A Brief History of BRFC
(with thanks to Gordon McMillan, Grant Hutchison and others).
Founding the club
Our club was founded in 1924. As the name suggests it was formed by former pupils of Broughton School who had been playing rugby since 1906, with a break for the Great War. Such was the enthusiasm for rugby that pupils leaving school decided in September 1924 to form a Former Pupils Rugby Football Club.
Alex Baikie was elected Captain and James Hogg Vice Captain. A scarlet strip was chosen. The School Former Pupils Club gave a grant of £10. It was agreed to run 2 teams.
The first match was played on 11 October 1924. It’s not recorded who our first opponents were, but that season we did play teams from Corstorphine, Edinburgh University, Lismore, Craigard, Gillespies, Heriots, Inverleith, Leith Accies, Linlithgow, Musselburgh, Royal High School, Rosyth, St Ronan’s, Tranent, United Colleges and Boroughmuir. Of the 20 matches played that season, 8 were won, 9 lost and 1 drawn. 120 points were scored and 130 conceded. The second XV played 7 matches, winning 2 of them.
Such are the basic facts about the setting up of the Club. But this fails to convey the spirit of the club in what was a pretty austere time.
Enthusiasm was certainly the keynote, and this made it possible for the Hon Secretary to report at the first AGM that “the club had passed through its first season creditably.” Although a financial loss was recorded, it was decided to carry on.
After that, the story was been one of gradual consolidation and expansion, with periods of contraction. In 1929 the strip was changed to blue with red and gold stripes to match the school colours.
Through the 1930s Broughton developed a reputation for 7s, winning several tournaments. A Third team was regularly fielded. The committee was expanded to cope with increasing administration. An associated cricket club was set up with a loan of £5 from the rugby club, but this folded when the Hon Secretary absconded with the funds!
Second World War
The Second World War saw the club lose many players to the forces, but old stagers like Bob Ironside and Jimmy Hutchison kept things running and even managed to field a team right up until 1943, when the Royal Navy commandeered Wardie (perhaps influenced by the waterlogged nature of the pitch?).
September 1945 saw the resumption of the club’s playing activities, but not at Wardie as the Royal Navy was still entrenched there. The club used a number of other grounds for a while. It was only in 1956 that the Royal Navy removed their Nissen Huts and we were allowed back to Wardie. To manage the increasingly complex finances the club appointed Bill Foster as Treasurer. He would go on to serve as President.
The immediate post war years were hard financially, but the club prospered on the playing side as battle hardened veterans returned from national service. Several players were selected for representative sides, and the club prospered in the unofficial junior leagues.
The 1960s and time for a clubhouse.
By the 1960s 4 teams were regularly fielded. Lights were installed at Wardie in 1960. In 1963 full membership of the SRU was attained, our application being sponsored by Boroughmuir and Royal High School FP.
Throughout the 60s things continued to progress, both financially and on the playing side. Driven by stalwarts like Eric Donaldson and Jake Annand the club thrived. By now 4 teams were regularly fielded and thoughts turned to building a clubhouse at Wardie. Planning permission was obtained and a drinks licence applied for. Under the leadership of Jake Annand members and friends were organised, cajoled and indeed bullied to raise the astronomical sum of over £2500, and to carry out all the building work themselves. The total cost of £8k was covered by an SRU loan of £4k, a Brewer’s grant of £1k, and a loan of £500 with the rest of the money coming from the club.
The 1970s and expansion of the clubhouse
On 1 April 1970 the clubhouse was officially opened by the President of the SRU, and to mark the occasion, there was a game against the Co-Optimists, which Broughton won.
In 1978 the clubhouse was extended for the first time, driven by Jake Annand and Eric Donaldson. Again club members did most of the work.
In recognition of his contribution, the committee room was named the Jake Annand room. On Monday 15 December 1980, Jake collapsed and died in the Clubhouse he’d put 55 years of service into as player, administrator and as a hands-on joiner. Eric Donaldson collapsed and died in 1987 when speaking at the Livingston Rugby Club dinner. A room in the clubhouse also bears his name. Both men epitomise the true Broughtonian spirit of selfless service, and the club owes them both an incalculable debt.
On the field the club continued to prosper during the 70s and 80s. Many Broughton players gained representative honours for Edinburgh District – Doug Gallacher, Dave McIntosh, Alan Hoy, George Simpson, Geoff Gratton-Brunt, Bill McKay, to name but a few. A Broughton referee – Dave Collier – was honoured when he was appointed touch judge for the England v Scotland game at Twickenham in 1969.
When the SRU created competitive leagues in 1973, we were placed in Division 3, but unfortunately that didn’t last long – we were relegated in 1977. However in 1982 we bounced back again, under coach Jimmy Calder and captain Bill Blanch, winning Division 4 in style. The second XV under captain Bill Brown also won their league championship that season. By then we were fielding 5 teams, with some significant players – Bill Blanch, John Rankin, Neil Fisher, Eric Lambert and Bob Wilson all played representative rugby for Edinburgh B.
The 1980s - Times of change, the start of BRAC & touring sides
The 1980s were our halcyon years, despite being relegated again to Division 4 and then to Division 5, as outstanding players started to drift towards the big clubs. We introduced a successful Junior and then a Colts side. The social side expanded, and the clubhouse was regularly full on match days and training nights.
In 1983 a pre International Lunch was introduced by Eric Donaldson – carried on by Tom Richardson - which was to attract many first rate speakers and at the same time raise significant funds for the club. Broughton Ladies – wives, partners - did a mountain of work, providing catering, hosting and fundraising.
The 1980s also saw the establishment of BRAC (“Broughton Rugby Athletic Club”). Originally a tongue in cheek vehicle to raise money for Red Nose Day it is now a means for older non playing members with dreams of grandeur to raise funds for the club and organise sponsorship events, whilst participating in increasingly imaginative “athletic” activities!
Throughout this period we were in demand to play visiting teams. A Welshman – Viv John – would bring a band of welsh supporters from Neath every two years. When he died in 1990 his widow presented us with the “Viv John Memorial Rrophy” which would remain in the clubhouse, but would be played for in competition with touring sides.
The 1990s - Mini Rugby & Further Clubhouse Extension
The 1990s were not so good for the club on the field as we were relegated to Division 7. Without a steady inflow of former pupils from Broughton School – rugby had stopped at the school during the 1980s – we became more reliant on “transient” players, fielded fewer teams, and junior rugby died out. But despite this we remained a strong social club, with a strong sense of identity and loyalty – especially among the former players.
We still had ambition, though. In 1996, Mini Rugby was re-introduced thanks to Colin Weir and Graham Bonner, and carried on by Richard Chalmers.
In 1997, thanks to the efforts of George Gilchrist, Bill Blanch, Kenny Grant, Dave Taylor, Eddie King, Derek Sutherland and others, we opened another new extension to the
clubhouse. Again we raised much of the money and did the work ourselves. To
mark the opening we hosted a celebrity match to raise money for Dugald McArthur – a member who suffered serious spinal injuries whilst playing for Scottish Provident.
The new millennium - 2000s & the introduction of Ladies Rugby
The twenty-first century has provided mixed fortunes. We have had good seasons and bad seasons, depending on the particular set of players available. But the club has kept going, even though the older stalwarts were fewer. Off the field we are fortunate to have stalwarts like Sandy Scott our Bar Steward and Hywel Williams our Match Secretary to do much of the behind the scenes work. Brian Darling represents the club as referee – most recently running touch at the National Ladies Cup Final and acting as fourth official at the Commonwealth Games Sevens.
On the field we found it increasingly hard to maintain 2 teams. We looked at ways of combining resources with other clubs – notably the BATs initiative with Edinburgh Accies and Trinity. Fresh blood was important. But it came in a rather unexpected way.
While their facilities were being redeveloped, Lismore Ladies came to Wardie to train. They liked it here as they were made to feel welcome and supported, and they quickly identified with the Broughton ethos. So in 2009 they moved here permanently, changing their name to Broughton Women. They have been successful on the field – and have enhanced the club off the field.
2010s - First Lady President and celebrating 90 years
And so here we end our history of Broughton Rugby Club, in this our 90th Year. What will the future hold? Our men are in Division 3 of the East League but are capable of more if they put their minds to it, as their winning of the East Regional Bowl in 2013 showed.
Our women are doing well in National Division 1 and won the National Bowl in 2014.
We are developing plans to enhance our changing facilities.
We have elected our first woman president – Rebecca Long.
More players are stepping up to help run the club as the older members fade away. It’s good to feel a buzz again at Wardie on match days and see an increase in social events.
We have a vision to provide opportunities for players to play rugby and develop their skills to the level of their abilities, whilst providing a strong and supportive social scene. To that end we have a strong coaching team in place, an ambitious social committee and a general committee prepared to build for the future.
The future is in our own hands, and we are confident it will be a good one.