A different kind of punting on the river…
Believe it or not, Irvine didn’t have its own rugby union club until 1962. That it came about at all was down to some pupils at Irvine Royal Academy (including Alistair McHarg, who would go on to play rugby union for Scotland) deciding that not only should Irvine have a rugby club but that they should be the ones to make it happen. And thus was born Irvine Royal Academicals Rugby Club.
Based at the Quarry Road playing fields, the club played its first fixtures in late 1962. For its first few years, only current or former pupils at Irvine Royal Academy could play for the club (a quite common set up at the time) but it became open to all in 1969, its change of status from a closed to an open club being marked by the adoption of a new name, Irvine Rugby Club.
Further change came about in 1972 when the club moved, along with hockey and cricket teams, to the newly constituted Irvine Sports Club, which had been set up on a 27-acre site previously used as a farm pasture. Although this new location, known as Marress after the name of the farm, had a small pavilion, the rugby club used the nearby Argyll pub as its headquarters.
The club remains part of the Irvine Sports Club (now known as Irvine Community Sports Club, having changed its status to become a Community Interest Club) at Marress and now has its headquarters on site, the original pavilion having been extended several times over the years.
The club runs senior teams for both men and women. Having previously reached the Scottish National League 3, the men’s team now competes in West Division 3, and the women’s team will compete in West Division 2 this season.
The club takes a keen interest in promoting rugby union as a sport for youngsters. As club President Allan Wilson explains: “Playing rugby union helps to instill good values such as discipline, camaraderie, and teamwork. It’s also great fun to play as well as proving good exercise out in the fresh air.”
To this end, the club runs a mini rugby team for children of primary school age and is hopeful of adding a team for pupils in their first year at secondary school. There’s also a summer rugby camp for children from the primary 4 to secondary 3 age groups, and the club plans to run a rugby ‘world cup’ for primary 7 children this October. And with Irvine Royal Academy having recently become a ‘CashBack school of rugby’, the club hopes to open its doors to even more youngsters interested in playing the oval ball game.
The club is open to all and would particularly love to hear from anyone looking to play, or return to playing, rugby. Indeed, it has much to offer players, with a fine pitch situated on the banks of the River Irvine as well as the facilities at the sports club pavilion, including a gym that’s open 20 hours a day, a bar, and a function suite. Rugby club members get access to the gym at heavily discounted rates, but it’s also open to members of the public at the very reasonable rate of £20 per month.
If watching rather than playing rugby is your thing, then you’ll be interested to know that admission to matches is free and there’s on-site parking.
Irvine Rugby Club, Marress Road, Irvine, KA12 8PE