TWO venerable old clubs are celebrating their 125th birthdays this year, the Barbarians and Heriot’s FP. Both started out life way back in 1890, in the reign of Queen Victoria, both are happily still going strong and both are getting together for a joint birthday bash.
Heriot’s have a big week ahead of them. That Barbarians match takes place on Tuesday evening at Goldenacre, with several well-kent faces to be found in the visitors’ dressing room. The amateur club, facing a team that includes 11 capped players from six different countries, are managed by former Goldenacre favourite Rory Lawson.
Just four days later, Heriot’s take part in the inaugural club BT Premiership league final on Saturday, 25 April, in a bid to win their fourth title since the leagues were established in 1973/74. Under the old first-past-the-post rules they would have been champions this year after finishing the regular season a whopping ten points clear of their nearest rivals. Heriot’s are rightly proud of being the only club never to have been relegated from top-flight rugby in all that time.
More than just being successful, Heriot’s have always showcased an enterprising brand of rugby far more common now than it was even a decade ago when many teams were still happy to stick the ball up their jumpers. Goldenacre has not always attracted the numbers that their stylish rugby has warranted but, under the watch of the current president Iain Milne and coach Phil Smith, the place has enjoyed renewed success both on and off the field. Former players’ lunches hosted by the genial giant Milne regularly attract a full house and, whatever the outcome next Saturday, this generation of Heriot’s players have already tasted success with last season’s cup victory over Hawks.
T0 mark the 125th anniversary a committee of the great and the good of Goldenacre (aka I. Milne Esq, pictured below) put together a Heriot’s XV culled from across the centuries. The team is inevitably skewed towards more recent history but some oldies still make the cut.
Heriot’s are spoilt for choice here, with Andy Irvine, Ken Scotland and Dan Drysale, but the latter gets the nod. Drysdale toured South Africa with the Lions in 1924, playing in all four Tests before helping Scotland to the Grand Slam the following year.
Perhaps best known as a counter-attacking full-back, Irvine had all the skills to be totally at ease on the wing as well. Lightning quick, he was a regular in the Test team throughout three Lions tours.
Father of the actor Roy Kinnear (and grandfather to Rory), Roy senior was capped three times in 1926 before moving to England and switching to rugby league.
A doctor by trade (and brother of prop Jim) Harry was a hard-running centre who turned out for Scotland B on several occasions between 1977-81.
11 Peter Steven
An elusive and pacey winger with a great step, Steven earned four caps in the early 1980s, with his first coming against the 1984 Wallabies when his opposite number, David Campese, scored a brace. Ouch.
The selectors had to a find a place for the man who was the personification of skill over muscle in way that typified the club both then and now. Scotland was another full-back by training, he toured Australia with the 1959 Lions and claimed 12 tries in all.
There has been some tough competition in this shirt, not least from Rory’s dad Alan, who will be miffed that junior beat him to the spot, but perhaps that’s what you get for joining London Scottish for the best part of your career.
A vet by profession (and brother of centre Harry) Jim was loosehead prop in the 1979 league-winning team and earned four Scotland caps the following season.
We sniffed this selection carefully for the faintest whiff of filial bias but could find none. Kenny was arguably unlucky not to have won more caps than the 40 he finished with…or so he continually claims.
We know “the Bear” was very, very good indeed, he has told us so more than once, and he was right, especially in the tight exchanges. Iain Milne may have been a little one-paced about the park for the modern game but what wouldn’t Vern Cotter give for his ilk right now?
A practising vet, Deas was capped twice in 1947 and went on to become the club’s president.
He just pipped Andy MacDonald to the shirt despite turning out for England’s A team after moving down south and playing for Harlequins.
An uncompromising back-row forward who was capped three times in 1960 before going on to become the Heriot’s president.
7 EJ “Sam” Oxley
Known to all as “Sam” (short for Sambo), Oxley was a brilliant sevens exponent. Sadly he lived in an era when the colour of your skin meant that despite being outstanding on the field he never did stand out when the selectors met. The flanker should have been Scotland’s first black player in 1935, 75 years before Joe Ansbro put that one to bed.
8 Simon Taylor
Joined Heriot’s straight from school and played for a couple of seasons before picking up a pro contract and going all the way to Scotland and Lions fame. Now an occasional player for rivals Watsonians.
Substitutes’ bench: Bruce Douglas, David Milne, Bob Tollervy, Kevin Rafferty, Alan Lawson, Gordon Ross, Hugh Gilmour, Bill Gammell.