Clan Haig PeopleNed Haig ( 1858 – 1939)
Founder of Rugby sevens, Haig was born in Jedburgh, moving to Melrose when young. After participating in the traditional annual Fastern’s E’en Ba game, he became interested in the similar game of rugby, joining the local Melrose RFC side in 1880, initially playing for the seconds before making the first team and also playing for the South.
In 1883, with the club short of funds, Haig suggested hosting a tournament as part of a sports day to raise money. As it would not be possible to play several rugby games in one afternoon with a full squad of 15, teams for the tournament were reduced to seven men, with the match time reduced to 15 minutes.
The inaugural Melrose Sports took place on the 28th April 1883, and included foot races, drop-kicks, dribbling races and place kicking as well as the main attraction of the rugby tournament, which attracted eight teams. Haig played on the Melrose team, which would go on to defeat local rivals Gala in the final, receiving a cup donated by the ladies of Melrose (now known as The Ladies Cup). The immediate success of the tournament meant that other clubs in the Borders region also set up their own Rugby Sevens competitions.
After Haig retired from competition, he continued to take an active part in the running of the club, serving for several seasons on the General and Match committee. He died in Melrose on 28th March 1939.
Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC (1861 – 1928)
British soldier and senior commander during World War I. He was commander of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of the Somme and the 3rd Battle of Ypres. His tenure as commander of the BEF made Haig one of the most controversial military commanders in British history.
Born in Edinburgh, the son of John Haig, who was head of the family’s successful Haig & Haig whisky distillery. Haig attended Clifton College and studied at Brasenose College, Oxford. Afterwards, Haig enrolled in the Royal Military College Sandhurst in 1884; he was commissioned into the 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars the following year and promoted to lieutenant shortly afterwards. He first saw overseas service in India, in 1887, where he was appointed as the regiment’s adjutant in 1888, giving Haig his first administrative experience. He was promoted to captain in 1891
Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914, Haig helped organise the British Expeditionary Force, commanded by Field Marshal John French. The BEF landed in France on 14 August and advanced into Belgium. Following defensive successes at Battle of Mons and Ypres (1st Battle of Ypres), Haig was promoted to full General and made second-in-command of the British forces in France under Sir John French. In December 1915, Haig replaced French as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF. He directed several British campaigns, including the British offensive at the Somme, in which the forces under his command sustained over 300,000 casualties taking little ground but inflicting casualties on the German army it could not afford. Haig’s tactics in these battles are still controversial, with many including the then Prime Minister Lloyd George, arguing that he incurred unnecessarily large casualties for little tactical gain. In 1917, Haig was made a field marshal.
After the war, Haig was created Earl Haig (with a subsidiary viscountcy and a subsidiary barony) and a grant of £100.95,000. He was commander-in-chief of home forces in Great Britain until his retirement in 1920. He devoted the rest of his life to the welfare of ex-servicemen, travelling throughout the British Empire to promote their interests. He was instrumental in setting up the Haig Fund for the financial assistance of ex-servicemen and the Haig Homes charity to ensure they were properly housed; both continue to provide help many years after they were created.
Haig died in 1928 at the age of 66. He remained an enormously popular public figure until his death, even amongst ex-servicemen, his state funeral was attended by over 100,000 people. He is buried at Dryburgh Abbey, in the Scottish borders.