Sunday 20 March 2011

140 Years ago on 27 March 2011

............ Continued from ..............

The gauntlet for the first international having been thrown down by the senior Scottish clubs was picked up appropriately enough by Blackheath, one of London's oldest clubs. It was BH Burns the Blackheath secretary who took on to organise the selection of the 20 players who would be the first to wear the famous “red rose”.

By chance, BH (Benjamin Henry) Burns had been a pupil at The Edinburgh Academy from 1862 to 1864, and had been in the same class as Francis Moncrieff (1860-67) and Alexander Hamilton Robertson (1863-65), both who were to play in the 1871 match for Scotland. Burns had moved to England and later worked for the Oriental Banking Corporation in Yokohama, Shanghai and Australia and managed the Calcutta Branch until it closed. Whilst in Calcutta he played for the Calcutta Football Club, who's demise in 1877 led to the Calcutta Cup being produced and first played for at Raeburn Place in 1878. Burns then went to New Zealand and was manager of the Colonial Bank at Christchurch New Zealand, where he remained for the rest of his life.

North of the Border, in order to select a side truly representative of Scotland, it was decided to stage two trial matches in Glasgow and Edinburgh, before the set date for the international on Monday 27th March 1871. The committee entered negotiations with Edinburgh Academy for the use of their cricket field at Raeburn Place. The Academical Cricket Club committee only decided 'by a majority' that the request would be granted - a decision that assured the Academical ground its place in the history of the game.

The fine detail of organisation was left to Hall-Blyth of Merchistonians, and HH (Hely Hutchinson) Almond was appointed by Scotland as their umpire. The match would be played by the terms of Rugby School rules with two alterations. The ball, on going into touch, was to be thrown into the ground from the spot it crossed the line, and not from where it first pitched into touch; secondly, for a try at goal the ball was to be brought out from where it was touched down - not punted back into the field of play, in order to establish the place for the goal kick.

South of the Border Burns and others used The Princess of Wales public house to plan the English team for the forthcoming game. Blackheath originally played rugby on the open heath at Blackheath and used the Princess of Wales as both headquarters and changing rooms.

The pitch was to be 120 yards in length by 55 yards in breadth, and it was thought that its narrowness, compared with English pitches, would handicap the excellent running of the English half-backs. The match was to be played for two periods of fifty minutes each, no hacking-over or tripping-up should be allowed, and the ball should not be taken up for a run unless absolutely bounding, as opposed to rolling.

The match had caught the mood of the country, while both codes of football were still very much the preserve of the middle-classes, there was developing sporting fever in mid-Victorian Britain. Prior to the match, advice was being issued to the side through the letters page of the Scotsman and the match was eagerly anticipated.

The selected teams were announced -

England - A. G. Guillemard (West Kent) - Back, A. Lyon (Liverpool) - Back, R. R. Osbourne (Manchester) - Back, W. Maclaren (Manchester) Three-quarter back, J. E. Bentley (Gipsies) - Half-back, F. Tobin (Liverpool) - Half-back, J. F. Green (West kent) - Half-back, F. Stokes (Blackheath), Captain, R. H. Birkett (Clapham Rovers), F. W. Isherwood (Ravenscourt Park), J. H. Clayton (Liverpool), C. A. Crompton (Blackheath), A. Davenport (Ravenscourt Park), J. M. Dugdale (Ravenscourt Park), A. S. Gibson (Manchester), A. St. G. Hamersley (Marlborough Nomads), J. H. Luscombe (Gipsies), C. W. Sherrard (Blackheath), D. P. Turner (Richmond), H. J. C. Turner (Manchester).

Scotland - W. D. Brown (Glasgow Academicals) - Back, T. Chalmers (Glasgow Academicals) - Back, A. Clunies-Ross (St. Andrews University) - Back, J. W. Arthur (Glasgow Academicals) - Half-back, F. Cross (Merchistonians - Half-back, T. R. Marshall (Edinburgh Academicals), F. I. Moncrieff (Edinburgh Academicals), Captain, A. Buchanan (Edinburgh University), A. B. Colville (Merhistonians), A. Drew (Glasgow Academicals), W. Forsyth (Edinburgh University), F. Finlay (Edinburgh Academicals), R. Irvine (Edinburgh Academicals), W. Lyall (Edinburgh Academicals), H. Mein (Edinburgh Academicals), J. W. McFarlane (Edinburgh University), D. Munro (St. Andrews University), T. Ritchie (Merchistonians), F. Robertson (West of Scotland), J.S. Thomson (Glasgow Academicals).

The scene was set - the players were ready - the public was ready - and the 27 March 1871 was eagerly awaited. To be continued ................


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