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.
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.
- Tickets for the Melrose 7s are on sale now at www.melrose7s.co.uk