I look forward to going to Murrayfield. I seldom need a reason. Its often a detour, I go places via Murrayfield. For no other reason than I like seeing it and being close to it. Maisie and Katy often say ‘Are we going passed Murrayfield Daddy?’ The answer is often ‘aye’. I love it. It holds so many memories for me, I would sit in the stand and watch the grass grow if they’d let me. I’d like to do the ‘Stomp’ one day, where you go up and down all the steps in the stadium. I’d love to go on the roof. I would even abseil off it if it meant I got to go up.
I’ve been on the stadium tour; the guide was Roy Mack who said ‘what are you doing here?! You could lead the tour!’. I said I was just accompanying my mate and his son, but really, I wanted to go. In fact, I was desperate to go. I reckon if they’ll let me, in my retirement, I’d like to be a Murrayfield Tour Guide.
I’ve played (poorly) on the hallowed turf and twice coached teams on Finals Day. (1 win and 1 2nd place). Both days are special to me and the people I shared it with. Not sure I’ll get another chance, but I’m very grateful for the chances I’ve had. I love the game and the people in it. I’m a product, like most, of the grassroots. My school, Galashiels Academy, was a rugby school and then out into Clubland I went. I loved it. Never been a professional and have no caps or medals to show, but I have relationships and memories I think are priceless. Murrayfield has played a part in many of them.
Life got in the way of my coaching and involvement in Clubland. But I still wanted to be a part of the game. I owe a lot to Jonny Petrie, who at the time was CEO of Edinburgh Rugby. He had ideas to get me involved at Edinburgh, but that was all that they were, Ideas. I had ideas too, but Cockers wasn’t keen on me starting at 10 in front of Jaco. Stuart Martin then thought I could be the announcer and bring a bit of… ‘colour’ to the ‘in game’ announcing. It felt like Christmas. Murrayfield, a microphone, a crowd who had no choice but to listen, and pitch-side access… I had to pinch myself.
I started at Meggetland for the preseason game v Bath and got to meet Jamie Roberts, it doesn’t get much better than that. #ManCrush
The move to Murrayfield was a dream, I LOVE announcing the team sheet. My girls quite often shout ‘W!… P!… NEL!’ in the house. I’ve had a few messages from people saying their kids like to shout ‘BIG!… BILL!… MATAAAAAA!’ I don’t think anyone realises how happy that makes me! Even Big Wally has a go, he quite often sends a message that says ‘LET’S GET READY FOR RUGBY!’ Makes me laugh and feel pretty warm and fuzzy inside.
I have to be at the ground 2 hours before kick off for the pre-match briefing (that’s right, its planned! Although my bit depends on the game). It’s an amazing feeling. The players are often arriving at the same time and the wee boy in me plays out the impossible dream in my head and heart that I am arriving to prepare to play. The buzz never goes away, it’s never left me. The coffee stands are getting ready, the Edinburgh staff are walking quickly to sort the next thing and the buzz can be felt, but it might just be my heartbeat.
I usually go into the Bill McLaren Press Box and I feel like I am in a temple. I always greet his bust in the reception area when I arrive and leave. He has no idea how his legacy lives on, even in wee dafties like me. I make a nuisance of myself and get a blether with some of the hacks and TV guys, especially Dougie Vipond who would probably rather I wasn’t there! There is often sandwiches and coffee in there too…
Announcing in my first season made me pinch myself a lot. Standing pitch side, blethering to the TV folk, the doc, the replacements, the 4th official, the photographers, the supporters… I was a pig in muck. Being there for Fordy’s last game was special. The Munster game and watching Chunk deliver the ball was awesome. Winning against Glasgow and getting such a big crowd gave the place a great atmosphere. Announcing tries is the best feeling! Sometimes I feel dizzy.
I had time to kill, so asked if I could do pre and post match interviews in the clubhouse. It was awesome and I loved being a part of a club house again. That led to hosting the hospitality this year. I like meeting people and speaking to the players and getting to chat to Richard Cockerill after game is an absolute joy. He’s gold and I love speaking to him. He still scares me, but he laughs a lot too.
I remember my moment. Not sure if everyone does, but I do. I didn’t have one becoming a Hibs fan, I just always was. But being an Edinburgh fan did take a moment. I’ve been a supporter of the players over the years, but not necessarily of the club. I didn’t have a connection and I needed that to care.
It happened on December 23rd 2017 when first Nathan Fowles scored then Chris Dean clinched the win in the last minute. It was mostly a moment because of the Glasgow supporter sitting near me and his attitude towards the game, the opposition, and even his own team at certain points through the game. The atmosphere was great and that try made me a fan. In the 2 years I’ve been involved, being around the people, players, employees, supporters, and bosses has meant I can see what it means and I’ve been swept up in it. I love it.
Leaving the ground is a mixture, often depending on the result. But I like the post-match chat and saying goodbye and having a laugh with folk on the way out the door. Now, I like to see Doddie on the way in and way out. A bit like Bill, it gives me huge inspiration. 2 amazing role models. And I like the feeling that I’ll be back again soon.
The rugby world is small. I taught Grant Gilchrist and Sean Kennedy. I coached with Mark Bennett and Neil Cochrane. I’ve known Kitty and Hodgey for years. The doc was the doc for my Scottish Schools team in 1997. I coached Rambo and JJ just out of school and I coached Berg and Maggy in one of my Murrayfield appearances with Boroughmuir. I coached Stevie Lawrie! Being from the Borders I know Suzz and Darcy. I know Chico’s mum and dad. I look after Matt Currie’s wee brother at school. Those connections make me feel like a part of the club. I’m invested. And hopefully, I’ll be there for a long time to come.
Happiness is Egg Shaped at Murrayfield
By Bruce Aitchison