SCOTLAND outscored England by two tries to one to win the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield, but that success was offset by defeats against Wales, Ireland and France, the winners of the tournament. Meanwhile, stories emerged of six rugby players visiting a pub. And, largely unnoticed by the game’s authorities in Scotland, a significant event was taking place in the west of Edinburgh.
Plus ça change. All that took place in the Spring of 1970. The Murrayfield success may sound familiar, the story of the sextet supping pints perhaps less so – it certainly garnered less coverage than the 2022 boozing escapades. As Bob Kirkwood, Jack Hogg, Roger McLaren, Tom Chandler, David Bisset and Alex Galbraith enjoyed each other’s company in the Weavers Knowe pub – now the Blossom Tree Café – they noticed that their fellow regulars seemed to pay a lot of interest to the rugby scores on the back page of the ‘Pink’ edition of the Edinburgh Evening News, which was available early on Saturday evening.
The club’s official history relates how that sparked an idea, which led to Currie Rugby Club being founded. The aim was to create a focus for developing the game in the community which encompassed Currie, Balerno and Juniper Green. Promotional activity in those pre-internet days took the form of a leaflet drop in the target area. The ability to mobilise local support remains vital for the club’s survival, and it has been evident again over recent weeks when Scottish Rugby’s lack of support for club rugby has been heavily criticised.
A plan evolved and, in October of that year, the team made its competitive debut, taking to the field against Gala Wanderers in strips borrowed from Boroughmuir. Soon it was flourishing, with playing numbers sufficient to regularly field a second side, and eventually stretch to three teams. However, real progress kicked off with the advent of league rugby in the 1973-74 season. Currie advanced through two Edinburgh leagues to reach the seventh division of the newly created National League. Promotions arrived with steady regularity, as the club thrived on the enthusiasm and coaching skills of Roy Mack and Lyn Tatham.
A pivotal event was the arrival of Scotland international Graham Hogg as coach. ‘Greco’ built on the success of his predecessors and was the driving force behind the completion of Currie’s journey to the top tier after a mere 20 years in existence. Hogg remained an influential character until his death in 2017.
The club cemented its place at the heart of the local community – a position that it retains, in common with other grassroots outfits, including Saturday’s opponents, Marr – with the move to its current home at Malleny Park. A clubhouse built by its members, and subsequently upgraded, became a focal point and is now the heartbeat of an efficient set-up that spans all age groups.
On the pitch, league restructuring meant demotion for Currie in 1995, although that disappointment proved fleeting and the club returned to the top flight the following season. Silverware arrived that same year with victory in the final of the Tennent’s Shield competition, and there were runners-up medals in the BT Cup final against Watsonians a decade later.
The club snared the big prize, the BT Premiership title, in 2007, with a repeat success three seasons later. Saturday presents another opportunity to be crowned champions for Currie – now rebranded as Currie Chieftains and currently under the guidance of head coach Mark Cairns. He is the latest man at the helm to have emerged from the playing ranks, following the examples of Bruce McNaughton, Ally Donaldson – both of whom remain integral cogs in the Malleny coaching wheel – and brother Ben Cairns, who has now moved on to Super6 rugby.
Over the years, Currie has supplied Scotland players at age group, sevens, club international and senior levels, most recently in the shape of promising prop Gregor Scougall during the Under 20 Six Nations.
Planned 50th celebrations have been delayed by the pandemic, but when they do eventually take place, they will mark the club’s evolution. It has been driven by strong characters, including Greco Hogg and Campbell Reynolds, another sorely missed and understated figure whose overarching influence on Currie is not forgotten by its members. That is also true of a band of willing and loyal volunteers, whose unstinting contributions to the common good over many years enshrine the ethos of that meeting at the Weavers five decades ago. Chieftains supporters will hope that the pints in the clubhouse on Saturday are celebratory. Marr, of course, will be aiming to spoil the party.