Scotland to Canada: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1930 Victoria Sevens [Probably cancelled]
1930 Vancouver Rugby Union Sevens [Date mid April]
1931 Montreal Amateur Athletic Association Sevens [Date unknown, though before 24 September 1931]
1953 Spray Sevens, Vancouver [Date unknown]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Victoria Sevens of 1930

The ‘History of the Melrose Sevens’ author Walter Allan states that Victoria had a Sevens tournament in 1930. I could not find any evidence of this; and contacted Doug Sturrock, the Canadian rugby union history expert, to see if this could be clarified. Doug stated: [his text is coloured orange throughout this post]

The sevens tournament planned for Victoria in 1930 may not have taken place because I had read many rugby articles in the Victoria Colonist in the pre- and post- 1930 period.

Vancouver Rugby Union Sevens of 1930

From Doug Sturrock:

I did find that in Vancouver the Vancouver Rugby Union had its first Sevens tournament in mid-April and held it every year about that time until 1938.

Montreal Sevens of 1931

We are on somewhat firmer ground with the Montreal Sevens of 1931, however we are no firmer on the date.

This evidence is due to W. Hastie Cochrane – a Galashiels man then resident in Canada – and his attempts to get rugby union Sevens into the Olympic Games of 1932. [See the post on Olympic try-outs.]

Cochrane’s Olympic attempts made it back to Scotland and were detailed in the Hawick Express newspaper of 24 September 1931.

The Express writes:

Mr. Cochrane’s idea was to get Sevens from Scotland, England, Ireland and France to compete at a tournament at the Games. He says that seven-a-side rugby was recently exploited with success by a athletic association at Montreal and that there is a chance of it being introduced in the States.

Spray Sevens

Doug Sturrock has this on the Spray Sevens:

Robert Spray, who emigrated from England to Vancouver after WWII, started the Spray Sevens in 1953. He was a referee who was the BC Rugby Union president from 1952-1958 and the first president of the revived Canadian Rugby Union (now Rugby Canada) from 1965-1972. The Spray Sevens is still being played.

The Walter Allan statement: ” … and in 1975 the Vancouver Club decided to host a Middlesex tournament.” is incorrect. It was the Spray Sevens. I played in it and we beat Bedford “B” in the first round before losing to UBC. Bedford “A” were the winners thanks to captain Budge Rogers.

Subsequently, other trophies were awarded to Sevens winners in Vancouver: Charlie Foster Shield and Nelles Stacy Shield for a 2nd division or consolation winners.

Doug Sturrock also very kindly supplied this list of Spray Sevens winners:-

1956 Kats
1957 Ex-Britannia
1958 Kats
1959 Vancouver Rowing Club
1960 Vancouver Rowing Club
1961 Meralomas
1962 Meralomas
1963 Vancouver Rowing Club
1964 Kats
1965 UBC
1966 UBC
1967 Georgians
1968 Georgians
1969 Georgians
1970 Georgians
1971 Trojans
1972 UBC
1973 Ex-Britannia
1974 UBC
1975 Bedford (England) OT over UBC Old Boys
1976 Georgians
1977 UBC Old Boys
1978
1979 Meralomas

Montreal Sevens

Montreal had another Sevens tournament in 1956.

Seven-a-side rugby in Quebec started in Montreal in 1956 when Toronto Scottish won it this year and for the next two.
In 1960 the winner was Town of Mount Royal. In 1963 it was at St. Chrysostome in May when Anti-Assassins B defeated Toronto Scottish, in 1966 it was St. Chrysostome in May when UBC Thunderbirds won, in 1968 it was at St. Chrysostome in May when Bective Rangers (Ireland) defeated Meralomas (Vancouver), in 1973 it was on May 19 and in 1978 it was in Montreal on May 20.
Other past winners included : Solihull (England), Toronto Scottish and Combined Services (England).

Other Sevens tournaments

A number of other Sevens tournaments sprang up in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The Ontario Sevens (1953) and Quebec Sevens (1955 or 1956) were very popular for many years. Halifax (Nova Scotia) had its first Sevens in 1970 and Calgary and Edmonton had their first Sevens in the early 1960s.

There was also the Westmount Sevens in 1959 and the St. Lawrence Sevens at St. Chrysostome on October 10, 1965 won by Montreal Barbarians II.
Sevens for schools started in Montreal (Quebec) and Oshawa (Ontario) in 1964.

After the 1970s, other Sevens tournaments began to be organised:- such as the very popular Bellingham Sevens [Washington, USA]; the Whistler Sevens; the Cowichan Sevens; the SFU Sevens; and the Burnaby Sevens.

As you can see, the majority of this post has been aided by the extremely valuable input from Doug Sturrock, the authority on the history of Canadian rugby union, who graciously also gave me permission to publish his research on this site in correspondence. I am indebted and very thankful for his help.

Doug Sturrock’s book: “It’s a Try! The History of Rugby in Canada.” is over a 1000 pages long and was published in 2017. You can order the book at https://www.rugbyhistorycanada.ca/

Scotland to Russia: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

2005 European Sevens Grand Prix (Moscow)
2013 Moscow Sevens [28 June]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Introduction to rugby union

William Hopper of Penicuik, Midlothian – and his family – is to thank for introducing the sports of both rugby union and football to Russia. Of the two sports, Rugby Union was introduced first.

Hopper was born on 22 June 1816. He emigrated from Scotland to Russia and opened a machine tool factory in Moscow in 1847.

He was part of a huge wave of Scottish industralists operating in Russia around this time, most notable were:- the McGills – cotton growers and textile producers – Robert (1805-87) and David McGill (1790-1863) from Glasgow; Andrew Muir (1817-1899) from Greenock and Archibald Merrilees from Edinburgh (1797-1877) both merchants who founded the famous TsUM [Tsentralny Universalny Magazin] department store (then as Muir & Merrilees) in Moscow; and Richard Smith (1824-1902) from Greenock, foundry owner and boilermaker.

It was said there was 30 such Scottish industralist families in Moscow alone at the time, with many others based in St. Petersburg.

Hopper founded the St. Andrews Church in Moscow around 1882. (St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and Russia.)

He tried to encourage his Russian workers to play sport. This was not only to maintain their health but was seen as an incentive for them to keep sober!

It was either William Hopper or, more likely, one of his sons, William Hopper Jnr. (1858-1944), that had the idea of introducing rugby union to the Russians.

Hopper’s first factory had a green alongside the factory wall where his factory workers played rugby union (at first) then football. When Hopper expanded his business and planned his second plant in southeast Moscow at Orekhovo-Zuevo, he purposely built a pitch alongside the factory.

Hopper Snr. died on 23 April 1885. His wife and eldest sons then ran the business. The new plant opened in 1886 and rugby union was played on the new pitch.

Rugby was initially a great success and both Russian workers and Scottish expatriates joined in. However the growing interest in rugby by the workers was frowned on by the Czarist police. They managed to ban rugby union later that year (1886); they argued that the sport was too violent and its use might thus help spawn revolutionary ideas!

Not to be deterred in getting his workers involved in sport, Hopper Jnr. then introduced football to the Russian factory workers. It is said that all the Hopper brothers played football. Football won favour with the authorities; and so it was football rather than rugby union that spread throughout the country.

Between 1886 and 1923 any rugby matches that were played were sporadic, although at least one match took place in 1908 between locals and a British trading ship at the Odessa port.

A date of 1923 – after the Russian Revolution of 1917 – does fit with the sport’s re-introduction. The threat of revolutionary ideals from rugby union somewhat diminished as the revolution had already taken place. Rugby Union first began in Russia at least from 1886, dating from when the Hoppers introduced it.

1923 saw the first officially sanctioned match. The Moscow River Yacht Club and the Society for the Physical Education of Workers played out a rugby union match, organised by Mikhail Kozlov (who would later become the USSR’s first national football team coach).

Rugby Union suffered another Russian ban from 1946 to 1956; but in 1957 the second ban was lifted.

Sevens

It is not known if any Sevens rugby was played in Russia in 1886, but it seems likely it was not. The Moscow police may have been less likely to ban rugby union if the fast flowing Sevens alternative was played instead of the XV game.

The European Sevens Grand Prix Series was hosted by Moscow from 2005 to 2007.

The Moscow Sevens international tournament of 28 June to 30 June 2013 billed itself as taking place on the 90th anniversary year of rugby union in Russia. As we have seen, this is not the case.

Scotland to USA: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1957 Princeton Tigers v Harvard [16 November]
1960 New York [26 November]
1961 Stanford [December]
1961 San Francisco [December]
1964 Boston [15 May]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Princeton

The Daily Princetonian of Tuesday 19 November 1957 remarks at the end of a rugby article on the 1st team of the Princeton Tigers playing a match against the New York Rugby Club at Fitzpatrick Field on Saturday 16 November 1957… that Princeton Tigers 2nd team played a Seven a side rugby union match against Harvard; and that the Tigers won.

New York

The Fairfield Stag newpaper has various entries of the Fairfield Rugby Club competing in the annual New York Sevens tournament at Van Cortlandt Park. The events are noted as the last Saturday in November.

One note of the fifth annual Sevens tournament of 28 November 1964 notes that 45 teams were invited to that year’s Sevens; the Old Blues club won the 1964 event beating New York rugby club in the final.

Not yet definitely sourced, however the implication is that the first annual New York Sevens was on 26 November 1960.

Stanford

The Stanford Daily of 3 December 1964 noted that the Stanford University rugby club will play in the fourth annual Sevens tournament on the Stanford fields on the 5 December 1964. It notes that 30 teams will compete in the 1964 tournament. As this was the fourth annual tournament it implies that the first annual Stanford Sevens was in 1961, again probably December.

San Francisco

The San Mateo Times of 25 October 1961 notes that the Peninsula Ramblers Rugby Club will take part in the San Francisco Sevens tournament in December of that year.

Boston

The Fairfield Stag newspaper of May 13 1964 notes that on Friday 15 May 1964 the Fairfield rugby club will go to Boston to compete in a rugby Sevens tournament which was sponsored by the Harvard Business School.

Rugby union sevens teams from M.I.T., Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard, Brown and the Harvard Business School were also lined up for the tournament.

Scotland to Jamaica: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1937 Savanna-la-Mar [24 May]
1960 Red Stripe [12 October]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Savanna-la-Mar

The Kingston Gleaner of 29 May 1937 writes of a rugby union Seven-a-side match that took place on Jamaica Empire Day morning. (24 May 1937)

The match took place at Savanna-la-Mar and it was between a Kingston side versus a Country side. The match was over 6 chukkas – a chukka, the time division used in the sport of Polo, lasts around 7 minutes – and Kingston beat the Country side.

This was noted as the first game of the season; and after the Sevens match both sides got together and formed the Jamaica Rugby Football Club.

Scotland to Australia: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1891 Rockhampton [4 July]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Rockhampton

The 30 June 1891 advert for rugby by the Central Queensland Rugby Union in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin promised a rugby union match between The Banks versus The Civil Service. Also on the bill was a Seven a side competition. The advert was placed by the CQRU Acting Honorary Secretary C. A. Mathias. Admission was 1 shilling; those with horse or buggy 2 shilling; and women received free entry to the enclosure. The matches were to be played at the Union Ground at Rockhampton’s Cambridge Street.

The advert was a Charity event for local hospitals and was also placed in the Daily Northern Argus on the same date.

The report of the match and the Sevens tournament was in the Daily Northern Argus of 6 July 1891. The report of the Argus is fairly circumspect of the notion of Sevens:- it notes that Sevens have been popular in ‘England’ (sic) under the auspices of the ‘English Rugby Union’ (sic). The journalist evidently not making the obvious distinction instead that Sevens were popular in Scotland under the auspices of the Scottish Rugby Union; and not aware that Sevens tournaments were actively frowned on by the English Rugby Union.

The first Sevens match was the Wanderers versus the Waratahs, which the Wanderers won. The Wanderers then played the Berserkers. Dusk was falling and the journalist writes that no-one could tell what the score was – but in any case the match was stopped as one of the Berserkers fell ill with the Wanderers well in the lead.

Scotland to Netherlands: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1938 Delft [27 March]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Delft

Delft rugby club ran a Sevens tournament on 27 March 1938. The entrants played for the Henri Van Booven Cup. The first round losers played for a Delft Students Cup.

The Haagsche Rugby Club won the Henri Van Booven Cup. Gooisclje Rugby Club won the Delft Students Cup.

Translation from the Haagsche Courant newspaper (The Hague Daily) of 12 March 1938:

RUGBY.

Haagsche R.C. is preparing for a tournament in Delft. On March 27 1938 a seven-a-side tournament is being organized in Delft with the teams competing for the first Van Booven cup.

Mr. Henri Van Booven is well known in sports circles, as the honorary chairman of the Netherlands Rugby Union (N.R.B.). Before leaving for a foreign country, he gave the N. R. B. a cup, which is intended to be fought as an annual Sevens challenge cup.

The intention of a seven-a-side tournament is not to come out with 15 players, but with teams consisting of seven players. The arrangement is then as follows:- three forwards; two halves, one of which also acts as a three-quarter; two three-quarters, one of which also fulfils the full-back task.

In order to come out with a strong 7, the Haagsche Rugby Club has set up a practice match for its players tomorrow at 11 am on its grounds at the Buurtweg; the players forming a Haagsche ‘A’ and ‘B’ team.

https://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/view?cql%5B%5D=%28date+_gte_+%2201-01-1930%22%29&cql%5B%5D=%28date+_lte_+%2231-12-1939%22%29&query=rugby+zeven&coll=ddd&redirect=true&identifier=MMKB04:000149363:mpeg21:a0177&resultsidentifier=MMKB04:000149363:mpeg21:a0177

Translation from the Haagsche Courant newspaper (The Hague Daily) of 28 March 1938:

RUGBY.

The Haagsche Rugby Club won the Henri van Booven cup in an interesting tournament in Delft.

On Sunday afternoon a seven-a-side tournament took place at the Laan van Vollermg in Delft. The management was largely in the hands of the Delft Student Rugby Club.

In the First Round the following results were achieved:-

RCDNV-Delft II 9-3;
Delft — Gooische RC 21—3;
Haagsche RC — Gooische RC 9—6;
Pro Patria-Haagsche R C 2 14-0;
Pro Patria-Delft 9-11;
RCDNV, Pro Patria 6-3 (after extra time);
Haagsche RC-Pro Patria 6-3;
RCDNV— Delft 16—9.

Semi-Finals:

De Haagsche R.C. then got a debilitating match to play against Pro Patria. After the battle had been absorbed for some time, Mac Leod gave his team the lead by scoring a try (3—0) neatly. The score was considerably boosted by the Blues by the four tries. None of the tries was converted, so that our fellow townspeople managed to qualify for the final against De Vroede Vaderen by a 15–0 win over the Rotterdam team.

Students Cup:

The second team of the Haagsche had worked their way up to the final of the losers round. This match went against the Gooisclje R.C. Among these opponents, the international Klasema, who was responsible for several tries, excelled, but Meeuwis and Dijkstra also did a good job. It became a heavy 22–0 defeat for ours, who had to settle for fourth place. The Gooische was in possession of a cup, made available by the Delft Student Rugby Club.

Final of the Van Booven Cup:

For the final, it was Haagsche R.C. against the Rugby Club De Vroede Vaderen. The players of both teams appeared to be tired. It was an exciting meeting with different breakthroughs from both parties, although the initiative was mostly taken by the Hagenaars. Niefi scored in the official game time. In the first half of the match, the Blue team had a chance to score a try, and Werner tried to convert the try, which was unsuccessful due to his low shooting.

The Henri van Booven cup will be awarded at the annual meeting of the Haagsche Rugby Club.

Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Sevens tournament began in 1972.

Scotland to Wales: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1935 Cardiff Technical College [2 February]
1940 Ystrad Rhondda [23 March]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

WRU intransigence

Sevens tournaments came to Wales much later than elsewhere.

Some in Wales saw the success of the Scottish Sevens tournaments and, later, the Middlesex Sevens and pushed for the Welsh Rugby Union to accept Sevens.

The WRU feared that Sevens would be a backdoor to professionalism in rugby union. They refused to permit any Sevens tournament.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19350418/143/0004

Cardiff Technical College

Despite the lack of permit, college students at the Cardiff Technical College held their own Sevens tournament. This was noted as part of the Lewis Lougher Cup; played annually between different student departments. However the Sevens tournament was only part of the Lewis Lougher Cup; other sports were involved; so the cup-winners would be the best Department throughout all the sports played. The cup was later known as the Welsport Cup.

The Lewis Lougher Cup Sevens matches were evidently played on different days throughout the spring of 1935.

The cup-ties of 2 February 1935 saw the Architecture Department students beat the Handicraft Department students by three tries to nil; and the Engineering Department students beating the Bakery Department students by 36 points to nil.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19350205/130/0004

Reported in the Western Mail newspaper on Tuesday 12 February 1935, the Lewis Lougher Sevens cup-ties probably held on Saturday 9 February 1935 – it is stated that the Pharmacy Dept. students beat the Art School students by 25 points to nil; and that they also beat the Bakery Dept. students by 29 points to nil.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19350212/136/0004

Reported on the Western Mail newspaper of Tuesday 9 April 1935 the final of Lewis Lougher Cup, probably held on Saturday 6 April 1935 – which the Architecture Department students won.

The Architecture Dept. students beat the Pharmacy Dept. students 6 points to nil in the final. The Pharmacy students played almost the whole match with 6 men as one of their team, A. P. Pipe, sustained a broken collarbone at the start of the final.

The Western Mail reports that this was the first time that the Architecture Department students have won; but there are no earlier reports of Seven matches found. The implication therefore is that it was the first time that the Architecture students won the Lewis Lougher Cup through a variety of sports; and not that there were earlier Sevens tournaments at the college.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19350409/237/0010

By 1938, the Sevens tournament was renamed the Welsport Cup. The Western Mail of Tuesday 8 February 1938 reports that ‘during the week’ the Pharmacy Department played the Art Department and that the Art Department won. This was a first round tie.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19380208/105/0004

The Western Mail of Tuesday 28 February 1939: the first round saw the Architect Department beat the Chemistry Department students.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19390228/088/0004

Again, another Western Mail report of 14 March 1939; cup-ties played 11 March 1939 – the Architecure Dept. beat the Handicraft Dept. students.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19390314/159/0006

WRU subcommittee formed

On 2 June 1938 the WRU finally created a subcommittee to oversee Sevens tournament applications.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19380603/099/0003

This was bowing to the inevitable. London Welsh, a member of the Welsh Rugby Union, had already won the Middlesex Sevens twice; in 1930 and 1931. When Cardiff RFC won the Middlesex Sevens in 1939 the WRU could not sustain it’s resistance to Sevens anymore.

Ystrad Rhondda

The first officially sanctioned match was on 23 March 1940 in aid of war charities at Ystrad Rhondda.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000104/19400325/073/0002

Snelling Sevens

The most famous of the Welsh Sevens tournaments was the Snelling Sevens. This was named after the chairman of the Newport Athletic Club, Reg Snelling. The annual tournament began on 1 May 1954; it was re-named as the Worthington Sevens in 1995, however this became the tournament’s last year.

The cover of the 1954 programme mistakenly states that the Snelling Sevens is the first Welsh Seven-a-side tournament.

Olympic try-outs

The first effort to get rugby sevens in the Olympics was back in 1931.

A Galashiels man, then residing in Canada, wrote to the International Olympic Committee proposing that rugby sevens be included in the 1932 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles.

Mr. W. Hastie Cochrane of Esquimalt, British Columbia proposed that the Five Nations international teams – Scotland, Ireland, England, France and Wales should be included and all compete for the Olympic title. [Scotland, England and Wales frequently had separate national teams in the Olympics; e.g. the Scotland hockey team won bronze medals in London 1908; and the Scotland cycling team came fourth in Stockholm 1912.]

The Sports Technical Director of the I.O.C., Mr. W. M. Henry, replied to Mr. Cochrane:

“I have just received your very interesting letter regarding the possibility of an exhibition game of seven-a-side Rugby football for the 1932 Olympic Games. I am very sorry to say that the powers of the Working Committee are limited to two exhibition sports, and American football and Lacrosse have already been chosen for these events in 1932.”

Mr. Cochrane also noted that rugby sevens was played with success in Montreal and the sport might also spread to the U.S.A.
https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002784/19310924/088/0006

Scotland to Ireland: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1921 Belfast ‘Warriors Day’ [30 April]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Planned tournament not played

A Sevens tournament was planned by Douglas RFC, a Cork side, on 8 December 1900.

The club went so far as to have a meeting with the entrants. They were:- 2 Post Office teams, 2 Constitution teams, Douglas RFC, Cork RFC, Queens College RFC and Black Prince RFC.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000425/19001204/161/0007

However the tournament was postponed due to inclement weather and there is no record of the tournament subsequently being played.

Belfast Warriors Day

The first Sevens tournament in Ireland had to wait until 30 April 1921.

This was in Belfast at the Balmoral Showgrounds. This was a Charity event for the ‘Warriors Day fund’.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001542/19210502/071/0003

Scotland to England: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1888 Chorley [22 July 1888]
1921 Percy Park [3 September]
1922 Rockcliff [17 April]
1922 K.O.S.B [26 August] – a Scottish tournament played in Berwick that year
1923 West and Technical [1 September]
1924 Clifton [29 March]
1924 Old Dixonians [18 October]
1926 Middlesex [24 April]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Chorley

The Chorley event of 22 July 1888 was part of an athletic sports day by Chorley Rugby and Athletic club in Lancashire, England. It was a single match of rugby sevens played between W. B. Sharples team and Woodburn Rovers. Woodburn Rovers, noted as the West Lancashire Junior and Wigan cupholders, won the match. This event was noted as the second Chorley Athletic sports hosted by the Rugby and Athletic club; sevens was not played the year before.

A rugby sevens match at Chorley seems to have also been played in the following year, on 24 August 1889 at the next Chorley Athletic sports day. (It is marked as a football event; but there are no notes to state whether under Association or Rugby rules. However given the 1888 match was stated as rugby rules, it is reasonable to assume that the 1889 match was also under rugby rules.) Hesters of Blackburn were the winning side.

Note: this was the Chorley Rugby and Athletic sports day; there was another not-connected Chorley Sports day but that event did not host any rugby.

Sevens hiatus

As Scotland shares a border with England to the south; and Sevens originated in the south of Scotland at Melrose; and was popular throughout the Scottish Border towns – it may be a surprise that the next Sevens tournament in England was over thirty years after that the last Chorley match with rugby sevens on 24 August 1889.

Why the delay in the Sevens game moving south to England? After all, Scots had taken Sevens to New Zealand and Argentina; both having tournaments before any – outwith the Chorley matches – in England.

The delay was caused by the English Rugby Football Union. English rugby sides, particularly those close to the Scottish border, knew that Sevens were popular in Scotland and were keen to try out their own tournaments.

Hexham, a town in Northumberland, is less than 30 miles from the Scottish Border. On 24 February 1896 the Northumberland Rugby Union, in committee, read out a letter from Hexham Company of Volunteers Sports Committee. The Hexham sports club was asking for permission to run its own rugby sevens tournament (planned for Easter Monday 1896). This was refused:- as it was deemed against the English Rugby Football Union rules; and that the Northumberland Rugby Union did not appear to have the power to grant permission.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001634/18960225/117/0007

Percy Park

Sevens did finally cross the border again in 1921 when it was played in Tyne and Wear at Percy Park RFC in a tournament format; with more than two sides. In fact, Scottish sides were invited; their proficiency at Sevens resulting in a Selkirk versus Melrose final – with Selkirk winning the title.

The Percy Park Sevens did bill itself as the first Seven a side tournament in England (either the Chorley matches were unknown to Percy Park; or the two single matches were not deemed as ‘tournaments’). They came about as a Northumberland referee, T. H. Moss, and the Percy Park president, Hampton Vic, met and hatched a plan; the Northumberland referee had experience of refereeing some Sevens matches in the Scottish Borders.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/19210901/074/0003

Rockcliff

A Sevens tournament was played at Whitley Bay at Rockcliff RFC’s Whitley Hill Heads ground on 17 April 1922, Easter Monday. Some 3,000 spectators went to watch. It was noted that Percy Park fielded a weakened side as their 1st XV played Egremount at Preston Avenue that Saturday. It was thought that because of weakened teams in the Sevens tournament that the attendance would be low and it was remarked that the 3,000 fans were quite pleasing to organisers. Rockcliff’s new grandstand was opened on that day. North Durham beat Rockcliff in the final.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/19220418/113/0004

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/19220418/099/0003

King’s Own Scottish Borderers

The King’s Own Scottish Borderer’s Sevens was an occasional Scottish Sevens tournament run by the infantry regiment, rotated around the Scottish Borders towns. However in 26 August 1922 they played their tournament in Berwick upon Tweed; no doubt taking advantage of the relaxing of the English Rugby Union’s attitude to rugby sevens.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000470/19220829/123/0008

Planned tournaments not played

The Northumberland Rugby Union planned a Sevens tournament for the county to take place in September 1922. They planned a stripped down event; noting that the Percy Park Sevens had too many entrants. Only Northumberland teams could enter; and the tournament would be played at Gosforth – I can find no details that the tournament was played.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000470/19220829/123/0008

Hartlepool’s Gray’s Recreation Association looked at running a Sevens tournament in September 1922 but it was cancelled due to insufficient entries.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000378/19220901/061/0002

A Sevens tournament was due to be held at Carlisle on 28 April 1923 – I can find no details that the tournament was played.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000687/19230421/476/0020

Percy Park RFC lined up another Sevens due for either 8 or 15 September 1923. I can find no details that the tournament was played; and it looks as if this was not played as the club decided to delay the start of their season.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/19230727/092/0003

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001168/19230910/112/0003

West and Technical

The Hartlepool region tried again to have another Sevens tournament. The newly amalgamated club of West and Technical RFC planned a tournament of 8 teams, featuring 4 local teams on the 1 September 1923. The tournament was to celebrate their analmagation; that newly founded club today is now known as West Hartlepool.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000378/19230828/058/0004

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000378/19230831/036/0002

This time the tournament was played; Percy Park and North Durham met in the final – with North Durham winning the tournament with more pace and skill.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000687/19230903/100/0003

Clifton

The Clifton rugby club of Bristol had a Sevens match on the 29 March 1924. It pitted the club against their old members. No details of the match are provided; but it is noted that a series of matches did take place.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000264/19240328/003/0003

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000264/19240331/030/0006

Old Dixonians

Old Dixonians of Birmingham had their Sevens on 18 October 1924. Billed as the ‘Scotch game’, the subsequent report of the tournament in the Sports Argus newspaper was less than complementary – although it was conceded that Sevens improves passing, it was found to magnify faults in the player’s game.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000669/19240913/230/0008

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000653/19241025/097/0008

Middlesex

It was a Scot, Dr. J. A. Russell-Cargill, that founded the Middlesex Sevens – first played in 1926 – which became England’s premier Sevens tournament.

It was the Middlesex club that formally requested that the English Rugby Union allow rugby sevens matches. This formal request was granted on 26 June 1925; leading to the 1926 tournament being the first to be officially sanctioned in England by the union.

https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000329/19250627/004/0002