Co-Optimists RFC: 1924 – 2014
The Club was founded in September 1924 with the object of promoting rugby football in areas where it was not the premier sport by the well known rugby journalist “Jock” Wemyss, then playing for Edinburgh Wanderers, and by George St Claire Murray, a rugby enthusiast who played for Watsonians. Jock Wemyss captained the team in the first few games with George Murray acting as Honorary Secretary.
Not many people will connect the Co-Optimists with the music hall! However, if it had not been for that particular area of theatre the ‘Co-Ops’ would never have taken to the rugby stage under their famous title. The Co-Optimists was the name of a popular variety act of the time and so the Club’s title was chosen. The act is long forgotten but the Rugby Club has become the leading ‘invitation only’ rugby club in Scotland.
The Club has a remarkable record considering that it has no ground, no membership fee and only has one regular fixture, against East Lothian, who were the first ever opposition in 1924. Teams are principally chosen from Scottish players but internationalists have come from further afield to support the famous navy blue jerseys with lion couchant. Amongst the famous Scottish internationalists to turn out for the Club have been Arthur Smith, Sandy Carmichael, Ian McLauchlan, Douglas Morgan, Andy Irvine, Ian McGeechan, David Sole, Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey, Sean Lineen, Gavin and Scott Hastings and Rob Wainwright and during 1984 each of Scotland’s Grand Slam squad appeared for the Club at one time or another.
Some thirty English clubs have also provided players in the past including Bath, Blackburn, Coventry, Fylde, Harlequins, London Scottish, Loughborough Colleges, Manchester, Orrell, Sale and Wasps as well as Welsh, Irish and ‘far flung’ clubs. Amongst the many to play are such well known players as Phil Horrocks-Taylor, Micky Steel-Bodger, Dickie Jeeps, Mike Weston, John Currie, Jamie Salmon, Nigel Melville, Alan Old, Tony O’Reilly, Andy Mulligan, Moss Keane, Mike Gibson, Tom Kiernan, Jonathan Davies, Alan Pask and David Watkins.
The cream of Scottish Rugby who have turned out for the Club have not just confined their rugby missionary work to Scotland. Matches have been played at Blackburn, Newcastle and Northampton as well as many other famous grounds in England, one of the more notable fixtures being against London Welsh at Twickenham. The Club has also played against Cardiff at The Arms Park and in 1987 played Llanelli at Stradey Park in the Carwyn James Memorial Match. The Club has also played abroad and has twice visited Spain, the last visit being in the summer of 1982 when it took part in a tournament with France, Ireland and a Catalonian Select to mark the opening of the 1982 World Cup football competition. In 1985 a two week tour was made to Zimbabwe where the Club was unbeaten and twice won against the national side who subsequently met Scotland in both the 1987 and 1991 World Cups.The Tour party was captained by Jim Aitken, the 1984 Grand Slam skipper.
The Club has participated three times in the famous Hong Kong Sevens. In 1980 the Club was beaten in the final 12-8 by Fiji on a water logged pitch and, in 1981, lost to Australia in the semi finals. In 1986, the Club returned to participate in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens after an absence of five years, going out in the Quarter Finals..
In the 1990s, the Club participated in the Monte Carlo Sevens, which, sadly, were discontinued.
In 1993 the Co-Optimists achieved the pinnacle of their Sevens success by winning the prestigious Melrose Tournament for the first time and some of the squad subsequently represented Scotland at the Rugby World Cup Sevens at Murrayfield the following week.
The advent of professionalism resulted in a limitation on the Club’s matches. The traditional East Lothian match continues and has been played since 1924. The Club now plans to participate wherever possible in charity matches, Club anniversary celebrations and will invite primarily the elite from the Scottish Club scene.
The Co-Optimist’s Quinquennial Dinner coincides this year with the club’s 90th anniversary and will be held on Saturday, 22nd November, in the Roxburghe Hotel , Charlotte Square, Edinburgh at 6.45pm for 7.30pm. Scotland are due to play Tonga on that day, with an early kick-off, but the venue is not likely to be Murrayfield . Further details will be displayed in clubhouses later this summer. Any Co-Optimist who has changed address since last playing for the club is asked to forward his current email address and mobile phone number to the Secretary, Douglas Livingstone, at firstname.lastname@example.org