Midlothian’s illustrious rugby connections

The French international team at Dalhousie in 1976
The French international team at Dalhousie in 1976

Coming from the Borders, I used to say that the worst thing about working in Midlothian was that it was a rugby desert.

My colleagues talked about the round ball rather than the oval. The local rugby teams, Dalkeith, Lasswade and Penicuik, were – how shall I put this? – honest but under-achieving.

Before a couple of beefy forwards come round to sort me out, I hastily point out that I have seen the error of my ways. Recently I wrote a book about the history of Scottish rugby and during my research I discovered that Midlothian has some rugby connections after all.

Among the earliest stars of Scottish rugby, the Ainslie brothers, Bob and Tom, grew up at Hillend Farm, near Loanhead.

A player with Edinburgh Institution FP, Bob won seven Scottish caps in the early 1880s. He was outstanding in Scotland’s victory over England at Manchester in 1882, their first ever on English soil, which became known as “Bob Ainslie’s match”. At one time, he tried to start a rugby team in the mining village of Loanhead but this was unsuccessful because football had got there first. Tom was not in the same class as his elder brother, but he won more caps. He was president of the Scottish Football Union in season 1891-2, an international touch-judge and a good cricket player.

The Don Wauchope brothers, Andrew and Patrick, were born to an ancient landed family who lived at Edmonstone House in Newton. Educated at Fettes College, the two brothers played at half-back for Scotland in the 1880s. Andrew, or “Bunny”, was a deep thinker about the game and pioneered the use of the back division as an attacking force. Previously, backs were mainly used as defenders.

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