Melrose Sevens preview: where happiness is egg shaped

Bruce Aitchison recalls his life long love affair with the tournament and has made a special pilgrimage to the Greenyards this year

Melrose Sevens is one of Scottish rugby's great days out. Image courtesy: Melrose Sevens
Melrose Sevens is one of Scottish rugby's great days out. Image courtesy: Melrose Sevens

THERE are a few places where the sun always seems to shine. Dubai, on Neighbours, when A-Ha watch the telly and Melrose 7s.

It started in Melrose as a fund-raising event to make some cash for the running of the club. Soon, all the neighbours in the Borders adopted it and the ‘circuit’ was born. Fiercely competitive, played in combative spirit and reputations of men were built.

Although growing up in Stow, I didn’t have a ‘home’ 7s, being from the Borders meant it was as much part a part of Spring as lambing and Easter eggs.

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Growing up, the invitational teams seemed exotic, no internet or YouTube meant the only believing was in the seeing. All rugby lovers were present and correct at the ‘Sports’. Gala being the week before Melrose gave everyone the chance to check out the runners and the riders and make predictions for the ‘big one’, but the game is fickle, so it was a huge challenge to back up from one week to the next.

The big one was like a dream. And when the BBC rolled into town, with the Eildons as the backdrop, the clouds would part and out came the sunshine. The bankings were packed, the town tripled in size, with visitors from near and far, and the buzz of excitement was everywhere. I was envious of the ballboys.

There are so many memories, the Co-optimists featuring Doddie Weir, Andy Nicol and Toony, Mossy carving it up for Gala, the relentless Kelso greats, Villager from South Africa, Randwick with Campese, the Wolfhounds of Ireland, and Bay of Plenty. It all meant so much and it held its own place in the rugby calendar, all eyes on the Greenyards.

I remember being very jealous of my oldest brother, Stuart, when he came from school having trained against Randwick. Rob Moffat was the PE teacher and rugby coach at Galashiels Academy as well as being coach at Melrose. He had organised for the 1st VII at the school to run against the visitors from Australia to help them prepare for tournament. Unbelievable!

Many of the crowd will be regular visitors to the 7s, standing in the same place, next to the same people, supporting their team as always. The relationships built in the game are strong and you will no doubt bump in to some folk you love and some you just couldn’t avoid! There is always some chat to be had. And, of course, heroes walk among us. You’ll likely see Bryan Redpath, Craig Chalmers and Alan Tait this year, among others.

The ties between Border rivals always lift the atmosphere, giving players the chance to build on the myths and legends of over 100 years of battle that will last even longer. The changing room will be filled with speeches about putting one over on old foes or the flash teams that have arrived and fancy themselves.

Melrose gives players a chance in the sunshine to make memories that will last forever. Just ask Davie Cunningham, I give him two minutes from meeting him for him to mention he won Melrose 7s with Boroughmuir. In fact, he often introduces himself as ‘David Cunningham, Melrose 7s Winner 2002.’ And I can’t blame him. What an achievement!

The Women’s tournament is growing, Saturday will be a great showcase to further enhance the reputation of the game, inspiring the next generation of Lisa Thomsons! The Mighty Bovs, representing Hearts & Balls, have previous form in the Borders having won the Peebles tournament and will be keen to perform on the big stage.

This year, there is a lot going on with a week of events. The Hall of Fame had three new inductees on Thursday evening, showing the diversity of the game and how far it has come since Ned dreamt up the whole idea. Local heroes Lisa Thomson (GB Sevens) and Eric Paxton (Kelso legend) are joined by Kenyan World Series Star Collins Injera.


On Friday, there was a coaching clinic for children in the morning, the U18 tournament and then the qualification tournament for 2024, as well as the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commence hosting a Women in Business Lunch.

On Saturday the Men’s and Women’s tournaments are on all day, with a capacity crowd expected, followed by a party night, headlined by Forth One DJ, Callum Gallacher. Something for everyone. There’s even a behind the scenes documentary crew on hand to record the whole thing, I hope the bleeper is working … That’ll be worth a watch!

And the whole week kicked off, for me, with the BREENGE TAE THE BORDERS! On Monday 3rd April, I started Dundee Rugby Club with a small group of cyclists, where I coached for two years, then cycled to Edinburgh, stopping at Perthshire RFC on the way. A visit to Oor Doddie at Murrayfield before heading for home. On Tuesday 4th April, I left Edinburgh and headed for Netherdale, via Stow, before ditching the bike and changing into my running shoes to run from Gala to the Greenyards, aiming to arrive at 6pm.

Why? To raise funds and awareness for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation. This is the first Melrose 7s without him, but his spirit will be with us in everything we do, whether playing, supporting or enjoying the company of others in this great game. His legacy lives, the desire to find a cure has intensified and I want to do my bit to help. It would be great to see you along the route and have you as part of the celebration at the end.

See you at the 7s, where Happiness is Egg Shaped.

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About Bruce Aitchison 2 Articles
Father to Maisie and Katy, housemaster at Merchiston Castle School, former coach of Murrayfield Wanderers, Boroughmuir and Watsonians. played for Gala, Watsonians, Kowloon, Albany Knickbockers, Te Rapa. Rugby Fanatic who loves a microphone, Social Media nuisance.


  1. Heritage it may have but a proper structure it clearly does not have shown by the mismatch results and 4 invitational teams in the mens semifinals of the Melrose 7s. As a competitive event it is dissolving into a farce.

    Dubai is by far the best and largest 7s event in the world and below the HSBS tournament they have tournaments for International and Local teams. Even within International they have 3 sub tournaments of Invitational/Open/Social and each team is guaranteed multiple matches unlike Melrose. They a stuck in no mans land and need to change but this format does not work.

  2. Melrose day can also feel and look like winter. Scotland doesn’t properly warm up till season’s over. Wonder how good a team the hosts will put out?

  3. 80 -0 ……..50-0 …….45-0 …….27-0. …….I could go on .

    Who in their right minds wants to watch one sided ties like this……. Plus charging £35 .bloody hell

    Melrose 7s Just turning into a joke .

  4. Wouldn’t it be worth returning to Seven’s roots and holding an event for Scottish teams without the rugby equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters. The BBC show no interest in the current format. The purist rugby aficionado wants to see the best teams, not some all star tribute acts who arrive at great cost to the event.
    I noticed that yesterday plenty of tickets were still on sale so the paying public is voting with their feet.
    Good luck to all the other Sevens being held this Spring.

  5. A nostalgic look back at the past glories of Melrose 7’s however the reality is very different. As Beefter66 has suggested , the clubs no longer appear to hold the event in high regard or certainly not enough to send their best 7’s. All this does is make a very predictable outcome even more so. It is tragic that many of the clubs clearly feel there is little or no point sending their best sevens ( or a seven at all as in Ayrs case) given the strength of these sevens specialist guest teams that appear after the “small teams “ round.
    The Scottish clubs certainly were the lifeblood of these sevens yet are now essentially second class citizens , so many of the other teams are just made up journeymen teams.I doubt Mr Haig would have been impressed with a final between the “Wild dogs “ and “Esperanza” those two rugby goliaths….😂… the legacy will not live on much longer ….

  6. Looking at tomorrows squads from a significant number of clubs it suggests they don’t view the event with the same importance.
    Many of the club teams are to all intents and purposes fielding 2nd XV 7’s and to add insult to injury ,many of the clubs that have fielded weak squads have no other commitments to use as an excuse.
    Look at Selkirk , Hawick , Boroughmuir , Kelso , Gala and Watsonians for starters , these squads contain very few 1st XV players and looks like they have recognised that they will simply be cannon fodder for the teams in the 1st round proper etc. This is a really sad departure for the event in that even though there was conjecture about the make up of the teams in the tournament, must clubs in the past would have attempted to field their strongest 7’s. We also have Ayr withdrawing under the radar and being replaced by Hearts and balls.
    We saw the issues encountered on the Borders 7s circuit last year with multiple withdrawals from all events and also very poor squad quality overall.
    It looks as though Melrose 7’s are also suffering from this fate which is huge concern for an event which pitches itself as the premiere sevens event , clearly this is not the opinions of the other club sides and it appears it no longer has the same aura as it has had in the past where players viewed an appearance at this event as a huge accolade ….. no longer apparently

  7. Well, Bruce – glad you are enjoying your current involvement in different features of the extended Melrose event this year, and that you are looking back fondly on some great memories that many of us will have shared over the years. Hopefully you will enjoy the weekend.

    But that’s where it ends, and many if not all of those undefinable good things & days appear consigned to the past… apparently in the interests of “progress”. Sadly, what used to represent a unique, indeed respectable and appropriate tribute to long-standing rugby history and traditions is now almost unrecognisable, having become just another over-hyped razz-matazz sevens “event” surrounded by an air of artificiality and uninformed bluster from the organiser(s).

    That those great Scottish rugby clubs and teams that have supported, contributed to and occasionally proved victorious in the competition are now described by the organiser as “small teams”, relegated to the role of make-weight “pre-qualifiers” says it all about a soulless “marketing” approach focusing upon the price of the commodity on offer, without having a scooby about values….

    I hope I’m wrong.

    • Well said Ron sadly you are entirely correct. What used to be a highlight of the rugby calendar that everyone used to want to participate in or watch on BBC or even record is now a strange marketeer event that no-one now cares about

    • The Motto of Marketing – ‘We know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing’.
      Give the marketing suits and the hangers on the sniff of a profit at the expense of the Sport or the Event and they are in there like a Ferret down a Rabbit hole.

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