History After 1939

By B Lodge

AFTER THE WAR, a few of the pre 1939 stalwarts, notably Tom Henderson, Freddie Collins and Bob Scott (all of whom are now deceased) resurrected the Club and were ably reinforced in their efforts by several new enthusiasts, among whom were Jack Smith, Neil Mackenzie and Davie Forbes.

For several seasons the club’s existence hung in the balance. There was an acute player shortage and results were poor. In addition our changing facilities were comparatively primitive. We shared the “bird cages” at Inverleith Park and every home game was followed by a walk to Glenogle Baths or, in most cases, rapid dispersal homewards.

In spite of these drawbacks, a tremendous amount of effort was put in by the members and we survived. The club regularly entertained English and Welsh clubs and almost invariably made the long trips south in return. Such adventure was considered quite a thing in these early post war years and often merited local press coverage. These trips, more than anything else, forged a club spirit which was undoubtedly the basis of our future expansion and gave us much badly needed publicity.

There are many more tales about our touring exploits later in this brochure, but I am sure that no member who participated in these early coach trips to Wales will ever forget the pleasures of being snowed in up on Shap Summit, stranded in Shrewsbury or sweltering in St Helens.

It was during the fifties that our fortunes began to change and the club became one of the strongest in the Edinburgh & District Rugby Union. If one player has to be singled out for his influence on the playing standards of the club in the mid-fifties, it must be Jim McLeod – scrum half “par excellence” and captain magnificent. His two seasons of captaincy were followed immediately by two more successful seasons under Marshall Bryce. It is worth noting that these four seasons 1954-58 brought us more honours and more District “caps” than all the remaining seventy-one seasons combined.

In January 1953, we said good-bye to the “bird-cages” and occupied our current premises, at the time a mere concrete shell. Due to the fact that the premises were still being held in reserve for civil defence purposes, we had to erect and dismantle our dressing rooms at the beginning and end of each season. The carpentry had to be seen to be believed!!

In 1955 the Northern “Sevens” tournament was born- just eight teams and one pitch. And the first name to be engraved on the trophy was that of Edinburgh Northern.

The tournament is now one of the most popular on the calendar.

From 1958 onwards our membership increased rapidly (sounds familiar!!). We started a 3rd XV in 1957, a 4th XV in 1958, a 5th XV in 1964, and a 6th XV in 1966. We were incidentally, the first Scottish “junior” club to field regular 4th and 5th XV’s.

In 1958 a party of twenty-five members boarded a Viscount aircraft bound for Dublin, en route for Dun Laoghaire, and Seapoint Rugby Club, yet another example of our groundbreaking activities.

By the early sixties we began to have doubts about the comforts of our pavilion and moves were soon afoot to improve the accommodation. Thanks to the far-seeing financial policies of our miserly treasurer, we had enough cash in the bank to do something about it and helped by a grant from the National Playing Fields Association, our pavilion was reconstructed. On 22nd March 1966, the bar was opened and we became the second Scottish “junior” club to go “wet” (Haddington pipped us). Two years later, when Drybrough & Co Ltd, with a generous loan enabled us to renovate the lounge completely, we finally threw off the mantle of austerity.

Fifty years were behind us when this article was written and another twenty five have now been added. The last paragraph read as follows.

What lies ahead? Shall we view the rugby scene with as much pleasure – or dismay- as those stalwarts of the 1920’s do today? How can we progress – as progress we must if we are to survive? We cannot even guess for the time is too far away………….How appropriate in today’s situation!