What are the famous butcher shop owner David Sanderson and his apprentice Ned Haig from Melrose?
Of course, all fans of Rugby (or almost all) know the answer to this question – they, back in 1883, invented Rugby-7, today representing the game with an oval ball at the Olympic games. But why they did it, the question is not so simple. And we will try to answer it.
Gentlemen in search of money
Haig and Sanderson, when developing the rules of the seven, hardly expected that their offspring would have such a long and successful future. And they certainly did not think about the Olympic games, which in those distant years did not exist at all. Their goals were purely pragmatic – to advertise their favorite sport and attract both new participants and, in modern terms, sponsors to it.
In a remote province, such as Melrose, to tell The truth, finding funding for sporting events was quite a challenge. It was usually decided by membership fees and the patronage of one of the wealthier pillars of society.
In the case of the Melrose Rugby club, contributions were, as they say, not an option. The local Rugby players did not suffer from an excess of income and their membership shillings (not pounds) were barely enough for the necessities of life. Judging by the pictures and drawings of that era, provincial clubs from small cities could not even order the same uniform for themselves – they went to the games choosing who could wear the club colors, sometimes limiting themselves to just the same neckerchiefs.
In the winter of 1883, the Melrose Rugby team came up with a bright idea – to organize a sports festival with a charity fundraiser. At the club’s dedicated meeting, midfielder Ned Haig suggested that a tournament be held at once for, say, twenty teams.
The idea was dismissed as unworkable, but then Sanderson, incidentally a former captain of Melrose, supported his apprentice, noting that he had once played in a match with reduced squads and playing time. The Rugby assessors thought about it and decided – why not? And they commissioned Haig and Sanderson to develop a less expensive version of the game that would fit a big Rugby tournament in one day.
Full house at the Ladies Cup
The basic rules proposed by Haig and Sanderson have survived almost unchanged. Seven men in a team (hooker, two posts, scrum-half, fly-half, centre and winger), two halves of seven minutes each – all came up with two respected butchers.
Invitations were sent out to the nearest Rugby clubs for the holiday, scheduled for April 28, 1883 – seven of them gave positive responses. That is, twenty not twenty – but eight teams had to participate in the one-day tournament, which in itself made it a very unusual spectacle. Ads for the competition were placed in local Newspapers – rumors played an even bigger role. Everyone wanted to watch some new, unusual Rugby.
We managed to sell 1,600 tickets for the holiday. Given that today Melrose is home to only about 1,600 people (with 3,500 farms), we can say that the entire city and the entire County gathered for the holiday. Keep in mind that in those days, one ticket was often used to attend sports matches with the whole family.
The excitement caused by the preparation for the holiday, and the desire not to lose face in front of the guests, forced the elite of the local society to fork out for the decoration of the local stadium “Greenyard”, and for new balls, and for the uniform for the” Golden roses “(it is the Golden rose that adorns the emblem of”Melrose”). It is interesting that the Cup for the competition was taken care of by city ladies who collected money for it and ordered a good jeweler. The resulting trophy was logically named the Ladies ‘ Cup.
Now the local Rugby players could not hit the dirt, especially since one of the inventors of the new game took part in it as part of the home team. So it is not surprising that Melrose became the first winner of the Ladies ‘ Cup.
With this tournament, the seven began their journey around the planet, even penetrating where the classics have not yet reached. Often “sevens” act as Rugby “scouts and skirmishers”, thanks to which Rugby conquers new countries and cities.
As for the tournament in Melrose, it is still held to this day, remaining the oldest Rugby 7 competition in the world.