Skittles club back on a roll

The Trotters play the Heather Club at the Sheep Heid in 1985
The Trotters play the Heather Club at the Sheep Heid in 1985
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A 100-YEAR old skittles club whose members lost their Saturday night slot for not buying enough drink is to make a return – and they’re standing everyone a round.

The Trotters Club, which was established in 1882, had traditionally met once a month at Scotland’s oldest surviving pub, the Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston, to play skittles and compose songs and poems.

But four years ago they were “threw a ba’” by the pub’s owner, Mitchells and Butlers, who told the club it could no longer have use of the exclusive alley on a Saturday night as members didn’t drink enough.

Instead they were moved to an afternoon slot and membership began to dwindle.

However, with club numbers now rising to 16 and new, more sympathetic management in place, the Trotters have been picked from the gutter and returned to their much cherished prime-time slot.

And to celebrate they’ve offered to get a drink for anyone who comes along for a game. Club secretary Jimmy MacDonald said: “We’re delighted to be back in our old slot, Saturday afternoons were pretty unpopular with the remaining members and it didn’t help in attracting new ones either.

“We don’t really know why the numbers are rising again, I put it down to word of mouth as it’s a great way to spend a Saturday night. At the moment we are at 16 but we expect to attract new members once we’re back in our old slot.”

All are welcome to play for free on the first Saturday of the month and those who turn up will even be bought a drink from club funds. Jimmy added: “The lack of spend on drinks isn’t an issue with the new management but we’re willing to provide a few to make people welcome.”

The game’s renaissance isn’t just confined to the Sheep Heid either as it emerges that the nearby Radical Road pub on Willowbrae Road is looking into converting a storeroom back into a skittle alley.

Jimmy added: “They have an old alley at the pub and a few of the drinkers are in talks with the management about putting skittles back in there. This would be great if it happens as it will give us a team to play against.”

People have been playing skittles at the Sheep Heid Inn since the 16th century and the current alley was built in 1882 on the site of the old stable block.

James VI is known to have been fond of a game at the pub.

It is the oldest surviving public house in Scotland, dating back to 1360, and assistant manager Robin Jacobs said: “We’re more than happy to have the Trotters Club here at the pub, they’ve been knocking about for years and they definitely add something to the place.

“We do our best to accommodate them and recently allowed them rejig the skittle alley to a better position. The game is quite traditional, just like the pub, so the two go hand in hand in a way.”