Aside From Its rugby playing abilities Northern has always been known as a sociable club where opponents on the field lay aside their differences of opinion of the laws to agree that the referee was in all probability raised in an orphanage.
The earliest record we have of Northern’s social side is a receipt for £2/1/8d dated 23rd November 1922 and relating to an event put on in the former Y.M.C.A. in South St Andrew Street. Subsequent correspondence reveals a long running argument between club officials and the manager of the Y.M.C.A. when an invoice was tendered not only for the hire of the hall but also 3/6d for the replacement of a roller towel ruined by a club member. Correspondence grew acrimonious and the last record we have is the towel was returned to the club. Things Never Change……
After this the club records are quiet until in January 1953 The “Bowling Green Pavilion” was occupied as our permanent home but it was not until 1964 that the pavilion was reconstructed as a purpose built (or at least semi purpose built) rugby clubhouse. Two years later the bar was officially opened on 24th March 1966 (just in time for the close season!!). Northern was the first Edinburgh junior club to take this step, after Haddington, the second in Scotland to have its own bar. The 5XV’s fielded by the club that season doubtless brought in an income sufficient to gladden the heart of the Club Treasurer.
Whilst all this was happening, however, the club was pursuing other’ moneymaking situations with the social side. In October I959 “Nokiton” described as “The greatest rugby dance of all time” was held as a joint venture with Corstorphine RFC and attracted a crowd of 1,379 to the Palais-du-dance in Fountainbridge where the revellers danced the night away to two bands and enjoyed the refreshments provided by the late bar, 40 feet in length, all for the princely sum of 5/- per person.
By 1968 the new lounge area in the clubhouse was ready and was officially opened by 3 local councillors. The club was now able to hold celebratory evenings such as Tramps Nights where club members and their partners and guests turned up in fancy dress. After a pause for consolidation, 1975 saw the clubhouse extension started and the following year saw the opening of the Tom Henderson Lounge. This increase in space allowed the club to host functions such as Burns Suppers, the first of which took place in 1976.
Just as important, however’, was the establishment of the Ladies Section in recognition of the large part played by the ladies in (almost) all the activities of the club other than actually playing. In the previous year Northern established a mini-rugby section which took place on a Sunday and was coached by both players and parents and supported vociferously by many of the youngsters parents. Some of the products of these Sunday morning sessions still turn out for the club today.
In 1979 Associate Membership of the club was introduced and we gained our first lady member, Mrs Moira Fotheringhame and the following year two members became engaged – to each other. The happy couple were Susan Otter and Steven Burden.
By this time the clubhouse had become the focal point for club activities and was being used for more and more events. Even the volunteer bar crews vied with each other to produce social evenings, – the Top bar crew and the Windmill bar crew being two of the main protagonists. Bad Taste parties (starring the Captain of the Belgrano and the late Grace Kelly) was followed by school days discos and Tarts and Vicars parties.
Since 1979 the Club Dinner has been held annually in the clubhouse and has featured many notable speakers and players. Not many clubs can boast to have entertained the last three British Lions Captains and tickets for the dinner have always been much sought after by non-members.
Rugby has always been a game where the desire to win has not overshadowed the believe that at the end of it all it is still only a game and Northern seem to have found the right balance between the playing side and the social side.