The History of Uddingston RFC, 1906 - 2014
The autumn of 1906 saw our Club, one of Lanarkshire's oldest, established. On Saturday 29th September 1906 Uddingston Rugby Football Club played its first competitive home fixture at Birkenshaw Park against a Bearsden 2nd XV. The result, an encouraging 21–8 victory for the ‘Villagers’, put them on the rugby map.
Guided through its early years by Club President John Walker, ably assisted by Honorary President and former Scottish internationalist, G.T.Neilson, Uddingston quickly established themselves on the fixture lists of some of the country's well respected clubs. By their second season, Uddingston were regular opponents for the 2nd XVs of West of Scotland, Glasgow Accies, Glasgow High School FP and Kelvinside Accies. During those formative seasons notable results were achieved with the likes of Craigielea, Glasgow High School FP, Bishopbriggs, Lenzie and Bellahouston Accies all failing to defeat the newcomers.
Following such a promising start, and having established themselves on the rugby circuit, the Great War of 1914 to 1918 brought rugby to a temporary halt. Play did not resume until 1922, with the Club becoming members of the West District Union League. It was during this time that A.E. Harris, T.A. Chambers and R.W. Langrish, later to gain four caps for Scotland, were involved in the playing side at Uddingston. The mid to late 1920's were a very successful period for the Club, with it winning the league outright and coming second on a number of occasions. With quality across the team Uddingston supplied the backbone of the Glasgow Junior District XV for several seasons including eight players in one match alone. It was reported that a crowd of 5000 turned out to watch the District side play Whitecraigs at Deaconsbank.
The 1930s saw fortunes change and the Villagers suffered their worst ever season in 1932/1933 with only a draw achieved from twenty two fixtures. The involvement with the Club of J.A.G. Bisset and Bothwell’s Peter Laurie Duff saw this decline reversed and fortunes steadily improved until play was again interrupted, this time by the Second World War.
Laurie Duff was to go on to become Uddingston's most successful player, moving to Glasgow Accies where he earned six Scottish caps between 1936 and 1939. He also achieved the ultimate rugby accolade when he was selected to tour South Africa with the 1938 British Lions. On that tour he scored the first Lions try in the Second Test as well as the game clinching try in the Final Test. Laurie never forgot his home club and served as Honorary Vice President from 1968 until well into the 1980s. He died in 2002, aged 89 years.
Following the Second World War, rugby at Uddingston resumed in 1948. The mid 1950s saw the gradual rebuilding of the Club with the arrival of new players including Jimmy Rhind and Charlie Scott. By Season 1959/1960, a solid team had been established and on 12th March 1960, Uddingston took on and beat Dalziel 45–3.
The departure of a number of key players over the next few seasons saw fortunes dip once more with the exception of one notable home game on 14 December 1962, against Hamilton. With Hamilton leading 0-6 at half time Uddingston fought back to secure an 8-6 victory, their first against their local rivals. Douglas Steedman scored a try with Morris Duncan kicking a penalty and the conversion. The match was played in atrocious weather conditions with spectators’ cars supplying floodlighting. Don Munday, Uddingston wing forward later recalled “As the final whistle blew horns tooted and lights flashed” and that “the celebrations lasted long into the night”.
Progress continued over the next few seasons and 1968/1969 saw only four defeats from thirty five matches - two early season matches and the final two matches - when four key players were sidelined through injury.
In 1973, Uddingston RFC applied for and was granted Full Membership of the SRU. The following season (1974/1975) restructuring of the leagues resulted in the Villagers being positioned in National Division 7. Life in the National Leagues was not without difficulty and by 1977 Uddingston had been relegated to Division 2 of the Glasgow District Leagues. However by 1981, Uddingston had once more climbed into the National Leagues reaching Division 6 in 1983.
On Sunday 1st September 1985, Uddingston celebrated the opening of their new pitch at Bothwell Castle Policies with a fixture between an Uddingston President's XV, which included Scottish Internationalist John Beattie, ably supported by Uddingston's Billy Fulton, Andy Braidwood, Robert Allan, Kenny Roberts and captain John McKerron, and a Co-optimists XV lead by Colin Deans and including Mike DeBusk and Jim Calder. The final score of 54-17 to the Co-optimists was no disgrace given the quality of the opposition.
Unfortunately the stay in the National Leagues was short lived and by 1986 Uddingston was back playing rugby in the Glasgow District Leagues where the Club remained until 2003 when promotion to National Division 5 West (B) was achieved.
2005 was a good year for the Club's 1st XV who lost only one league fixture between the January and December. Season 2005/2006 finished in style with the Club being crowned champions of National Division 5 West (B), as Uddingston approached its 100th year in existence.
The Villager’s Centenary during Season 2006/2007 was celebrated with a number of events. A dinner was held with Lions legend Willie John McBride the key speaker. The following day Rowan Shepherd led a Scottish Legends XV onto the pitch at Bothwell Castle Policies, defeating the Villagers 28-65 in a great display of traditional rugby skill. The playing season did not fare so well. Despite a brave cup run, where they eventually bowed out 24-32 in the national quarter final to eventual winners Aberdeen University, the league season was disappointing, sadly ending in relegation to West Division 2.
The next few seasons mirrored earlier years, with the 1st XV being promoted one season and relegated the following as Uddingston, like other smaller clubs, suffered from periodic shortages of players, and further league re-structuring took place. Of note during this period, was Season 2009/2010 when the 1st XV won West Division 2 under the captaincy of Bruce McKirdy.
While senior rugby struggled at times youth rugby in the Mini and Midi Sections enjoyed some success. The history of youth rugby at the Club dates back to the early 1980s. Then the hard work of Bill Mullen, John Currie, George Finlayson, Duncan Sooman and other volunteers was instrumental in establishing a Mini Rugby Section in Season 1982/1983. The Mini Section continues to this day with regular successes being achieved by its teams at Tournaments and Rugby Festivals across Central Scotland.
In Season 2010/2011, the Midi Section’s Under 16 Team won the West Under 16 Division 2 North and did so in style winning all of their league fixtures. That same season, the Under 18 Team won the West Under 18 Bowl. The following season (2011/2012), saw the Under 18 Team go undefeated to win the West Under 18 Development League, beating local rivals Hamilton to the title. On Wednesday 18th April 2012, Uddingston’s Under 16s travelled to Cambuslang and won the West Under 16 Shield, defeating a combined Cambuslang / East Kilbride side in a hard fought encounter.
After a promising start Season 2012/2013 ended with the 1st XV finishing 3rd in West Division 3 behind Oban and Loch Lomond. This was despite them seeing off Oban 27-12 in some style at Uddingston (Match Report)in October 2012 and fighting back to defeat Loch Lomond 18–27 at Bonhill (Match Report)in April 2013.
The Club’s most successful season to date occurred in 2013/2014, when the 1st XV won RBS West Division 3 (Played 14, Won 13 Lost 1), the RBS West Regional Bowl and reached the Semi Final stage of the National RBS Bowl competition. In addition, the Club’s Under 16s won West U16 Division 2 North (Played 8, Won 7, Lost 1).
The 1st XV travelled the length (Mull, Cumnock and Wigtownshire) and breadth (Arran, Birkmyre, Paisley and Lanark) of the West of Scotland during their West 3 campaign. A good start was made at Lanark on 7th September with a 11 – 44 win. Lanark were to figure again on 15th February 2014 when the return fixture and league decider took place. Strong running and really slick handling on a wet and muddy pitch that day saw the Villagers power to a 85-0 win (Match Report), clinching West 3 with two games still to play.
Road trips were also required in the RBS West Regional Bowl competition, with the Villagers travelling to and winning away at, Birkmyre (Match Report), Cumnock and in truly monsoon like conditions at Paisley en-route to the final.
On 7th December, Uddingston hosted Isle of Arran RFC in the final. A sizeable and vocal crowd cheered the Villagers on to a 38 - 14 win (Match Report). Coached by Player / Coach Craig Ferguson and former 1st XV Captain, David Knox, the victorious Uddingston team were,
Backs: Liam Quinn, Jamie McPherson (Captain), Chris King, Neil Convery, Tom Hughes, Gordon Burns and Richie Murray.
Forwards: Ruairidh West, Paul Kincaid, Bobby Clelland, Stewart MacKay, Donald Haldane, Andy Paterson, Ross McKeown and David McKelvie.
Replacements: Craig Ferguson, James Brown, Mikey McKeown, Garry McGill and Scott Burns.
As West Regional Bowl winners Uddingston moved into the Semi Final of the National RBS Bowl and were drawn to play Highland, winners of the North Regional Bowl and undefeated in RBS Caledonia League Division 2 North. On 29 March, the team from Inverness made the long road trip to Uddingston where in a tense and bruising encounter they managed to defeat Uddingston, 13 – 27 (Match Report).
The Club’s Midi Rugby Section again enjoyed success when in January 2014, the U16 Team coached by former 1st XV player Kevin Kidd, won West U16 Division 2 North.
Season 2013/2014 also saw the first competitive games, including the West 3 league decider against Lanark, played on the new South Lanarkshire Council rugby pitch at Porterswell.
After the highs of 2013/14, the following season, 2014/15, saw the Villagers crash back down to earth. The retirement of a number of key players from the previous squad together with a change of coaching team saw the team struggle to cope with the pace and physicality of life in West Div 2. By the end of the campaign the Villagers were stuck at the foot of the table having failed to win any of their competitive fixtures.
With relegation to West Div 3 confirmed the club once more started to look at rebuilding for the future.
The content of this document up to the period 2005/2006 is based upon material in a more comprehensive publication entitled, “ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF UDDINGSTON RUGBY FOOTBALL CLUB 1906-2006”.
This was produced by former player and 1st XV Captain, Joe James to mark the Club’s Centenary.
Copies still available.