About Clydebank Rugby Club
Legend has it that Clydebank RFC’s inaugural training session began with the immortal words ‘this is a rugby ball’!
But what those first Bankies lacked in experience was more than made up for in enthusiasm and commitment.
Four decades on, the club goes from strength to strength.
A new wave of clubs in the west
In the late 1960’s, most rugby clubs in the west of Scotland were for old boys of fee paying schools but some clubs were being formed where their members preferred to play locally.
By 1969, clubs had already been formed in Helensburgh, Dumbarton and Oban and old clubs like Uddingston, Whitecraigs, Craigielea and Stirling had been resurrected.
It so happened at that time three rugby enthusiasts in the village of Hardgate (just north of Clydebank) met regularly at the local garage while refuelling their cars on a Sunday morning. It soon became known to garage owner Kinloch Campbell that Ian Bruce played with a West of Scotland XV, Robin Veitch with a Glasgow Accies XV and that Alan Robinson was a regular at Hughenden.
Although he had never played himself, Kinloch Campbell had a cousin who had just been capped for Scotland. Others who visited the garage soon became involved in the weekly banter and one week it was agreed to introduce them to the game at Dumbarton.
Soon the migrants from Clydebank were playing in the Dumbarton teams but one evening a number of old players returned to Dumbarton for a midweek fixture. They were immediately selected and the Bankies were discarded.
That night, the snubbed players decided to form their own club in Clydebank.
One of their number, Gordon Turner, was the son of Clydebank’s Provost and he was instructed to find suitable playing facilities. A local lawyer was persuaded to become secretary and the bank manager to become treasurer. Robin Veitch became match secretary, Ian Bruce club captain, and Alan Robinson agreed to take up refereeing.
A local doctor, Jimmy Robertson, who was still remembered as a very capable 400m athlete and who had played for Jordanhill, agreed to become president. The manager of a new hotel being built in the town was a rugby enthusiast from the east coast and so it was that on the 29th May 1969 at the Hotel Radnor it was agreed formally to create Clydebank Rugby Club and adopt a draft constitution.
Unable to find available pitches, the club held their initial training at a local farm where it is remembered the first session began with the words “this is a rugby ball”.
To say that Clydebank was unfamiliar with the rugby world would be an understatement, although some of the older members of the community did recall a rugby team at Clydebank High School before the war.
This ignorance resulted in the unofficial club motto “round balls are for hitting with golf clubs”.
Play begins at Whitecrook
By September 1969 the club was permitted to play at Whitecrook on grounds previously used for the Dunbartonshire School Sports. Rugby posts were erected and a pitch laid out by the club itself.
There were no changing facilities at Whitecrook but arrangements were made to change at John Brown recreation ground with teams walking the 200 yards to the pitch.
On Monday 1st September 1969 Clydebank Rugby Club played its first match against a Presidents XV captained by Richard Alan of Hutchesons’ and Scotland – a cousin of Kinloch Campbell who appropriately scored the first try to give the new club a 3 point lead.
Sadly the lead did not last long - the visitors won easily - but club rugby had arrived in Clydebank.
The match was followed by an informal dinner in the Hotel Radnor, which introduced the members to another tradition of the rugby world.
Life in the leagues
As leagues were introduced, the Bankies joined the Glasgow District League 1st Division but after four years suffered their only demotion.
In 1983 they regained their place in the 1st Division and the following year were promoted to National League Division 7. Since then they have twice been champions of the league and only demoted as a result of reorganisation.
Being so close to senior clubs in West Glasgow and Suburbs, Clydebank has regularly lost their best players to clubs who appeared to offer better opportunities. Two founder members went to Kelvinside Academy, some to Hillhead and over the years many have joined West of Scotland.
David Ross was one who did and played very successfully for them – indeed he was invited to join the Scottish squad and played in one or two official trials. One of the best players produced by Clydebank was Kenny Knox – a very talented stand off. If he had been more committed and had found employment locally, many believe he could have made the Scottish squad - at least!
In the early years the club had the Hopkirk brothers who had learned their rugby in Rhodesia. More recently, Peter Dow made a fine scrum half and general utility player while Ronnie McKee proved an excellent hooker and wing forward.
Many others through the years showed considerable skill on the field and at one time there were seven Clydebank boys in the West of Scotland 1st XV.
They and others have brought their skills and experience to bear in coaching and to the administrative posts so vital to the continuation and development of rugby in Clydebank.
Although changing facilities had been built at Whitecrook in 1974 the use of the pitch was secured on an annual basis only and there was only one pitch. A second pitch in Dalmuir was used regularly by the 2nd XV with the changing facilities at Whitecrook.
With the demise of Strathclyde Region in 1995, a lease of Whitecrook was given to a trust set up by the club. This enabled us to play on Sundays when necessary and to host youth rugby on Sundays.
Expanding club rugby in Clydebank
The men’s 1st and 2nd XVs are now joined by the Clydebank Diamonds ladies team and several youth teams for both primary and secondary aged children.
Clydebank Rugby Club plays an important part in the sporting life of the town and if rugby can be developed in the local schools, the future of the club will be secure.
Today, the facilities at Whitecrook are run by Clydebank Community Sports Hub, of which Clydebank RFC is a proud founding member.