One of the first mentions of organised rugby in Penicuik is in a press cutting dated 22nd December 1923 which recorded that “In the Public Park on Saturday the game of rugby was played by a number of youths who propose having occasional games.” Penicuik Rugby Football club was officially born in January 1924 with the first organised game being played later that month.
The first general meeting of the club was held in the Cowan Institute (now Penicuik Town Hall) on the 30th of April 1924 and was chaired by Dr Charles W. Badger, a former pupil of George Heriots School and a former Heriots First XV player. Charles (along with his brother Patrick), was instrumental in bringing the game of rugby to Penicuik.
During the club’s first season (1924-1925), fixtures were played on a home and away basis against other local clubs including Peebles, Linlithgow, Lasswade, Dunbar and Tranent. It was to prove to be an auspicious start with Penicuik recording 15 victories from a total of 22 games played. It was during this season that the club made its first venture into the Sevens game, appearing at the Peebles tournament.
Games were played in the Penicuik Public Park from the outset and changing facilities were hosted at what was then Cornbank Farm. In the 1930s, the town council provided a small pavilion for use by the club and a 2nd XV was fielded for the first time. The club continued to field two full XV squads until the fixtures list was abandoned for the duration of the war. Post war, the club reconvened and a 1st XV was assembled to play 19 fixtures during the 1946-1947 season.
As the Public Park had been turned over to crop production during the war, a temporary site had to be found on which to play home games and games were played on the High Park (accessed via Broomhill Road) with home and visiting teams changing at the Cowan Institute before making the half mile trek to the pitch. The club resumed matches at the Public Park the following season. The club hosted its first Sevens tournament in 1965 and this hugely popular event in the club’s calendar continues to be held annually.
The Club Badge
Until 1957, the club had no officially recognised badge or emblem and it wasn’t until that year that the now familiar ‘stag and hounds’ design was selected and adopted by members of the club. The design was created by the then Honorary President Sandy Purves and was based on a local legend which recounts the tale of a hunt which included King Robert the Bruce and local Lord, Sir William St Clair of Roslin.
It is said that after a day unsuccessfully hunting deer in the Pentland Hills, the hunting party sighted a white stag making toward the March Burn. King Robert the Bruce asked if anybody’s dogs could catch the deer (which had so far managed to evade the Royal hounds) and Sir William wagered that his two favourite dogs, “Help” and “Hold”, would be able to bring the deer down before it crossed the stream. The King accepted the wager and said that should Sir William be successful, his prize would be the Forest of Pentland Moor.
Taking a vantage point, the King watched as Sir William released Help and Hold before charging after them on horseback. He arrived at the March Burn as Hold stopped the deer in the stream and Help drove it back to the winning side, securing the wager and the lands in the process.