From The Vaults

04 December 2023
50 Years of Stewart’s Melville College Former Pupil Club

Richard Steele reminisces about the history of and his experience with the club…

Stewart's College FP 1st XV, 1903-1904

Stewart's Melville College Former Pupils (FP) rugby club celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The club was formed in 1973 by the coming together of the FP sides following the merger of two famous Edinburgh day schools: Daniel Stewart's College founded in 1854, and Melville College originally founded as the Edinburgh Institution in 1832 but renamed 100 years later.

The rugby pedigree of both schools was always strong. The Edinburgh Institution produced ten Scottish internationals between 1876 and 1892 including the Ainslie brothers in the forwards and the outstanding half back Sorley "Hopper" Brown. Finlay Kennedy was the first Stewart's FP international cap in 1920 and the club produced the forwards Rankin Buchanan and JW 'Jumbo' Scott in the 1920s; the wingers Grant Weatherstone in the 1950s and Sandy Hinshelwood, twice a British Lion, in the 1960s; alongside the fly half Gregor Sharp and the number eight, John Douglas, also a British Lion but destined to be equally remembered for his exploits as a racehorse owner winning the Grand National with Rubstic in 1979.

For a young rugby-loving teacher arriving in Edinburgh in August 1976, the rugby horizon offered by watching the Stewart's Melville FP team, known locally and affectionally as 'Stew-Mel', over the next few years was stunning. In the backs were the rock-steady former Scotland centre Ian Forsyth and the fulcrum was the great tactician Dougie Morgan, educated at Melville College and a future Scotland captain and British Lion test scrum half. A few years later he was to be joined by the gifted young Douglas Wyllie, then a schoolboy but destined to win 18 caps for Scotland at both fly half and centre between 1984 and 1994.

It was in many ways a family club and the pack was fast and strong. In the back row was the terrier-like Alex Brewster, shortly to begin his long Scottish international career between 1977 and 1986 at both wing forward and prop, with his brother Dave Brewster in the front row. There always seemed to be at least three of the four Calder brothers on the field, of whom Jim and Finlay were to hold down the Scottish wing forward berth between them for more than a decade without ever playing an international together. Both were British Lions and their brother John was a fine back row forward who toured Australia with Scotland in 1982 alongside his brothers without winning a full cap. Also from that era brothers Simon Scott, a talented centre, and Julian Scott, a doughty scrum half, have recently been awarded retrospective caps by the Scottish Rugby Union.

Stewart’s Melville FP, 1982

Famous exponents of sevens rugby, Stewart's Melville FP won the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham in May 1982 and, by the time I left Edinburgh in July that year, perhaps the club was in its prime regularly competing at the top end of the Scottish club game.

And what memories I took with me of happy times watching rugby at Inverleith, that grand old Scottish international rugby ground of the pre-Murrayfield era. Of course, one shouldn't forget the many boys over the years who went on to gain distinction in the game after leaving the school, such as the late Doddie Weir, but with other clubs including the current Scottish hooker George Turner who started his senior career in the FP team.

About the Authors - A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005 and is the co-author of the RFU's 150th anniversary book England Rugby 150 Years. John Hughes was educated at Daniel Stewart's and Melville College and studied law at Edinburgh University. A partner in the Edinburgh law firm Connor Malcolm, he played prop for Stewart's Melville FP 1st XV on a number of occasions.

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