Kirkcaldy Rugby Club
One of the pillars of our local sporting heritage, Kirkcaldy Rugby Club has a splendid history, which our guest writer John Methven has captured this month.
The story is as much about personalities and challenges off the field as it is about sporting achievement.
Club rugby attracts a high level of participation and family involvement and as someone deeply steeped in the club's history, John does due respect to its place in the lives and hearts of so many.
Overhead footage of Kirkcaldy Rugby Club's home ground
The Story of Kirkcaldy Rugby Club
This month's Object sees our third foray into the world of local sport with the story of the town's rugby club being the subject. Guest writer, John Methven, boasting an unrivalled nine decade connection with the club, was the outstanding candidate to produce the story. We are grateful to John for accepting our invitation.
The narrative is not one of match reports but a history covering the Club's formation, highlights, difficulties and personalities involved during its 149 year existence.
Our full story explains the formation of the club by players from Kirkcaldy's Cricket Club looking for an activity to keep them occupied through the winter months. One suggestion was that the new football game played under rugby rules might fit the bill. A meeting in September of 1873, held in the George Hotel, saw members and interested parties unanimously vote to form Kirkcaldy Rugby Club. By coincidence it was in the same hotel two years earlier that in 1871 the Kirkcaldy Cricket Club was reconstituted. Possibly the George Hotel was the meeting place for social events?
Kirkcaldy were not alone in Fife towns with Burntisland, Cupar,Leven and Markinch, amongst others, embracing the new code. The subsequent explosion of interest in Association Football itself soon saw many of these recently formed clubs wither on the vine almost as soon as they had been formed. However, Kirkcaldy was an exception and went from strength to strength.
As Kirkcaldy expanded more of the space available for recreation contracted. Their first ground, Newton Park, had also been the home of the cricket club since 1872. The disappearance of that ground left the club with a nomadic existence often experiencing difficulties in finding suitable playing pitches. Even Kirkcaldy beach was occasionally pressed into service! This existence may well have proved unsustainable but for Michael Beveridge and his gift of a public park. The wide acres of the park ensured that space was now available for team sports.
The cricket and rugby clubs already had a strong sense of togetherness which was then further cemented by their sharing, on a seasonal basis, a pitch and basic pavilion at the new Beveridge Park. This continued until 1958 when the cricketers left for Bennochy.
The staple diet of fixtures over the early years were friendly matches and the Midlands League. The competing league teams were drawn from adjacent counties with the winning club then challenging their counterparts from the Northern League, the prestigious North of Scotland Cup being at stake.
The Great War had a disastrous effect on the club with no fewer than 14 members, including the captain, making the supreme sacrifice. One of these outstanding players, David D. Howie, who was the captain and also the first Kirkcaldy player to be capped by Scotland was a casualty dying in 1916. His brother, Robert (Bob) Howie, was another gifted player who was also capped, most notably playing for Scotland in the opening game at Murrayfield in 1926. The game was in abeyance during both wars.
In 1945 the Midlands League did not re-start and for almost thirty years friendlies and cup competitions were the order of the day.
During the 1960s and beyond the ground and facilities were re-shaped beyond all recognition. A beech hedge planted around the ground formed an enclosure which allowed the club to charge admission. The National Leagues set up in 1973 brought competition with promotion and relegation revitalising the game. Kirkcaldy, starting in division four, strived until in 1999/2000 they reached the top division. Although it was to be a short stay the history books will always show that they reached the summit.
The club for much of its existence had relied on pupils who had played rugby at the local high schools continuing playing the game by joining Kirkcaldy Rugby Club. This flow over the years gradually became a trickle and the Club reacted to the situation by forming youth teams to grow their own talent. The Under-18 programme has produced winning teams and good players for the 1st XV.
Another notable feature has been the introduction of a Women's Team which has been extremely successful with players winning caps for Scotland.
As the 150th anniversary creeps into sight, the club is on firm foundations with an excellent clubhouse and spectating facilities. On the playing side it covers both the men's and women's game from junior to senior. The club does not forget its past and the clubhouse boasts a galaxy of photographs, paintings and artefacts, which bring its long and proud history to life. These are, in part, a tribute to the men and women who for close on a hundred and fifty years have played their part in building Kirkcaldy Rugby Club into what it is today.
The 'In Depth Written Study” also to be found on this page gives the full written account produced by John. It makes for interesting and absorbing reading enhanced by a raft of photographs. With some luck, readers may find a family member in those featuring some of the Club's XVs.
John Methven has our sincere appreciation.