THE HISTORY OF MUSSELBURGH RFC

MAP SHOWING GROUND AT SHIREHAUGH

You will see the position of the ground as it was at Shirehaugh prior to moving to to Stoneyhill in 1951. Stoneyhill can be seen as a green patch.


 

THE CLUB'S FIRST SEASON 1921 - 22

They did not have a place in the Junior league for the season 1921 - 22 as far as I can ascertain. It was not until April 1921 that the Rugby club agreed to apply for admission to the Edinburgh & District Junior League.

This was after the A G M of the club, held that year at the Drill Hall, P E C Honeyman was elected as President, Secretary was J Lowe and the treasurer J T Knight, the committee was made up of only three others, J Brown, G Hawley and W A Lowe.
On November 2nd 1921 the team played a match against the Royal College of Surgeons, they won the match 9 - 3 and the following was the list of team members

15 G Colville
14 S Baillie
13 E Henderson
12 J Lowe
11 J Anderson
10 L E Henderson
9 W Rodman
1 W B Shorthouse (captain)
2 G Aitken
3 J Lewis
4 M Henderson
5 W Gillespie
6 J Shorthouse
7 G Bain
8 W Robertson
WB Shorthouse had the honour of being the very first Musselburgh RFC First XV captain. Bill Caird remembers him well ?He always played in the front row and was a good motivator. He never missed a training session and encouraged others to do the same. He set a fine example.? ?He was a former pupil of the Royal High School and when the club started he brought one or two players down with him from the High School. One who comes to mind was a fellow we all called Tatty Bell, he was a real character and got his name because he drove a potato lorry for a big firm in Edinburgh? These men were all in their late twenties when Bill Caird remembered them. He himself was still at school at the time. Tatty Bell was a wing forward and Bill Shorthouse a bank manager who spent most of his working life at the Bernard street branch of the Bank of Scotland.
The following week the team beat Kenmore by 5 - 3. They went on to win their match against Craigard on 16/11/21 by 9 - 0.
The first defeat of the season happened on 30/11/21 when Haddington won by 6 - 3. It was however a good start to the season for the fledgling team.
They used the time to gather their resources both financial and playing ready for the season in 1922-23. The fact that they did not have a ground on which to play their games was another major factor. That particular problem would take until 25th July 1922 to overcome.
The search for a suitable ground was still occupying the main thrust of the early meetings of the Sports Club, local landowner Sir John Hope had a meeting with Mr Buttar and Mr Baillie to discuss the feasibility of obtaining a piece of grazing ground which could be utilised. The owner of the grazing rights Mr Todd of Pinkie Mains Farm was seen but these negotiations came to nothing. 
The national body now calling itself the Scottish Rugby Union had also been searching around for a ground. They had made application to Fettes College (built in 1873) for the land in front of the school which is now occupied by the Lothian & Borders Police Headquarters and Broughton High School buildings. This application was spurned and the search went on. They finally purchased 19 acres of land in 1925 at the site occupied by the Edinburgh Polo club in Murrayfield.
The question of the ground for the Musselburgh Sports Club was finally solved by the secretary George Hawley, who entered into negotiations with Mr Simpson the tenant farmer of Monkton Hall Farm. The land-owner Earl of Weymss through his factor Mr Connor had agreed to lease part of the field across the river Esk from Inveresk Church and opposite Chesswood Brae, better known locally as ?The Red Brae?. This was a very picturesque site, sheltering under the panorama of the lovely Inveresk Village and St Michael?s Kirk although, rather remote from the centre of Musselburgh. In those days there was no Monktonhall Golf Course which would eventually surround the area. 
An important factor in the negotiations was that the headmaster of Musselburgh Grammar School, Mr R W Barr and the headmaster of Loretto school, Mr Allen R Smith had been involved in the negotiations. The Grammar school had agreed to share the facility with the Sports Club and to pay half of the cost of any expenditure in bringing it up to standard. The rent for the seven acres required by the Sports club was fixed at ?6 per annum, the lease was to run for nine years which coincided with the lease held by the farmer Mr Simpson.
A number of conditions were laid down, the ground was to be securely fenced off, any access was to be well protected, if access was to be by bridge then that bridge must be private and locked when not in use, that every care was to be taken to prevent damage to crops or livestock. This Shirehaugh development was approved by the members at the Sports Club Annual General Meeting (A.G.M.) held in the Links Cafe. Planning commenced immediately and initial costs were estimated between ?300-?400 for the bridge and the security fence. (around ?175,000.00 at 1996 prices)
A delegation from the committee met with Sir John Hope to seek his permission to use his ground for the bridge support on the north side of the River Esk. Sir John was extremely helpful and was keen to support the Sports club in any way he could. The Parish Council and Sir John signed the formal agreement to give the Sports Club members and guests permission to cross their land to obtain access to the bridge via the river bank pathway.
With a mere ?40 in the Sports Club fund, it was essential to raise capital as quickly as possible. Cycle parades, cake and candy stalls and concerts were organised. These were the best fund raisers of he day and were well supported by the good people of Musselburgh.
Rugby orientated members spearheaded the developments and it was no surprise that Rugby Section President, John A Young, was also President of the Sports Club. George Hawley had taken over the Secretary's duties following the sudden death of Mr McLean. Committee members included George Aitken, G Elvidge, John T Knight who became famous as one of the country's best photographers and George Colville, the local council official whose books about the early years of golf have been widely read throughout the world. Robert Barr was seconded to look after the Grammar School interests in the Shirehaugh venture.
In March 1922 before the pitch could be used, the headmaster of the Grammar school sent a number of boys, upwards of twenty including Bill Caird who was in his second year at the secondary school, down to Shirehaugh to pick off stones from each of the sports fields. It was one way of keeping costs down. The boys loved it as it gave them a respite from their lessons.
At the rugby section meeting on 19th September 1922 the committee agreed to order 36 jerseys and the members were to pay 6d (sixpence - 2 and a half pence) for their fixture card.
The team of 1922 was having a good run of success and their record was as follows
P W L D F A 
1st XV 20 14 6 0 130 82 (Scorerstries J Lowe (6),
W B Shorthouse (3)
G Bell 3, S C Baillie 3,
G Lowe 3)
2nd XV 16 10 5 1 166 108

The team were junior champions of 1922, the team photograph shows W.R Robertson, A Grieve, E Buchar, G Lowe, G Bell, J L Ross, T Mitchell (president) W Bain, S C Baillie, G Aitken, J Lowe, W B Shorthouse (Captain) L E Henderson, J Anderson, Cunningham, W Rodman, J Sives, E Henderson, missing from the photograph were G Bain & W Gilles.

1921-22_team_photo.jpg

 

SHIREHAUGH IS SELECTED AND DE-STONED

 

History continued???


An important factor in the negotiations was that the headmaster of Musselburgh Grammar School, Mr R W Barr and the headmaster of Loretto school, Mr Allen R Smith had been involved from an early stage. The Grammar school had agreed to share the facility with the Sports Club and to pay half of the cost of any expenditure in bringing it up to a standard. The rent for the seven acres required by the Sports club was fixed at ?6 per annum, the lease was to run for nine years which coincided with the lease held by the farmer Mr Simpson.
A number of conditions were laid down, the ground was to be securely fenced off, any access was to be well protected, if access was to be by bridge then that bridge must be private and locked when not in use; that every care was to be taken to prevent damage to crops or livestock. This Shirehaugh development was approved by the members at the Sports Club AGM held in the Links Caf?. Planning commenced immediately and initial costs were estimated between ?300 - ?400 for the bridge and the security fence. (Around ?250, 000.00 at today?s 2002 prices)
A delegation from the committee met with Sir John Hope to seek his permission to use his ground for the bridge support on the north side of the River Esk. Sir John was extremely helpful and was keen to support on the Sports club in any way he could. The Parish Council and Sir John signed the formal agreement to give the Sports Club members and guests permission to cross their land to obtain access to the bridge via the river bank pathway.

With a mere ?40 in the Sports Club fund it was essential to raise capital as quickly as possible. Cycle parades, cake and candy stalls and concerts were organised. These were the best fund raisers of the day and were well supported by the good people of Musselburgh. Rugby orientated members spearheaded the developments and it was no surprise that Rugby Section President, John A Young, as also President of the Sports Club, George Hawley had taken over the Secretary?s duties following the sudden death of Mr McLean. Committee members included George Aitken, G Elvidge, John T Knight (who became famous as one of the country?s best photographers) and George Colville, the local council official whose books on the early years of golf have been widely read throughout the world. Robert Barr was seconded to look after the Grammar School interests in the Shirehaugh venture.

In March 1922 before the pitch could be used, the headmaster of the Grammar school sent a number of boys, upwards of twenty including a youthful Bill Caird, who was in his second year at the secondary school. All were sent down to Shirehaugh to pick off stones from each of the sports fields. It was one way of keeping costs down. The boys loved it as it gave them respite from their lessons.
At the rugby section meeting on 19th September 1922 the committee agreed to order 36 jerseys and resolved that the members should pay 6d (sixpence ? two and a half pence) for their fixture card.

 

HISTORY - FINDING A PLACE TO PLAY

 

This was after the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Sports Club, held that year at the Drill Hall, PEC Honeyman was elected as President, Secretary was J Lowed and the treasurer J T Knight, the committee was made up of only three others, J Brown, G Hawley and W A Lowe.

On November 2nd 1921 the team played a match against the Royal College of Surgeons, they won the match 9 ? 3 and the following was the list of team members
15 G Colville
14 S Baillie
13 E Henderson
12 J Lowe
11 J Anderson

10 L E Henderson
9 W Rodman

1 W B Shorthouse (captain)
2 G Aitken
3 J Lewis
4 M Henderson
5 W Gillespie
6 J Shortouse
7 G Bain
8 W Robertson
W B Shorthouse had the honour of being the very first Musselburgh RFC First XV captain. Bill Caird remembers him well ?He always played in the front row and was a good motivator. He never missed a training session and encouraged others to do the same. He set a fine example. He was a former pupil of the Royal High School and when the club (Musselburgh) started he brought one or two players down with him from High School. One who comes to mind was a fellow we all called Tatty Bell, he was a real character and got his name because he drove a potato lorry for a big firm in Edinburgh.? These men were all in their late twenties when Bill remembered them. He himself was still at school at the time. Tatty Bell was a wing forward and Bill Shorthouse a bank manager who spent most of his working life at the Bernard Street branch of the Bank Of Scotland.

The following week the team beat Kenmore by 5 ? 3. They went on to win their match against Craigard on 16th November 1921 by 9 ? 0.
The first defeat of the season happened on 30th November 1921 when Haddington won by 6 ? 3. It was however a good start for the fledging team.
They used the time to gather their resources both financial and playing, ready for the season in 1922-23. The fact that they did not have a ground on which to play their home games was another major factor. That particular problem would take until 25th July 1922 to overcome.
The search for a suitable ground was still occupying the main thrust of the early meetings of the Sports Club, local landowner Sir John Hope had a meeting with Mr Buttar and Mr Baillie to discuss the feasibility of obtaining a piece of grazing ground which could be utilised. The owner of the grazing rights, Mr Todd of Pinkie Mains arm was seen but these negotiations came to nothing.
The national body was now calling itself the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) had also been searching around for a ground. They had made application to Fettes College (built in 1873) for the land in front of the school which is now occupied by the Lothian & Borders Police Headquarters and Broughton High School buildings. This application was spurned and the search went on. They finally purchased 19 acres of land in 1925 at the site occupied by the Edinburgh Polo Club at Murrays Field.
The question of the ground for the Musselburgh Sports club was finally solved by the secretary George Hawley, who entered into negotiations with Mr Simpson the tenant farmer of Monkton Hall Farm. The land-owner the Earl of Weymss through his factor Mr Connor had agreed to lease part of the field across the River Esk from Inveresk Church and opposite Chesswood Brae, better known locally as the ?Red Brae?. This was a very picturesque site, sheltering under the panorama of the lovely Inveresk village and St Michael?s Kirk, although it was rather remote from the centre of Musselburgh. In those days there was no Monktonhall Golf Course which would eventually surround the area.

 

MRFC AS WE KNOW IT WAS BORN - SEE LATEST HISTORY UPLOAD

 

The ex-servicemen called an open meeting of the Musselburgh residents within the Town Hall on 30th March 1920, to discuss the feasibility of starting a Musselburgh Sports Club. The first records regarding rugby in the town which are still in existence are those of the formation and subsequent written minutes of meetings of what was then the Musselburgh Sports Club.

The first meeting was held in the Town Hall at Musselburgh on 30th March 1920, the meeting, chaired by Colonel Whitelaw had but one proposal before it. The motion from Mr Buttar was that a club should be formed ?at once? to cater for cricket, rugby, football, golf and harriers. The motion was agreed by those present and a management committee was formed. They had the task of getting the Sports club off the ground. The Provost of the town, Mr Mitchell was elected President of the club, his deputy was to be Captain John A Young. The other office bearers were Secretary A MacLean, Treasurer G Hawley Jnr with the committee being SC BaillieP E C HoneymanF L ButtarA G Thomson and H Turpie.



Their immediate tasks were to gather funds and to find a suitable area of ground on which to the play the sports the club had resolved to encourage in the town.

At the second meeting the name of the club was agreed as Musselburgh Sports Club, a sub-committee of Messrs Hawley, Turpie and MacLean were tasked with drawing up a constitution for the fledgling club. Bills were made up and placed prominently in the public areas of the town, encouraging people to join in playing sport. The Great War had been over for some two years and the country was getting itself back into some sort of order. The young men needed an outlet for their energies and what better way than sport.

The Town Council was approached suggesting a cricket pitch on the Links. Agreement was reached on the minimum number of members for each section. Rugby was to have a minimum of thirty members, Cricket was set at twenty along with Golf and Hockey, Swimming were to have at least fifteen members.
At a meeting held on 10th October 1920 the club colours were adopted and recommended to the various sections. The sections of the Sports Club were to have the colours Dark Blue and White, to be worn as dark blue shorts and white jerseys. The town coat of arms was to be worn on the left breast pocket.

The rugby section formally applied for inclusion into the Sports club and this was granted at a meeting held on 15th February 1921 in the Scout Hall in Musselburgh


?considered application for the forming of a Rugby section and agreed to sanction its formation under the standing regulations?

Some months later the section requested the loan of 10/- (Ten shillings - 50p nowadays) to enable them to enter the Junior rugby league, the loan would be repaid when the section was ?firmly established?.

They did not have a place in the Junior league for the season 1921 ? 22 as far as can be ascertained. It was not until April 1921 that the Rugby club agreed to apply for admission to the Edinburgh & District Junior League.

 

HISTORY ~ AFFLUENT CITIZENS

 

The more affluent citizens of Musselburgh invariably sent their families to the fee paying Edinburgh day schools such as George Heriots, Watsons College, Stewarts College, Melville College and the Edinburgh Academy. Rugby football had been adopted as the major winter sport in these schools whereas the Musselburgh Grammar School and Fisherrow Junior Secondary School encouraged Association Football in these days.

Several of the former pupils of the Edinburgh schools formed a Musselburgh Rugby Club near the end of the 19th Century, unfortunately no records of that club can be traced but team photographs of the season 1902 and 1903-04 exist and shown below is the team from both seasons.

The 1902-03 Team



The 1903-04 Team



J Watson, A Bisset, J L Henderson, T G Davidson, W Smith, D Peacock W Young, 

F W Peacock, J C Ferguson, T J Brough (Capt), T S Aikman, C L Robinson, J Taylor, G Williamson, E Kirsopp, G V Gibson (Honorary Secy and Treasurer).

They were the fore-runners of Rugby Football in Musselburgh. It is probable that rugby was played before these dates, it is inconceivable to think that a game that was being played at International level in Edinburgh, a few short miles away, was not popular in Musselburgh.

It is possible that records exist elsewhere of the very first stirrings of the game in the Honest Toun. Rugby was of course being played in Musselburgh at Loretto School. The school has had a long and happy relationship with the town and in the February 1880 the school magazine The Lorettonian on its third edition having begun 3 weeks earlier. There are reports of three rugby games in which the school teams took part. It is interesting to note that the teams played with a full back, 2 half backs, 2 three quarters and ten forwards. There is a lesson there for all teams. It appears that wingers were considered superfluous even in those days! Another interesting point from that august journal is an article on Valentines day which had passed the previous week. The editor attacks the custom of exchanging greetings and says that it would not last much longer as the custom appeared to be dying out. As an editor he was probably first class, alas his predictions were not.

It would appear that this Musselburgh Rugby club ceased to exist and it was not until 1921 before the present Musselburgh Rugby club was formed as a section of the Musselburgh Sports Club.

The Musselburgh Sports Club Connection

Following the end of the First World War in 1918 the fortunate Musselburgh servicemen who survived that bloody confrontation had a desperate third for various forms of recreation. It was true that the ?Burgh supported a world famous 9 hole golf course at the Musselburgh Links, one of the first golfing arenas in the world. This early encouragement of golf in turn produced no less than seven local winners of the British Open Golf Tournament, a record unlikely to be matched by any other town or city throughout the world. In addition, the Links hosted the Edinburgh Flat racing track which had been transferred from Leith sands following the development of the docks at that port. The horse racing in those bygone years attracted thousands of spectators to each meeting and the elder generation of locals remember a military style march down the High Street by around 200 ?bobbies? who were required to augment the Musselburgh Constabulary on these sporting occasions. It is amazing that it took until January 1996 to re-name the track after the town. Other than a few football pitches there were scant sporting facilities available to the local population ready to throw off the shackles of the Great War.

 

THE HISTORY OF MUSSELBURGH RFC

 

The History of the club

Taken from the unpublished (as yet) 
?Come on the Burgh?
By John Crawford and Ramsay Smith

The first twenty-five years

The Early Years of Rugby Football In Musselburgh



According to tradition, Rugby Football began in 1823 when, during a game of association football at Rugby School, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and raced through the opposition with the ball tucked under his arm. However, historians date the origin to 1838 or 1839 when the same practice was repeated, this time by a player named Mackie. Rules for the new game were drafted by the staff of Rugby Public School in 1846, but the interpretation of these rules varied from school to school. It was not until the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded in 1871 that the laws of the game were first given a public airing.
The first meeting of the Scottish Football Union (SFU) took place in Edinburgh on 9th October 1873. Later this body was renamed the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) thereby initiating the great game of Rugby Football to the population of Scotland. Popularity of this ball handling sport spread like the plague, especially amongst the fee paying public schools in the major conurbations but particularly throughout the entire Borders community.

In February 1880 The Lorettonian, the weekly journal of Loretto school in Musselburgh were reporting on a ?football? match which had taken place the previous week against a team from Royal High School (2nd XV) F.P. The game was played with a full back, two half backs, two three quarters and ten forwards with Loretto winning the game. Like elsewhere in Scotland the game was being driven by, in the first instance, the public schools. 
It is remarkable that the paths of the Scottish Rugby Union and the Musselburgh Rugby Football Club were destined to reach similar crossroads for a number of reasons, not least being the search for a settled home ground. 

The first International match to be held in Scotland was on 27th march 1871, at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh, a ground controlled by the Edinburgh Academicals cricket club committee.
However, Glasgow was given the opportunity to host some of the early international matches at Hamilton Place and Hampden park before returning to Edinburgh?s Powderhall Stadium followed by a long spell at the SRU?s own ground at Inverleith.
In 1922, land owned by the Edinburgh Polo Club at Murray?s Field was purchased by the SRU and was quickly developed into a large international stadium which was opened with a match against England on 21st March 1925. Seventy years later Murrayfield (as it is now called) has been transformed into one of the world?s best stadium. Fully seated and complete with television suitable match floodlights, undersoil heating and tremendous facilities for staff, players and sponsorship.

© 2017 MRFC.