Scotland to Spain: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1955 Madrid University Sevens
1987 Benidorm / Costa Blanca Sevens

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

Madrid University Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

The first sevens tournament was held at Madrid University at 1955.

Benidorm Sevens

The first Benidorm Sevens tournament was staged in 1987. It was won by the Scottish side Gala Y.M.

Scotland to South Africa: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1973 Ford Sevens

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

Ford Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

The first domestic tournament did not take place until the Ford Sevens were held in Pretoria in 1973.

Winfield Sevens

The Winfield Sevens is a national tournament for South African provincial teams.

Scotland to Japan: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1959 YC & AC Sevens (Yokahama Sevens)
1993 Tokyo Sevens

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

Japan’s introduction to rugby union

Scotland had an organised football club in 1824 (simply known as the Foot Ball Club), but it played a hybrid association-rugby type game. The initial rules of the rugby code came to Scotland by the 1850s; the Story of Scottish Rugby by R.J. Phillips stating that it was in Scotland by 1851; with Edinburgh Academicals being formed in 1858. (That rugby code was later modified by The Green Book; the Blairgowrie and Rattray Laws; and the Kilmarnock Rules; into the rugby union recognisable today.)

Only a few years later, rugby union came to Japan in the 1860s, introduced by Scots. There is a possibility of the game being played in 1863, but it is firmly being played in Yokohama by 1866.

Scotland is credited with introducing rugby to Japan. For many it was believed that rugby was first played in Japan in 1899. However, research by Japan rugby historian Mike Galbraith revealed that two Scots, Lord Walter Kerr, who was to become Britain’s senior naval officer, and George Hamilton, who was educated at Rugby School in England, had played pivotal roles in bringing rugby to the country in the 1860s at Yokohama Football Club.–spt.html

For the 1863 possibility: there is a note in a 1908 Australian newspaper in which Harry Rawson, Governor of New South Wales, “recalled playing in the first cricket match played in Japan in 1863, a remarkable feature of which was the fact that half the players were playing football.” However it is not known whether the football played was association or rugby union.

Even this 1863 cricket match – with some players playing football – is Scottish influenced. That first Japanese cricket match heavily features James Campbell Fraser (1840-1913), a Scottish insurance merchant in Japan.

However the rugby union history of Japan is more concerned with his brother Evan James Fraser, and his Scots friends George Hamilton and James Mollinson; and the Mollison Shokai building (No. 48) where Scots concentrated and where they worked.

For Japan’s rugby union history we are on much firmer ground with the establishment of Yokohama Football Club on 26 January 1866. It was James Mollinson who founded Japan’s first rugby club; and George Hamilton became its captain.

“More than forty names have been put down as willing to support a Foot ball Club,” says an editorial in The Japan Times, and “as we happen to have two or three Rugby and Winchester men in the Community, that we may be certain that we shall have really good scientific play.”

From Britain and Japan by Mike Galbraith:

Yokohama. The Building no. 48

Kanagawa Prefecture’s oldest surviving Western structure is the remnant of the ruined building, currently named Mollison Shokai or Mollison & Co., located at the corner of a block of land now called No. 54, which absorbed No. 48. It is a Kanagawa prefectural cultural asset with protected status. The Mollison in the Mollison Shokai name was James Pender Mollison who lived in No. 48 for many years from 1868. There used to be two buildings at No. 48; what remains is part of the office but adjacent to it was a residence. The two buildings were the home and work place of a group of prominent Scottish businessmen who also played an important role in the sports scene in Yokohama for most of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Unsurprisingly the Mollison Shokai building, the workplace of Scots in Yokohama, saw Scots bringing their sports to Japan. Galbraith notes 3 such Scots below:- James Mollison, George Hamilton and Evan James Fraser.

In 1867 or very early 1868, George Hamilton arrived. Hamilton was Scottish and had studied at Rugby School, the famous English public school where, in 1823, William Webb Ellis supposedly first ran forward carrying the ball, thus creating the sport of rugby.

James Mollison, who founded the Yokohama Cricket Club in mid-1868 together with Hamilton, described Hamilton as “captain of the Yokohama Rugby Team.” Hamilton worked in the same office as Mollison and, in around 1870, Evan James Fraser, another Rugby School alumni from Scotland, arrived to manage the same office. Fraser, like Hamilton, was an excellent all-round sportsman.

James Pender Mollison (born 21 July 1844, Glasgow – died 22 November 1931, Kamakura), born to William Mollison and Margaret Pender. He married Isabella Duff.

George Hamilton (born 24 November 1844, Glasgow – died 15 September 1929, Manhattan) born to William Hamilton (1806-1866) and Margaret Buchanan Henderson (1819-1850). He married Bertha Torrance (1861-1963) in 1885 in New Jersey, USA. They had 2 girls Amy and Peg; and 2 boys Minard and Kenneth.

In 1870, Mollison and Hamilton were joined by Evan James Fraser.

Evan James Fraser (9 April 1847, Skipness, Argyll – 8 November 1911, Manhattan) [also known as Evan James Fraser-Campbell; his mother was a Colquhoun Campbell and he changed his surname by deed poll in the USA in 1889 to obtain Dunmore.] He came to Japan to work with his brother James Campbell Fraser. His brother ran J. C. Fraser & Company, insurance merchants. Evan moved to New York in 1878, marrying Edna Arnold in 1881 and they had 3 sons. He was the proprietor of Dunmore in Argyll.


This text is from Bernd Lepach’s Meiji Portraits:

[Evan James Fraser] came to Japan in 1870 and was employed by J. C. Fraser & Co., Insurance Merchants, Yokohama # 48. He worked with this firm until 1876, from 1874 as Manager, when J. C. Fraser retired. In 1875 this firm additionally included the tea export with tea-firing. In 1877 he established in partnership with James P. Mollison the firm Mollison, Fraser & Co., Yokohama # 48. From the very beginning James P. Mollison managed the firm in Japan and Evan J. Fraser stayed in GB. He never returned to Japan, in 1883 he sold his shares to J. P. Mollison, who, from 1884 on, operated under Mollison & Co., Yokohama # 48.

[George Hamilton] came to Japan around 1870 on behalf of J. C. Fraser & Co. and was employed in the Yokohama branch # 48. He worked for the company until early 1875, when he managed to secure a contract with the Japanese government, Ministry of Public Works, to work as a teacher at the preparatory school of the engineering school. His contract began on July 1, 1875 and ended on April 30, 1877.
In 1876, JC Fraser went out of business. His brother Evan James Fraser founded Mollison, Fraser & Co. in partnership with James Mollison in 1877 at Yokohama # 48, and George Hamilton worked for this company after his teaching position. In 1884 the partners separated and James Mollison continued to run the company under Mollison & Co., Yokohama # 48; George Hamilton became his partner. In 1885 he left Japan and settled in New York, where he worked for the company until 1892. After that, his traces are lost. George Hamilton was an active member of the Yokohama Cricket & Athletic Club (YC & AC)
in the 1870s. He not only worked as a secretary for many years, but was in particular an active, all-round sportsman, especially in rugby, cricket, football, rowing, etc.

Yokohama Sevens

The Sevens tournament was first run by the Yokahama County and Athletic Club in 1959. This is the same club founded by James Mollinson in 1866. Since 2012 it has been also sponsored by the Japan Rugby Union.

Tokyo Sevens

The Tokyo Sevens tournament began in 1993. Meiji University won the tournament in 1993, and Suntory won it in 1994. It became an international tournament in 1995 with Fiji running out winners . It is also known as the Japan Sevens.

Scotland to Italy: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1974 Algida Sevens
1980 Dorigo Sevens

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

Algida Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

The Algida side from Rome were the first organisers of a seven-a-side tournament in Italy in 1974.

Dorigo Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

In 1979 Carwyn James, the then Dorigo coach, persuaded his club to launch a sevens tournament. London Scottish, captained by Mike Biggar, won the first event in 1980.

Scotland to France: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1959 Paris University Sevens

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

Paris University Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

The Paris University Club were the first side in France to organise a sevens tournament, in 1959. Two years later London Scottish were the first overseas winners.

Scotland to Fiji: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1977 Maarist Sevens

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

History of rugby union in Fiji

Rugby Union was introduced to Fiji in the 19th century. In 1884 British and New Zealand players played Fijian soldiers at the Native Constabulary at Ba, on the island of Viti Levu.

By 1904 a league competition was set-up, largely based on colonial players. The Fijian Rugby Union was set-up in 1913. A Fiji team played the All Blacks that year, when they stopped off on their way back to New Zealand when returning from a tour in the United States. The Fiji squad was made up of all colonial players, and the match was played in Albert Park in Suva. The Fiji side was beaten 67-3, the captain and coach P.J. Sheehan scoring the side’s only try.

A group of New Zealanders came to build the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. One of them was plumber Paddy Sheehan from Dunedin — a former captain of Otago. Sheehan immediately saw the need for organisation of the then-casual Fijian rugby. He formed the Pacific Club and by the end of their first meeting three more clubs were planned and eventually formed: United Services, Cadets and Rewa. Together these clubs formed the Fiji RFU although played only in Suva. When the first officers of the Union were elected, Sheehan became chairman. Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott, the governor of the time, donated the Escott Shield for the club championship, which was won by the Pacific Club and nearly 90 years later is still competed for by Suva Union clubs.

Rugby House

The native Fijians took to the sport quickly and in 1914 they had their own native league in a segregated structure. A Fiji Native Union was affiliated to the Fiji Rugby Union in 1915.

The Fijians adopted the New Zealand rugby union rules. When a number of Australians came to Fiji in 1915 for work, it was found that their rugby union rules were different from the Fijian/New Zealand rules adopted. The Fijians asked the Australians for a copy of their rules to look at the differences.

From The Southland Times of 31 July 1915:

Maarist Sevens

From The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan:

The first domestic tournament did not take place until 1977 with the Maarist Sevens.

Davie Sanderson

Born: 13 January 1862, Melrose
Played club rugby: Melrose RFC
Played provincial rugby: East of Scotland District
Died: 17 July 1954, Melrose

Davie Sanderson

Davie Sanderson played for Melrose rugby club. He played with Ned Haig on the team. He was also Haig’s boss: Sanderson was a master butcher in Melrose; and his father was a master butcher. Haig was Sanderson’s apprentice.

It was Haig and Sanderson that devised the Sevens tournament in Melrose in 1883.

Sanderson played for the East of Scotland district side against the West of Scotland district side in 1884. This was essentially a trial match for the Scotland side; the East v West fixture introduced to try and include more players from outwith the Glasgow District and Edinburgh District sides for international selection.

From the Border Advertiser of 30 January 1884:

Sanderson was a gifted player and unlucky not be capped by the Scotland international side; missing out on selection by injury.

Sanderson was a popular figure around Melrose. He was able to advertise in the Southern Reporter of 24 July 1884:

The Southern Reporter also gave notice of Sanderson’s return from South Africa on 27 December 1900:

It will be learned with regret that Lance – Sergeant David Sanderson, Melrose, who recently returned home with the Volunteer Service Company from South Africa, is suffering from a severe attack of enteric fever.

He married Mary Jane Forsyth in 1907.

The Jedburgh Gazette of 30 July 1954 reports Sanderson’s death:

The Melrose Sevens website also states:

It was the ladies of Melrose who raised the funds for the small but very stylish Ladies Cup which was to be presented to the best seven men. Dave Sanderson, Ned Haig’s employer, accepted the trophy and it was never competed for again. It now sits proudly in a Sevens display cabinet in the Ned Haig lounge at Melrose RFC.


The Official History of the Melrose Sevens by Walter Allan can provide this footnote:

In 1990 the Melrose club were presented with an 1885 medal which belonged to the legendary Davie Sanderson, scorer of the winning try in 1883, and employer of Ned Haig. Astonishingly the donor was Sanderson’s daughter Mrs Cathy Wheelans. In memory of her father, she donated the Sanderson Salver for annual presentation to the runners-up at Melrose Sevens.

Ned Haig

Born: 7 December 1858, Jedburgh
Played club rugby: Melrose RFC
Played provincial rugby: South of Scotland
Died: 28 March 1939, Melrose

Ned Haig

Ned Haig is credited with inventing Sevens rugby. It was Haig, as captain of the Melrose side, and his fellow player David Sanderson [also Haig’s boss outwith rugby] that came up with the idea of a Sevens tournament to raise monies for the club.

The Southern Reporter of 6 April 1939 reported Haig’s death and gives an account of his life:

A memorial to Haig was later built to commemorate him by the Borders rugby clubs. The Berwick Advertiser of 25 July 1940 reporting:

MEMORIAL TO NED HAIG At the annual meeting of the Melrose Club it was reported that the Secretary had for some time past been in communication with the other Border clubs in regard to the suggested erection of memorial stone to the late Ned Haig, (the originator of the sevens game, and as a result a stone will shortly be erected in the Wairds Cemetery, where Haig is buried, the cost of which is being borne all the clubs in the Borders. The stone is in the form of a Celtic Cross, suitably inscribed, and on the base of which is the following inscription: ‘Erected the Border Rugby clubs in memory of the originator of the seven-a-side game.’

Scotland to India: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1886 Khajjiar Gymkhana [29 June]

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

Khajjiar Gymkhana Sevens match

Scotland’s influence on India increased when the Earl of Dalhousie, James Broun-Ramsay, became the Governor-General of India in the middle of the nineteenth century. The role of the Governor-General of India at the time was to increase British colonial control of India; and increase the power of the East India Company. At the time, the East India Company used a ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ to take over Indian States. This meant that any state either without an heir, or any state that they deemed unworkable the East India Company just took over. The Earl of Dalhousie accelerated the use of the Doctrine of Lapse by militarily playing off Indian States against one another, so that the East India Company could pick up the losing states. This was a dangerous ploy as it increased the military power of Indian States and his colonial detractors conclude that this led to the 1857 Indian Rebellion. His colonial supporters note that Dalhousie brought trains, postage stamps and the telegraph to India.

The Earl of Dalhousie was Governor-General of India between 1848 to 1856. He spent his summers in India in the north in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in the western Himalayas. His retreat, a colonial hill station, formed the basis of a Scottish based town, and called Dalhousie. The area of Dalhousie and Khajjiar is still known as a ‘Little Scotland of India’.

Teams from Chamba and Dalhousie played the first rugby union sevens match in India, in 1886 at Khajjiar. The teams played cricket and association football with Chamba winning both matches. The Chamba side was predominately colonial civilians but also mixed with native Indians. The Chamba side was backed by the Rajah of Chamba; and his brother proved a fearsome bowler in the cricket match.

They met in the Khajjiar Gymkhana; a gymkhana being a sports venue or pitches where predominately colonials, military and civilian, would play, though occasionally native Indians would also play if sides had to make up numbers.

Arguments raged into the night after this, with alcohol flowing. It seemed that the Dalhousie (military) side much preferred rugby union to cricket and association football. They challenged the Chamba (civilian) team to a game of seven-a-side rugby union. The Chamba side having already won at cricket and association football against the Dalhousie side readily accepted.

It was now 1am in the morning when the teams played their Sevens match.

The report from the Civil & Military Gazette (Lahore) of 2 July 1886 is from the era; disappointingly implying that the native Indian Chamba players were to blame for their side’s defeat, playing down that rugby union was the favoured sport of the Dalhousie side.

As many of the defeated team [Dalhousie] were enthusiastic Rugby Unionists, this game led to much discussion; and during dinner and afterwards, contempt for the Association game and everything appertaining to it was roundly expressed. Talk flowed freely, and so did the champagne; and eventually it was decided, with a view to see what one and all could do, that a Rugby Union match—Military versus Civilians—with teams of ‘seven a side, should be played then and there. The goals were illuminated by lamps, and at 1 °clock in the morning, when the ladies and the more venerable members of the party had retired to rest, we were raised from our slumbers by yells of “hold him ! Hack him over !” and the usual concomitant language, which echoed in the dead of night with appalling distinctness from the encircling hills. The Civilians were obliged to play two of the [native] Chamba boys to make up their team; and the game proving too rough for their liking, the Military team was victorious after a good struggle by four goals to one.

2022-23 Season Sevens Calendar

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The fixtures below may be changed due to coronavirus pandemic.

16 July 2022 – Caledonia North Sevens
16 July 2022 – Ross Sutherland Sevens
5-7 August 2022 – Dundee City Sevens
6 August 2022 – Peebles Sevens
9 August 2022 – John Laing Sevens
13 August 2022 – Hawick Sevens
20 August 2022 – Gala Sevens
20 August 2022 – Sam Lobban Trophy
7-8 April 2023 – Melrose Sevens
16 April 2023 – Berwick Sevens
22 April 2023 – Langholm Sevens
29 April 2023 – Kelso Sevens
30 April 2023 – Earlston Sevens
13 May 2023 – Jedforest Sevens
20 May 2023 – Selkirk Sevens