The Early Years 1885 – 1900
In 1870 Daniel Stewart’s Hospital became a day school, officially known as Daniel Stewart’s Institution until 1888. At the time, no organised recreational actvities were included in the curriculum and rugby was merely one of the games played in the playground. However, in1872 a school team was organised and captained by James Gibb who challenged George Watson’s College to a match. This was played in the playground and resulted in a win for Stewart’s by a dropped goal.
The first recorded match that Former pupils played was against Watson’s in 1875. However, there were difficulties raising teams and five schoolboys were brought in to make up the XX’s. It was not until 1877 that teams were reduced to fifteen a side and for many years it was common for schoolboys to be included in sides.
Most school leavers joined the well established St. George club or the Warrender club that was formed largely by Stewart’s FP’s. In 1885 the FP members of St.George, Warrender and Roseneth formed Stewart’s College FP Football Club. AA Gibb was appointed first captain.
The club colours adopted were an Oxford blue jersey with red diagonal sash and white shorts.
In 1887 the club was elected as full members of the Scottish Rugby Union.
Ironically, the club and school played on fields in Ravelston where Mary Erskine School is now situated but in 1893-4 the club and the school moved to Inverleith. This coincided with the club colours being changed to the more familiar red, black and yellow. These developments led to a great prosperity in the club and significant success on the pitch.
The season 1896-97 proved to be the most successful so far due to a good pack of forwards. A keen rivalry had already developed with Heriot’s FP and it resulted in a memorable victory 18-0. Indeed, this Stewart’s team had considerable influence over who won the championship when as a press report said ‘Stewart’s FP staggered humanity’ by defeating Hawick who were contenders for the title. G R Turner, full back was given recognition for his fine back play with an International trial.
J G Scobie had the unique record of playing in every game for seven years during this period. H Pringle, an Inter-city player, emigrated to South Africa in 1903 and joined the Durban Rugby Club which he captained for two years. He was selected for the Springbok team to tour Britain in 1906 but he suffered an injury and he was unable to play – otherwise he might well have become the club’s first internationalist!