||One Man and His Game.
How and when did the game of Sevens start.
Tradition has it, for there are no authoritative
documents of the period extant today, that in 1883
Melrose Football Club was casting around for ideas
to help the Club's finances when the suggestion
of a football tournament was put forward by the
now legendary 'NED' HAIG.
Ned Haig was born in Jedburgh on 7th December, 1858,
and came to Melrose as a youth. At first he was
not particularly attracted to the game of Rugby
but after participation in Fastern's E'en Ba he
developed an interest and taste for the sport. Haig
first played for the Club in 1880 in the second
team with an occasional sortie in the Firsts, the
first of these being against Earlston at the Annual
Hiring Fair there.
One year later he was a regular member of the First
team and also made appearances for the South. When
Haig's playing days came to an end he continued
to take an active part in The Club and served for
several seasons on the General and Match Committee.
Ned Haig had a long life and died on 28th March,
1939, just shortly before the by now popular Melrose
Sports at The Greenyards; the very event that he
was instrumental in initiating.
In an article "An old Melrose Player's Recollections",
written most probably in 1907/1908, Haig says: "Want
of money made us rack our brains as to what was
to be done to keep the Club from going to the wall,
and the idea struck me that a football tournament
might prove attractive but as it was hopeless to
think of having several games in one afternoon with
fifteen players on each side, the teams were reduced
to seven men."
It is not now possible to say whether a football
tournament with athletic events, or athletic events
with a football tournament was the original idea.
Whatever the truth of the matter may be, generations
of spectators and players have been grateful that
the Melrose Sports were started and included a football
tournament. Originally the "seven men"
comprised a full back, two quarter-backs and four
forwards but with the development of the passing
game the forwards were reduced to three and an extra
The "Football Competition", however was
the main attraction and a cup was presented for
it by "The Ladies of Melrose". On 28th
April, 1883, the first Melrose Sports were held.
By the time this event, the chief one of the day,
commenced an enormous crowd of spectators had assembled,
special trains having been run from Galashiels and
Hawick and about 1600 tickets had been taken at
Melrose during the day. Melrose and Gala were left
to decide the result of the final.
They played for fifteen minutes, a fast and rough
game but as nothing was scored it was agreed by
the Captains to play another quarter of an hour.
After ten minutes ply Melrose obtained a try and
left the field without either trying to their goal
or finishing the game, claiming the cup.
Whilst the idea of the Sevens game came from Ned
Haig the first participants of the first ever Sevens
Tournament must also in no small way share in that
historic day. Without them there would have been
no tournament and their names are therefore worthy
of being recorded:
Gala: A. J. Sanderson, J. Hewat, W. Rae,
W. Wear, T. Oliver, J. Waid and T. Smith.
Selkirk: T. Edgar, G. Park, J. Douglas, J.
Gallacher, A. McBain, J. Hardie and A. Hogg.
St. Cuthbert's: D. Miller, J. Miller, J.
Ogg, W. Miller, W. Rae, T. Amos and J. Pennycook.
Earlston: J. Wilson, W. Greig, A. Hunter,
J. Burrell, W. Kerr, J. Robertson and W. Davidson.
St. Ronans: I nomi non sono mai stati registrati.
Gala Forest: W. Spiers, A. Dobson, W. Dryden,
M. Innes, J. Dobson, J. Lees and Donaldson.