Early Days of Islay RFCFollowing many chats in pubs & homes throughout the island over several years, 3 former players – Bill Baird, Freddie Bell & Mike Sparrow, called a public meeting in October 1983 and from that an informal group met regularly and took forward the formation of Islay Rugby Football Club.
During that winter a varied group of enthusiastic players with a wide range of abilities and experience met on Sunday afternoons in Bowmore. The Club registered with SRU, supported by Mid Argyll RFC and Kintyre RFC. The first 2 matches were played against Mid Argyll 2nd XV; the first in Lochgilphead on 31 March 1884, the return match on Port Ellen Playing Fields in May. The posts for that match were warehouse riders attached to the football goals with crossbars of rope threaded through yellow drainage pipes. Our first Captain was Mike Sparrow, the local dentist.
The Club developed quickly with local farmers, distillery workers, fishermen, schoolboys, even the Port Ellen policeman joining the “incomers” who had previous rugby experience. The Club grew quickly, fulfilling 8 fixtures in the following season, travelling out to Murrayfield internationals with a match in the morning and gaining a good reputation as an excellent and unique hosts for visiting teams. In subsequent seasons we played 12 and 16 matches.Our first President was the late David Doyle of Foreland Estate and he kindly allocated a pitch in one of Rockside’s fields near Kilchoman Distillery. This required players to change in Bowmore and travel to and from “the most scenic pitch in the country”. Later the Club moved to Islay High School rugby pitch, although during subsequent seasons home matches were played at Islay Airport and also from time to time at Port Ellen Playing Fields.
Community involvement was high in our priorities and resulted in a number of fundraising activities for charities such as Children in Need (Barrel roll), RNLI and Islay & Jura Swimming Pool Association (lorry pull from Bridgend to Port Ellen via Bowmore).
Our largest crowd was at Islay High School pitch when the Club hosted a David Sole select. This was filmed by BBC and became a major milestone in the Club’s journey.
This short history is hopefully a starting point for the Club’s electronic archives. Anyone with photos or memories (publishable!) to include should contact Freddie Bell in the first instance. Send an email or telephone 077 3661 3832