History 1 of 3

1. History

Founded, in 1904/05 for the former pupils of Robert Gordon’s College, the Gordonian Rugby Football Club has seen many changes in its constitution and fortunes over the last 101 years. The first fifty years of the Gordonian rugby had seen the establishment of a solid and vibrant club, the next fifty one years were to see the club experience many highs and lows as the game was restructured at a national level. First international recognition came to the Club when Bert Bruce took the field for Scotland against Australia at Murrayfield in 1946-47. The international torch was carried through the rest of the century by players like Donald MacDonald, Ron Glasgow and Ian McCrae.

Throughout the late 1950's and the 1960's the club constantly improved its fixture list and played an active role in the development of the game in the North East of Scotland with many players representing the district with Ian McRae, Gordon Hill, A Whyte, and Ian Spence going on to become Scottish trialists. Ian McRae a fantastically energetic and skilled scrum-halve won six Scottish International caps between 1967 and 1972 and like Gordon Hill (1961) and Ian Spence (1963/64) also enjoyed the honour of playing for the Barbarians in 1965. The solid player base and management structure of the 1960's took the club into the 1970's in a strong position.

Having established themselves as a force in the 1960s, Gordonians were to see many changes in the 1970s with the introduction of National Leagues in season 1973/74, the club going "open" in 1974/75 and being able to welcome many new talented and committed players. The club would see the gradual introduction of a more professional and committed approach to training and the beginning of the occasional end of season tours for the various teams to the North East of England, the West Coast of Scotland or even France in the 80’s and South Africa in the 90’s.

Gordonians started life in Division III of the new National League system in season 1973/74 and immediately won promotion to Division II. However the climb from Division II to I took a further five years to achieve but in the interim the Club had been fortunate to retain a consistent pool of players, the 2nd and 3rd fifteens established themselves at the head of the Midland League and Aberdeen District League respectively. In season 1978/79 seven Gordonians played for the North Midlands side versus a touring New Zealand side and Chris Snape played for the Barbarians proving the Club had the player base necessary to compete at the highest level. Promotion to Division I was achieved in season 1979/80.

Season 1980/1981 was to prove one of the Club’s most successful and enjoyable. The long-awaited arrival of Hawick at Seafield for the Club’s first ever Division I match was greeted by a brilliantly sunny day and a nervous crowd of around fifteen hundred. There was no need for nerves as Gordonians roared into an early lead and finished the match comfortable winners 26-13. After the first eight matches in Division I stood third in the table finally finishing the season in a very creditable sixth place. The success had been achieved by a "Club" effort and to mark this achievement the club took a touring party of thirty-eight players to Whitely Bay for a three match tour for 1st and 3rd XV's.

The season 1981/82 by contrast, saw the Club unable to continue its successful run. Injuries to key players and a side that was getting a bit long in the tooth all contributed to a poor season with the side ending 2nd bottom of the league. But for league reconstruction Gordonians would have been demoted but another season of Division I, was assured. Season 1982/1983 proved a very difficult season for the Club, with a lot of young and inexperienced players being fielded to fill the gaps and relegation could not be avoided. Season 1983/84 was therefore a season of consolidation finishing 6th in Div II. The 3rd XV also won the Aberdeen and District League.

Consolidation was short lived with the Club finishing bottom of Div II in 1984/1985. However, the much-celebrated Club tour to France, in which all three fixtures against very strong French opposition were won, was a great boost to Club morale.

Season 1985/1986, captained by the late and much missed, Doug Lowson saw a season of consolidation in Division III, with the Club finishing 6th.

Seasons 1986/87 and 1987/88 saw slips to the lower half of Division III after indifferent league campaigns but at least the slide appeared to have stopped. Indeed the downward trend was firmly reversed in Season 1988/89 when Colin Manders’ side was promoted to Division II with a great run of victories in the second half of the season.

The reverse in fortunes however, was short lived and the Club was relegated the following season and finished 9th in Div III, the season after that (1990/91). One highlight was that of Seb Whyte represented the Club at Scotland under 18 level and Lachie Dow represented Scotland at Under 21 level.

Season 1991/92 saw relegation avoided by a last game of the season (and last game at Seafield) victory over Howe of Fife. Martin Waite represented the Club at Scotland Under 19 level and Gordon Masson was appointed President of the Scottish Rugby Union. The Club also returned to tour Whitley Bay at the end of the Season. Professionalism was now taking a firm grip with the need for fulltime coaches, shirt sponsors, etc.

Season 1992/1993 saw an even narrower escape from relegation. Having to beat Morgan, away from home, in the last game of the season, by 10 points to avoid the drop, Gordonians won 29-0.

Season 1993/94 was a great success for Captain Steve Lipp and Coach Dave Thornton. The firsts and seconds both won their respective leagues and the 1st XV were promoted to Div II.

A difficult season followed. Coach Thornton was called away on business half way through the season and the first foreign influence appeared in the bought-in coach from Australia Steve Coward Due to our league position and league reorganisation the Club 1st XV ended up in Premier Division 4 for the following season (1995/1996), finishing a creditable 4th. This was the season that Rugby Union went professional and although the Club imported two overseas players for the first time, it resisted the temptation to pay players. This season also saw the introduction of the first Scottish Cup, Shield and Bowl competitions.

Season 1996/1997 was another great season. Dave Thornton was back at the helm as coach, Alan Mclean returned to skipper the side and overseas players from Australia and New Zealand were brought in. All three sides won their respective leagues and it was felt that the Club would have competed well in Premier Division II that year as it beat Premier III and II sides in friendlies. The Club was also voted as Bellhaven Club of the Month during the season.

Season 1997/98 saw the arrival of Shane Fletcher, a New Zealand player coach. Gordonians finished third in Division III, just missing out on promotion. Aberdeen Grammar School FP's were promoted and this difference in leagues ultimately proved a very large factor in the Club’s ability to attract and retain quality players

Season 1998/1999 saw a 5th place finish in Division III and one of the Clubs greatest moments an appearance in the Shield Final at Murrayfield at the end of the Season. Although losing narrowly to Jedforest, we could have won. The season ended with an ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable tour to South Africa.

A difficult season in 1999/2000 took us into "The New Millennium" which has brought hard times on Gordonians with the team slipping down the leagues from Division III of the Scottish Premier Leagues to National II in successive seasons. This reverse in fortune was directly linked to reduced player numbers. The Club has been unable to rely on the College to supply the backbone of the team as has been the case in the past. In the Club’s 99th year, the difficult decision to resign from the National Leagues and re-apply to play in the North District Leagues was taken. This was done to ensure the survival of Gordonians in the short term and allow the rebuilding of the Club on a more solid foundation.

The wisdom of that decision was seen with the Club winning the North District League in 2005 -06. Two more consecutive promotions in the following years saw Gordonians gaining promotion back up into the National Leagues in 2008 -09. This was achieved by a very successful partnership with Robert Gordon’s University and the return of some former pupils of the college.

With tours to Toronto in 2006, Vancouver in 2008 & Boston in 2011 the club has gradually rebuilt itself and the fun has returned. The Club’s efforts were recognised with the award of the Scottish Hydro Electric Club of the Month for March 2008.

This year Gordonians will be looking for promotion from Caledonia Division 1 into National 3. Gordonians are very much a Club where player improvement and enjoyment come first.


Three other former pupils of Robert Gordon's College have gone on to achieve international success with other clubs. Derek Deans (Hooker) played for Hawick and was capped for Scotland against England in 1968. Stuart Grimes (Lock / Number 8) was first capped for Scotland against Australia in 1997 and has now amassed 71 caps, and Chris Cusiter (Scrum Half), who first played for Scotland against Wales in 2004 and has 17 caps and completed a British Lions tour of New Zealand. We wish them both many more caps.