Auld Alliance Trophy unveiled
A trophy honouring the war dead from the rugby communities of Scotland and France is unveiled today (Friday 9 February) at BT Murrayfield.
The Auld Alliance Trophy will be contested for the first time at Sunday’s NatWest 6 Nations Championship match between Scotland and France, which falls in the centenary year of Armistice.
It specifically commemorates the captains of the two nations in the last matches played before the First World War – Eric Milroy (Scotland) and Marcel Burgun (France), both of whom perished in the conflict.
But it is also a tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In all, 22 French and 30 Scottish internationalists were killed in action, along with countless other club players from both nations.
The driving force for the creation of the trophy was Patrick Caublot from the Amiens club in the north of France, who promoted it with David Anderson, a great-great nephew of Eric Milroy.
Anderson said: “Eric Milroy and Marcel Burgun, Scotland and France captains in 1914, are named on the trophy. They represent the never-forgotten sacrifices made by rugby players of both nations and embody the Auld Alliance that was renewed in the Great War.”
Caublot, who led a party from the Amiens region on a visit to Scottish Rugby’s war memorial today, said: “The trophy underlines that the spirt of the Auld Alliance will live on.”
Caublot and Anderson contacted both the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and Scottish Rugby last June to seek to commission a trophy to mark the 100th anniversary of end of the First World War.
Scottish Rugby President Rob Flockhart, said: “The sacrifice made by so many from the rugby family in the First World War is never forgotten.
“Our annual armistice service at our war memorial arch at BT Murrayfield is a poignant reflection of that loss felt in so many communities around the world.
“When we received the proposal for the trophy we knew of the scale of the loss. Yet the personal story of both Milroy and Burgun made the case for the trophy totally compelling.”
Milroy was described as “the most modest and generous of souls. The boyish smile, with which he would emerge from the feet of opposing forwards, was an open sesame to a wide circle of friendship, and never could it be said of him that success had in the least turned his head. He was ever, sunny, modest and gentle.”
Brought up in Edinburgh, Milroy, a scrum-half, became an advocate of running rugby, with which Watsonians won the unofficial Scottish championship four times before the war.
He toured South Africa with the British Lions in 1910 and was capped 12 times, including against Burgun’s France in 1913.
He was killed at the age of 29 on the Somme in 1916, fighting as a machine-gun officer with the Black Watch.
On the eve of battle, Milroy wrote home to his mother, Walteria, who frequently instructed him to “keep well back” and out of harm’s way on the rugby field. In his final letter Milroy wrote: “We are in for some slight trouble tomorrow. So, I am just warning you that there is to be no ‘keeping well back’ then.”
Born in St Petersburg, the son of a French clock-maker who worked for the Tsar, Marcel Burgun, won his first French caps playing for Racing Club in Paris before switching to Castres Olympique. He went on to win 11 caps from his debut against Ireland in 1909 and four of those caps were gained against Scotland.
He played in France’s first-ever Championship victory – against Scotland in January 1911. Burgun learned that his elder brother was killed in action in the early battles of World War 1. He became an artillery observer and a pilot but he too died in action, shot down and killed in the summer of 1915.
He won the Croix de Guerre and Palm and subsequently had a street in Castres named after him.
Bernard Laporte, President of the FFR, said: “With the Auld Alliance Trophy, the FFR and Scottish Rugby will celebrate the strong relationship between France and Scotland at each Tournament.
“It is a strong symbol for our two nations and an important tribute to the victims of the First World War. As of Sunday, the XV of France will have the honor to dispute this new trophy.”
The trophy has been manufactured by silversmiths Thomas Lyte, whose craftsmen have created some of the most iconic sporting trophies, including the FA Cup, the 6 Nations Trophy and the ATP World Champions Trophy.
The trophy is a magnificent symbol of considered craft being hand spun from hallmarked Sterling Silver. It stands at an impressive 60cm in height and took a total of 110 craft hours to create.
Tim Munton, Commercial Director at Thomas Lyte said: “The Auld Alliance Trophy is a very significant commission for Thomas Lyte, commemorating an immensely sad time in our history, while celebrating a very significant sporting occasion.
“It is a great honour to be involved in this unique trophy, which for the first time celebrates the close alliance of Scotland and France and will be played for the first time when the teams meet on Sunday.”
The trophy will be contested annually between the countries in the Six Nations Championship.
On Sunday it will be presented by the two Union Presidents: Bernard Laporte (FFR) and Rob Flockhart (Scottish Rugby).
At the start of the match, the trophy will be unveiled to the crowd by the latest generations of the Milroy and Burgun families – 11-year-olds Lachlan Ross and Romain Cabanis – who are both keen to follow their famous relatives and perhaps contest the trophy in their name in the future.