A VERY special guest caused quite a stir at Helensburgh Rugby Club's 50th annual dinner and prize-giving – without having to say a single word.

In a clubhouse superbly set out by Mo King and her merry band of ever-willing volunteers, more than 70 members and guests enjoyed a splendid five-course meal provided by main club shirt sponsor, Riva Restaurant.

The top table comprised current rugby section chairman, David ‘Stig’ King, who was the evening’s MC, Jon Simmons, the outgoing president of Helensburgh Cricket and Rugby Football Club, speakers Mike Linzee-Gordon and current first XV captain Cammy Kerr, and most aptly – given he was at the first Burgh dinner all those 50 years ago – Fergus Howat, one of the founder members of the club.

And to add sparkle to that illustrious spectacle, the club had managed to secure the Calcutta Cup from the SRU for the evening - yes, that one, the one that Scotland retained by fighting back from 31-0 down at Twickenham in March to draw 38-38.

It proved popular for posing beside throughout the evening – and why not!

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Mike’s speech was as erudite as it was witty, with some of the humour close to the bone for several victims – sorry, players – in the audience.

He invited Fergus to talk through some of the attendees at that first dinner, held in the Queen’s Hotel in Helensburgh on March 6 1970, and which included four former presidents of the SRU among other notable figures in the game around that time.

Kaptain Kalamity Kerr (sic) was up next and he regaled the assembly with his own, unique views on rugby, Helensburgh RFC and life in general, delivered in his own inimitable style.

Coach David Calderwood also reflected on a season where Burgh accomplished their chief mission, namely to stay in West Regional Division Two following several tough and generally winless seasons ending in relegation the year before.

The truth is, the Grizzlies made it by the skin of their once-ferocious teeth by finishing in eighth place and avoiding the drop.

Highlights included home demolitions of Paisley, Wigtownshire and Uddingston, and welcome away wins against Millbrae, Clydebank and Bishopton.

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But there were so many matches that escaped the Burgh bears’ claws – both the season’s opening league games, away to Cumbernauld and at home to Bishopton, should have been wins, as should the wintry and woeful defeat at home to Loch Lomond in December.

In the end, Lenzie romped the league undefeated, and congratulations to them. But it was nip and tuck behind that, with possibly only Oban Lorne and Strathaven boasting records to be really feared ahead of next season.

If the Grizzlies are to re-discover their bite, then a huge proportion of the frankly staggering 58 players Calderwood picked for matches this season, have to front up at training and show some commitment throughout – there must be two strong teams among those 58 guys.

What is encouraging, however, is the number of young players ready to enter the senior fray after some outstanding shows for the under-18s in recent years.

As Calderwood said in summation: “It’s up to each and every single player to challenge themselves to be the best they can be, to make at least one training session each week and to push hard to make every Saturday count.

“By doing that, this club can continue to build on a decent season, and get back up to a level where we all think we belong.”

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Prop Phil Ard was chosen as the winner of the most improved player of the season, while lock/flanker Craig Calderwood was crowned young player of the year.

Centre/wing Ali Rogers received coach Calderwood’s special award, while the player of the season prize, to general acclaim, went to number 8 and captain Cammy Kerr.

The awards were capped by the presentation of two special prizes: a ‘contribution to rugby’ award to Jon Simmons, and the ‘club person of the year’ prize to Mo King.

Guests repaired to the bar to swap stories long and laughable deep into the night. Here’s to the next 50!