History of GRFC - The Early Years
(Taken from the Grangemouth Advertiser, 17th July, 1964)
Two main factors contributed to the foundation of the club more than any others. The first was the fact that many boys who had played rugby at school in the cities were returning to work in the Grangemouth area and the desire to play the game for a few more years was with them. They formed a nucleus together with other players from Falkirk and Grangemouth around which many people who had never played before, but wanted instruction, could gather. The other factor was the one that was by no means unique to Grangemouth. If you have sufficient years behind you to think back 36, and what do you find – no television, no Saturday night dances at the Leapark Hotel (no Leapark Hotel!), no civilised cocktail bars in the provinces. In fact, very little organised, or should we say “provided” recreation.
At that time Grangemouth boasted a golf club with a nine-hole course, which does not appear to have been very exciting from a golfing point of view but which was evidently a social knock out. At the same time as the rugby club was on the way in, the Grangemouth Cricket Club was on the way out, while in Larbert the Hockey Club was playing good hockey and had the reputation of being one of the pukka clubs of central Scotland.
If you wanted to be entertained you left Grangemouth on a Saturday night for the flesh pots of Falkirk, but as you will see, it meant that for the rest of the week you had time to train, organise and work for the benefit of the Club. It was the amount of work put into the running of the club that brought in so much success right up to the beginning of the Second World War.
The first meeting to organise a rugby club was held on Saturday, 2nd November 1929 in the Grangemouth Golf Club clubhouse. Present then were R Bruce Peddie who became the first Club President, and J C Kelt who was the first Club Captain. There and then, at the first meeting, decisions on strips, subscriptions, opposition and a playing field were taken. We can see how times have changed when we note that enquiries were made about the purchase of strips at 8/6 (Added note: Eight shillings and six pence – currently 42.5p), and stockings at 4/6 (Added note: currently 22.5p) per pair. It was stated however in the meeting minutes that “members should provide their own trousers”!
The first strip of Grangemouth Rugby Club was all black with scarlet stockings with the view no doubt of emulating the famous “All Blacks” and of terrifying the opposition, but from what members of that time have said, it takes a very big man to fill a plain black shirt. Later on, around 1933, the club changed to a jersey of blue, red and white bands, which seemed to have been much more inspired if results can be tied up with morale. Again, after the post war re-formation the colours were changed to red and black hoops with black shorts.
One of the main problems was to find a suitable field and pavilion and organise hospitality for visiting opposition. Among the suggested sites were the Public Park and a piece of ground near where the ICI now stands. A pitch was found on Zetland Park and MR T K Lindsay presented the club’s first goal posts. Initially, teas and changing and washing facilities were found at the Glenavon Hotel at 1/6 per head but moves had already been made to purchase a pavilion.
In April 1930 a pavilion committee was formed and a hut was erected near the pitch. The estimate for a reasonable pavilion was £100 and the club had only £40 to its name. As a result a basket tea and dance was held to raise the money. With relative speed we then find the club the owner of a pavilion which consisted of a wash room with two baths and a shower, a kitchen and one large room with lockers under the seats. Later on, the club was to boast a club room attendant and a trainer – the attendant being present two nights a week plus Saturday.
On money matters the club laid down a firm policy. The original subscription was 7/6 and it was decided not to take collections at the pitch as at that time “it was not considered right that Grangemouth Rugby Football Club should play the role of public entertainers”. It is worth noting that it was written into the Constitution that if a deficit arose each member was responsible for his share of it. Money is always a problem in a new undertaking and the rugby club was no exception, but somehow it seems to have struggled through. Later on, a Ladies’ Committee was formed and money-raising functions of the “whist drive/basket tea” type were held with great success. Dances with bars and late licences were not the order of the day, but it was to be the rugby club a few years later who broke the ice by taking its annual dance to Falkirk. The Queens Hotel provided the bar and caterers from Edinburgh the food to promote one of the best social functions of the year – and all for 7/6 a ticket.
On the playing side, the club was successful out of all proportion to its size and newness, and very soon after the first season was running two fifteens. On looking over old fixture cards the names of clubs long since gone are to be found – Morristonians, Bearsden, Bridge of Allan, Craigard and Edinburgh Institution being only a few. The club was at that time a member of Western District Union and even then in the days of quieter roads, difficulty in getting to Glasgow pitches was encountered. On two successive New Year’s days – 1929 and 1930 – the Club Secretary had to write to the railway company to have the Glasgow train make a special stop at Lenzie to allow the club to fulfil its fixture. Getting fixtures for a new club was never easy – good fixtures that is – and at one point it was suggested that the match secretary should write to “better clubs” such as Wanderers, and Royal High School FP’s to fix matches. But as the official pointed out, the difficulty was not in writing to them, but in getting them to reply!
By 1931 matches were being reported in the “Falkirk Herald”, the “Falkirk Mail” and the “Grangemouth Advertiser”, and in 1932 fixture lists were sent to Glasgow for inclusion in “Rowans Guide”, while reports were being reported in “The Bulletin”. Results were on the whole fairly good, the club winning more than 50% of its matches in the 1929 – 34 period. However 1935 was a relatively poor season. From then until 1940 when the club was disbanded due to the Second World War, the club improved to attain the position of one of the best junior clubs in central Scotland. Even then however, it made little impression on Border Junior Rugby.
Players, unlike the times, do not change and several excerpts from the Minutes seem noteworthy. These could apply, however, to any club in any year, but in Grangemouth discretion seems to have been the better part of valour.
Two other notes from the Minutes of this period are to be found equally intriguing and yet, to the average rugby player are equally understandable. These are 1) The proposal that “in future the Club buy only guaranteed balls”. 2) The proposal that “the team be elected by merit alone” coupled with a motion of “complete dissatisfaction with the selection committee”. These must bring to the mind of every player a mental picture of an incident in his own playing career when failure to be included in the team was to be blamed on everything and everyone but the proverbial “oor Jock”.
The club took part in the social and charity work of the area in those days when the welfare state was yet to come, the pavilion being lent to the “Unemployed Men’s Club” during the summer of 1933 when the depression which started in 1926 was still with Central Scotland. In 1932 the club sent representatives to the Grangemouth Social Services meetings, and in 1933 played soccer against Larbert Hockey Club to help raise funds for the building of Falkirk Royal Infirmary. It is pleasant to remember these things today; that Grangemouth Rugby Club was not only able to help itself but managed to do a bit for others at the same time.
One question which has always puzzled the post-1953 members of the club is how their predecessors managed to disappear from the Grangemouth scene except in the minds of the inhabitants. It appears to have been a mixture of success and bad luck. The club had some of its most successful seasons between 1935 and 1940. During this period J M Lindsay, a member of the club from the beginning, was captain and, more often than not Club Secretary. Circumstances were, however, against the continuation of the club. It seemed inevitable from about 1935 that the pavilion would have to go, the ground it was built on being required for development, and in due course it had to be taken down. The club continued right up to 1940, but with the outbreak of war the playing strength disappeared, many of the members volunteering before conscription was introduced. It is rather ironic that the club’s last match was a game of soccer played against the RAF then stationed at what was Grangemouth Airport next to Bo’ness Road.
It is difficult to give a true impression of the early years of the Grangemouth Rugby Football Club in such a small space and be sure that the relevant has been put in and the irrelevant left out. But who is to say in a group of friends sharing a hard game and close companionship, what is relevant and what is irrelevant? Perhaps the quotation “Muddied oafs, aye, and bloody fools” may be applicable to our rugby playing days, but these are the days we will look back on with fondness and nostalgia.