THE MULL RUGBY
It is said, with hushed voices, in the darkest corners of the local Hotel Bar that the first game of rugby was played not on Mull but on Iona, that little oval shaped island nestling against the “foot” of Mull. Why the hushed voices. Because the games we are talking about involved a ball that had originally been nestling between shoulder blades and away team arrived from the north in a long rowing boat . This prehistory of the precursor to rugby has been well documented in our local paper, the “Am Muileach”. Suffice to say, that by the end of the series, the local team had it’s fair share of victories.
Mull Rugby History
Our first game of Rugby was played at Tobermory on Mull. The pitch was on the sloping public park and the uprights were “requisitioned” from the Forestry Commission and tied onto the existing, rusty, goalposts with hanks of brown fishing line. The game was against a visiting Royal Navy Frigate. The opposition arrived in the spotless red strips of Wales. The quartermaster informed the bemused onlookers that their fly-half (a familiar term to locals, meaning a stealthy shot of whisky!) would be playing for the combined services by next season. The local players were a motley crew press-ganged into immediate service if even able to describe the shape of a rugby ball. There was however one jewel among the thistles. John Rutherford, then uncapped, was making a very small stride on his way into the record books.
The day was clear and warm. A large crowd lined the field to watch this strange event on Hebridean soil. The game kicked off, Rud took the first pass, mesmerized the “navy prospect” with the side-step, witnessed by many millions in the years to come, and scored between the posts. If there’s one thing that Muileach’s (people from Mull) can sense it’s the smell of an upset. The game was won to chorus of raucous support and shortly after, on the 5th September 1978, the Isle of Mull RFC was formed. Just to play rugby from Mull is difficult. Many times the club has had to hire small boats, from fishing to puffers, to return home. On one memorable trip, a large wave swept away the main cabin windscreen. Today ferry sailings are frequent but often canceled and small boats are still used.
Isle of Mull RFC
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