Rugby’s happy return as Lasswade RFC prepare to celebrate their centenary
After 16 incredibly difficult months for rugby Lasswade Rugby Club are hoping to have some special celebrations to smile about.
The close, physical nature of playing and training has meant rugby has suffered more than most sports during the pandemic.
But matches are finally due to resume next month – and that’s perfect timing for Lasswade as they start a year’s centenary celebrations.
To kick off the centenary season off Lasswade entertained Musselburgh, who are also celebrating their 100th birthday with a highly entertaining match at Hawthornden with the Premier Club visitors eventually winning 21-7.
A sizeable crowd was in attendance and many stories were exchanged of former glories in the clubhouse afterwards. Musselburgh President Drew Johnstone presented Lasswade President Billy Knowles with a commemorative bottle of gin and a quaich.
Another match with Boroughmuir followed as Lasswade build up to the new league season which starts with an away fixture to Greenock Wanderers on September 4.
It was all very different 100 years ago when Lasswade started out against Kirkcaldy on a pitch located in the current Dobbies Road in Bonnyrigg, as club secretary David Oliver explained
“Tubby Jack scored the first try although we lost 42-3,” he said. “Conditions then were pretty primitive and changing took place in a guide hut.
"The Forrester Arms (now the Laird and Dog) provided the first base for the club. Ma Jack took the Club under her wing and visiting teams were well looked after.”
In 1937 Lasswade and Dalkeith amalgamated and this carried on through the war years, the clubs going their separate ways at the end of the hostilities.
“By 1950 we were running two successful teams with players regularly being picked for the district,” said David.
"They continued to improve through the 60s and by this time decided to push their boundaries overseas and neighbouring countries with visits to St Cyr L’Ecole and Cwmgwrach through the 70s, 80s and 90s.
"Other countries visited included England, Holland, Denmark, Ireland (north and south) and Sweden. This greatly enriched the reputation of the club in being friendly and welcoming to all.”
An important landmark took place in December 1974 when the official opening of the grounds and clubhouse at Hawthornden took place. The facilities, wholly owned by the club, were regarded as second to none.
In the early 80s an outstanding prospect in the shape of Peter Wright who, at the tender age of 15, was selected to play in Lasswade’s first XV. Billy Knowles the other prop was a year older but their combined age of 31 was a year younger than the hooker, David Pringle!
Peter subsequently moved to Boroughmuir to further his career and in 1985 was selected to play for Scotland Under 18’s. He went on to play for Scotland and the British Lions who toured New Zealand in 1993.
In 2007 the club’s current facilities were improved following extensive upgrading.
Following an approach from then president Ian Barr to Midlothian Council the equivalent of a pitch was sold for housing.
In return two international grass and floodlit pitches were constructed, along with a 350-seater stand with spacious changing rooms and a gym.
The clubhouse was also fully refurbished and the opening day on August 4 saw the attendance of over 1000 spectators who witnessed some thrilling rugby from senior, youth and golden oldie games.
A Scottish select included the likes of Peter Wright and Gregor Townsend although they lost narrowly to Lasswade’s 1st XV refereed by former international official Jim Fleming.
The standard of rugby improved, firstly with the oversight of coaches Graham Wright and Colin Brown as the club progressed into the National Leagues.
Dave Cockburn took over as head coach in 2008 and from there the 1st XV gained promotion from National 2 and 1 to reach Premier 3 in 2011.
Other successes included winning the National Shield in 2010 by beating Greenock Wanderers in front of 800 fervent Lasswade supporters at Murrayfield.
The following year they defended their trophy against Hawick YM in a tense encounter.
"Since then Lasswade have maintained their status in the National Leagues and hope, through locally sourced talent, progress further up the ladder of Scottish rugby,” said David.
"One great source of young blood is the Rugby Academy at Lasswade High School who are committed to improving the standard of youth rugby.
"Following that an application to form a Trust to promote and develop rugby players under the age of 25 was made. The trust known as Lasswade Community Rugby Trust was formed in August 2020 during the pandemic.
"The aim is to produce talented young players and integrate them into senior rugby.
In the meantime attention is focused on the centemary celebrations with a centenary ball and an end of season dinner inviting many former players and friends from other clubs among the planned festivities.