HISTORY OF DUNBAR RUGBY FOOTBALL AND SPORTS CLUB
Joe Miller was one of the enthusiasts who got the Club restarted and one of his major contributions when clothes could not be got was to ” obtain ” 15 Celtic jerseys, issue them before each game and collect them afterwards, to be handed out again next week. No word of complaint ever reached players’ ears from Mrs. Miller, who must have been a heroine to face 15 mud-caked jerseys each week in those pre¬-washing machine days and expend her energy and precious soap on them.
1948 also saw renewal of the Sevens win at Murrayfield; the run¬ning ability of Herioter J. S. W. Stewart, coupled with his tactical cap¬acity and histrionic skill enabled Sandy Hunter’s speed to win the day over City Police and then Musselburgh in the final.
At one point when Stewart adjudged his team’s capacity to continue suspect he contrived to sustain such a knock as give justification for a spell of writhing. Obviously, but not too obviously, he communicated the tactics for the next move to Hunter. The opposition saw but did not hear. The next time he spoke louder and winked to his colleague. Instead of the advised and this time advertised plan, he raced through himself to make the vital points. Such episodes, I hope, can now be told – they were classic in their execution.
Jimmie Stewart had shortly before that been appointed Physical Education teacher at Dunbar High School where although rugby was not yet played, he gained the boys’ interest and directed it towards rugby. The generation of boys that was at the impressionable age to be well influenced by Jimmie and his successor Charlie Flaherty are today the backbone of the Club; few still play but several of them who still stay or come to Dunbar carry a great part of the burden of the Club affairs. Rob. Bald, Jimmie Purves, Colin Mackenzie and Paddy Alex¬ander are four of several.
The Berwick tour did not revive, but more ambitiously annual matches against Gosforth and Newcastle Northern were arranged. It is getting a bit near the present time to recount tales of the trips to Newcastle and the return visits. It might undermine the ability of present Club officials to control, or try to regularise, today’s tricky situations were too many episodes to be told. Suffice to say good, if at times expensive, fun was had, viz. the episode of the profitable book run by Allan Stewart based on the amazing capacity of a small and unlikely looking champion beer drinker whose calculated diffidence about entering the contest enabled Allan to get excellent odds. The man was called Jack and came from Whittingehame; he could down a pint in no time at all-upside down if you like. Gosforth Club, however, outwitted the Dunbar player in the end by tricking their champion into a powerless position, ostensibly to show off the weight lifting capacity of one of their Samsons, then putting a pint of beer where it wasn’t so comfortable for him as the ones he’d had before.
It was not really divulged why these fixtures stopped. Perhaps the contacts were lost after Sandy Hunter stopped playing, perhaps the traditions and reputations of the trips began to be difficult to maintain without embarrassment. Anyway, they did not cease because Dunbar could not, with one or two such guest players as Ian Henderson and Bobby Mackenzie, hold their own on the field of rugby or other battle.
About this time the idea had been brewing, infused by Rupert, of establishing inter-country Club links and this came to fruition in 1952 when contact was made with Skerries Club, North of Dublin. Skerries have similarities, as a seaside resort in a good agricultural area, with Dunbar and if the places are alike in character, the characters of both seem to like each other too. Rupert’s opposite numbers were first Frank Glennon and Jack Doyle, then for several years (though now he is more connected with Senior Rugby) Leo Flanagan, a small man in stature but whose capacity for sustained involvement, amusement and refreshment is limitless. Even Leo could try his luck too hard and on one occasion he misjudged sailing times. Though his luggage returned on the Sunday Mail Boat, Leo was left behind somewhere sup¬posedly with little or nothing in his pocket – for he was no man to return from a good jaunt with an unenjoyed wallet. On Tuesday, when the still dapper Leo stepped empty handed off the public transport at Skerries to be greeted with enquiries of “How did you get back?”¬. All he told the questioners was perhaps all they deserved to be told. It was “Can’t you see I came back by bus?”
But mention is only made of Skerries here in the narrative to record the chronology of the start. Records of some of the more memorable, yet mentionable items do not run to exactitude of dates and later in this so called record will be included an attempt at appreciation of the joint activities of the two Clubs.
Minutes of the twice yearly post-war General Meetings of the Club are available from which information can be extracted: these were written till April 1949 by Manuel Gibbs, Club founder member, stalwart and legend-improver. One of the earliest notes reports the Annual Dinner of 1947, which is claimed to have been an unqualified success. The Dinner Party closed; it is stated, at midnight “when those emotion¬ally strong enough adjourned to a further harmony at the Captain’s Still.” There are no such recorded items in later Minutes written by new Secretary Sandy Hunter, but this is a case either of modesty on the succeeding secretary’s part or of a sensible non-desire to write what might later suggest any whisper of irregularity.
Many items recur repeatedly in the Minutes over the seasons, the dearth of spectating officials at lower XV matches, the question of subscriptions, facilities for and absence from training, provision of strips, exhortation to beat Haddington again (not sadly a recently repeated plea) etc.; in one case a member brought several of these items up at once as well as complaints about flags, buses and oranges. Sandy’s Minute records with satisfaction that ° under cross-examination; how¬ever, his remarks appertaining to oranges were withdrawn.” There is good reason even today for steam to be let off at these meetings and it is only a pity that in many cases the problem is easy enough to define, but to get people not only to cope but go on coping with a solution is sometimes not so simple. The Club has always had good support from a few regular and enthusiastic officials. As Manuel Gibbs, Joe Miller and those of their era phased out so another group moved in. One was Jock Robertson of Beanston Mains (“old” Jock to dis¬tinguish him from his son Jock, Captain of the team for three seasons, 1955-58, and his nephew, big Jock, another regular forward of the period who made his visits to the Craig-en-Gelt doubly worthwhile by combining his Rugby with the successful and envied courtship of Anne Craig). Another was, and is, Bill Wilson, an enthusiast who, though he came to Dunbar after his playing days were over, has “played” in every way possible short of being on the field for 25 years. Another was W. G. R. Findlay, Sandy’s father-in-law, who retired from a headmaster¬ship to Dunbar about 1950 and carried many Club responsibilities including the arduous duty of Team Secretary for about 13 years till his sad death. In addition to that he soon rose to other local heights, holding the Provostship of the town for a considerable period. Thus the Club had the distinction of having its Saturday morning emergencies and Monday chores dealt with by the same hand and brain as directed the Burgh’s destiny. This was a particular high point in a long period of co-operation and goodwill between the Town Council and the Club. If something for nothing is usually looked at askance and taken for granted, then the Council has not been guilty of allowing the Club to feel privileged in having facilities such as pitches and services entirely at the expense of the rest of the community. On the other hand, the Council and its officials have been most helpful over the years; the Minutes record for instance in 1964 that at a meeting about a lease for the pitches “by the end, the Council representatives had come round to the Club’s way of thinking.” That may be and probably is an overstatement but it indicates a helpful attitude and no deadlock. This goodwill resulted in a most suitable arrangement when the old Winter¬field Golf Club house was made into part of the new Clubhouse of the Rugby Club, finished in 1972 to which, though mention is now made, a short section at the end is to be devoted.