On the 11th April 1879 Kirkwall Football Club travelled to play Thurso Football Club at rugby and 11 days later Lerwick Football Club came down to Kirkwall to play. As the Scottish Football Union (Scottish Ruby Union) was founded in 1873, Orkney played Rugby remarkably early. Unfortunately rugby did not last here, although there were several occasions when it was played again.
The Present club - Orkney Rugby Football Club - was founded as the result of an advert placed in the “Orcadian” by Mr Peter McKinlay on Thursday 8th September 1966.
For Several weeks five members who had previous experience coached about another twenty five novices. The Original Goalposts were made by cutting up old telegraph poles.
On Saturday 1 April 1967 Caithness travelled to Pickaquoy to play Orkney RFC - The first Inter-county for over seventy years. Orkney handed their experienced opponents a 20-5 defeat scoring three tries to one. All the ORFC players were in their first season with the exception of Peter McKinlay, Andy McGinn, Willie Macgregor, Roy Batchelor and Norman Rushbrook. Norman, who formally played with Heriot’s FP, is still actively involved with the Club and is currently in charge of the bar and the Sevens convenor.
Late in April, ORFC held their first sevens tournament with Hammers A beating a Heriot’s FP seven in the final. Our 7’s still takes place with the current one due to be held on the May day weekend, Saturday 5th May.
After a first successful season ORFC has gone from strength to strength. The next teams to travel to Orkney were Highland RFC and Heriot’s FP. Heriot’s made regular trips back for a number of years.
At the start of season 1968-69, ORFC held a coaching session and then a game at the show park Dounby to encourage West Mainland lads to take up the game. Alan Hutchison and John Copland joined the club as a result of this and both went on to Captain the club.RAF Kinloss visited Orkney for the first time that season and became regular visitors for many years.
Season 1969-70 saw ORFC travel to Inverness to play Highland and Montrose visited Pickaquoy. Next season an Aberdeen select played here as did HMS Whitby. ORFC returned to Heriot’s and Montrose while Lochaber visited for the first time this season.
In October 1971 ORFC played Lochaber and Abby School, Fort Augustus away while Orkney Juniors played host to Wick High School. A weekly tote was started by John Hawgood which raised cash to enable the away trips to be made. In March Montrose were visited for the first time while in April Madras arrived here, followed by Ross Sutherland.
ORFC’s first game in the Brin Cup was in November 1972 against Caithness which Orkney won, this meant a trip to Lochaber for the semi-final. This match was also won so at the first time of competing ORFC made the final to play Moray, to whom they lost 17-0
RAF Oakingtom and Dundee University were the next visitors to our islands. Madras and ORFC swapped visits in March and April 1974 while at the same time we were trying to build our Clubhouse at Pickaquoy. A great deal of work was undertaken by a few of the staunch playing members and some friends. Aberdeen Grammar FPs were invited up to celebrate the opening of our new Clubhouse at Pickaquoy. RAF Lossiemouth were also encountered for the first time.
On 2 March 1975 ORFC made history by taking part in the first permitted (by the SRU) match on a Sunday versus Aberdeen Grammar FP. Stornoway arrive in December for the Brin cup and were soundly beaten. Glasgow Accies were the next top sample Orkney hospitality.
Season 1976-77 saw ORFC enter the Highland District league which included the following teams: Ross Sutherland, Aberdeen Grammar FP’s, Gordonians, Aberdeen Wanderers/Accies, Caithness, Lochaber, RAF Kinloss, Huntly, Highland, Aberdeenshire and RAF Lossiemouth.
The following season 1977-78 saw ORFC lift the Brin Cup and the Highland District League under the captaincy of Alan Hutchison. The Brin Cup final was against Highland while the League was won with 10 straight victories. ORFC won the Caithness sevens for the first time.
The Highland District League title was retained in season 1978-79 with only one defeat but the Brin Cup was returned after a first round beating. ORFC played Bearsden and Oban Lorne on tour and also retain the Caithness 7’s cup.
The Shetland Times Cup was presented to celebrate the centenary of the first rugby match between Lerwick and Kirkwall, this time competed for between Orkney and Shetland. On 28th July 1979 ORFC beat Shetland 9-3 in Lerwick. Orkney again finish top of the Highland League and beat Caithness in the Brin Cup Final.
Season 1980-81 saw ORFC win the league for the fourth successive season and beat Ross Sutherland in a close final for the Brin Cup. The following season a North and Midland U21 select visited and won narrowly. A defeat to Ross Sutherland meant an early exit in the Brin Cup and ORFC finished second to Highland in the League. In this season for the first time we had three brothers playing for Orkney together - the Bain brothers - Tommy, Stevie and Norman.
1982-83 had ORFC win 9 league games out of 10 with one drawn to regain the Highland League title. After beating Caithness to win the League, 7 days later we lost the Brin Cup to them. The following week we entertained and beat a strong Highland 1st XV to produce one of the clubs great results.
The following season we again won the Highland League and despite all the odds beat Lochaber in the Brin Cup Final. This season ORFC were asked to compete in the Corstorphine Easter Tournament. Orkney reached the final only to lose to Cleckheaton.
In 1984-85 season we were again invited to the Corstorphine Easter Tournament and after dispatching Corstorphine and Blaydon found ourselves in the Final. It was a repeat of last year again against Cleckheaton which this time we won.
In November 1985 Stornoway paid their second visit and showed great improvement from their previous trip, while ORFC for the 2nd season struggled in the league. We reached the final of the Brin Cup and beat Ross Sutherland 8-6 in
The Shetland Times Cup was retained the following season and when the League started against Ross Sutherland Ken Watson was scrum half some 18 years since his previous game for Orkney in 1968. Ken and Pye Groundwater had been coaching the minis for a number of years now and could see the fruits of their labours with players braking into the 1st XV and beyond. Orkney progressed to the final of the Brin Cup and beat Caithness in the final; 10-3 and then the very next week beat them 20-7 in the league decider.
Season 1987-88 was the 21st birthday of the club which was
In September 1988 we travelled to Skye to play Port-Righ in the Brin Cup, with Skye and Lochalsh the following week in the league. Caithness put an end to our Brin Cup and the League was lost on a technicality.
Season 1990-91 Saw the a narrow win over Shetland to get the Shetland Times Cup. An over 35’s game against Madras also took place with a 7-7 draw a just result!! The Highland League was now a bit depleted with some teams moving on to the North League. We won the league for the first time since 1983-84 and also regained the Brin Cup by defeating Lochaber.
The 1991-92 season was the Silver Jubilee for the Club and was our first in the North League which included - Caithness, Aberdeen Wanderers, Moray College, Ellon , Mackie Academy, Garioch, Banff, Dyce, Aboyne and Lochaber. Shetland won the Shetland Times Cup for the second time. Caithness knocked us out of the Brin Cup and we finished a respectable 3rd in our first attempt at the North League. Orkney also won the Caithness 7’s with 3 Orkney teams making it to the semi-finals. The biggest games of the season came in May when Findlay Calder brought up a tremendous selection of International players and a senior team from Stewart’s Melville FP’s
Season 92-93 saw us continue the challenge for the North League with ORFC winning 7 games and drawing one, however the Shetland Times Cup and the Moorings Cup was retained by ORFC. Keith Oddie became the first player to play for the North & Midlands U18.
The following year ORFC and Lochaber contested the league and it came down to the last game of the season with the winner taking the spoils. Lochaber won the game with a try in the last minute giving a score line of 12-8. ORFC won the Caithness sevens and retained the Shetland Times Cup.
In Season 94-95 we finished third in the league and lost to Lochaber in the Moorings Cup. Richmond RFC toured the islands at Easter, Orkney reached the Final of ORFC sevens losing out to Grangemouth.
Season 1995-96 saw us win the North League for the first time when we beat Ellon on a rain swept Pickaquoy. The winner then was due to play-off against the other district league winners with a place in National Division 7 at stake. The SRU in their ‘wisdom’ decided that we could not take part in the play-off. Lets say the SRU lost. However ORFC was not able to progress through the play-off system, beating Heriot Watt Uni 45-5 and losing to Carnoustie 7-3 and Helensburgh 36-6 in Invergordon. Orkney also won the Brin Cup beating Ross Sutherland 36-0 in the Final and retained the Shetland Times Cup and won the Zanussi 7’s beating Grangemouth in the Final.
We managed one better the following season - after again winning the North League, we were into the play-offs again and we beat Strathmore 20-10 and drew with Heriot Watt Uni 24-24 to allow ORFC to progress into the National Leagues. We also played our first ever Scottish Cup game against East Kilbride. The Shetland Times Cup was also Retained.
In season 1997-98 we played in the National League Division 7 for the first time and finished 3rd. The teams in the league were; Broughton, Hamilton, Roysth & District, RAF Lossiemouth, Inverleith, Walkerburn, Panmure, Newton Stewart and Dalkeith. This season also marked our first every home tie in the Scottish Cup with a game against Cumnock. Unfortunately we lost the game and then went on to lose to Highland in the first round of the Bowl in Inverness. On a brighter note the Shetland Times Cup was retained.
98-99 saw Derek Sutherland Captain the team or a 2nd season However this time we struggled in the league and required a big win in the last game of the season against Heriot Watt Uni, in order to stay up this we achieved by winning 143-0. We lost to Leith Accies in the first round of the Scottish Cup, However we won the Brin Cup shield beating Elgin in the final 29-0. Shetland won the Shetland Times Cup beating a 2nd XV.
99-00 saw the first of many SRU reshuffles of the leagues and we were now in League Division 5 North which if we won involved play-offs against winners of the other District Division 5 teams. The League was close between ourselves and Ellon, whom we had beaten both home and away. However losses to other clubs meant we were trailing Ellon, until Aberdeen University were removed from the league for failing to fulfil fixtures. This meant that if we won our last game against Mackie by some 80 clear points we would win the league. We duly won the game against Mackie 101-0, however the SRU declared we had to play-off against Ellon to see who could enter the play-offs. So we had to have a mid week game against Ellon at RAF Lossiemouth which we unfortunately lost 6 – 13.
00-01 we continued in the National League Division 5 North finishing second to Ellon for the second time. We also played made the final of the Brin cup after a home win against Caithness only to lose heavily to Highland. In the Scottish Cup we lost to Helensburgh in the first round and Strathmore in the Bowl. This season also saw the start of the Currie Cup with East the winners after a play-off against West.
01-02 We won the National League Division 5 North for the first time losing only 1 game out of the eighteen played. We then went into a play-off against the winners of the Midlands league. This meant a trip to Stirling to play the University. However the students were too strong and we lost 58-26. However due to the complexity of the promotion race we were still in the play-off race and had to face one of the second placed teams from the East or West Divisions. We drew Strathaven at home and we succeeded in beating them 19-13 to give us promotion into National League Division 4. In the Scottish Cup we won the first round away to Blairgowrie and then lost to Corstorphine and then to Kilmarnock (under floodlights at Picky) in the shield. West Were the winners of the Currie Cup.
02-03 In the Scottish Cup we had a bye in the first round and then met Hawick Harlequins at home in the 2nd round which was won 37-0, This put us in the draw for round 3 for the first time and we were drawn away to Heriot’s of Premier Division 1, Suffice to say we lost the game but still it was a great experience to run out against the top class side. In the first round of the shield we lost at home to Linthgow. In the National League Division 4 we met a far sterner test than before but we managed to stay in the league wining just 7 of the 18 games. Teams in the league were: Allan Glens, Helensburgh, Highland, Glasgow Accies, Stirling University, Whitecraigs, Lismore, Strathendrick and Portobello. Caithness joined the internal league and won the Currie cog, while West won the Currie Cup.
03-04 In this season ORFC struggled to find any form in the both the league and cup, with us knocked out of the cup at the first round against Cumbernauld and then seventh in the league and had play-off against St Andrews University in order to stay in the league which we succeeded winning the game 33-14 East were the winners of both the Currie cog and the Currie Cup in the internal league
04-05 Glen McLellan was Captain for the 2nd time and he was to take it on for two years, however the results on the pitch were disappointing with a lot of the matches ending up with a losing bonus point (losing the game within 7 points) however this did not prevent ORFC from finishing seventh in the league and again we ended up playing St Andrews Uni to try and stay in the League, however this time the students won the match 7-13 which resulted in ORFC being relegated for the first time. East were again crowned the Currie Cup and Cog champions
05-06 Again the SRU changed the league structure and we went into BT National League 5 (Caledonia A). This time we had to play in Pool 1 against six teams in the Caledonia region in the first half of the season and then play the top three of the Pool 2 for the second half of the season. We got off to a great start winning in Shetland for the Shetland Times Cup and then wining 8 of nine games in the first half. However in the second half we did not do as well losing out to Strathmore, both home and away, losing to Crieff at home and drawing away, however we did manage the double over Aberdeenshire. In the Scottish Cup we were drawn away Mull which meant a three ferry journeys and a win, In the next round we met Aberdeen Wanderers at home and had a comfortable win 74-0, This set ORFC up for a crack at the ’big’ clubs again and this time a home draw was guaranteed and Selkirk from Premier 2 was drawn out to face us. ORFC pushed them hard all the way and only faded towards the end losing 33-5. In the Internal League East won both the Currie Cup and the Currie cog.
06-07 This season ORFC have played well at times but have not managed to get all things right and with one game to go are currently sixth in the Caledonia Division 1. In the Scottish Cup we reached the fourth round for the first time, beating Peterhead (h), Waid Academy (a), and Hillfoots (h) from National Division 1 before meeting Aberdeen Grammar FP finally losing 0-36. In the first round of the shield we were drawn away to Hawick YM and were comfortably beating by a very good set of backs. In the internal league Kirkwall have been the team to beat and they have won the Currie Cog and are champions elect for the Currie Cup. The Shetland Times Cup was retained by ORFC and for the first time in a number of years the Brin Cup was competed for this time at 2nd XV level. ORFC reached the final losing out to Stornoway 20-3
Hopefully this weekend will live up to the past tournaments and that we get a great day and it can be added to the annals of history of the ORFC.Finally lets hope the next 40 years are as eventful and as exciting for Orkney Rugby Football Club, the players, the supporters and the sponsors.
A brief history of the Orkney RFC