Aberdeenshire R.F.C. is arguably the most progressive rugby club North East of Scotland. Formed in 1875 Aberdeenshire has always been open an Open club, although always a city club we are called Aberdeenshire because back in 1875 their were no other open clubs in the North East of Scotland. In the Sixties 'Shire established the first youth section in the North East of Scotland, providing boys responsible mentorship and a diversionary activity away from anti social behaviour. It also allowed boys aged 16 to 18 from the state schools to compete on a equal footing boys from public schools.
The youth section grew into a complete mini-club with its own committee and catered for boys from 7-18 years by the start of the nineties, and was incredible successful with various teams winning top prizes in the Regional & National Tournaments over the years.
After over a 117 years surviving as a nomadic Club, in the late eighties 'Shire lead a sports club partnership including Football and Cricket in securing a 66 year lease for the playing fields at Station Road Woodside, and built its own licensed lounge and changing facilities named Woodside Sport Complex. Some of the progressive developments that took place in the nineties were as follows:- - 1992 - Aberdeenshire Quines RFC were formed and affiliated to ARFC.
The Quines were the first open women' s club in the North East. They cater for women from the age of 16 upwards and play in Division 1 of the National League.• - 1992 - Woodside Sevens, the only Rugby Sevens Competition in Aberdeen. - 1994 - Aberdeen Touch Tournament , the biggest Club run Tournament in Scotland. Open to all ages 16-60. Around 400 people complete from May to July. In 2000 Aberdeenshire Colts R.F.C. was formed, The Colts are properly constituted group that are fully affiliated to and integrated with Aberdeenshire R.F.C. they report to the Executive Committee on a monthly basis.
The Colts employed a part-time Development Officer to tour the schools and introduce the Sport of Rugby, (another first in the North East), this proved so successful that in 2002 the Club employed a Full-time Officer. In November 2002 a group of 12-14 year old boys and girls from St Machar Academy played in a mini tag rugby tournament at Murrayfield in front of 60,000 spectators, an experience of a lifetime.
Next season we will cater for P4- P7 and S1-S4 boys and girls. Parents are involved and attend coaching courses run by the SRU. The men's club is organised into three teams and caters for all levels of skill for young men aged from 18 upwards. The Development officer also coaches the men and provides a continuous link between school, youth club and seniors. In the club an environment of mutual respect is encouraged so that we work together to achieve goals on and off the pitch.
The club offers inexpensive membership to children and young adults of a progressive organisation, mentorship, advice, friendship and the chance to broaden horizons by cross socio-economic integration.
Bill McLaren on his time at 'Shire
You may well ask what site preparation work has to do with playing Rugby for Aberdeenshire but, in fact, it provided a somewhat startling introduction to my own brief playing experience with the Club, an experience both revealing and rewarding. It was my first game for the 'Shire. We travelled to play Strathmore at Forfar in the 1947-48 season.
The game started late by half an hour because of stone-clearing operations. During our warm-up kick-about, which took place on the actual playing pitch so that the locals would be suitably impressed, we noticed that the surface was stonily uneven. Like beachcombers we started on a search and remove mission. It was going quite successfully until we came upon one firmly embedded. We dug with our hands and, ages later, unearthed a massive boulder, the size of a cabin trunk. It took the whole 'Shire pack to shift it. It was the best bit of scrummaging they did all day! Trouble was it left them absolutely flannelled.. .and a hole the size of a bomb crater bang in the middle of the pitch.
It was all typical of the haphazard, happy-go-lucky approach to the game in those days. Unless my memory fails me, it was in that game that one of the Aberdeenshire lads had a difference of opinion with a Strathmore forward who, hurt and haughty, treated his opponent to the remark of a lifetime: "But, honestly, you hit me first". Perhaps because of my Rugby upbringing in Hawick and the Borders, I was guilty of occasionally tackling in unorthodox fashion by crashing my hands down on an opponent's shoulders before turning him over by the jersey.
Believe it or not, I once was drawn aside by the president of the Scottish Rugby Union and told "not to tackle like that because it disnae look right". In any event, Aberdeenshire were playing a Royal Naval Air Station side and my unorthodox tackling had resulted in three of our opponents' jerseys being torn. I can still picture the indignation written on the face of their captain, a gentleman of English stock, as he turned to me in the next lineout and protested:Look here, for God's sake cut it out. We've no bloody spare jerseys left".
I've often wondered how I ever came to be playing for Aberdeenshire. I have a vague recollection of receiving a delightful letter from the Club inviting me to play for them on the grounds that they were by far the outstanding side in the whole of Scotland! They were just starting up after the war years and I suspect that subtle influence was brought to bear by W.H. "Bunty" Laurie who, in association with Gordon Edwards, contributed so handsomely to the resuscitation of 'Shire in those difficult post-war years.
"W.H." was the much respected principal of Woolmanhill Physical Education College and as one of his students, I soon learned that his word was law. It surely was no coincidence that several of our College fifteen were drafted into the Aberdeenshire side for Saturday games and we were indebted to Bill Laurie for that as well for his guidance and understanding.
It was in the dressing room prior to the local derby between Aberdeenshire and berdeen Wanderers at Hazlehead that I encountered another of my tutors, Jack rame, a local headmaster. He had been my House master at Hawick High School but after a most friendly pre-match talk, the first words he uttered to me on the ield were: "Don't obstruct, McLaren of I'll send you off. So much, thought I, for he Old Pals Act! Perhaps our most memorable feat of that 1947-48 season was to lead the famous Aberdeen Grammar School P.P. side by 8-6 at halftime before losing 11-21 at Rubislaw.
Grammar had a powerful side including Donny Innes, already a pre-war internationalist, and Doug Smith and Dally Allardyce who were to be capped later. There were also the Buthlay and Hunter brothers and Bill Connon. Yet they led only 15-11 when we lost fullback lan Currie. I can still see Dally Allardyce scuttling in for the clinching try. He already had dropped a goal. We were thrilled when the local sports page carried the headline: 'Shire Rugby on the Upgrade: P.Ps., Hard Pressed to Win".
The teams on that day were: Aberdeen G.S.F.P. - E. Buthlay; E. Hunter, C. R. Cruickshank, J. R. S. Innes and D. W. C. Smith; R. F. Buthlay and W. D. Allardyce; P. K. Booker, J. S. Munro, W. L. Connon, D. N. Georgeson, L. Middleton, I. M. Duguid, J. C. Hunter, and K. W. Hunter. Aberdeenshire - I. R. Currie; A. C. Young, J. A. Symington, P. Bramson and G. Tumbull: J. L. Allan and R. Smith; F. McLauchlan, R. Davidson, R. W. Smith, J. Graham, R. G. Killicoat, G. K. McGregor, A. S. Brechin and W. P. McLaren.
I suppose that in those days, we were terribly ignorant of what would be termed now the finer points of techniques, tactics and strategies. No nonsense about gain lines, overlaps, ruck or maul ball, Australian dispensations, loose heads or tight heads. We just went out and played. Defensive strategy comprised solely "flatten the b.......... wi' the ba' or comer flag".
No silent contemplation in the dressing room followed by a long harangue by a coach. Gordon Edwards teamtalks, as I recall them, were very much on the lines of those by one immortal Jedforest captain of yesteryear whose tactical dissertation every Saturday comprised solely: "Right, ee ken whit ee hev tae dae so geez the ba' and let's git oot there and hammer hell oot o' they buggers". Those were the days! It was great fun and an experience playing with Aberdeenshire. I'm grateful to them and I wish them well.
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