JACK NIXON is a regular and valued contributor to The Offside Line, valiantly keeping us updated on what is going on in the important but often neglected rugby hotbed of the Northeast of Scotland. In a previous life he was youth officer for West Lothian County Council and played a key role in the formation of Livingston Rugby Football Club in 1968.
As part of the celebrations of the club’s 50th anniversary, there will be a representative match between the current 1st XV and a Livingston ‘Select’, which includes many former and retired players, this Saturday at Almond Park [kick-off: 2pm]. Rumour has it that former Livingston and Scotland wing Alex Moore is bringing his boots along.
Here, the irrepressible Mr Nixon looks back at the formation of Livingston RFC –
The year was 1968 and Scotland were coming off the back of another poor year in the Five Nations, having only been able to beat France, while also losing a Test to tourists New Zealand, albeit by the narrow margin of 14-3, after Colin Meads, the giant All Black was controversially sent-off.
The national leagues were a distant dream, and Scotland were 10 years away from appointing Nairn MacEwan as their first ever coach.
Not a good time for bringing a new club into existence you might say, and yet there was I dreaming about Livingston New Town having a rugby club fit to survive in what was a stronghold of football in the Calders area of Midlothian. And, with a little encouragement from Hawick based BBC commentator Bill McLaren, I ploughed on with the venture.
Bill, in fact, agreed to become an honorary president of the new club, only to have to withdraw the offer after having been told by the SRU that as a professional commentator, he could not hold office in an amateur club.
In fairness, by way of compensation, Bill sent a cheque, helping ease the disappointment; and over 30 years later in the press box at Hawick, the great man asked me how the club was settling in to the then established league set-up.
Spurred on by this encouragement, it was all go in getting the club off the ground, and the task was made easier by the involvement of the Bathgate boys, who had formed their own club, and were happy to be absorbed into the new set-up in Livingston, although the irrepressible Alywn O’Neil, a prop of the old style, insisted that the name of the club included ‘District’. Given the playing resources the Bathgate and Airdrie boys brought to the new set-up, this was not a problem, and thus Livingston and District Rugby Club came into existence, under the watchful eye of its first president Jim Sandilands.
The first official game was away to Musselburgh on the first Saturday in September, although the club did have an end of season game at Walkerburn which was lost by 84 points to nil, albeit with only 13 players available to travel. The generous Borderers lending us two players to ensure we made a game of it!
Since then the club has never looked back, rising to the challenge of being located so close to Edinburgh, and even managing to produce a Scotland player in the process: winger Alex Moore set the tone for future generations. Getting to the Premier/National leagues was a proud achievement, and a fitting tribute to all those who beavered to make the club sustainable in the difficult early years of the so called professional game.
What life holds for the club after relegation to East Region League 1 a couple of seasons ago is hard to say, but with a highly successful age-grade section there is sure to be rugby for the youngsters of Livingston in years to come, especially with hard working club officials like Kate Thorn, who has been a driving force behind the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations, continuing to dedicate time and energy at the coal face.