Memories of: Walkerburn – a chance to celebrate a proud history

Do you have any memories or pictures of playing with or against Walkerburn you would like to share for our tribute to the club?

Walkerburn's Caberston Haugh home is one of the most picturesque grounds in Scottish rugby. Image courtesy: Walkerburn Facebook page
Walkerburn's Caberston Haugh home is one of the most picturesque grounds in Scottish rugby. Image courtesy: Walkerburn Facebook page

THE sad news last week of another historic club closing its doors will have resonated across the Scottish game, but especially with those who have fond memories of playing with or against Walkerburn during its proud 140 year history.

Since that announcement, a meeting at the club of ex-players, ex-committee members and concerned community members last Friday night decided that the 100th anniversary of its famous Sevens tournament should go ahead on 25th May. It is also hoped that the future of the club can be discussed further over the summer in light of the tremendous outpouring of support which greeted the original news of the closure.

As a tribute to the club, The Offside Line plans to run an article featuring memories and pictures from our readers of days (and nights) at Caberston Haugh or wherever the intrepid Borderers may have travelled in search of sport, fun and camaraderie.

We hope that this can be the start of a regular feature celebrating other gone but not forgotten clubs.

If you have any memories or photos you wish to share, then please get in touch via email: contact@theoffsideline.com before Tuesday 30th April.

To get the ball rolling, Jack Nixon has provided this lovely recollection of some happy (and painful) days from his youth playing in the Borders.

 


FOLLOWING the relatively recent news that Border rugby clubs St Boswells and Hawick YM are to close their doors for business, we now hear Walkerburn, another of my favourite clubs from that part of the country, are calling it a day in this the year of their anniversary.

It seems inconceivable to me as a Scottish Borderer that these fine institutions of the game will now be confined to the history books, but leaving abiding memories of hard-fought battles, great traditions, and not least communities who truly respect the values of the sport.

I am lucky enough to have not only fulfilled reporting duties from all three grounds, but to also have painful yet happy memories of playing games against all three clubs.


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The most physical being at Milntown, the home of my own club Langholm, where as a teenager playing for the second team against St Boswells and with time running out we were losing 9-6 in a dour, bitterly-fought ‘friendly’, I was given a hospital pass six yards from the visitors’ line.

To the disgust of the substantial home crowd, I bottled it and instead of crashing over for an equalising try, I ended up being pinned against the heavy wooden touch flag, badly bruising my young ribs.

There was no sympathy from the club doctor who had in fact brought me into the world 17 years earlier. As Dr Clark tended to my injuries, he said, albeit gently: “You really should have scored”.

The Hawick YM experience was less damaging, more of a blow to our morale, as we crashed to a 33-0 defeat but having the compensation of playing the game at Mansfield Park, the ground of the Hawick senior team. A great thrill, although we were totally undermined by the opposition’s pre-match warm-up, which included drumming their feet in the adjoining dressing room on the concrete floor. A noise which still haunts me.

The Walkerburn trip, this time as player/official of newly formed Livingston in 1968, was a much more pleasant experience, even if it ended in another defeat.

In fairness, this was a first outing together for players from Airdrie, Bathgate and the area just before Livingston was officially formed. Therefore, the 84-0 hammering we received is not recorded for posterity, which for me as the founder member and first match secretary was just as well.

The day got off to the worst possible start as only 11 players turned up, luckily Walkerburn were very accommodating, lending us two players.

I was spared the pre-match warm-up, as apparently the Border tradition was for the two match secretaries to cement the start of a new club relationship.

I duly took to the pitch, supremely confident in our ability to do ourselves proud, no doubt bolstered by two large drams.

In the event, we were hopelessly outclassed and lucky in my opinion to get nothing, although we more than held our own in the bar after the game.

Our driver was less than pleased, as he had expected to be back in Livingston by 9pm, instead of still being in Walkerburn at midnight.

I tell this tale to remind young players of today of just how much they are missing.

I may lightly tell these yarns but my heart is heavy when I think of these three great clubs no longer being with us.

This erosion of the club game must cease and soon, or my grandchildren will never see the two Grand Slams I have been privileged to take in over my 70 plus years following both the national and local game.

The game I love is about to disappear, leaving me with only memories. What say you Scottish Rugby?

 

  • Please share your own memories of Walkerburn, or if you know somebody who may wish to contribute, then please email contact@theoffsideline.com.

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About Jack Nixon 73 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!

4 Comments

  1. I jotted the following comment down when I belatedly heard the news about Walkerburn but thought I’m a bit late to post this, therefor I didn’t, however having read this latest article hopefully Phoenix like at Walkerburn the game and camaraderie hopefully will continue.
    Reading Jack Nixon, it brought similar memories to mind of my playing days spanning 30+ years and unashamedly like him I think I saw the best of it, no not true, I did see the best of it.
    At Glamorgan Wanderers after a bit of a hammering at the Arms Park “never mind but, you can drink on us tonight” nobody let me buy a drink, what an evening, I think.
    On Easter Tour in France one of our players went missing only to turn up 8 months later at the Club and asking “Did anybody bring my kit back”, so many stories and memories. My original thoughts:-
    “The demise of Walkerburn owing to diminishing playing numbers is not only a disappointment for those that worked hard to keep the Club viable, it is, or it should be a warning and whether one likes it or not to the SRU.
    From reading the comments on David Barnes article it seems that it isn’t the only demise suffered, work in the area and the requirement to get on that mythical bike is a primary factor as well as the many modern distractions not least Internet games and mobile phone technology.
    No doubt I will be categorised as one of the ‘Well in my Day’ brigade, however years back and with some experience and observation of other sports when the proposal to ‘Open’ the game to professionalism was announced by the authorities of World Rugby I made the comment be careful what you wish for, and in many respects I consider my Cassandra moment has in part come true, perhaps not in every respect, but as regards much of the ethos and continuation of Club rugby it has.
    A great shame and a concerning trend.”

    • Truly astonishing that anyone can disagree with Dom’s post and wish the club to discontinue.

      Playing the man and not the comment I suspect.

  2. Good news! The final nail may not yet have been driven into the coffin of the ‘Burn, Jack….

    Word in these parts is that the reaction to the news of WRFC’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated, and the intention of the faithful is to totter on for the time being, towards the 150th WRFC Sevens Tournament. After that – who knows…?

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