The club was initially formed at the first AGM on September 15, 1933, and, after a break in proceedings during the war, was reconvened at a meeting in Jarmans Hotel, Forfar, in May 1946. Without a settled home, early committee meetings were held in a variety of locations, including McLean & Lowsons Solicitors, the Meffan Institute, the changing rooms of Forfar Baths and the Queen St Bar!
Early matches were played at Beechhill and at the Steele Park, with matches starting at the present ground, Inchmacoble Park, in 1951-52, and the original clubhouse, built round an ex-W.D. hut, opening in 1954-55. The erection of floodlights and general clubhouse improvements, including the addition of the bar followed in 1974. After a brief period of chaos when it was operated by members, the current barman (and Honorary Life Member) Geoff Milne started his remarkable period of tenure in 1976.
Club finances were not always on the scale that they are now, and the balance recorded at the end of the first season in 1933-34 was a staggering two pounds fourteen shillings and ten pence (£2.74 to the younger readers!). Even as recently as 1974-75, rates & rent were recorded as £37.38 and the total electricity bill was £4.95. The level of rent & rates was to rise sharply over the following few seasons to such an extent that the club decided to buy the ground from the local council in 1981.
There have been too many players and officials over the years to mention more than a few. Apart from Suzy Newton, who won a Scottish Women’s cap in 2004-05, no players have ever received international honours. Hugh Warnock, Lindsay Guthrie and Fergus Ellen were all post-war Midlands triallists, and in more recent years, Dave Steele, Graeme Bell, Grant Lawrence, Ken Gillies and John Easson all represented Midlands select sides. A young player by the name of Fred Crowe made his club debut on September 10, 1955 against Perth Accies (a 6-0 defeat), and has continued to represent the club every season right up to the present day – surely a record without parallel?
Both George and John Mackie have represented us in the House of Lords, and Lord Lyell of Kinnordy is one of our current Patrons.
The club has been gifted with a number of tireless committee members over the years, with Tom Bell (the author of a comprehensive club history), Sandy Callander (appointed as Treasurer and Club Captain in 1950, and still attending most of the home games!) Jim Gardner, Lindsay Tosh and Tony Treger dedicating many years of outstanding service.
The following excerpt from Tom Bell’s history describes the Club’s first matches in 1933:
“With S.R.F.C. established, a playing pitch was secured at Beech Hill, Lour Road, Forfar and on the 23rd. September 1933 the Club played its first match. The opposition was Mr. J.M. Robb’s Midland Union Select.
G.M.R. Duffus: E. Thomson: R. Milne:
D. Callander: and I. Fleming: B.J.Allison
and C.N. Bruce: R.J.H. Peters: J. Mackie:
L. Thomson: C. Thomson: R.J.Prentice: W. Clark:
D.A. Fleming: and A. Keay.
Reserves- G.R. Thomson: G.S. Henderson and W. Duff.
Gallaway: Laird: Taylor: Smith and Cappon.
Ireland and Mackay. Leslie: White: Ritchie:
Wilson: Miller: Bruce: Beats and Wilson.
Result Strathmore Nil Select XV 40
N.B. Collection £1 : 7 : 2d for Forfar Infirmary
S.R.F.C’s first club match was against an Aberdeen Grammar School F.P. fifteen. The game was played at Beech Hill on 30th. September 1933 and to quote the local paper.
“Strathmore came up against more equal opposition and redeemed themselves by winning by 6 points to 3 points”
Strathie's scorers were Campbell, Thomson and David Callander- a try each.
Duffus: E. Thomson: Callander : R. Milne and
I.Fleming. Allison and Archibald: Peters: Mackie: L. Thomson: C. Thomson: Prentice: Clark:
D. Fleming and Keay”
In the early days of the Club, there were no leagues in operation, and each fixture was arranged on an individual basis. Eventually Strathmore became part of the Midlands League.
National League rugby arrived at Inchmacoble for the first time in season 1978-79 after winning the Midlands League in 1977-78. Although losing the opening fixture 37-0 to Stobswell, they rallied and made it into National League 7 in the title decider at Crieff. National League opponents in 1978-79 included Wigtownshire (21-4 win), Panmure (34-16 win) and Aberdeenshire (15-10 win). Season 1978-79 was also notable in that Strathie regularly fielded 3 fifteens (with a third pitch at the west end of the cricket ground). The win against Aberdeenshire on October 25 was matched by a 20-13 2nd XV win over Hillfoots and a 10-3 win for the 3rd XV over Stobswell!
The 3rd XV had disappeared by season 1980-81, and an “ageing” 1st team won 13 out of 21 matches, losing 6 and drawing 2 (only 10 of these matches were league matches). By season 1982-83, the first team had deteriorated to the extent of winning just one league match, with the 2nd XV doing slightly better in winning five out of ten.
On the social scene in the early 80s, much emphasis was placed on fundraising for developing the clubhouse and ground – very similar to today, although on a much smaller scale, and depending on outdoor rather than indoor events. Raft races on the loch and donkey derbies (not on the loch!) were regular occurrences, as well as the occasional marquee dance or barn dance. Club finances were also on a much smaller scale than they are now, though the Club often lived from day to day. Net profit from the bar in 1982-83 amounted to £911.82 – just £2 less than the Club paid in rates. The vast total of £271.60 was spent on kit, and overall the Club made a loss of £71.09.
The First XV had slipped out of the National Leagues by the mid 80s, though playing numbers were sufficient to produce a brief reappearance of the 3rd XV in 1986-87. Things go in cycles, and a gradual resurgence in Strathmore rugby saw the Club being re-admitted to National League 7 in season 1990-91, and, although at one stage pressing for promotion, ended up fourth equal. This was also the season when the Club acquired a number of players from Brechin RFC, and when regular tours were established with Birchgrove from Swansea (donors of the engraved stone at the front door of the new building) and Old Alleynians from London.
National status was short-lived, with the first team returning to Midlands rugby at the end of season 1991-92, but the early 90s were to herald the start of the drive towards the successes of the present day. Successive Committees introduced Junior Rugby, brought in paid coaches and started the impetus that would eventually result in the magnificent new clubhouse that was opened in 2005.
Strathmore were initially a very minor partner in the Angus Colts, which were also formed in the early 90s, and one only needs to look at today’s playing squad to see the importance of Colts rugby in producing exciting young players.
The Club’s “Kiwi Connection” also started in the early 90s with the arrival of “Jono” Philips as Club Coach (interestingly via Strathmore Cricket Club!). Jono was hugely influential during his stay at the Club, and went on to show his worth at Murrayfield before returning to New Zealand, where he is now with the NZRFU. Other notable Kiwis followed, right up to the present day, with Kelvin Soppett proving to be an invaluable asset in our push for promotion in 2005.
The one Antipodean to earn himself a permanent place in the Strathmore Hall of Fame is undoubtedly Jason Leslie. His efforts, both on and off the pitch require a complete website of their own to do them justice, and it is no exaggeration to say that we owe much of what we have achieved over the past ten or so seasons to him.
This is not to deny the contributions of countless Club members and friends over the years. One of the all time great stalwarts of the Club, the late Tom Bell, whose marvellous history has already been referred to, ends Part 1 with the following quote:
“The first 50 years of S.R.F.C. have provided members past and present, their friends and Patrons along with their opponents many years of enjoyment of the game of Rugby Football. Its hospitality has ensured that the objects of the original Constitution of the Club have been fulfilled.
If the next 50 years provide the same pleasure as the first 50 years the then Chronicler will have much to add to its history.
The present writer passes on to his successor his best wishes to all those who will participate.”
“Good Old Strathie!”
Note if anybody has any additions, corrections please contact Dave Innes
The Club motto debate rages on:
"Baas Like Neeps"
"At the heart of Scottish Rugby"
"At the heart of the camel toe"
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