The illustrious progress of Kelso RFC up to 1976 is well documented in Arthur Hastie's 'A hundred Years in Black and White'.
Highlights in that time were a fine run of success in the 30s in the border league, 8 Scottish international players, 1 British Lion, several successes in the Border Sevens including twice beating the Barbarians at Melrose Sports. A win in the 1947-48 Scottish Unofficial Championship and the early installation of floodlights are also up there in our great history.
It was, however in the early years of our second century that Kelso kicked on and entered a lengthy purple patch. From 1978 on, we were the leading power in the land in the abbreviated game of 7s. The question to be asked at Melrose Sports was: 'Shall we just engrave the cup with Kelso now?' This remarkable success in the short form of the game led to a long run in the 80s of success for both the club and individuals in the 15s game. There were a couple of wins in the Border League, caps for Eric Paxton, Roger Baird, Gary Callander, John Jeffery, Alan Tait and Andrew Ker. All of these players performed admirably for the club in their first Scottish Championship winning season in 1987-88. With the exception of Eric, all of the other played for Scotland in that season with Gary Callander captaining the side. This 7s success was too early to warrant Kelso the award of Kings of the Sevens but that was duly won nearer the end of the century.
Roger Baird played in the Scottish Grand slam team in 1983-84 following his tour to New Zealand with the British Lions. Four players were involved in the first World Cup in New Zealand in 1987. The end of the decade saw a 2nd league win and John Jeffrey selected for the tour to Australia with the Lions in 1989 before he also participated
in a Scotland Grand Slam in 1990.
The 90s saw a period of fluctuating success until we reached our first Scottish Cup final in 97-98. Although we lost heavily in that one we returned the net season for a tear jerking narrow defeat to Gala in the last few minutes of the game. This period, however, brought to prominence several more Scottish camps in Adam Roxburgh, Ian Fiarley and Iain Fullarton. It also introduced the world professional rugby in 1995 and it became clear that Kelso players would have to move on to make their way in the rugby world and no longer would you see 'Kelso' after a players name in the record book.
The first professional tour went to South Africa in 1997 and Alan, Tait, who returned from his 9 season sojourn in Rugby League, was one of 6 ex-league players in the squad. His try in the 1st test of the series was a particularly memorable event on that tour.
Our next cap was Kevin Utterson out of the Border Reivers and, in Nov 2004, Ross Ford as a 20 year old won his first cap off the bench against Australia. This was to be the start of a long international career which saw him selected fro the British Lions tour to South Africa in 2009, to Australia to captain a Scotland side winning in the Southern Hemisphere and eventually to his 100th cap in Nov 2016 against, who else but, Australia.
The success of the club has been founded on the prominence of the named players but, as we stand, there is a very buoyant Kelso Cougars set up for primary aged children, a good structure and link with the local high school, with our current Development Officer, Murray Hastie, very competitive youth teams at under 16 and under 18. Kelso Harlequins have had their successes as they were winners of the SRU Youth Cup in two season in the 90s and lost the final as they went for their hat-trick of wins in the 1993-94. The High School 1st XV won the Scottish Schools cup in 1987 and the Under 16s team had success in the Schools Plate competition in 2016. A Ladies section which has only been established since the tail end of 2015 is blossoming well with an enthusiastic group of players and coaches. Already having some success winning their league 2 years in a row.
So there you have it, 19 Scottish camps, 5 British Lions and Irish Lions tourists and 2 Scottish captains.
"History is our strength" but the future looks bright for Kelso Rugby Football Club.