Exiles match offers chance to be frivolous and jolly in the Granite City

Aberdeen Exiles will take on an Aberdeen Select at Rubislaw on Boxing Day as one of North-East rugby's great traditions is revived after Covid break

The Aberdeen Exiles versus Aberdeen Select match is a tradition which began in the Savoy Hotel in London back in 1930. Image from 2019 match: Gareth Falls
The Aberdeen Exiles versus Aberdeen Select match is a tradition which began in the Savoy Hotel in London back in 1930. Image from 2019 match: Gareth Falls

JUST occasionally, the great game of rugby gets too serious about itself, not least the professional side of it, but equally true of the amateur game, especially when played in the appalling conditions which Scotland endured last weekend.

But then that’s what you must put up with if you insist in playing winter sport in a country where the weather is the talk of town every day, not that I am an advocate of summer rugby, although I do understand the case being made for it.

Then again, as a fan and reporter of the sport of cricket, I like to have my cake and eat it.

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No, let’s leave the case for playing rugby in the summer for another day, and concentrate instead on mingling the joys of Christmas and the oval ball sport in an imaginative way as was the case of the two London-based homesick Aberdonians in the bar of the Savoy Hotel in 1930.

Doug Cochrane and Tommy Robertson, two lawyers, came up with the idea of playing a game of rugby in their native Aberdeen on Boxing Day to celebrate exiles coming back to the Granite City for the festive season, where they would take on locally based players at Rubislaw, the home of Premiership side Aberdeen Grammar.

The idea was well received by the rugby fraternity and is still a traditional part of the the local  game, missing only the war years over the period 1939-45, and only twice called off due to the elements in the 90 year history of the game.

Thanks to a succession of willing organisers, the fixture between Aberdeen Exiles and an Aberdeen Select has attracted players of all abilities from a wide range of clubs around the world. Indeed, at one point in the peak of interest, players were jetting in from Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, Sydney and Paris, not to mention all parts of the UK, all desperate to get a game.

The Aberdeen Select side is made up of enthusiasts from Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeen Wanderers, Aberdeenshire, Banff, Gordonians, Garioch, Ellon, Mackie FPs and many others.

Among those to have graced the fixture are Scottish captains Jason White and Chris Cusiter, while 75 times capped Stuart Grimes has turned out on occasions, as did Australian Damian Reidy when he was head coach at Rubislaw.

The current organiser of the game is Jim Sugden, a Gordonian, who, with great reluctance, called off the day last season because of Covid19.

“It is vital to get the fixture up and running again. It is, after all, part of the great tradition of North-East rugby. If any exiles or even locals would like to play just give me a ring 079 60 669 844 or go to our Facebook page for details,” said the enthusiastic Sugden a past master of all things frivolous and jolly.

As per tradition, the game kicks off at 11am, followed by lunch at a local hotel. Spectators of all hues are very welcome.

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About Jack Nixon 62 Articles
Jack is a Borderer, born in Langholm, and a graduate of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. He was a founder member of Livingston Rugby Club in 1968 and has been rugby correspondent for the Aberdeen Press and Journal since 1997. He has been going to Murrayfield man and boy since 1954!


  1. Marr used to host an Exiles game in the 70’s. The only time the three brothers ,
    Peter, Gordon and John played together in a rugby match

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