Stornoway Rugby Football Club was founded in 1952, and over the years the club has always strived to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment where people can enjoy all the benefits that the sport of Rugby can offer.
Stornoway RFC SCIO was registered in its current legal form on June 4th 2018. It has a two-tier structure consisting of Members and the Board of Trustees. It’s main purpose as stated in the Constitution is:
To promote the public participation of Rugby Union within the Western Isles, and thereby develop the mental, physical and social capacities of its members and others supportive of the purposes, so that their lives are enriched and conditions in life are improved, whilst ensuring equal opportunities for all members of the community to enjoy the benefits of participation in, and spectating of, the game of rugby.
When two rugby enthusiasts came together back in September 1952 to try and establish Stornoway Rugby Club, it is doubtful whether they had any idea of the success story that was to follow. In that most defining of periods in local history - post-war Lewis - the foundations were set for what was to grow into one of the most highly-regarded rugby clubs across the north of Scotland.
The club's genesis lay in the foresight of Bob Bruce, a Scottish internationalist with three caps who moved to the area to work in a local bank, and Stornoway engineer John Morrison, who learned the game while in South Africa. Frustrated by a lack of competitive rugby, they endeavoured to do something about it. So, on November 1st that year, the first organised game to grace the shores of Lewis took place. The Royal Navy's "HMS Cook" took the field against the newly-formed home club, with Stornoway marking their inception in ideal fashion with a 16-0 win.
The club remained active throughout the 1950s with games being arranged against visiting Navy ships and RAF personnel. In November 1953 a rather bizarre incident occurred when the home side took the field prepared to pit their wits against HMS Welfare. While Stornoway had been busy psyching themselves up for a game of rugby, the visitors had been under the impression that the contest was to involve the round-ball discipline - no doubt much to the frustration of the islanders who were looking forward to the relatively rare commodity of a good, hard game of rugby. But, ever obliging, Stornoway agreed to play them at football. The final scoreline is not recorded, but would have made some interesting reading.
Into the 1960s, and this was perhaps the most disappointing period as they practically disappeared off the scene all together. However, in 1972 a new lease of life was breathed into the club in order to provide opposition to the Nicolson Institute, where the game had been introduced the previous year. The first game between the school and the "old crocks" was played at the Acres Playing Field on January 11th, 1972. The final scoreline was 12-8 for the school, but the game is more remembered for the number of pulled muscles and sore bones afflicting the now-ageing Stornoway squad members. The Nicolson remained something of a breeding ground for the club over the years and much of that was down to the sterling efforts of a few individual teachers - in particular Angus MacCormack, Tom Clark and Eddie Young, the latter doing an enormous amount to foster the sport during his 20 or so years as rector.
Season 1978/79 saw the pinnacle of rugby in the school when a senior team from the Nicolson captured the North of Scotland Schools' Championship. This was a tremendous achievement and one in which Stornoway Rugby Club themselves played no small part by providing regular and tough opposition to the talented school side.
The early 1970s, however, was not the most successful of eras on the playing front. But by the midway point of the decade the prospects of Stornoway were taken to a new level. In 1974, following protracted negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, permission was obtained to establish the club's first permanent pitch on a corner of the airfield close to Steinish. Then, only a year later, the club were to receive a major boost when Comhairle nan Eilean Siar opened its doors for the first time, bringing with it a welcome injection of new blood. That platform allowed progress on the playing front to be maintained well into the 1980s, allowing the club to go from strength to strength.
Although the home ground secured near Steinish was somewhat exposed, the facility served admirably until it was lost in 1982 after the runway was extended at the behest of NATO. Fortunately, two years later, the new playing fields at Bayhead were opened and the location has remained the club's home pitch ever since, barring one or two excursion to the Acres pitch and even as far away as the Ness machair in the early 1990s when Bayhead was flooded.
Although the club moved to a new level in the 1980s, the perennial problem of a lack of opposition remained steadfast. Although the logical and desirable step of membership of the Highland District League would have solved it in the blink of an eye, the difficulties presented by travel commitments meant it stayed off the agenda - only for the time being, however.
But despite not being able to call on regular opposition, Stornoway managed the tremendous feat of winning the Brin Cup in season 1989/90. The final's only try was scored by Ainsley MacPherson who was pushed over the line by his team-mates - although he himself maintains he waltzed his way over from 40 metres in Campese-esque fashion. As if.
The Brin Cup success firmly marked the arrival of a talented Stornoway side and served as an ideal springboard for what was to become the club's most successful decade to date. In 1995, Stornoway took the ambitious, if long-awaited, step of joining the Highland District League. And in their very first year they won the league championship - a feat they were to repeat another four times, the last being in 2000/01 season. They also lifted the Brin Cup again in 1996/97, beating Orkney in the final and also captured the Highland District League Cup in its inaugural year in 2000/01. The Stornoway silverware cupboard was now beginning to fill up rapidly.
Of course the 2002 50th anniversary will go down as the year of the Bahamas, when the islanders had the audacity to travel to the Caribbean as part of the half-century celebrations. As one can imagine, this once- in-a-lifetime adventure took a gargantuan organisational effort and certainly captured the public's imagination. In all, 29 guys travelled and took part in two games in sweltering conditions against select teams from the island of Nassau, both of which were only narrowly lost. Perhaps more importantly, though, the players returned with a treasure trove of memories - not to mention a few incidents which, shall we say, have been lost in the mists of time.
The club's steady progress over the years was maintained in season 2002/03 as they stepped up to the North District League, a tournament which encompasses 12 teams stretching from the Highlands through to the east coast. Although heavy travel commitments is far from an alien concept to Stornoway, regular trips to the likes of Aberdeen and Peterhead required a new level of application both on and off the park - and one which the club are confident of meeting.
The move up a division also brought with it automatic qualification to the BT Cellnet Scottish Cup, and Stornoway were delighted when the first round draw pitted them against National Division Five side Helensburgh. That game was played on Saturday 7th September at Bayhead and will represent the club's most high-profile fixture to date - yet another fitting tribute in their 50th anniversary year.
As the club as has moved forward the development of youth has been at the forefront of the clubs journey. With the Under 16s reaching the Caledonia Cup final in 2007/08, eventually losing to Aberdeen Grammar. That same year four of the team played for Highland & Islands team as part of the SRU pathway. The mens senior team beat Orkney RFC 2nd XV in Invergordon to once again lift the Brin Cup, winning 20-3. Calum 'Shen' Campbell began delivering after school sessions to P5-7 pupils in Laxdale that lead to the partnership between SYRFC/SRU/CNES for the Nicolson to become a School of Rugby in 2012. In 2015, current mens player coach, David 'GG' Campbell was recruited as an SRU Modern Apprentice focussing on delivering coaching sessions to the primary and secondary pupils throughout Lewis & Harris. Two years later in 2017 the first ever Stornoway P6/7 team played host to GHA at Bayhead.
In 2018 the club had 12 coaches go through the UKCC Level 2 Course the support of the SRU Development Team with the club now providing coaching for up to 100 juniors from P5-S6 at 3 sessions a week.
Also in 2018 the club took a massive step forward and became a registered charity. The club now has a board of Trustees as well as a Committee who all continue bring the club forward. With the halt of season 2019/20 the club is now reaping the rewards of the youth development fielding a team with the majority under the age of 25.
Bill Low - A real rugby character, larger than life. Generous to fault to the club. Bill played second row for the club during the 70’s, an old school player he was tough as old boots on the pitch with his playing career including a spell playing club rugby in New Zealand. Off the pitch he would do anything for the club and as owner of the County Hotel the cocktail bar became the clubhouse for after match entertainment, (and plenty other occasions), which always included a plate of quality stovies. A unique personality Bill was a larger than life character and even after retiring and moving to Aberdeen with his wife Jenny continued to follow the club. Sorely missed.
Donnie Graham - A tough and uncompromising No 8 during the 80’s and 90’s Donnie was a player you wanted on your side! Part of the 1990 Brin cup winning side and also prominent in the 1996 Highland League champions team. Donnie served on the committee for many years and was also involved in coaching junior rugby in the early stages of development. Both his sons, Roddy and Alick, have come through that system and followed Donnie into the senior team. His previous connections with Hyndland RFC has been useful when the senior team was short of players! Donnie was inducted in the club’s “Hall of Fame” in 2017. Simply a great player. Hard as nails and never backed down from a battle. A true enforcer.
Marten James - Marten learned his rugby at Stirling County and when he moved to the island to work for the local authority in the 80’s he brought and abundance of rugby knowledge and infectious enthusiasm. A nuggety back row forward and occasional emergency back Marten was a natural leader on the pitch he had spells as both captain and coach the senior team during his time with the club. He also served as a committee member. A total gentleman, true rugby man. It be difficult to name a man more passionate about the game, club or country, he was all in!
James Macaulay - AKA 'A. Lock'. A Stornoway cove, James came through the ranks with the Nicolson Institute system under the coaching of the likes of teachers Tom Clark, Ken Inglis and Angus McCormack. His love of the game stayed with him and he moved on to play many years for the club, playing an important part in many big games. A solid lump of a second row, always a safe pair of hands in the line-out, James was part of probably the biggest pack in the club’s history in the mid 90’s when many a club was manhandled down the pitch. James played in the 1997 Brin Cup Final win against Orkney during which a maul was driven 40 plus metres to demoralise the opposition at a key point in the match. James was inducted in the club’s "Hall of Fame” in 2017.
Ainsley Macpherson - Ainsley served the club with distinction for over 20 years as a player, and committee member, including spells as Chair and President. Tough as old boots as a player he developed into a key line out option and general nuisance round the pitch, always giving 100% and never taking a backward step. Ainslie will forever be remembered for his match winning try in the 4-3 win over Lochaber in the 1990 Brin Cup Final - the club’s first ever trophy. Myth has it there was a 40m sprint with defenders left flailing in his wake before graciously swan diving over the line - well that’s how Ainslie tells it! A famous moment indeed
Gary Dunn - A superb player, Garry’s greatest strength was his mastery of the basics. A powerful centre with great distribution skills and rarely missing a tackle he became an important part of the club during the 80’s, 90’s and into the 00’s, where he finished his career playing flanker as player/coach. A dedicated club man serving the club as captain (including the 1990 Brin Cup winning team), coach and committee member before work took him to Australia.
Tom Joyce - Known as Champagne Tom Joyce, moved to the island to work in the mid 80s with the local authority and very quickly became a key member of the club. Tom was a player, coach and committee member during his time with the club, playing scrum half, centre and wing during his playing career. Technically sound, very brave and a good tactical brain. He was always full of innovative ideas as a player and a coach. Always heavily involved in a playing and coaching capacity and scored the only try in the famous 9-0 win over cup holders Caithness on route to the 1990 Brin Cup title. Following retirement from playing he took up refereeing to continue his support of the club. “2 pint Tommy” was always to be relied on for entertainment off the field as well as on it.
Alister Stewart - A former Scotland ‘A’ prop and played for London Scottish. He transferred from the Met to Northern Constabulary and became a coach. Pushed the club into the league, he really made us believe in ourselves as a squad and a team. Club entered the league and went 17 games unbeaten! An animal of a player and the ears to prove it! A forwards coach that made a solid pack that pushed the club forward and a great platform to play from. His scrum drilling went a long way to helping win the 97 Brin cup.
Iain ‘GG’ Campbell - Played all across the back line but mainly a stand off and occasional scrum half. Played first match for Stornoway in 1975, aged 14, against Benbecula Nomads in Benbecula as a HOOKER! Won the Brin Cup Final vs Lochaber in ‘90 and Orkney in ‘97. Both games Stornoway were big underdogs. Has helped countless youngsters learn about rugby. The friendships, respect and the memories it provides.
Douglas ‘Dougie’ Young - A player and referee for the club spanning 20 years from the early 70’s. A great club man in partnership with his good friend Bill Low. who had a long spell as chair of the club through some challenging times. A lover of the social side of the game. Dougie was always keen to start a sing song on the bus home or in the County Bar after a match. A solid stand-off in his playing days he then took up the whistle, becoming a valuable asset for the club. Refereeing all levels of club matches while continuing to support the development of the club. Dougie’s commitment and love of the club remains and he is regularly seen on the side-lines at all the home games.
Iain Macleod - On his return from university in Aberdeen in the late 1970’s he became a driving force in the development of the club. His enthusiasm and organisational skills endured he that the club kept moving forward over the next decade and more. A skilful scrum half and stand off he also played his part on the pitch. His biggest achievement was his involvement in the clubs historic 1st Brin Cup title in March 1990, a 4-3 win against Lochaber RFC in Invergordon. He was key to the preparation for the final, developing a tough training regime during the 4 months between the semi-final and the final during which the club didn't play another match. Iain was also heavily involved in the move from the airport pitch to the current Bayhead pitch and also supported the clubs early development of junior rugby.
Adrian Macdonald - From starting his Stornoway career playing as a winger Adrian became part of a conveyor belt of quality front row forwards. A regular through the 90’s and 00’s another player who played in the 1990 Brin Cup win. Adrian was heavily involved in the development of youth rugby at the club and was responsible for organising some memorable moments for many young players, from trips to Murrayfield to visits from Scottish Internationalists.
Angus 'Bubble' Mackay - Involved with the club since the early 90’s Bubble, as he’s affectionately known, has given more than most towards the development and the success of the club. An outstanding, dynamic prop and occasional hooker he was almost unstoppable from close to the line, but possessed subtle handling skills and could also be relied upon to as a kicker from hand and tee. His skills were widely recognised and along with his companion in arms, Alan “Bull” Maciver, became the first players from the club to be selected for North League Select team. Bubble captained the senior side for many years, including 3 Brin Cup finals and 2 league titles, and has also coached the team and served on the committee. Persistent injuries eventually brought an end to his playing career in 2018 when he took on the role of coaching the newly formed ladies team, applying his usual commitment and talent. A larger than life character and all-round club man.
Colin Maciver - Began his rugby career while at the Nicolson Institute. Colin went on to play for Stornoway, playing a prominent part in Highland District League winning side in the 1995/96 season and in the 1996/97 Brin Cup campaign. A jinky scrum half who embarrassed many an opposition defence he also never shirked a tackle. An horrendous knee injury cut short his playing career, although there were many mini comebacks to help out the team when short of numbers over the years since. Colin went on to serve on the committee, including as chairperson. He also took up coaching and helps out with both the senior and junior sections.
Callum ‘Shen’ Campbell - A long term supporter of rugby through the years, particularly Scotland, Glasgow and Stornoway. Shen's lifelong career at sea meant that he never had the opportunity to play the game. His retirement coincided with his grandson Dean's later years in Laxdale Primary. Keen to help Deans and his pals to learn the game he offered to help start rugby coaching for P5-7 pupils in Laxdale and was soon leading regular sessions on a Friday afternoon at the school for over 20 pupils. He completed the Scottish Rugby Level Coaching certificate in 2011 and continued to coach and help out with junior coaching until health issues and crofting commitments reduced his ability to support as much as he would have liked. He remains a loyal supporter of the club and always has plenty of advice for players, coaches and referees - always constructive of course!
Shen’s contribution to the development of junior rugby cannot be understated, giving his time to do all he could to give young people the chance to learn rugby and follow the game he loves. He was rewarded for his contribution by the wider sporting public when in 2015 he was named Highlands and Islands Community Coach of the Year by the Lewis and Harris Sports Council.
Graham 'Beef' Mclellan - He was a prominent member of the club through the 90’s and 00’s. A ‘wind him up and let him go’ type of fearless player who always gave 100% on the pitch at prop or in the back row.
He also helped out with the junior section, becoming famous for his legendary breakfasts on away trips!
In his time as club treasurer Beef superbly managed the club’s finances through extremely challenging times, joining the national leagues and the introduction and development of a junior section, leaving the club on a healthy footing to move forward from.