By Jeremy Ballantyne Honorary President WRFC 2010
Walkerburn RFC at Caberston Haugh – the pitch with an unique setting, facing south and west, in the beautiful valley of the famous River Tweed.
It is the 24th oldest member of the Scottish Rugby Union.
Started in 1884 by the Ballantyne family of Walkerburn for the recreation and enjoyment of their weaving mill workers and families, this club sports a long and proud history.
Who can recall the earlier times with a ‘shed’ for a club house, later extended to include a small corner for the loyal ladies committee to serve teas from an urn?
Showering was unheard of – the best option on offer a speedy dip in the adjacent River Tweed.
The physical prowess of the mighty Walkerburn players was challenged when they carried the original WW1 shooting hut from high up the Walker Burn and set it onto new foundations at Caberston Haugh. This sufficed as a Club house until I took on the Presidency from 1982-88 and spearheaded a major fund raising campaign to modernise, extend and re-roof the building. Many members gave their time and skills to achieve what we see today.
With so much new space, the 3 senior teams at that time, enjoyed matches both Home and Away; a licensed Bar proved a great success underpinning the club both socially and financially. The club was regularly filled with the camaraderie of Home and Visiting teams til late in the evening. No breathalysers at that time – most walked home!
Sons and brothers followed fathers, as successive Walkerburn teams posted wins throughout the Borders and further afield - even to Orkney and Wales!
Five times winners of Peebles Sevens Tournament, the rivalry between these neighbouring clubs has existed for many years, however that rivalry is now weaving into a close association for the benefit of both clubs.
At its peak the mills employed 1000 and the population rose to 1200 persons. One may ask now – where did they live? Remember that the average home occupancy was 6.5 and now it is 2.2. Seventeen shops and small enterprises were open for business supporting a vigorous village. Many employees came daily from Innerleithen and Galashiels initially on foot or bicycle and later by train.
In recreation terms, however, rugby was the main sporting activity attracting large crowds of spectators, though hockey, tennis, athletics/running, scouts and guides all had their time and place.
Building on the past strengths, W’burn RFC continues to train and manage a senior team and aims to grow the youth rugby side in conjunction with Peebles RFC.
The minis strips are there to be worn! Although the Wildcats were temporarily suspended, we are looking for Primary School age children, both girls and boys, to represent the Wildcats once again.
Sport is for all and we remain focused on encouraging participation in this fine local club!
These days the Club is open for many other groups and uses along side the rugby; it is a popular venue with its compact indoor facilities and spacious pitch.
The Annual Sevens Tournament held in May, traditionally called ‘The Sports’ are a huge attraction, supported by local businesses, friends, families, ex players and teams from the Borders and Southern Scotland. We hope to attract our many friends and ex-players from overseas and make the event even stronger. Several other events are planned and we welcome players, visitors and sponsors to our club and to our web site.
Red and Black are Walkerburn colours, appearing on players’ strips, our logo and shield, our village festival bunting and more. Proud colours for a proud history!
J. Jeremy Ballantyne TD, DL