Northern uproar – a report from the Jesters Scottish tour


Jesters’ Rugby Fives Tour

Edinburgh, Scotland, 17/19 January 2019

Organiser Ben Hale writes:
This year’s tour was one of traditions, many old and hopefully a few new ones made. So, we started with our customary Friday lunch at The Cumberland and then got down to the nitty gritty.

First, a Jesters IV took on Edinburgh University in the slot usually reserved for Durham. The encounter ended in a Jesters victory, but given that we played alongside and against six current students throughout the tour, maybe we’ll be able to make this a six-a-side fixture next year — allowing Edinburgh to squeeze in messrs Butler and Jourdan.

Meanwhile, at The Academy a Jesters squad led by Andy Passey was taking on all comers in the form of 30(!) school boys and girls. And, up at Merchiston, an intrepid Jesters IV took on their Colts on the newly refurbished courts. I didn’t make it to Merchiston this year, but heard only positive feedback on the work that has been done there, and I have to say that the courts look great from the pictures.

Six o’clock on Friday evening usually means the Schoolboys Select VI tournament, competing for the Akerman Quaich. Not wanting to disappoint the fans — or Harry — we left this one in the fixture list, but we also put on a Schoolgirl Select tournament at The Academy. This was superbly run by Louise Mathias, featuring our seven lady Jesters and nine schoolgirls. The brand new viewing gallery made this quite an occasion and something that we hope becomes very much part of the traditional fixture list. Doug from Merchiston defended the Akerman Quaich, with some assistance from Laurence Cook, while the girls’ tournament was won by Colette (from Fettes) and Louise, who clearly wasn’t that burdened by the task of organising …

Once again, Fettes then put on a marvellous curry for an alleged 90 Jesters and guests. It was wonderful to see so many young players and their parents (along with staff and match opposition) in attendance. As always, we pass on our thanks to Fettes and their staff for looking after us so wonderfully.

Normal Friday night traditions were followed (and will go unrecorded in public) before we reassembled around 9am on Saturday for the next round of fixtures. At Merchiston, the Wessex Club prevailed over both Cambridge University and the Executioners, while Fettes and the Academy hosted a four-pair clash between the RFA and the Jesters.

It will surprise no one to find out that the result of this match was declared a draw — just as tradition dictates that the Jesters’ annual Strawson match is. However, perhaps an honourable mention should go to the RFA pairs, as the score sheets show that they were actually the winners. Then again, given that none of the players seemed to know who they were representing anyway, a draw seems the fairest result!

The flagship match on the Saturday morning of the tour is the first of two fixtures with the Caledonian Club out at Loretto. I’m glad to report that adult fives in Scotland is every bit as healthy as school fives and the Jesters were on the end of a 21-point defeat.

For lunch, we returned to the pub that had hosted us for the first time last year and the vast majority of the party were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch before our 3pm games. However, many thanks much go to the noble four that instead played the Fettes Colts in what I hear was a Festival of Fives. They are already looking forward to your return next year!

Over recent years, 3pm on Saturday has become the customary time for one of the great grudge matches and this year the tradition continued in style. So, the Old Blues of Christ’s Hospital once again took on a team of Old Bradfieldians in a classic clash of quantity over quality. It was perhaps hard to tell from the players after the match, but my understanding is that the cream did rise to the top, with Bradfield reclaiming the Sinton-Matthews Cup and taking a 2-1 lead in the series.

For those not involved in the Big Match, Saturday afternoon also saw some tightly contested games against the school boys at Merchiston. Marvellous Fives was played at all times — and, in the case of their 1st IV — winning fives. Well played to the boys!

At Fettes, we played what sounds like a most enjoyable match against their Girls VIII and then took on a mixed universities side. This game was neck-and-neck until the final rotation of games, when the Jesters were finally able to pull out a lead. Maybe Harry has still got it, after all …

The one remaining Saturday fixture saw a rerun of last year’s game against the Accies. Avid readers of this report may recall that last year we lost by a single point. This year, again, it was a neck-and-neck tussle between the Jesters’ second and third pairs and all three Accie pairs, but the less said about the failed Jesters first pairing the better. Perhaps, it was too soon after the Sinton-Matthews Cup for a reunion, but whatever the reason, the fact was that, at this point, it left the fixture finely balanced and the janitor keen to lock up and go home.

Fortunately for him — and perhaps our access to the courts the following day! — the Accies’ second pair turned around a 13-11 deficit to win 16-14, thereby giving the Accies an unassailable 20-point lead with only one game to 15 remaining. At that point, we called it a day and ensured another victory for the home side.

In now time-honoured tradition, we acquired a ‘trophy’ for this relentlessly frustrating fixture that we will one day win. Inspired by one of the pieces of silverware that’s played for at the annual President’s Cup, the ‘trophy’ was a tea pot that my brother found, and bought, in an Edinburgh antiques shop. Sadly, I can only apologise for losing and having to leave it in Scotland!

Once the day’s matches were completed, the party descended (as usual!) upon La P’tite Folie for our Saturday dinner. Virginie’s team looked after us wonderfully, the company was excellent and there were some speeches — which will go unreported.

The following morning, the early risers headed out to Loretto for the second leg of the Caledonian Club fixture. A level of Jesters pride was restored, as the previous day’s 20-point losing margin was avenged thanks to victory by a similar margin. Meanwhile, at the Academy, we took on the Boys 1st VI, followed by the Girls 1st VI; and, at Fettes, the matches were against the juniors, Colts and, finally, the 1st IV. The new Merchiston courts cemented their reputation as a Jesters’ Graveyard of Champions, with the Merchistonians seeing off our four comfortably.

Overall, it was another wonderful tour, even if I say so myself. Thanks, as always, to Dave, our drivers, hosts and opposition. And, of course, to our tourists, both experienced veterans and fresh-faced debutants.

But, a special mention should go to the Lady Jesters. Their Friday-evening tournament was, by all accounts, a resounding success and I’m sure the school girls got far more out of playing them then they ever got from playing the likes of me. Bring on the 2020 tour and let’s see if we can continue to grow the number of ladies taking part towards 50%…

Full list of the tourists: Alec Younger, Alex Smith, Andy Passey, Anna Laakkonen, Bee Crinnion, Ben Hale, Dave Butler, Dominic Shepherd, Duncan Neale, Ed Thompson, Giles Constantine, Guy Matthews, Harry Akerman, Helena Tunks, Ian Mettam, Ibby Lee, James Birch, James Pinder, Jeremy Manger, Jez Sinton, Jon Peterson, Laurence Cook, Lottie Simpson, Louise Mathias, Malcolm Reid, Martin Patterson, Matthew Hale, Miles Catton, Nigel Gainsborough, Phoebe Thornhill, Rich Lebon, Robin Thompson, Rupert Mathieu, Tom Wakelam and Tom Webster

Eyes on the ball — new viewing at the Academy

Eyes on the ball — Lottie in action, Malcolm in support

Eye on the ball — textbook stuff from James

The Ladies of the Balcony

Big Match — Small Trophy 

Fellowship at Fettes

Ben and Beverages in full flow

Hector & Richie with the E-Pot