Heriot’s Rugby Club was founded in 1890, and within two decades, was able to compete with all the leading teams in the Scottish game. Confirmation of the steady rise to the upper echelons came in 1919-20 when Heriot’s won the first of several unofficial club championships, under the league system conducted by newspapers in the decades before the SRU championship was launched in 1973-74. So successful was the club in the 1920’s that up to 10,000 spectators were attracted to matches against other leading teams, and the club fielded up to eight XV’s each Saturday.
While crowds and the number of teams run have tended to diminish since that golden era, the club retains the desire to play fast, open rugby, a trait developed in the early days and perpetuated by a stream of talented players emanating from George Heriot’s School, an august institution founded in 1628 thanks to a fortune left by Heriot, a jeweller to royalty. The school, an all-male preserve for more than three centuries, now welcomes girl pupils in equal measure.
The school and the rugby, hockey and cricket clubs share fine grounds at Goldenacre, but the facilities are no longer confined to members who were educated at the school, and in the professional era the club benefits by recruiting players who have developed their rugby skills elsewhere.
The original proposers of organised club competition, Heriot’s won the SRU club championship in 1978-79, and back to back in 1998/99 and 1999/200. They have been second or third in many seasons, and have retained their position in the top division since the inauguration of the leagues. Though championship rugby makes most games vital confrontations, Heriot’s particularly relish matches against Edinburgh rivals Watsonians and Hawick from the Borders. Rounding of a good League Season Heriot’s won the BT Cup for the first time in April 2003.
Heriot’s are noted exponents of the seven-a-side game, have won all the major Scottish tournaments, and were the first club from north of the Border to claim victory in the Twickenham Sevens in 1949. The under-21 sevens which used to be held at Goldenacre each spring attracted up to 32 teams.
Since 1922 the club has provided a steady flow of international players for Scotland, plus two for England. Notable contributors to the Scottish cause in clued eight international full-backs and three brothers – Iain, David and Kenny Milne – who were all capped in the front row. Heriot players have also been chosen for the British Lions & Irish Lions, Barbarians and host of other representative matches and tours.
The motto of George Heriot enjoined all within the Heriot community to “distribute cheerfullie”. Heriot’s Rugby Club is intent on distributing sincere friendship and promoting excellent standards of play at Goldenacre in an era when the game is changing, but when the harmonious spirit essential to the well-being of rugby union must continue to be fostered.