Garnock Rugby Club came into existence in 1972 when Old Spierians and Dalry High School F.Ps amalgamated. The reason for the merger was the closure of Spiers and Dalry High and the opening of the new Garnock Academy in Kilbirnie. The history of Old Spierians goes back a great deal further. The rugby club for former pupils of Spiers School, Beith, was founded by the legendary G.G.H. Johnstone, the maths teacher at the school. The exact date of the club’s first match is uncertain but is thought to have been between 1905-10.
The club joined the S.R.U. in 1911 and G.G.H. Johnstone retained his connections with the club until his passing in 1973 at the age of 93. The club ground was the School pitch at Marshalland which became notorious for its muddy conditions. From their founding, Old Spierians fielded two XV’s. S.C. (Simmy) Jamieson remembers his first game for the club in 1921 against Kilmarnock, 70 years later he was still a Garnock president. He played for the club till 1930 when he went south and played full back for London Scottish in the company of many Scottish Internationals. In the pre war days Old Spierians played the top West of Scotland Clubs such as Glasgow Accies and Glasgow High. After a break for the war years rugby was resumed in 1946. In the 50’s, Ian Scott and Linwood Paterson (who played representative rugby in Canada) were two stars. Robert Kerr and Billy Donaldson were long serving Secretaries.
It was in 1960 that Old Spierians became an open club, (not restricted to old boys of the school). The club went from strength to strength at this period and managed to field 4 XV’s. The coaching of gym teacher R.C. Bone at the school provided the club with an excellent source of very good players. David Shedden and Alec Wilson were star performers before moving on to West of Scotland. With this club Shedden became Old Spierians first International, gaining 15 caps. Wilson was a Scottish replacement on the bench for two seasons without ever quite making it to the field. Dugald McAlpine joined the club at the end of the 60’s and set a club record of 29 tries in a season.
The amalgamation saw an immediate upsurge in the Clubs fortunes which was just as well as national leagues started one year later. Garnock, as the club was known reached Division 4 in Season 1973-74. Jim Wilson joined the club from Ayr. He set a Scottish record by being first to reach 100 points in a season which he did in just one month. The Club was then playing on grounds in Beith, Dalry and Kilbirnie. Their stars included Willie Clark (The first Garnock captain), Sandy Innes, Jim Montgomery, Noel Waterson, Jim McQueen, Jim McPartlan and David Nisbet.
The Club’s fortunes declined in the 1980’s and they were relegated to the Glasgow league in 1986 but the next season they won the league and regained National League status.
Following this success, the Club’s future looked bright, for after being nomads with no ground or home of their own, at last in 1984 Garnock finally got an excellent clubhouse with superb fields at Lochshore, Kilbirnie. Barely 8 years later, the clubhouse had been closed down due to subsidence and the club found itself once again changing in one town and playing in another. During their period in the new clubhouse, Garnock had maintained their position in Division 7 without ever looking likely to progress. Then, as the clubhouse closed, Andy King returned to the club after a spell with Kilmarnock. He took over as player/coach from John Logan, and the club began to enjoy it’s greatest period of success.
They rapidly climbed through the leagues under the captaincy of Alan Brocket, to reach Division Three in successive years. They were also finalists in the Castlemaine Cup, where they lost to Forrester in the final. All sorts of club records were set. Andy King, despite missing a season with a fractured knee cap played his 350th game for the club. Kurt Jacobson exceeded 1700 1XV points. Euan Jeans scored 159 tries from 159 games, and set a record of six tries in a single 1XV game. Ally Anderson and Ronnie Simpson have also scored six tries in games for the 2XV.
Ian McInroy is one star to emerge from the Club. Playing for the 1XV as a sixteen year old, he progressed to West of Scotland, and then on to professional rugby with Glasgow Caledonians. Ian captained the Scottish Under 21s , and helped the club coach Campbel Jackson in his coaching duties.
Garnock’s greatest moment during the 90’s was when they reached the final of the Scottish Bowl at Murrayfield, where they lost to Duns in a memorable match. With rugby in decline in Scotland, Garnock have continued to field three XVs and kept their Youth Section running, although we had not managed to field an Under 18 side.
The revival of the U18s under Kenny Glen ignited the Club’s most successful period so far. This produced a group of very talented players, who quickly progressed to 1XV rugby. Graeme Reid became Club Captain, Chris Neill, Stuart White, Willie Clark and Michael Jamieson were joined by Gareth and Paul McCrorie in the first team. The brothers formed the Club’s best ever halfback pairing. Paul played for Scotland U19s, and Gareth for Glasgow. Also at this time, the Club strengthened its ties with St Columba School. John and Andy Lyons, Ross Miller and Fraser Thomson joined Michael Jamieson at Garnock.
Kenny Glen followed his U18 charges into the 1XV as coach, where the influx of youth, together with ageless trio of King, Jacobson and Brocket provided him with the opportunity of leading his side onto Murrayfield for the Shield Final in 2007. In a terrific match with Falkirk, we were beaten by a late try. Consolation was taken from our promotion to Division One.
The following season saw our progression to the Premier Leagues, creating new records for tries and points scored. The icing on the cake was again to be the Shield. In the semi final against Ardrossan, after a remarkable injury time comeback, we scored two tries, and secured a place in the final against firm favourites, Kirkcaldy. In a game highly praised by the media, a late try (his third) by man of the match Paul McCrorie gave us a 31 – 24 victory. The sheer determination shown by the entire squad was fantastic.
The season ended with veterans Alan Brocket and Andy King both within 10 games of 500 appearances and Kurt Jacobson 50 points short of 3000. The 2XV were also promoted to the second tier of Scottish rugby.
In the 2008/9 season, the Club will once again have an U18 side under the coaching staff of Billy Walker, Paul Goldie and Dave Perry. Many of these players we are sure will go on to serve the Club as well as Kenny’s squad have done.