MAGICAL MELROSE

Though the story of Play On is fictional, filmmakers Al Dekin and Dave Story insisted that it be grounded in reality.  So when it came to giving the Scottish hero Keir Kilgour an old-school rugby background, they needed to find a small town where the spirit of rugby infused every nook and cranny.  That town is Melrose.

A town that dates from at least the 12th Century, Melrose is tucked between the River Tweed and the Eildon Hills—where King Arthur is supposedly buried.    Unlike other towns in the Borders Region, Melrose is said to have “ignored” the Industrial Revolution.   Instead of devoting themselves to heavy industry, the merchants and farmers of 19th Century Melrose seem to have focused on rugby.   

As a result, the Melrose Rugby Football Club (founded in 1877) never gave up its grounds for factory-building.  The Melrose RFC has instead played its games at the impeccable Greenyards pitch right in the main village for its entire history.   The club is famous throughout the world for inventing the “sevens” variation of rugby--which will debut at the 2016 Olympics.   Citizens throughout the town wear gear sporting the distinctive yellow rose of the club’s insignia.   

When the cast and crew of Play On descended upon the town for principal photography, the town was astonished that a bunch of Yanks would make a rugby movie in the middle of Scotland.  But that astonishment immediately gave way to hospitality, and an insistence that we sample every brand of their beers, every one of their single-malt Scotch whiskys.   Every night.      

We were often a tired, bedraggled bunch at each morning’s call time, but we never tired of Melrose’s kindness, as both the town and the club bent over backward to help us make Play On.   If we needed a shot of Keir walking down High Street, traffic stopped.  When actor Chard Hayward requested assistance with his dialect, a volunteer dialogue coach spent every evening in the pub helping him.   And when we needed to see the fictional Kansas City Wanderers run out the distinctive Greenyards tunnel during a real Melrose RFC match, they commanded us to do it—and even let their announcer Alasdair Houston make a phony public address announcement to honor us.  

It set us to wonder:  could all of the Borders region of Scotland be this accommodating? This crazy about rugby and rugby filmmakers?  Well, no.   Because of all the rugby-mad places in Scotland, only Melrose has its own wedding tradition.   Instead of the bride throwing her bouquet to a crowd of all the single women attending the wedding, Melrosians do things a bit differently.  Here, the bride and her maids of honor climb to the summit of High Street, where she promptly hikes up her gown and kicks a rugby ball down the center of the street.  According to custom, the first unmarried woman to grab the ball is certain to be the next Melrose bride to launch her own kick there.

Only in Melrose…

 

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