The Edinburgh Academical Football Club, formed in 1857/8, is the oldest rugby club in Scotland, the second oldest in the World and one of the founding members of the Scottish Rugby Union. The Clubs name omits the word Rugby as it predates the division between the Association and Rugby codes of football, which took place in the 1860s.
The Edinburgh Academical's ground, at Raeburn Place, located 10 minutes walk from Princes Street, in the new town area of Stockbridge, can truly be said to be the cradle of Scottish Rugby. The first ever international match, between Scotland and England took place at Raeburn Place in 1871, the first Calcutta Cup in 1879, and the first Womens Rugby world Cup Final in 1994. More recently Accies played host to eight of the IRB U21 World Championships group games between the 11th and 23rd of June 2004.
EAFC has more players capped for Scotland than any other Scottish Club, including Scotlands Grand Slam Captain Phil McPherson in 1925, Douglas Elliott in the 40s and 50s, Brian Neill (Captain in Scotlands 1964 Calcutta Cup victory), and Roger Arneil in the 60s and 70s. More recently, David Sole captained the Club, so two out of Scotlands three Grand Slam captains. Martin Scott, David McIvor, Chris Gray (in the 1990 Team), Alex Moore, John Allan (a Club Captain, who played for Scotland and South Africa), Jeremy Richardson, Rob Wainwright and Rowen Shepherd. Scott Murray has played for the Club, as has Barry Stewart (capped for Scotland in 1996 and playing for Sale Sharks), whilst Mike Blair and Tom Philip have close associations with the Club, indeed Tom is the 100th player to play International Rugby from the Academy. EAFC has also produced 13 British Lions, and, in earlier years, five players who were capped by England !
Historical Highlights :
1851-The first record of rugby being played at the Edinburgh Academy, 28 years after William Webb Ellis first took the ball in his arms and ran with it. "A game of a primitive kind...the most cruel hacking with iron-toed and heeled boots was allowed and suffered in the muddle (now maul)... the ball was composed of a raw bladder, fresh from the butcher's hands and enclosed in a leather case". "It was not a game of much elaboration, but it was vigorously engaged in and enjoyed.
1853-Raeburn Place Ground acquired at a premium of Â£53.17s.4d
1854-Raeburn Place Ground opens for play, in May of that year.
1857-Start of EAFC's first full Season of Rugby. "We played twenty a side, and a scrum was a scrum indeed - fifteen pushing against fifteen in a tight maul that was often immovable for minutes. The steam rose from the pack like the smoke from a charcoal burner. It was much more fatiguing than the open game of today" - and that was written in 1881! Apparently, in wet conditions, nineteen players contested the scrummage, with one "back". That back was called the quarter back or half back.
1863-"The parting of the ways between Rugger and Soccer". EAFC remain known as a "Football Club" as it started before this time.
1864-First reference to "a maul with twenty a side, all playing forward with the exception of one full back and two half-backs."
1870-Due to heightened interest in Rugby in Scotland, pressure mounted on the playing of an International. Following on a meeting on 5th December, representatives of four Scottish Clubs (Edinburgh Academicals, West of Scotland, Glasgow Academicals, and University of St Andrews) , wrote to B.H.Burns, the Secretary of Blackheath, "...For our own satisfaction, therefore, and with a view to really testing what Scotland can do against an English Team, we, representing the whole footballing interest of Scotland, hereby challenge any team selected from the whole of England, to play us a match, twenty a side Rugby rules. If entered into we can promise England a hearty welcome and a first rate match."
1871-27th March - A then record crowd, estimated at about 4000, attended Raeburn Place. Scotland won by the only "goal" (ie conversion), by W.Cross. One anecdote is "J.F.Finlay had got away well with the ball and was sprinting towards the English line at hundred yards speed when Osborne, folding his arms across his chest, ran full tilt at him, after the fashion of a bull charging at a gate. Both were very big, heavy men, and the crash of the collision was tremendous, each reeling some yards and finally falling on his back. For a few seconds, players and spectators alike held their breath, fearing terrible results, but the two giants promptly resumed their places, apparently none the worse." James Finlay played in every International afterwards until his retirement in 1875. R.W. "Bulldog" Irvine played in that first Match, at the age of 18 and appeared for every Match for the following 10 years. Ninian Finlay also played in the Match, having just turned 17 - Scotlands Youngest cap. Internationals continued to be played at Raeburn Place until 1899.