest the
information comes direct from men who played in the game.
A. K. Stewart, who figured in the game so conspicuously,
had a very short career. Illness prevented him taking his place the
following year, and after playing again at the Oval in 1876 he entered the
Indian Medical Service, and was thereafter lost to football. It is
significant that in the game under notice the ' chucking ' between Stewart,
W. St. Clair Grant, and Hamilton was commented upon as a striking novelty in
the play. The same feature had been observed in the club football of J. H.
L. M'Farlane and Stewart when playing together in the Edinburgh University
When Stewart succeeded M'Farlane as captain of Edinburgh
University team, he and other captains instituted a movement wherein it was
endeavoured to impress upon the players the necessity of chucking before and
not after they were held. Here we have direct evidence of the earliest
implanting of the principles of the passing game. The players at first were
not responsive, and even at the schools we have Dr. Almond's testimony that
the Loretto boys considered that to chuck before being held suggested
The work of Stewart, St. Clair Grant, and Hamilton is one
of the first instances we have of a more calculated and extended form of
combination than the current system of only parting with the ball in
Although Scotland were unlucky to lose this match, the
event in other particulars revealed nothing but what was satisfactory. The
game was extending, and in numbers and class the players were keeping pace
with England. In selecting his team A. Hemersley, the English captain, was
presented with a muster of two hundred candidates to choose from; probably
there would be an equal number of ambitious players in Scotland.
The fifth International match with England, played at
Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, on Monday, 8th March 1875, resulted in a scoreless
draw. Two of the veteran Scottish backs, T. It. Marshall and W. St. Clair
Grant, had dropped out. Ninian Finlay, still at Edinburgh Academy, and
Malcolm Cross were introduced. J. It. Hay Gordon, a Liverpool Edinburgh
Academical, played quarter along with J. K. Tod, Glasgow Academicals. Hay
Gordon, a strong forceful player, was a striking exception at quarter to the
rule as far as physique was concerned, and was one of the tallest men on the
At the end of a severely contested game, neither team
could claim a clear advantage on play. Scotland had touched down half a
dozen times to England's once or twice, but the difference afforded little
indication of the run of the play, for, whereas the English backs dropped
for goal at every opportunity and from all positions, the Scots endeavoured
to force their way over the line. The only successful attempt at goal was by
Ninian Finlay, who sent the ball over the bar with a clever drop, but a
clamour for offside before the ball reached Finlay was sustained.
In that match England adopted the curious formation
behind the maul of three full-backs, one three-quarter, and three
half-backs. The Scottish arrangement was two, three, two. Both countries
were still groping after a definite arrangement of the backs.
Scotland brought her trouble on herself in the 1876
International in London. R. W. Irvine himself was not at all satisfied with
the team he was called on to lead. The weakness was all behind the maul, and
particularly at half, where G. Q. Paterson, clever and even wonderful player
as he was, had not the physique for such a game. With men like J. R. Hay
Gordon and D. H. Watson or J. E. Junor available, it was folly to trust the
position to a player weighing not more than 9 stone 7 lb., and not over
robust at that. 'Quinty' allowed W. E. Collins, his vis-a-vis, to
break away from his own goal-line and part with the ball to W. C.
Hutchinson, who ran nearly the whole length of the field, and, when
overtaken by A. K. Stewart, who had chased him all the way, dropped the ball
for F. H. Lee to pick up and lay behind the posts.
It was a spectacular try, and evoked unbounded
enthusiasm, but as affecting Scotland it was more or less a fiasco. Play was
in the corner not five yards from the English line, when Paterson allowed
Collins to break to the open side. Hutchinson ran diagonally to within the
Scottish '25 ' on the other side of the field. When Stewart got him he let
the ball fall, and it was 'lying about' when Lee arrived.
The Scottish forwards had the heart-breaking experience
of beating the English forwards and being beaten by the weakness of their
own backs. Nearly all the first half Scotland had the better of the play,
but there was no system or method behind, and chances were allowed to slip.
Even against the wind Scotland were on the English goal-line when Collins
broke through. Later the same player scored for England.
Leonard Stokes made his first International appearance on
that occasion. Generally he is accepted as the best English back of the
period. In nothing more than his drop-kicking was he dreaded by Scotland.
Whether he dropped more goals than Ninian Finlay there is no means of
knowing. R. W. Irvine considered Finlay the longer kick. In other points, if
Stokes was the best in England, Finlay was the greater player. It is a
coincidence that R. H. Birkett, the tallest, heaviest, and most dangerous
man in the English back division, found his duplicate in another big Birkett,
who, as centre three-quarter, worked havoc with Scotland some thirty years
later at Inverleith. They were father and son.
In the three concluding International matches with
England in the decade 1870-80 Scotland won the first, and the other two were
drawn. If there is a Rugby Scot who does not know that Malcolm Cross dropped
the goal which won the match for Scotland in 1877, I doubt some one's
mission here below has not been accomplished.. Although I saw that goal, and
through all these long years have deluded myself with the impression that I
knew every detail of the score, the cloud of witnesses, armed with the most
infinite minutiae, render the subject much too dangerous to be dilated upon.
Let it suffice to say that that goal has raised a monument to a great
player, and has kept his memory green when otherwise it might have become
faded and obscured in the mists of the past.
All Scotland was deploring the absence of Ninian Finlay,
who owing to illness played no football that season. R. C. Mackenzie took
My personal recollections are that that Rugby
'Bannockburn' was fought on verdant turf on a bright and breezy spring
afternoon. I recollect big Hay Gordon always in the thick of it, clutching
the ball with one arm and pushing off with the other, till he was brought
down by force of numbers. Current report confirms the impression in the
remark that ' Hay Gordon played like a lion.'
Pocock's failure and transference to the scrum weakened
Scotland at a vital spot and at a critical juncture, but the spectators,
ill-pleased at the presence of an Englishman on the Scottish side, accepted
the incident as a judgment on the people who selected him. The population of
the capital was not so cosmopolitan then as it is now. Neither was it so
familiar with the game. To half of them the function represented a lusty
fight with the 'auld enemy,' a contest between fifteen leal and true Scots
and an equal number of the English.
My recollection of the score is a long low drop from
midfield that at first conveyed the impression the ball would not carry the
distance. It passed well over the bar, and before it had reached the ground
the spectators had taken leave of their senses. Many a more difficult goal
has been scored, even in International matches, but, coming with dramatic
suddenness in the closing minutes of a hard, long-drawn-out struggle, the
effect was electrical and impressive. So impressive was it that none present
will ever forget it.
Fifty years ago racial difference between the countries
was more pronounced than it is now. Scottish patriotism was a very real and
live thing, and no doubt the cheering that issued from the crowd owed some
of its volume to historic impulse.
This was the first occasion in which the countries played
with teams of fifteen a side, and from that date the old 'twenty' formation
passed definitely out of the game. A touch of 'immortal memory' is attached
to the Scots of 1877 : J. S. Carrick and H. H. Johnston (Collegiate); M.
Cross and R. C. Mackenzie; J. R. Hay Gordon and E. J. Pocock; R. W. Irvine
(captain), J. H. S. Graham, T. J. Torrie, D. H. Watson, J. E. Junor, A. G.
Petrie, J. Reid, C. Villars, and H. M. Napier.
The Scottish victory of 1877 was the greatest event that
had taken place in Rugby football north of the Tweed. The 1871 triumph had
established the game; that of 1877 struck a note that sounded through the
length and breadth of the land and sent the youth of the country headlong
into football. It was the greatest missionary effort that ever was
accomplished in the cause of the game. For many years after that the public
regarded the English International match as the great sporting event of the
year, and from that date football became definitely established as the
Scottish national game. The next two English International matches partook
of the nature of a lull in the storm.
In 1878 at Kennington Oval neither side was able to
score. Early in the game Ninian Finlay broke through the English defence,
but was brought down on the goal-line. J. A. Campbell failed with an
apparently easy chance right in front of goal, and one of Malcolm Cross's
drops grazed a post. The first half, during which the play went decidedly in
favour of Scotland, ended with a curious incident. Tackled as he crossed the
line, H. M. Napier (West of Scotland) entered into a maul-in-goal with A. W.
Pearson (Blackheath and Guy's Hospital), but while the struggle for
possession of the ball was still proceeding half-time was called. Scotland
had to defend during the earlier part of the second half. W. E. Maclagan's
tackling of Stokes (Blackheath) saved a certain score, and it was some time
before the pressure was eased by Ninian Finlay, who crossed the centre-line
before he was stopped. The play continued to sway alternately in favour of
each side. F. R. Adams (Richmond) crossed the line for England and J. A.
Nelson for Scotland, but both scores were disallowed. That was the occasion
of W. E. Maclagan's first appearance in International football. As full-back
he was the first player in any country to occupy the position alone.
Scotland's players were as follows : W. E. Maclagan; M. Cross and N. J.
Finlay; J. A. Campbell and J. A. Neilson; R. W. Irvine (captain), J. H. S.
Graham, G. Macleod, D. R. Irvine, N. T. Brewis, A. G. Petrie, H. M. Napier,
L. J. Auldjo (Abertay), S. H. Smith, and J. E. Junor.
As early as 1872 Rugby football was being played in
India. In that year the British residents in Calcutta formed a club which
continued in existence till 1878, when, for want of fixtures, it was
disbanded. At its demise the club apparently was in affluent circumstances,
and when the disposal of the funds in hand came up for discussion, Mr. G. A.
J. Rothney, who held the dual office of secretary and captain of the
Calcutta Club, proposed that the money should be devoted to the purchase of
a cup to be offered to the English Rugby Union for presentation as tangible
evidence of victory to the winners of the England and Scotland annual match.
At the autumn meeting of the English Union in 1878 the trophy was accepted,
and henceforward possession of the Calcutta Cup became a side-issue in the
matches between the two countries. Two players, W. E. Maclagan and Ninian
Finlay, stood between Scotland and defeat in the 1879 match at Raeburn
Place. Such tackling as that of Maclagan at full-back had never been seen in
an International game. The Scottish backs had been very uncertain in their
play, and the crowning mistake came when Malcolm Cross missed a kick in
attempting to clear. The English forwards were on him at once, and A. Budd
(Blackheath) had not much more to do than to touch the ball for a try, from
which L. Stokes kicked a goal.
Ninian Finlay caught the return from the restart, and was
only brought down on the English goal-line. In the subsequent pressure
Englishmen were twice hissed by the crowd for stepping over their line and
touching down. To his credit, and as an example to his men, Stokes,
declining to adopt 'safety first' tactics, ran with the ball from behind the
posts into play even to the jeopardy of his own goal. The feat was not
allowed to pass without acknowledgment and appreciation by the crowd.
Scotland's equalising score was characteristic of Ninian
Finlay. It often took two or three men to bring him down. J. H. S. Graham,
at the head of a Scottish forward rush, picked up the ball and passed it on
to Gordon Petrie. The Royal High School man in turn handed it over to Ninian
Finlay, who made a direct course for the line. The way was blocked, but,
with a couple of Englishmen hanging on to him, Finlay got in his drop and
sent the ball over the bar. The cheering and enthusiasm did not subside, one
report says, for fully five minutes afterwards.
Ninian Finlay and W. E. Maclagan each stood rather over
than under 6 feet and weighed at that time over 13 stones. Later, Maclagan
became much heavier. Both were exceptionally active and powerful. In his
prime W. E. Maclagan was the strongest man on the Scotland side. The
Scottish team were: W. E. Maclagan; N. J. Finlay and M. Cross; J. A. Neilson
and J. A. Campbell; R. W. Irvine, J. H. S. Graham, D. R. Irvine, A. G.
Petrie, H. M. Napier, J. E. Junor, J. B. Brown, E. N. Ewart, R. Ainslie, and
N. T. Brewis. R. Ainslie had previously played against Ireland, but this was
his first appearance in an English match. One of the greatest of all-time
Scottish forwards, he had not then quite attained his high status in
W. E. Maclagan in physique was one of the most powerful
men behind the scrummage who have played for Scotland. His defence was not
only sound, it was formidable. 'Bulldog' Irvine, who himself was a very
strong man, expressed the opinion that he would rather fall into the hands
of anybody than W. E. Maclagan 'when roused.' That may be a friendly
variation of an International colleague's estime to the effect that
in his younger days 'Bill Maclagan was an ill-natured deevil.'
Defence was only one of his attributes. He was a great
master of the game. There was no flare in his football. It was all cool and
calculated. Even his drops and punts were little things from which greater
could be evolved. He would restrain the forwards from driving and plunging
with a sonorous 'Softly, softly!' He seldom made a big run, but, given the
ball ten to twenty or twenty-five yards out, he went for the line like a
shot from a high-velocity gun.
R. W. Irvine ('Bulldog') played his last match against
England in 1880. As a player and organiser and as one of the pioneers in
International football, he stands out prominently among the greatest figures
in the early days of the game. He played against England on ten consecutive
occasions, and in all representative teams of his time he was among the
first to be chosen. During the last. five years of his career he was captain
of the Scottish team. But if Irvine's International experience began in the
illuminating blaze of the first victory over England, it ended in disaster
at Manchester in 1880.
Scotland were strong favourites before the match, but the
team never found their feet, and admittedly were outplayed. Irvine himself
blamed his backs, half of whom, he said, might just as well have stayed in
Scotland. Their tackling was weak, but it was well recognised that some of
them were not defensive players. The team had no luck. Ninian Finlay twice,
and Cross once, just failed to get goals from drops.
The one crumb of comfort for Scotland came in a
characteristic Masters and Sorley Brown score. Masters started the run, and
Sorley Brown finished it by laying the ball behind the posts. The goal which
followed, and it was the last Malcolm Cross kicked in International
football, was cold comfort. The attendance was a record one, as was also the
English score—2 goals and 3 tries.
Scotland's fifteen were: W. E. Maclagan; N. J. Finlay and
Malcolm Cross; W. H. Masters and W. Sorley Brown; R. W. Irvine, J. H. S.
Graham, R. Ainslie, N. T. Brewis, J. B. Brown, D. M'Cowan, C. R. Stewart
(West of Scotland), D. Y. Cassels, E. N. Ewart, and A. G. Petrie.
In the English match of 1881 at Raeburn Place there were
some notable occurrences. England arrived a man short and without reserves.
To fill the vacancy at quarter, F. T. Wright, a bright, fair-haired
Lancashire boy, then at Edinburgh Academy, was drafted in. Mr. Arthur Budd,
in his chronicles, and he is not at all accurate in some of his details,
describes Wright as an ' Edinburgh University student,' and declares him to
have been a weak spot. On the other hand, the Athletic News of the
date said, 'Wright was the right lad in the right place.' Decidedly he was.
Think of A. T. Sloan and you have a duplicate of Frank
Wright in speed and tackling, and very similar in build. Knowing J. A.
Campbell from inter-scholastic relationship, he kept such a close eye upon
the Merchistonian that Campbell could seldom get out of his reach. Wright
was a deadly tackier, and I doubt whether the original player would have
stood up to Campbell's 'hashing' work. To crown all, it was a mercy we were
not beaten by Wright. With a good chance to score himself he unselfishly
passed out to R. Hunt (Preston Grasshoppers and Manchester), who, luckily
for Scotland, bungled the pass with an open road for the line and nobody in
Edinburgh Academy established a triple record in that
match. Primarily, C. Reid was the first schoolboy forward to play in an
International. Secondly, F. T. Wright was the first and possibly the only
schoolboy to play for England. And thirdly, no school has had two of its
pupils in the same International match and on opposite sides.
It was a most engrossing game that was not decided until
actually the last kick. R. Ainslie scored from a forward rush, in which J.
H. S, Graham and the two Institution men, R. Maitland and J. Fraser, went
through the greater part of the English defence. The kick by T. A. Begbie
(Edinburgh Wanderers), a typical Merchiston product-safe, sound and
reliable—from far out, hit one of the posts. The game continued full of
C. Reid and J. A. Campbell each crossed the English line.
Reid went down with three Englishmen, who got the ball from him, and
Campbell, in his course, disturbed the corner flag. The English forwards
were playing a clever game in the loose, and it was anybody's match. Their
combination in the open was almost a revelation, but they had among them the
English apostle of combination, H. Vassall. Once Graham dribbled almost to
the line, and only Wright's quickness in darting on the ball as it was taken
over saved England. I recollect seeing Wright snap the ball out of the hands
of a Fettes boy while the latter was stretching to lay it over the line. He
was marvellously quick.
Then Scotland's prospects suddenly fell. From his own
side of the centre-line and towards touch, L. Stokes (Blackheath) sent up
one of his mammoth kicks, and the ball dropped over the bar. It was an
astonishing feat and beyond calculation, great as Stokes's kicking was known
to be. Afterwards H. C. Rowley (Manchester), who had been playing a strong
determined game, and in one of his earlier runs had knocked R. C. Mackenzie
and another off their feet, got in, and though Stokes missed the goal with
the kick, the result looked secure.
But with only a few minutes to go, Ninian Finlay had a
strong run to near the English '25.' Reid, Graham, J. Fraser (Institution),
and W. A. Peterkin (Edinburgh University) carried play nearer the line, and
J. B. Brown, picking up, darted in between the posts. When Graham called on
Begbie to take the kick, it was said that every second man in the crowd shut
his eyes. Next instant the roar that went up might have awakened the dead,
for Merchiston nerve and training had stood the test, and almost as the ball
cleared the bar the crowd were swarming across the pitch.
Three great players finished their International careers
with that match, Ninian Finlay, J. H. S. Graham, and L. Stokes. The greatest
half-back of his time, and one of the greatest players who have appeared in
the game, Ninian Finlay was the accepted standard of comparison for
International half-backs for many years after his retiral.
Those who remember M. C. M'Ewan may deduce a tolerably
near presentment of Graham. I should say Graham was even a more commanding
personage on the field. A very powerful man, his quick thinking and mastery
of the game was well illustrated by the manner in which he diverted
attention from the danger-point in a forward rush by unexpectedly picking up
and throwing the ball wide to an unmarked player. A number of International
scores were the direct result of this move, almost peculiarly his own. Had
A. R. Don Wauchope been able to gather one of Graham's passes in the
International of 1881, he would almost certainly have scored. He was one of
the greatest of dribblers.
It would be about this time that W. A. Peterkin won the
100 yards championship. He was the first sprint champion of Scotland and he
was a forward.
Tribute must be paid to Leonard Stokes. To early-day
Scotsmen he was the great figure symbolic of the English style of football.
The Scottish players of 1881 were: T. A. Begbie; W. E.
Maclagan, N. J. Finlay, and R. C. Mackenzie ; A. R. Don Wauchope and J. A.
Campbell; J. H. S. Graham (captain), C. Reid, D. Y. Cassels, D. M'Cowan, R.
Ainslie, T. Ainslie, J. Maitland, J. B. Brown, and W. A. Peterkin.
The Manchester International of 1882 sent Scotland into
an ecstasy of delight. Many of the older generation habitually referred to
this game as 'Bob Ainslie's match.' The Scottish forwards ran riot among the
English backs and played the mischief with a particularly warm scoring
division. R. Ainslie's tackling, and especially his repeated tackling of W.
N. Bolton, a big heavy man and a most dangerous runner, was the
characteristic point in the crowning game of the Institution man's career.
As a tackling forward, R. Ainslie has never been excelled.
I know of two only who could be compared with him, T. W.
Irvine (Edinburgh Academicals) and Mark Morrison (Royal High School). The
tackling of these men got on the nerves of the opposing backs.
It was the Scottish forward play that won the match, and
that was the game referred to later on by C. Reid in his reference to the
four half-back formation when he said, ' Give me a forward team like that we
had at Manchester in 1882 and I do not care how many three-quarter backs you
have; we could go through them.' Scotland established a record in that their
victory was the first either country had achieved on the other's ground.
Coming after the previous failure at Manchester, it restored the balance and
showed that at that period the countries were so evenly matched that there
was little more between them than the swing of the pendulum.
The team which broke the 'away' record at Manchester was
as follows: J. P. Veitch; W. E. Maclagan and A. Philp (Institution); A. R.
Don Wauchope and W. Sorley Brown; D. Y. Cassels (captain), D. M'Cowan, A.
Walker, J. G. Walker (West of Scotland), C. Reid, R. Ainslie, T. Ainslie, R.
Maitland, J. B. Brown, and W. A. Walls.
That was undoubtedly one of the finest forward divisions
that ever played for Scotland. R. Ainslie and T. Ainslie scored the tries by
which Scotland won, and Maclagan had a goal from a free-kick disallowed
because ' he had not properly made his mark.' A. N. Hornby, the famous
cricketer, on that occasion played his last game against Scotland. The
English forwards included the brothers Gurdon, H. Vassall, and T. Tatham
In 1888 and for a year or two earlier, opinion on the
advisability of increasing the ' half-back ' line from two to three players
had been sharply divided. The line of three had become firmly established in
school football. Nationally, Scotland were cudgelled into conversion in the
English International at Raeburn Place. Each country had alternately
experimented with half-back lines of two and three. Scottish reluctance was
mainly actuated by a desire to avoid anything that would diminish the
strength of the forwards. Finally two were decided upon, W. E. Maclagan and
the Loretto schoolboy, M. F. Reid. As it happened, England was represented
by an unusually strong back divison—H. B. Tristram; W. N. Bolton, A. M.
Evanson, and G. C. Wade; A. Rotherham and J. H. Payne.
Behind the scrummage Scotland were badly handicapped. A.
R. Don Wauchope was off with a knee injury, D. J. M'Farlan was unable to
play, and W. E. Maclagan turned out although far from well. England won by 2
tries, scored by Rotherham and Bolton, to a try by C. Reid. Bolton's run was
from outside the '25,' and he ought to have been held; but the Scottish
tackling was weak, and neither M. F. Reid, the Loretto boy, nor D. W.
Kidston, the full-back, had the physique to stop a man of Bolton's build.
The marvel was that with such an array of backs England could only contrive
a bare win by the odd try in three.
It was not such a powerful Scottish forward team as that
of the previous year, but had they been adequately supported it is doubtful
whether the game would have been lost. Admittedly it was a very 'scratch'
Scottish back division, and it did not play at all well, yet Sorley Brown
dribbled over for a disallowed try, and, judged by the hubbub of the crowd
in the south-east corner, P. W. Smeaton had wriggled over the line for a
score, which was disallowed. I believe Smeaton still maintains he scored a
good and valid try. Disappointing as the game may have been, the result
achieved a progressive purpose, and from that date the line of two
half-backs was definitely regarded as obsolete, and passed out in favour of
the line of three. This was the first game in the series that Scotland had
lost at home.
The 1883 Scottish team were: D. W. Kidston; W. E.
Maclagan and M. F. Reid (Loretto); P. W. Smeaton and W. Sorley Brown; D. Y.
Cassels, D. M'Cowan, A. Walker, J. Jamieson (West of Scotland), J. B. Brown,
W. A. Walls, J. G. Mowat (Glasgow Academicals), C. Reid, D. Somerville, and
The year 1884 is memorable in the life of the game as
that of the 'Dispute.' During the course of the play in the International
match in London an incident of a trifling character in itself plunged Rugby
football into a ferment verging upon revolution. Little could C. W. Berry
have dreamt when at a line-out he 'fisted' the ball that by that accidental
trifle he was making history and disturbing the peace of nations. Underlying
the misunderstanding in the actual play, and the source of all the trouble,
was the want of uniformity in the interpretation of the rules and the
absence of co-ordination in their application by the various countries.
In Scotland at that time there was no such term as '
knock-on,' ' knock-back,' or knock of any kind. It was illegal to 'fist' the
ball in any direction. One of the most prevalent shouts or appeals heard in
every match was 'fist,' and it was followed automatically by a stoppage of
play. Whether at that time in England it was permissible to knock the ball
back is an obscure and doubtful point.
Writing on the 'Dispute' some time later, Mr. A. It. Don
Wauchope said: 'I have not got any of the papers by me, but as I played in
the match, and was a member of the Scottish Committee at the time, and for
some years subsequently, I know the subject pretty well. In those days there
were two umpires who carried sticks, not flags, and a referee without a
whistle. The ball was thrown out of touch, an appeal was made, the umpire on
the touch-line held up his stick, all the players, with the exception of
four Englishmen and two Scotsmen, stopped playing, and England scored a try.
The only question of fact decided by the referee was that a Scotsman knocked
the ball back. This, according to the Scottish view of the reading of the
rule, was illegal, and the whole question turned on the interpretation. The
point that no Englishman had appealed was never raised at the time, and, to
judge by the fact that eleven of the English team ceased play, it would
appear that their idea was that the game should stop. I do not know of any
other point of fact on which the referee decided the try was valid.'
For the best part of half an hour the players stood about
the field not knowing what to do. Mr. Rowland Hill came on armed with a copy
of the rules, but play was resumed without a decision, and it was not until
the dinner at night that the referee expressed himself in anything
approaching decisive terms.
The Scottish fifteen who took part in that memorable
occasion were: J. P. Veitch; D. J. M'Farlan, E. T. Roland, and W. E.
Maclagan; A. R. Don Wauchope and A. G. G. Asher; C. Reid, J. R. Brown, W. A.
Walls, T. Ainslie, W. A. Peterkin, C. W. Berry, D. M'Cowan, J. Jamieson, and
J. H. S. Graham was the Scottish umpire who held up his
stick immediately the 'fist' occurred.
After voluminous correspondence, Scotland, in order to
secure a workable basis for future contingencies, agreed to concede England
the match provided the English Rugby Union joined an International Board for
the purpose of settling International disputes arising out of occurrences in
the course of play. Matches were resumed in 1886 and 1887, but dropped again
the following year. Thus England was not played in 1885 or in 1888 or 1889.
The immediate cause of the second stoppage was the
introduction by the English Union of a batch of fresh rules, which none of
the other countries would accept unless presented through the medium of the
International Board. The English Union desired to maintain their position as
law-makers for the game. Finally the deadlock was removed by arbitration,
and peace was restored by the findings of Sir J. H. A. Macdonald, as he was
then, and Major Marindin.
The years of the ' Dispute,' or practically the whole
period between 1884 and 1890, formed the most disturbed term in the annals
of the game. Sheaves of correspondence passed between the Unions, and
hundreds of public letters and columns of newspaper comment appeared on the
subject. Originating in a misunderstanding of the practical application of a
rule, recurrence was sought to be guarded against by the establishment of a
body whose functions were of the nature of reference or co-ordination. In
the second phase, the English Rugby Union appeared to see in the
International Board a threat to undermine the power and position of the
Union as an independent body.
The combined attitude of the other three Unions—
Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—sought to enforce the principle that no one
Union could any longer be accepted as the sole maker and interpreter of
The first phase of the 'Dispute' left us without an
English match in 1885, but the game of 1886 was one of the hottest
encounters of the whole series. The teams on that occasion were very strong.
I doubt, indeed, whether four such 'halves' as A. R. Don Wauchope and A. G.
G. Asher, and F. Bonsor and A. Rotherham have ever played in opposition.
I retain some very vivid impressions of this game, and
can still see George Wilson, the young Royal High School ' half-back,'
slipping through the English defence before play had long proceeded, for a
try disallowed on account of a knock-on in gathering the ball. It was one of
the hardest games ever played between two well-matched International teams.
There was hot work at quarter, but the Scottish pair, A. R. Don Wauchope and
A. G. G. Asher, held Bonsor and Rotherham in a firm grip, and Rawson
Robertshaw, the greatest distributing agent England had produced, never got
the opportunity of supplying his flying wing men, A. E. Stoddart and E.
Brutton. I can recall anxious moments on the Scottish goal-line, and can
still see C. Reid turn ponderous 'Charlie' Gurdon heels up when he was
trying to bore his way over. A shout of relief went up when another siege
was raised by John Tod, the smallest man in the Scottish pack, emerging from
the ruck with the ball tucked under his arm and going ahead with all the
pace he could muster till he was brought down well outside the '25.' Twice
in the second half the crowd were on their toes. A. R. Don Wauchope, at
midfield, broke across into the open, and you heard the involuntary 'he's
off,' but it was well on in the game, and Wauchope had worked himself to a
standstill. He hadn't the breath to carry on, and the Englishmen closed in
on him and got him down. Give these Englishmen credit, they were keen and
fast and they conceded little. Fittingly it was another of Scotland's
prodigies that endeavoured to win the match for his side. Only a man of C.
Reid's physique and power could have broken through the English defence as
Reid did in the second half. From midfield it was a single-handed break
clear of the forwards and straight through the English three-quarter line.
You saw only two men on the field, the gigantic figure bearing down on his
old schoolmate, C. H. Sample, the English back. Then another flashed into
view, and you saw Reid throw the ball down from his great height, hard and
low, and Walter Irvine failing to pick it up on the run. So little often
lies between the winning and losing of a match. That was one of the grimmest
struggles ever I saw in International football, and I think they were two of
the strongest International teams that ever stood in opposition. Often as
England sent down backs with great reputations earned in English football,
just as often they seemed to curl in on themselves and do little or nothing
in the Scottish match. A. E. Stoddart, the cricketer, presented a case in
point. George Wilson never reproduced the form he displayed on this
occasion, and later he became a problem and a drag on International
selection. A brilliant career was blighted almost from its outset. I cannot
recall one, except it be Phipps Turnbull, who could slip through a defence
as Wilson could. There were two excellent full-backs in opposition, J. P.
Veitch and C. H. Sample, staunch defenders both. Veitch was strong and
fearless, Sample more polished and scarcely less strong.
Scotland should have won at Manchester in 1887, but H. B.
Tristram did a thing that no other player ever accomplished—he stopped W. E.
Maclagan outside the goal-line. I did not see the match, but current account
says Tristram stepped aside and got Maclagan by the heels. I think that is
more likely to be correct than Gregor MacGregor's description that they came
together with a crash that could be heard all over the field. Obviously, the
latter part is overstrained. That is believed to have been the only occasion
on which W. E. Maclagan in his prime was stopped on the goal-line, and if he
had got through Scotland would have won instead of drawing the game. This
was the 'foggy International.' It was impossible to see from one end of the
field to the other. P. H. Don Wauchope had succeeded his elder brother at
quarter, and in the same position C. E. Orr took the place of A. G. G.
Asher, whose career had been prematurely closed by the accident of a broken
leg in the 'Trial' match at Raeburn Place some weeks earlier. A. N. Woodrow,
who had been a marvel at Merchiston, made his first appearance in
International football. ' Poem ' had no preponderatingly strong point in his
football, and he had not the physique to be a successful all-round
International player, diversified as his talents and equipment were.
On the renewal of hostilities in 1890 Scotland was
beaten, and deservedly so, at Raeburn Place. A tactical error was committed
in inducing W. E. Maclagan, at the end of his career, to turn out once more.
In selecting George Wilson for the third place in the line public opinion,
and even club knowledge, was flouted, for by that time the Royal High School
man had lost a lot of his form.
Then Gregor MacGregor never was International class as a
full-back. He did not know how to tackle. When J. Dyson, a fast wing man,
scored, it was by a straight touch-line sprint, and when Maclagan mistimed
him we knew then it was not the real Maclagan who was playing. I forget what
MacGregor did to try to stop Dyson, but I know that when F. Evershed, a wing
forward, ran in from the '25,' Scotland might as well have had no full-back.
Scotland would have been beaten by a great deal more than
two scores but for the anticipation and defence of H. J. Stevenson.
C. E. Orr and D'Arcy G. Anderson could do little against
the old Craigmount boy, Mason Scott, and F. H. Fox, a little fellow who
danced about on his toes, here, there, and everywhere. I thought the
long-legged, straight-running centre, R. L. Aston, one of the best
Englishmen ever I had seen in the position. Besides Mason Scott, England had
another old Scottish schoolboy in that team, P. H. Morrison (Loretto), a
fast and dangerous scoring wing three-quarter. Adam Dalgleish (Galashiels)
played in this match, and was therefore the first regular member of a Border
club to receive an International cap.
The game provided us with practically our first
experience of the Yorkshire forwards. Big, strong, fast, and heavy as they
were, these men never acquired the skill or finish of the best class of the
old-time Scottish forwards. They presented a staunch bulwark for the
protection of their backs, and they brought into the game one or two new
moves— notably scraping for the ball and heeling out. 'Trickery' these
innovations were designated at the time, but we were a guileless people
then, and had not yet recognised nor appointed the specialist or 'hooker' to
exploit the trick.
A volume of indignation broke over the heads of these
'Northern barbarians' and the hapless referee two years later, when their
forwards not only took possession in the scrum, but a little Bradford half,
A. Briggs, went round after the ball and incessantly snapped it from under
the noses of C. E. Orr and D'Arcy Anderson! I think England would have won
by more than one score that year if they had opened up the play. They
certainly would have had another score but for a great bit of tackling by H.
J. Stevenson when R. Lockwood broke clean away. A blunder in not placing
Stevenson at centre three-quarter instead of full-back had been committed by
the Scottish Union. The line consisted of three clever players, G. T.
Campbell (Fettes), P. Clauss (Loretto), and W. Neilson (Merchiston), and
they obtained scant encouragement from the pair immediately in front of
them, but the mania for automatic combination and wide passing was then at
its height. It was a poor-class International match won entirely on tactics.
A bad miscalculation had been made in overestimating the value of the
Scottish victory in London the previous season. There a robust pack of
forwards under M. C. M'Ewan had overrun a division composed of South of
England players. Notoriously, forward play in that part of the country had
degenerated into a most flaccid condition. Arthur Budd, in his disgust,
stated that these players 'had not the guts' to stand against Scotsmen. It
was the Scottish forwards who won the match, and the back play was only a
contributory aid. Official inversion of the causes of that success brought
its inevitable sequel in the downfall at the hands of the Northern horde
previously referred to.
By this time the International situation was beginning to
change. The Welsh success at Raeburn Place in 1893, and the consequent
disruptive effects, theoretical and practical, of the four three-quarter
formation, was agitating the entire football community. In the midst of the
disturbance came the breach in England and the hiving off of the entire
North with the formation of the Northern Union. Almost simultaneously Wales
joined the race for national supremacy. Before the century had closed
Ireland was asserting her strength, and a new phrase significant of the
changes had been coined. Competition between the countries was now being
talked of in terms of the ' International championship.' In that connection
the annual encounter between Scotland and England had been shorn of some of
its importance, though to those immediately concerned it could not be
deprived of the glamour peculiarly its own, even if the meeting of the old
antagonists could no longer claim universal recognition as the leading and
all-important event on the football calendar.
The new order was well exemplified in 1893 when Scotland,
after being well beaten by Wales, defeated England on the ground of the
Leeds club at Headingley by 2 dropped goals. J. D. Boswell, who was captain
of the Scottish side, dropped one of the goals, and G. T. Campbell the
other. I don't know that the Boswell type of forward has repeated itself in
football. Florid and stout almost to rotundity, he was marvellously light on
his feet. In the midst of a forward melee he would snap up the ball and pop
it over the bar, sometimes from the '25' and at other times almost from the
goal-line. In that respect, for a forward, he was unique. He did this sort
of thing regularly and systematically at Loretto, at Oxford, and in Scottish
club and International football. I don't think I ever saw better close
scrummaging by an International pack than that of Boswell's forwards at
Leeds. But there was nothing else for it, the field was too new and the
young grass had not had time to make root growth, so the teams were playing
on loose earth, and wet at that. It was a big, strong Scottish pack. Tom
Scott of Melrose was playing his first International match as the second
Borderer to be capped. T. L. Hendry of another outside section, the
Clydesdale, and a fine big forward, was also in the pack along with R. G.
MacMillan, J. E. Orr, H. T. O. Leggatt, and the two Royal High School men,
W. R. Gibson and Rodger Davidson. Those who recollect the players will agree
that there was weight, strength, and forceful football in that division. As
a matter of fact, they beat the North of England men at their own game. Then
we had a ' half-back,' J. W. Simpson, who had seen Briggs and Varley and had
learned the 'new game' so well that he was more than a match for the English
pair. Always a sound reliable player, with his head screwed on the right
Avay, Simpson was one of the best products of Royal High School football.
Like Sorley Brown he was one of the few quarters who could use their feet
effectively on their opponents' side of the scrummage. It is always a
difficult thing for a clever forward to obtain entrance to an International
team if his skill is not backed up by proportionate physique. W. B. Cownie,
playing his first International match at Leeds, is a case in point. To this
day I doubt whether Watsonian football has produced a more scientific
forward than Cownie.
I would not go so far as to say there was a mystic touch
in the earlier-time matches with England, but it is a fact that results were
often so difficult to reconcile with the assumed strength of the teams or
with their known playing form that it came to be admitted there was nothing
more uncertain in football than the result of the English game. Consider
that from 1877, the date of Malcolm Cross's goal, to 1894, England had not
been beaten in Scotland, although in the interval some notable Scottish
successes in England, including that at Leeds just recorded, had been
achieved. All the while the marginal line between the two, if confined to
ability alone, was so thin as to be scarcely perceptible. Scotland did three
unusual things in the match of 1894 : won the game at home, played a line of
four three-quarters for the first time, and included a couple of schoolboys,
W. M. C. M'Ewan (Edinburgh Academy) and Gordon Neilson (Merchiston), in the
forwards. 'Willie' M'Ewan was a younger brother of the redoubtable 'Saxon,'
not quite so clever but equally virile and as strong and active. Gordon
Neilson was the third of the Neilson family, of whom I think the eldest,
George, was much the best player. R. T. Neilson later on was the fourth of
the brothers to be capped. The Neilsons, like the Finlays, were a remarkable
football family. J. D. Boswell had four of his Leeds forwards in the pack,
the same halves, and H. T. S. Gedge had come into the three-quarter line. H.
J. Stevenson had retired very prematurely from football, and Gregor
MacGregor played at full-back, a position for which his main qualifications
were his fielding and kicking.
G. T. Neilson, R. G. MacMillan, and J. N. Millar, along
with W. Neilson at three-quarter, composed a strong Merchistonian
representation in the 1895 match at Richmond, in which George Neilson kicked
a penalty goal and scored a try against England's penalty goal. The 6 points
won Scotland the match and the International championship. J. H. Dods made a
belated first appearance, because, as a matter of fact, when the Union was
probing school football the previous season they overlooked in Dods the best
schoolboy forward of his year. Two other newcomers were Robin Welsh and the
Lorettonian, W. P. Donaldson. Scotland was particularly well off for
forwards at this time, and most of them young players, with the exception of
R. G. MacMillan, who had been in International teams for eight years, but
was playing with unabated vigour. A really great forward was ' Judy,' as his
familiar friends called him.
I have always firmly held the opinion that it was the
confident running of H. T. S. Gedge in the early part of the game that won
Scotland the 1896 match at Glasgow. C. J. N. Fleming was undoubtedly a
pillar in the centre. There were 16 stone of him, slow a bit, but bad to
stop and 'ill ta coup,' as the Border people say. Matt Elliot played well,
and would have played still better if his Hawick club companion, D.
Patterson, had been with him. Many did not care for W. P. Donaldson's
football. It was too cramped. He was always down among the feet of the
forwards, and he had an inordinate weakness for punting into touch. Scotland
had a fine set of young forwards, G. T. Neilson, Mark Morrison, W. M. C.
M'Ewan, J. H. Dods, and T. M. Scott among them.
The Union Committee would never look at the Hawick
quarters, D. Patterson and Matt Elliot, as a combination, and yet they were
chosen separately. This game was played on Hampden Park, as the Union was
homeless at the time. No doubt the equipment of the enclosure stimulated the
purchase of Inverleith. I do not think the match made many converts in the
stronghold of the Association game. At least we may so infer from an
overheard expression from one of the crowd to the effect that it 'wasna as
guid as fuitba'.' Gregor MacGregor played his last International match on
this occasion. What really made his reputation was the machine-like accuracy
of his passes to the wings in a winning game, and he played at the time when
the craze for wide passing was at its height. His cricket experience as a
'Test' match wicket-keeper revealed itself in his football. He could take
the ball with one hand as safely as most players could with two. Placed
between two fast wings in a winning game Mac-Gregor was at his best. In
other respects his football fell somewhat short of International standard. '
Nothing succeeds like success'—in turning people's heads. Scotland had
beaten England four times in succession when the team went to Manchester in
1897 and left the Calcutta Cup in Edinburgh to avoid the superfluous trouble
of bringing it back. The English team was regarded as a ramshackle
contraption of outlanders from Northumberland, Cumberland, and Durham. Who,
at that time, heard of football in these counties ? The Northern Union had
absorbed all that was worth absorbing in the North, and England had already
been beaten by Wales and Ireland. The Englishmen, by the plan of campaign
adopted from almost the first International match, held the Scottish off
their backs and won by the speed and cleverness of C. M. Wells, Fookes,
Bunting, and others of them who could run and score as opportunity afforded.
Truth to tell, they had not a very brilliant collection of Scottish backs in
opposition. I can recollect that before the match home opinion turned up its
nose at mention of the Scottish section behind the scrummage, but any stick
was good enough to whip the remnant of England at that time. The Union
Committee were shuffling A. R. Smith about a good deal just then, as if they
wanted him and yet did not know quite what to do with him. He was a tall
fellow with a big stride that took him quickly over the ground, and there
was virility and pushfulness in his football. One time he was full-back and
another time centre three-quarter. He and his fellow Oxonian, T. A. Nelson,
did not look a very well assorted pair in the Powderhall International of
1898, when, for the first time, we had a Border pair of halves, Matt Elliot
and J. T. Mabon of Jedforest. They were a good combination. 'J. T.' was of a
family that had done great work for the game in Jedburgh, and the Forest
team about this time was one of the strongest in the country. There was
another good Border man, T. Scott (Langholm), at Powder-hall. Fast and with
plenty of dash, he scored good tries in International football and was a
power in the Hawick team behind Elliot and Patterson. J. M. Dykes, who came
in as the earliest International representative of Glasgow High School, was
always a first-rate forward of a lively type, and we had also a new and
young full-back, J. M. Reid, who had a trace of the old J. P. Veitch game in
his steadiness and reliability. Times had changed from Veitch's days and new
men brought new manners. Reid had a huge and lofty punt, where his
predecessors used the drop. The game was drawn and was not worth much more.
When we look back to 1871 and the games of the
'seventies, it is natural that great changes should be observed in the
sources and composition of the Scottish team as we approach the close of the
century. No longer was the side a reinforced Edinburgh and Glasgow
Academical combination. Small contributions in players were being extracted
from a wide variety of sources, testifying to the ramifications of the game,
but by no means simplifying the processes of team construction.
Another sign of the times may be read in the opening of
the new ground at Inverleith in 1899. As the Union's own property, the
enclosure with all its fittings and equipment represented a tremendous leap
from the days when the mound and grassy slopes at Raeburn Place afforded
ample accommodation for the International crowd. I wonder how many thousands
of pounds have passed into the Union's exchequer since the times when the
clubs paid their modest fee of 2s. 6d. for membership, and the loan of the
best field in Scotland cost the Union £5.
In the match of 1899 at Blackheath, Scotland beat a
'rustic collection' of English forwards, according to Arthur Budd. England
had lost to Wales by a record score and had been beaten by Ireland. The year
will perhaps be more clearly recollected by the opening of Inverleith by the
Irish and the success of L. M. Magee's team. J. I. Gillespie, playing his
first International match, won the English game by carrying on with his
feet. This was one of the characteristics of Gillespie's play. By rather a
coincidence the Royal High School man, J. W. Simpson, now a veteran whose
footwork was referred to as far back as the Leeds match of 1893, was
Gillespie's partner at half. This was Simpson's last International game. He
died a few years ago, and I would like to pay a passing tribute to the
memory of one of the finest characters in Scottish football. H. T. S. Gedge
was also saying farewell to International football. Gedge was a very fine
three-quarter, a cut above the general product of the time and of a higher
grade and class than most of his contemporary wing players. Gillespie was
distinctly the best of the young school who appeared on that occasion. Mark
Morrison and W. M. C. M'Ewan were still leading the forwards, but for the
rest, with the exception of J. M. Dykes and H. O. Smith, I don't know that
there was much more in them than in Budd's 'rustics.'
The three years 1900-2 present a curious picture. In 1900
Scotland had two draws and no wins. The following year all three
International matches were won, and won handsomely. The next season saw a
descent from the heights to the depths, and all three games were lost. It is
not easy to reconcile these variations except on the old rule that anything
may happen, especially in the English match. There were a good many veterans
in the 1900 team. So many, indeed, that nine of them, including G. T.
Campbell and W. M. C. M'Ewan, retired at the end of the season. I do not
think G. T. Campbell was ever done justice to in the chronicles of his
country. He had played in International football for ten years, and like H.
T. S. Gedge was a link with the old Fettesian-Lorettonian teams of the
bright days of that combination. At Fettes he was a great schoolboy, and had
he not gone to London and played most of his football there, he might have
left a more permanent impression in Scotland. He belonged to the best class
of wing three-quarters, no mere runner, but a thoroughly sound all-round
player. The big batch of retirals made room for the young players and helped
the production of the wonderfully successful team of 1901. The more direct
influence lay in the circumstance that, at least as far as the back division
is concerned, Edinburgh University and the Edinburgh Academicals were
particularly strong teams, more especially in back play. Indeed, it was the
most successful team Edinburgh University ever had. All the national players
behind the scrummage were from these two teams, and some of them were of
very high grade even as International players. I cannot recall a centre
three-quarter comparable in style to Phipps Turnbull, and few so effective
in attack. He seemed to glide through even an International defence without
an effort. If we cast our thoughts back and consider the many evolutions and
changes that had taken place in methods during the twenty years prior to
1901, and compare the play of the team of that year with present-day
football, it will be agreed that the changes in the play since 1900 are not
comparable with the varying phases of the previous twenty years, and are so
slight as to be almost negligible. There is now a little more specialisation
in half-back play, and 'hooking' and 'heeling' are more artfully
perpetrated. Phipps Turnbull's breakthrough is the essential that is looked
for, often in vain, in the present-day International centre three-quarter.
J. I. Gillespie combined the modern with the old style, and, like Campbell,
linked middle-day football with the more modern. While he could play the
'stand-off' as effectively as any of his successors, he was one of the last
who could snap the ball from the ground and dart into the open as all the
old 'quarters' aspired to do in the practice of their scoring qualities. He
was positively the last to use his feet on the ball as a direct scoring
medium. Gillespie was a much more fully equipped and more highly developed
player than any I have seen at 'half' since. So it was with Mark Morrison,
who was approaching the end of his term. He was the last of the great
forwards. I am well aware there have been fine forwards since Morrison
retired. Some will find their ideal is C. M. Usher, others in J. M. B. Scott
or Bedell-Sivright, and the Borderers of his time will not yield to
disturbance of the pedestal on which they have placed W. E. Kyle. Scotland
spread out her arms and embraced a well-beloved son when Usher scored the
deciding try in 1912. As an inspiring and stimulating player Usher
represented a valuable quantity in the composition of a pack. He had the
football brain, and he evolved a game which was a cross between that of the
Englishman, C. H. Pillman, and Mark Morrison, but short by a bit of that of
J. D. Boswell, who reputedly reduced the art of pushing and not pushing to a
science. J. M. B. Scott betrayed traces of his English school training.
Better with his hands than with his feet, he retained the Scottish tackle
acquired by heredity, I suppose, and he was fast. I can still see him throw
back his head and go for the goal-line from midfield at Myreside, with the
Watsonian pack in full halloo. Forcefulness was a rather obvious component
of Bedell-Sivright's play. The inevitable overtook him when he met force
majeure in the person of Basil Maclear, and I can still hear a comment
in the Border tongue: 'that's been a long time coming till 'ee, mye mon, 'ee
was never better served'; cruel and unsympathetic, but the expression of a
tolerably widely entertained opinion. Personal ability and combination were
very finely adjusted in the 1901 team. A. B. Timms and A. N. Fell were
Edinburgh University Colonials, and W. H. Welsh was a Merchiston Castle boy.
None of them was above the grade you might expect to find in an ordinarily
good year. Phipps Turnbull added to their combination the inspiration that
rendered the line one of the most successful that has played for Scotland.
R. M. Neill's football, as. the natural complement to that of J. I.
Gillespie, added the last ounce to the balance. The home Scots saw them
soundly beat Gwynne Nichols's Welsh team, and those who went to London had
not much longer than a quarter of an hour's wait for the winning of the
The remarkably successful fifteen of 1901 were : A. W.
Duncan; W. H. Welsh, A. B. Timms (Edinburgh University), Phipps Turnbull
(Edinburgh Academicals), A. N. Fell (Edinburgh University) ; J. I. Gillespie
and R. M. Neill (Edinburgh Academicals); J. M. Dykes (Glasgow High School),
Mark Morrison (Royal High School), A. Frew, A. B. Flett, D. R.
Bedell-Sivright (Edinburgh University), R. S. Stronach (Glasgow
Academicals), J. A. Bell (Clydesdale), J. Ross (London Scottish).
Explanation of the dismal fall of 1902 'passes the wit of
man,' as Mr. Gladstone said of another International problem. A. B. Timms
dropped a very fine goal in 1903, such an one as revived recollections of
the drop-kicking of the 'seventies and 'eighties, but Timms's feat did not
imply a revival of the art in Scotland. He was from Australia, where
drop-kicking is an essential part of the game, and he had brought his
attainments with him. Two Merchiston half-backs were now playing together:
E. D. Simson had with him J. Knox, who would have been described as a 'hard
nut' in earlier times. Simson and F. H. Fasson continued the Merchiston
connection till Pat Munro came from Oxford, and between 1905 and 1907
Scotland had a clever and well-adjusted pair, each abundantly endowed with a
multitude of clever little moves and cute touches that cumulatively win
Scotland resumed the winning sequence in 1903-4-5. Walter
Forrest of Kelso and Hawick was full-back in 1903. We never had quite the
like of Forrest in the position. He could stop anything, forward or back,
and the harder the task the better he seemed to like it. He almost appeared
to make mistakes for the sake of rectifying them. Mark Morrison was still
playing in 1904, when Scotland won by the odd try in three. J. E. Crabbie,
L. M. Macleod, A. B. Timms, and J. S. M'Donald, with J. I. Gillespie and E.
D. Simson in front of them, constituted a good back division. M'Donald was a
South African-Edinburgh University player and a little fellow with plenty of
dash. Crabbie was not big either, but he put a lot into his football, knew
the game thoroughly, and could get tries when the odds were long against
him. He stood in high repute at Oxford. The Borders were supplying forwards,
but not many backs. T. Elliot (Gala), who played against England in 1905,
was the second Border three-quarter to get his place. He was a strong wing
player. J. C. M'Callum and A. G. Cairns were representing the Watsonian
pack, and in 1905 Andrew Ross maintained the Royal High School connection
after Morrison's retiral. As far as the English match is concerned 1906 was
a shock season, but it was a good English team that won. Adrian Stoop was
playing 'stand-off' to a Cornishman, J. Peters; and J. E. Raphael and J. G.
Birkett were in the three-quarter line. Birkett's father had played for
England in the early 'seventies. We had heard a good deal about Raphael, and
were prepared to admit after the match that most of it was correct. Scotland
had a better three-quarter than either of the Englishmen, K. G. Macleod, but
he was young then and only being introduced into International football.
Macleod did not stay long enough even to grow old in the game, otherwise he
should have passed into the Hall of the Immortals along with W. E. Maclagan,
A. R. Don Wauchope, C. Reid, and others. He possessed the ability and
applied it, but his football life was too short to admit of the exertion of
his influence on the game to the extent of an appreciable and permanent
contribution to Scottish progress.
Scotland won the next three matches. Then in 1910
England's long journey through the wilderness ended, and she emerged with a
triple success and the resultant International championship for the first
time for eighteen years. With the exception of 1912 the remainder of the
series presents an uninterrupted run of English victories, checked at long
last in the arena at Murrayfield, where, in the present year, the nation
assembled wellnigh seventy thousand strong.
Scotland had a good season in 1907, when all three
matches were won. In the team which beat England in London there was a new
centre three-quarter, D. M'Gregor, a Watsonian who was playing for a Welsh
team at the time. K. G. Macleod was in the three-quarter line, and G. M.
Frew in the forwards. Frew was a Glasgow High School man and a good
scrummager, but they were a good lot altogether—J. M. B. Scott, D. R.
Bedell-Sivright, J. C. M'Callum, and one of the younger generation of the
Royal High School Sandersons.
Perhaps mention of a dropped goal by the Scottish
full-back, D. G. Schulze, who was a Fettesian, will bring the 1908 match to
the memory of some. Scotland had a couple of new halves, J. Robertson and A.
L. Wade. Robertson was from the Clydesdale, a good Glasgow club of the open
class, which had had some prosperous times, but which passed off the active
list a few years later. Hugh Martin and K. G. Macleod made a dangerous
scoring pair in the three-quarter line. Martin was slightly built, very
quick on his feet, and not easily tackled when he was darting for the line.
Martin played again the following year at Richmond, when Scotland repeated
the Inverleith score of three goals and a try, and singularly England
obtained two scores on both occasions. K. G. Macleod's all-too-brief career
had finished, and W. E. Kyle, who had been in International teams from 1902,
was playing his last game against England.
The 1910 match represents one of the minor landmarks in
the Anglo-Scottish series. With the exception of the 1912 game, Scotland was
not again successful until the present year. In the game of 1910 those who
saw J. G. Birkett saw the repetition of the part played by another huge
English three-quarter, W. N. Bolton, away back in 1883. Scotland was well
beaten, and of the English backs I thought none contributed more to his
side's success than the Oxonian scrum half, A. L. H. Gotley. The duties
pertaining to the position had by this time become more exactly defined. The
Watsonians were demonstrating its efficacy in highly specialised form in
club football. Indeed, the Watsonian players were providing a public
problem. The Union Committee could not see their way to play the lot, and
did not know very well how to separate them. J. Pearson had played against
England the previous season, and his club companion, A. W. Angus, joined him
in the game under notice; but without their club halves, or a pair playing
their style of game, the best could not be obtained from the Watsonian
centres. The effect was seen the following season at Twickenham, where E.
Milroy and J. Y. Henderson gave a fine demonstration of up-to-date half-back
play; but again the Union hesitated, and stopping half-way, rejected the
Watsonian centres, Pearson and Angus, and in all probability threw away an
excellent chance of winning the match. As it was, England got home by the
odd score. The Scottish wings, W. R. Sutherland and R. F. Simson, were good,
but the centres, S. Steyn and G. Cunningham, were handicapped by want of
intimate knowledge of the moves of the half-backs. We are now practically
treating of current football. Carl Ogilvy played full-back in that game, and
the forwards all bore familiar names, J. M. B. Scott, C. D. Stuart, G. M.
Frew, J. C. M'Callum, and D. M. Bain among them. Simson was the son of an
old Fettesian and Edinburgh Academical who had assisted C. Reid in the
spade-work of team building. W. R. Sutherland was a bright and brilliant
product of Hawick football.
The 1912 match is the game won by C. M. Usher. W. R.
Sutherland and his Hawick club companion, W. Burnet, with A. W. Angus and J.
G. Will, were in the three-quarter line, and F. H. Turner came into the
forwards. Adrian Stoop, J. G. Birkett, and R. W. Poulton were in the English
back division. It was not a particularly brilliant International display,
but those of the two following years were very keen matches. There was
little or nothing between the countries at this time, and England's run of
successes inflates the difference.
Scotland had a very good team in 1913, and if the
forwards had only been able to gain possession of the ball in the scrums
England's bare one try would not have won the match. That one fault was the
undoing of the Scottish forwards. C. M. Usher, J. M. B. Scott, F. H. Turner,
and D. M. Bain had more brain and power among them than the usual
present-day pack. England's backs were continually in possession of the
ball, and W. R. Sutherland, J. B. Sweet, and W. M. Wallace had much tackling
to keep the Englishmen out. Sweet, a Glasgow High School wing three-quarter,
came into the team as a substitute. He was fast enough to keep pace with C.
N. Lowe, and safe enough in his tackling to keep this very dangerous English
scorer in subjection. By a hairbreadth Sutherland missed getting the
equalising try, and by a neck-or-nothing tackle Wallace prevented Smallwood
adding to the English score. A couple of stones more weight would have made
Wallace a great back.
A multitude of reasons could be adduced for assigning a
special niche to the match of 1914. As the last to precede the war, it was
the last occasion upon which many notable players took part in football.
Fittingly, their careers finished in a blaze of glory, and I do not think
that in all the long series a more brilliantly spectacular game has been
played between the two countries.
The balance between two particularly strong back
divisions lay with the English centre three-quarters, R. W. Poulton-Palmer
and J. H. D. Watson, and but that Watson was primarily an individualist
England would not have won. As a matter of fact, the English Union had
previously rejected Watson on that very point.
An example of perfect machine work was revealed between
the Scottish halves, E. Milroy, who, in technical terms, reversed the engine
at an unexpected moment, and T. C. Bowie, who responded almost
automatically. All that was asked of J. G. Will was, as the saying is, to
'deliver the goods' the machine had turned out. But how seldom a machine
works to such perfection!
It is very difficult to decide whether England's
advantage over Scotland, since the resumption in 1920, is due to more rapid
recovery or to Scotland having struck one of those barren periods that have
occurred at intervals in all the countries. A comparison of Scottish forward
divisions in the years immediately preceding the war with the packs that
have represented Scotland since the resumption suggests that the personal
level is not quite so high now as it was then. It almost looks as if the
automatic style of scrummaging and the over-emphasised subordination of
forward play to that of the backs, is producing a standard pattern of
forward of inferior and limited personal attainments. Dribbling and tackling
will never be eliminated from the game. The absence of these qualities in
the work of the Scottish forwards in recent years has allowed England to
claim an advantage by exercise of the inherent and traditional inclinations
of the English forward for hand-work supplemented by a certain amount of
tactical manoeuvring, generally in the interests of his backs.
In back play the comparison in spite of results has not
been so unfavourable as to account for repeated failures of the Scottish
teams. England has been fortunate in the possession of a pair of half-backs
like Kershaw and Davies, and will be doubly fortunate if she can replace
them within a short space of time. The best of the Scottish half-back
productions during these years have been W. E. Bryce and A. T. Sloan. The
reputation of the Glasgow Academical pair, J. B. Nelson and H. Waddell, is
still in the making. The best wing three-quarter that has played for either
country since the war is G. B. Crole, and the best in full-backs the
Heriot's man, D. Drysdale, though I do not think he is true to type, and
bears more resemblance to the elder and greater Bancroft, the Welshman, than
to the accepted Scottish model. Highly qualified International centre
three-quarters are very rare. G. P. S. Macpherson has been the best native
product. A. L. Gracie was self-condemned in his repeated failures to utilise
the speed of E. H. Liddell, the fastest man that has yet played football,
and one that had more than a mere sprinter's knowledge of the game. E.
Maclaren, the young Royal High School centre, promised well while in
Edinburgh, but seemed to lose ground when he went to London. I think J. M.
Bannerman the nearest approach to the higher-type pre-war forward we have
had since the resumption. The field of selection is now much wider, as
exemplified by Selkirk, whose first cap was W. E. Bryce in 1922, while W. G.
Dobson in the same season headed the list for Heriot's. I am not overlooking
Kirkcaldy and Kilmarnock. Kirkcaldy's honours are by no means a 'puir show,'
and who would have dreamt of the existence of International men in 'auld
Killie.' The tide of England's successes has at length been stemmed, and
between the opening of Murrayfield and the acquisition of the International
championship events have combined to render 1925 a memorable year in the
history of the game.