1975 was a watershed year for the Club. Although the clubhouse was ready for occupancy a year earlier, the pitch was yet to be established for use. We continued to play at Bankton Mains for some months afterwards. Up to this time we had purely been enjoying ourselves - playing rugby, attending dances. Secretary and Treasurer duties were simple with a school jotter being all that was required for financial and clerical needs.
All that was to change. Overnight we found ourselves running a business. A more serious vein had pervaded the Club with the devil-me-care attitude confined to the past. We had entered a new phase.
The acquisition of a clubhouse and ground just did not materialise by itself. Negotiations with the Livingston Development Corporation took place over a period of two years with George Smith representing the Club. It was of some benefit that George was the Assistant Legal Secretary of the L.D.C. so in fact he was in some way entreating with himself.
The end result was we were allocated the land at Almond South on a 35 year lease.
Three bodies were approached as to the availability of grants. These were the Livingston Development Corporation, Scottish Sports Council, and the Midlothian County Council. After much writing, meetings, assurances, etc., the money was promised. A clubhouse drawing was required in the first instance by the Sports Council, but unfortunately we had not acquired one at that stage. A club member, Derek Black hurriedly designed one so that our application could go ahead. Also, three estimates had been sought for the building and pitch development. Â£27.000 was the total cost. Â£10,000 was received from the Sports Council, Â£5,000 from the County Council, and the L.D.C put up the balance of Â£12,000.
Clubhouse & Field
The contract for the building was awarded to Linlithgow Construction, Linlithgow, and the laying out of the field to Sportsworks Ltd. Club members, Alwyn O'Neill and Jim Sandilands took on the positions of site agents on behalf of the Club
In the attached photo Mr Hector Monroe, Secretary of State for Scotland and President of the Scottish Rugby Union, performing the official opening of the clubhouse in 1975. Charles Lovell, president of the club stands to his rear.
Further developments to the clubhouse were a natural progression. In May 1977, the beer cellar was added to the rear of the building. This was followed in September of the same year by additions of changing rooms to the north end of the building.
The clubhouse itself was enlarged in 1987 when a full length extension was added to the west side of the building. The new shower area was completed at this time. 1979 found the second pitch operational.
The Livingston Development Corporation had only a few more years of its tenure to run before being wound up when, in October 1992, it sold the ground to us. We had been offered the ten acres for a very reasonable sum, but even this was beyond our scope of raising it. In stepped our beer supplier, Belhaven Brewery.
They offered us the cash on very easy terms over ten years. We jumped at it and so secured our future. This was renogotiated halfway through this period when market forces influenced the Brewer to offer us the loan on more favourable terms. Consequently, the Club will secure full and mortgage free holding of the ground within a few months. This in turn freed our hand to dispose of any excess land we will have.
As a farewell gift from the wind-up of the L.D.C. in 1996, they designed us the stand and provided Â£75,000 towards the cost. West Lothian Council, on the plea from the L.D.C. matched this sum. Messrs Ritchie of Seafield constructed the stand and donated 300 seats. A function room was incorporated. Construction began late 1996, and the official opening was on the 30 August, 1997. Linlithgow provided the opposition on the day.
Excess land development
The continuing decline in the condition of the main pitch was a major source of worry to to Committee and of course a disappointment to players and members at the number of games being cancelled. By the year 2000 it had become apparent that a complete reappraisal had to be undertaken.
As a consequence the Committee under Jim Logan secured the services of a builder, Walker Group to survey the whole ground and in turn they came up with a plan. They proposed to re-site the second pitch to enable sufficient land to the east of it to be suitable in size for housing development.
This was completed and Walker then submitted their plans for a number of houses to be built by them. The settlement to the club was to include the laying out of the second pitch.
Change of use
This was sought and secured. after presentation of plans and ideas at meetings in the stand suite with members of the local authority to keep them aware of our envisaged development.
A meeting was then held in the club for the members to be shown the plans on the 22 March 2001. The meeting then gave the Committee an unanimous approval to proceed in principle subject to obtaining checks on costs and values. Final approval on sale was still in the hands of the members and this had to be obtained at a future general meeting. Planning permission was obtained in December 2001.
An EGM was held in the clubhouse on Tuesday 19th March 2002 at which the Management Committee was given leave to dispose of the surplus land to a developer.
Work began on a major drainage operation of the main pitch on Monday, 13 May 2002. This was completed by early June and the pitch was grass seeded accordingly. Despite the many apprehensions, the pitch was playable by mid September and the first game upon it was on the 21st when the Firsts beat Trinity Acads 31 - 5 in a National League Division One encounter.
By the end of the first season it was unanimously felt that the money spent on it (Â£40,000) was money well spent. It had never looked as in excellent condition as it did, even at the end of a season. Only hard frost provided occasional unplayable conditions.
Work began on re-siting and draining the second pitch in May, 2003, with the estimated cost in excess of Â£50,000. By June, the pitch had been re-sited, drained and sown, with new posts purchased and delivered soon after. The first game upon it took place in October.
(Thanks are due to John Stewart for writing this article.)