At 4pm on Friday, June 29, a group of enthusiastic Wigtownshire Rugby Club members met at the clubhouse in Ladies Walk, Stranraer, to prepare for their fundraising 24-hour touch rugby event.
Under the leadership of club captain Andy Farquhar, and coaches Alan McKie, Eddie Stevenson and Ross McCreadie, they set about preparing for their marathon endeavour.
It was decided because of the strong southerly wind and the heavy rain earlier in the day – and the prospect of more to come – to play near to the clubhouse “just in case”. A pitch was marked out on the training area of the London Road Playing Fields.
The officials’ caravan, loaned by Shire Agri-Hire, Bridgemill Business Park, Glenluce, and the spectator stand and rest area, a curtain-sided artic semi-trailer, provided by J Richardson Haulage, Culmore, Stranraer, were set up beside the pitch.
At 5pm two groups of players kitted out in bibs, supplied by Stranraer Academy, took to the field and play commenced.
The match progressed continuously from that time with substitutions being made on a rolling basis to replace weary legs and breathless lungs. All the time the game was under the control of an eagle-eyed referee who maintained order and called out each score when they happened. The scores were recorded for the all-important tries scored total.
The event was run to raise funds for the club’s youth rugby section Funds were also collected on the day by means of donation from spectators attending and volunteers who wanted to join the game. The first volunteers were immediate past president and steward Robin Galloway and current president Davie Hunter, who took to the field with 20 minutes on the clock. Davie only lasted about 10 minutes. “Maybe I should have waited until the guys tired a bit; they were all much too fast for me … or maybe I’m just too slow,” Davie puffed when he came off. Robin lasted a good while longer but he was a bit short of breath as well when he took his leave.
As play continued one of the club’s neighbours from Ladies Walk, Mary Buchanan, arrived offering to make soup for the players later that night. The offer was very gratefully received and the soup was thoroughly enjoyed by the players, official and spectators.
Throughout the evening, as people finished work, more club members joined the playing squad. As darkness fell the pitch was lit using the club’s training lights and two sets of generator-powered portable floodlights provided by Luce Bay Plant Hire, Drochduil, Dunragit.
There was no break in play and, thankfully, no rain to hamper the players who continued to compete at a surprising pace. Even through the night spectators appeared. Some had been out for the night and before heading home came out to give their support, some even ventured to participate. At 5am Alan McKie, first team coach, blew his whistle loudly and stopped the players. They all inquired what was wrong. He advised: “It’s half-time – change ends.” They obliged and play continued.
Later in the morning a group of very tired player were provided with breakfast prepared by some of the WAGs team due to play in the afternoon. A call went out for reinforcements to augment the night shift. They answered the call and the grandstand rest area now resembled a dormitory with players grabbing some sleep when they could.
As the day progressed more people came out to join the game and watch the fun. Tired legs and inexperienced players increased the score rate as gaps appeared in defences and touch attempts just didn’t quiet reach.
The WAGs, kitted out in their pink strips, provided and sponsored by Scot Signs, Blackpark Industrial Estate, Stranraer, came out to show their men how the game should be played. Girls and boys, mums and dads all had a go. Brian Paxton arrived with a team of older players to show their skills and add to the fun.
With the barbecue lit, a real celebration of rugby was in full swing despite the huge physical effort being made by the players. As the seconds ticked down to 5pm on Saturday, June 30, the last try of the event was scored moments before the final whistle.
At the end everybody celebrated a tremendous performance. Andy Farquhar said: “What a great effort by everyone. It has been fantastic.”
A grand total of 91 players took part. The try score total stood at 919, with June McKinstry, Glenluce, being closest to the total, winning the £50 prize.
The amount raised by the event was £1500. Eddie Stevenson, youth section coach, said: “We are very pleased with the way thing have gone. The funds raised will make real difference to youth rugby at the club.”
In true grand prix style, a bottle of bubbly was opened and sprayed over the crowd. Ross McCreadie added: “We can only thank everybody who has helped and supported us, it has been a real club effort.”
Finally, club coach Alan McKie announced: “There would be no training this week.” He felt that might be a little too much to ask, but he added: “Remember to be there the following week.”