This week’s memories are provided by Stephen White who started school at Melville College before the merger with Daniel Stewart’s College. He finished his school career at Stewart’s Melville College in 1977.
“Fourth year is when rugby became for real as you were in a 3 year grouping for rugby, and we mixed for the first time with boys who were up to two years older. I had now filled out (!) massively and, bearing in mind I left school 3 years later at 9st 10lb, I must have been at least 8st at that point! It was the third team, the A3s, for me during the first half of the season. Eddie Hyndman, the Head of PE, in his annual report in The Collegian, reported that White at full back was bravely fierce in the tackle, not necessarily with respect to his own safety. I must have been too young to think about it at that stage – Denis Hay would have been proud.
Eventually promoted to the A2s I can remember playing in some blood and thunder matches against Watson’s/Edinburgh Academy/Fettes/Heriot’s in front of the loyal supporters on Pitch 2 at Inverleith. I always felt I was playing above my level at that stage but I have great memories of tight games, a high standard rugby and some really good players just below 1st XV level, some of whom had already played quite a lot in the top team. Although I have a great memory I would struggle to name the A2s of 1975 and also in 1976 – I made the 1stXV that year but I had been dropped after a rather shoddy performance at home to Heriot’s (who can name those teams?).
I played in the most violent game of rugby of my life on Ferryfield Pitch 1 against a Glasgow Academy side containing John Beattie and his brother. Later in his famous career he was rather intimidating for Scotland against the giant Wade Dooley in a 36-6 thrashing of England in 1986. I know what the English must have felt like on that day, just like me 10 years earlier when I faced him. It was not his finest hour. I think our referee that day had left the red card in the changing room as there were some unsavoury and dangerous moments but we won despite the Beattie brothers imploring me in choice language to drop the ball every time it was launched skywards.
We were beaten finalists in the Under 16 sevens at Kirkcaldy. I was fit but this was tiring and I wondered what on earth they fed the kids in Buckhaven, a massive team who beat us in the final.
I finally made my debut for the 1st XV against Dundee High on a gloriously sunny, dew-filled day against Dundee High at Downfield in August 1975 – we won 20-0. At fullback I never put a foot wrong and the following weeks I continued to perform assuredly and some exhilarating running rugby was played until the aforementioned debacle against Heriot’s. Several of us were chopped – me for the rest of the season. For some reason I kept letting the ball bounce rather than doing what I had been doing. I rarely dropped the ball on the full but things did not work out that day!
I then reinvented myself as a centre and this became my favoured position going forward although I did sometimes play full back and wing in my later University and FP career.
When we were practising we used to play 1stXV v 2ndXV on Tuesday afternoons. My friend Graham Linn had been loose-head prop in the 1st XV since S4. After my demotion, one afternoon during our practice match he was heading towards me around the halfway line ball in hand, for some reason trying to impersonate a back. I was trying to remember the Denis Hay thing – the easiest tackle is head on, just take the hit, wrap your arms and the player’s momentum will take him down. Anyway next thing I remember is the 1st XV coach Paul Caton looking at me, with the Captain Mannering stupid boy expression on his face, and then looking at his first choice prop writhing around on the ground before lying still. Thankfully Graham finally sat up – secretly I was actually quite chuffed with myself but realised that possibly I still wasn’t going to get back into the 1st XV!”