Rugby was played in Musselburgh as early as 1880. A report in the Lorettonian (the local newspaper at the time) showed a game of rugby football between a team from the town and Royal High School at Newfield, the Loretto School Playing Fields. In the years up to the Great War the sport was mainly played by the sons of influential members of the community who stayed within the area of the town (it is important to stress that the area that the fields were in the Musselburgh part of the town despite the pitches being in Fisherow, the old fishing community).
After the Great War there was a thirst for outdoor recreation in Musselburgh. On that front, Provest Mitchell gathered together a group of influential and likeminded citizens to form the Musselburgh Sports Club in April 1920. These included sports such as football, golf and athletics.
On the 15th February 1921 the committee agreed to consider an application to form a rugby section which was indeed sanctioned. As a result of this, Musselburgh Rugby Football Club was born. The first president of the club was P.E.C. Honeyman.
The next challenge was to find out what the club would wear and where would they play. The committee decided they would try and find an area where all the sports could be played. It did take time however so only a few friendlies were played in our first season. Our first recorded match was on the 2nd November 1921 against the Royal College of Surgeons, a game won by Burgh 9-3.
After continuous discussions, the club agreed with the Earl of Wheams to lease seven acres of land at Shirehaugh in the south west of the town. The club by now had applied to join the Edinburgh and Junior District League so to get ready for the 22/23 season the pitch had to be created, fenced off and a bridge had to be built for access across the River Esk due to it’s remote area.
The pitch was in a rough and ready state and in no condition to be played on. So the Musselburgh Grammar School pupils were engaged to clear the stones and get the pitch ready, which was accomplished for the start of the 1922/23 season.
With John Young now at the helm the decision was made to build a pavilion, which was made at the magnificent cost of £40 (£2,086.36 in 2022). The basic construction was a wooden shed and outside there was a bath. There was no mains supply so a bucket line had to be constructed, running from the River Esk to the Pavilion.
In the first official season, the club played 20 games. Of these they won 14 and lost 6.
The Musselburgh Sports Club was parochial in its actions and only people who lived in Musselburgh could become members. There is a recorded match between Musselburgh Rugby Club and Fisherow, won by Musselburgh.
Unfortunately in 1925 the pavilion was vandalised and had to be destroyed. A new pavilion was created in 1926 but strong winds destroyed that and the bridge. In 1927 the third pavilion was created with stronger reinforcements and the bridge was also restored using steel from Brunton Wiremill.
During the 1930s the club continued to thrive with membership and players increasing, while other sections, namely football, athletics, golf and cricket started to go their own separate ways. By 1938 the decision was made to rename Musselburgh Sports Club as Musselburgh Rugby Football Club in its entirety.
As rugby was halted in an official nature due to the outbreak of the Second World War, under the leadership of George Clark and the captaincy of Alex Caird, rugby continued to be played in friendlies until the end of the war in 1945.
In 1946 the club celebrated it’s 25th anniversary with a match against Hawick at Shirehaugh, won by the hosts 8-6.