Tours 2010-2015

The Scottish flagIRVINE 2010

Irvine was the destination for the 14th tour. Following a few years of deliberation and design tweaking the 10 year tourist ties got their first outing. These ties are presented to tourists who have completed 10 tours. Recipients on Friday morning were Stevie Gilmore, Mark Lewis, Kris Eadie, Geoff Little and Barney McKevitt.

Irvine RFC were excellent hosts and a few representitives met the tourists on arrival at the hotel before giving a guided tour around the town.

Saturday was a perfect day for rugby and following a close contest the Blue Sox just about scraped a win. Court was convened following the usual speeches and exchanging of gifts. His Honour Roger Martin presided.

A special thanks to Neil Rogerson who put so much work into organising, entertaining and making a most memorable tour.

The tourists were; Andy Baird, Paul Cairns, Andy Cowan, Andy Craig, Tom Dawson, Kris Eadie, Marc Eadie, Elliott Fisher, Mark Fisher, Andy Fulton, Stevie Gilmore, Stephen Jackson, Ally Lewis, Mark Lewis, Geoff Little, Stuart Marshall, Roger Martin, Barney McKevitt, Barry McKevitt, Michael McQuitty, Wayne Moran, Chris Nelmes, Francois Viljoen, Stuart Wickie and Richard Wilson.

Captain for the match was Chris Nelmes


Some of the guys relaxing on Friday evening.


Defence, Judge and Prosecution


Those about to be punished…….


Both teams


ITALY 2011The Italian flag

The Blue Sox XV tour squad arrived in Italy very early on Friday morning or was it still Thursday? Many thanks to Ryan Air for changing the flight from Bologne to Venice! Further news was then received that Saturday’s game was put back so a round robin tournament would be played on Sunday.

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The plus side was that it gave the squad an extra training session on the beach on Saturday.

The location for the tournament was Forli and the first opposition for the Blue Sox was Rugby Club Cesena. This was a tight affair but Bann were able to run out 15 – 0 winners in the end.

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Banns second game was against Rugby Club Forli. The tourists raced into a 10 – 0 lead and so it remained until half time. In the second half Forli threw everything at the Banbridge side and deservedly pulled a score back. The hot weather, the travel and perhaps one fitness session too many began to take its toll and Forli scored out wide to draw level at 10 – 10. This pushed Bann to dig deep and with the final move of the game a loose ball was chased down by prop Barney McKevitt. Unfortunately it was cleared by Forli and the ref blew for full time. A draw in this match was a fair reflection of the game.

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Following the usual exchange of gifts, ties and plaques, Stuart Marshall made his maiden Banbridge RFC speech as Blue Sox captain for the day. Stu of course now wears the ‘Cregagh Red Sox’ of Malone but is still on course to become a Blue Sox legend in time.

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Tourists were Andy Cowan, Kris Eadie, Stevie Gilmore, Stephen Jackson, Gareth Kelly, Stuart Marshall, Roger Martin, Barney McKevitt, Barry McKevitt, Wayne Moran, Chris Nelmes, Stevie Oldham, Stuart Wickie and Paul Cairns.

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Captain for the matches was Stuart Marshall

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LEEDS 2012The English flag

The Blue Sox XV travelled to Leeds, Yorkshire for their 16th consecutive tour. Before departure there was the small matter of inducting new members into the ten tour club. Austin Hewitson, George Scott, Brian Clinghan and Roger Martin all received their 10 tour tie and scroll. As well as players and alikadoos, the tour party included 3 ex presidents, the 2012-13 Senior Vice President and the 2012-13 Junior Vice President.

On to Leeds and after a night of relaxation the squad headed for Branhope, north of Leeds to The Sycamores, home of West Park Leeds RUFC.

West Park Leeds RUFC provided England International Danny Care with his first experience of rugby when he started in the clubs mini section at the age of 6. But perhaps their most well known club member is West Park’s U11 Assistant Coach, Stuart Lancaster, who spends his spare time coaching England.

West Park undertook significant development of their grounds in 2007 and now enjoy some of the best facilities in England. Their pitches and club house are a sight to behold and the members are quite rightly proud of them.

The weather was glorious which made the surroundings look even more superb. Before kick off both teams lined up for a minute’s silence in tribute to Ulster and Ireland player, Nevin Spence who was tragically killed in an accident on the family farm along with his father and brother during the week.

When the match kicked off the Blue Sox went on the attack and were soon 19 – 0 ahead. The match was played Barbarian style with very little kicking and was a highly entertaining encounter.

Unfortunately for the tourists, in the second half, Friday nights relaxation soon kicked in and the West Park Warriors were back in the game, the final result being 37 – 27 to the hosts.

A couple of Blue Sox records were also broken. Although each of them have been touring over the years this was the first occasion when the three McKevitts, Barney, brother Barry and cousin John all toured and played together.

Mark Fisher fulfilled his dream to play with both sons, Elliott and Jake and to top that he managed to get over the try line as well.

The usual after match formalities of presentations took place, the man of the match award going to rugby league convert, Ian Dalby who played out half.

Tour Court was opened with His Honour Chris Nelmes presiding. When all crimes had been suitably punished Court was adjourned until 2013.

West Park Leeds RUFC were excellent hosts and are most definitely a rugby club as they proved by viewing the tour Court and joining in the sing song afterwards. Not forgetting the efforts of West Park Leeds Ladies team of course.

Another club who would be made most welcome at Rifle Park should they ever choose to visit.

Captain for the match was Andy Kennedy.

Tourists were; Andy Kennedy, Roger Martin, Paul Cairns, Marc Eadie, Gareth Kelly, Willy Taylor, Andy Craig, Stuart Marshall, Noel Thompson, Michael Oliver, Stuart Wickie, George Scott, Stevie Oldham, Chris Nelmes, Barney McKevitt, John McKevitt, Barry McKevitt, Austin Hewitson, Mark Fisher, Elliott Fisher, Jake Fisher, Andy Fulton, Brian Clinghan, Richard Wilson, Andy Baird, Michael McQuitty, Alan Harvey and Alistair Campbell.





The Fisher clan L to R – Elliott, Mark and Jake


The Three new tourists – Willy, Alistair and Jake


Another club who would be made most welcome at Rifle Park should they ever choose to visit.




South Africa 2012


When Banbridge 1st XV travelled to Vancouver in August 2000, no one thought it would be so long before they embarked on another Club tour.


The idea for the latest excursion came at a post match night in the clubhouse. The following Tuesday night after training a meeting was called for all those interested, and deposits collected the next week, momentum gathered and before too long 38 people had eagerly signed up. South Africa and Cape Town in particular was chosen as the destination. This was still only January 2011 and August 2012 seemed a long way off.


A committee was quickly formed and the finer details ironed out. All tourists involved themselves with several fundraisers and thanks go to anyone who contributed to these in any way. The clubhouse was packed on quite a few occasions in the months before the tour.  A lot of the organising was done through the travel company selected, Burleigh Travel, who were outstanding in the service they provided.


With all in place, 28 players, 1 referee and 9 alickadoos departed from Banbridge RFC on 15th August 2012. After a bus to Dublin, on which the tour rules were explained, the party flew to Cape Town. On arrival, we met our driver, Roy. Roy was our driver for the rest of the trip and he proved a fantastic addition to the tour.

After indulging in some of the finest food Cape Town had to offer on Thursday, training at False Bay RFC, on Friday morning came as a bit of a shock to the system. After training the party made their way to Table Mountain on what was a cloudless day and perfect to take in such breathtaking views.


Saturday saw the team play their first fixture which ended in a 31-20 defeat by False Bay RFC. Banbridge had led 3 tries to 1 in this game and should have closed it out but the long journey, coupled with a few injuries saw the lead slip away. After the game, and with a good hunger worked up, everyone enjoyed some traditional South African Bobotie with rice.

Newlands Stadium was the next stop that afternoon to take in the international between South Africa and Argentina in the Rugby Championship. South Africa ran out deserved winners, but the noisy chorus of ‘Stand up for the Ulstermen’ when Ruan Pienaar entered the field, will live long in the memory. Banbridge had certainly made themselves heard and even attracted the attention of ‘Piper James’, as he promptly joined our song, Bagpipes at the ready, under the Stadium in Newlands was just like home. The atmosphere both in the ground and outside afterwards was fantastic and it was the wee small hours before the celebrations subsided.

Sunday morning and a very early morning training session was followed by lunch in Stellenbosch, and then onto 2 wine farm visits. Plenty of sampling allowed everyone to pick their favourites and get some valuable souvenirs.


On Monday the group made their way to Cape Point, which provided a stunning backdrop for many photos. After lunch the Penguins of Boulders Beach were the main target for any budding photographers, and a few boys even ventured into the sea for a dip, along with their new found feathered friends.

Two Oceans Aquarium in the centre of Cape Town proved another really worthwhile outing and was where most relaxed on Tuesday before the second game of the tour. A combined team of Pneil RFC and Kylemore ran out eventual 39-32 winners in a thrilling contest. Tries galore and with the opposition willingness to run the ball at what seemed like every opportunity, for any neutral it was a great game to watch. Banbridge presented their playing jerseys to their opposite numbers after the game and also presented 2 sets of youth jerseys to club officials. The hosts at Kylemore provided an excellent post match reception which was very well received and was followed by a great evenings’ camaraderie.

After some stern negotiating, bright and early on Wednesday, 22 brave members of the group travelled to Gansbaai to take part in some Shark Diving. This took place at the world famous ‘Shark Alley’. At least 10 different Great White Sharks, up to 4 metres long, made an appearance on the day to give everyone who climbed into that cage, an unforgettable experience. Thankfully everyone returned safely with all fingers and toes still intact. The rest of the group that day had taken a trip to Camps Bay, enjoyed the weather and did a spot of swimming. (In shark free water).

Thursday morning gave the players a chance to relax and prepare for the final game of the tour. Everyone involved knew that all this tour was missing was a win. With a superb performance Banbridge overcame a useful Kraaifontein outfit with a 35-12 victory. Again, new friendships were made and a very enjoyable evening had by all.

Another early start on Friday morning saw everyone travel to the Aquila Game Reserve and take in a Safari. The African ‘Big 5’ were all checked off the list and another great experience had. Friday evening and the ‘Tour Court’ dealt severely with any troublesome tourists and punished them accordingly, before Saturday was spent relaxed and in preparation for the long journey home.

Tour Court Judge was Austin Hewitson


This tour, while primarily for Rugby Development, offered so much more, the whole experience proving very worthwhile. Many new friendships were made and new talents discovered both on and off the pitch.

From the very start the team spirit was excellent. It all began on that first meeting back all those months ago, and continued through the preparations bringing a great sense of togetherness to the group. Lets hope that this can be a factor in contributing to a successful season.

The memories and stories will continue for a long time to come.

Tour Captain was Simon McKinstry.

The Tour party was;

Simon McKinstry, Andy Duke, Robert Ervine, Jonathan Little, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Stephen Patterson, Andrew Craig, Andrew Morrison, Colin Bickerstaff, Stuart Cromie, James McCrum, Sam Boyd, Brian Hanna, Ryan Patterson, Jonathan McKim, Matthew Bird, Andrew Baird, Mark Wilson, Craig Mulholland, Jeff Dodds, Adam Ervine, Robin Thompson, Richard Finlay, Jonathan Pollock, James Andrews, Stephen Cowan, Jordan Weir, John Woods, John Porter, Andrew Kirkwood, Clark McAlister, David Chambers, Stephen Cross, Kevin McCartan, Raymond Thompson, Raymond McKinstry and Austin Hewitson.


CARDIFF 2013The Welsh flag

Banbridge Blue Sox XV, the touring side of Banbridge RFC have returned from Ynysybwl in the Welsh valleys, this being the 17th tour in succession.


The town of Ynysybwl lies in the beautiful little Clydach valley, nestling between the Rhondda Fach and Cynon valleys.


YNYS -Y-BWL obviously a Welsh name place consisting of 8 letters, but not one vowel.
Prior to departure Collie Broderick and Michael McQuitty received their 10 tour ties and then it was time for road.  Mark Fisher, a native of the Principality was given the honour of match captain and for the second year in a row got to play along side sons, Elliott and Jake.


Ynysybwl 2nd XV, also known as the ‘Yetties’ were the opposition.  Playing conditions were perfect.  The match was a close encounter played in true touring spirit but the youthful home side had the edge and ran out winners in the end.


Ynysybwl Rugby Club were excellent hosts and the usual post match festivities were held and I don’t think a touring team has left a club with such a guard of honour as Ynysybwl RFC gave the Blue Sox on departure.


Captain for the day was Mark ‘Big Fish’ Fisher.


Sunday saw the Blue Sox explore the Millennium in Cardiff and Mark Fisher got to fulfill his dream when he and Barney McKevitt delivered an impromptu hastily arranged press conference to the masses.





AYLESBURY 2014The English flag

The Blue Sox XV have just returned from their 18th consecutive tour, each one to a different location.


Friday morning began with the usual induction of the new tourists; John Mullan, John Woods and Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Mullan.


Stevie Oldham was awarded his 10 tour tie having first toured with the Blue Sox to the Netherlands back in 2001.


This year Aylesbury, the county town of Buckinghamshire was the destination.  The town name is of Old English origin and excavations in the past found an Iron Age Hill fort dating from the early 4th century BC.


In picture perfect conditions except for a very hard pitch, the game was played in typical tour fashion with the Blue Sox running out 43 – 19 victors.  


Timo Brown, a former Banbridge player now based in Aylesbury played against his former side but could not resist pulling on the Banbridge shirt one more time for the last 10 minutes.


Given the weather was so good, the tour court was held outdoors under the governance of His Honour Stuart Wickie.


Tour captain for the day was Francois Viljoen.

Andy Baird, Gareth Briggs, Collie Broderick, Paul Cairns,  Marc Eadie, Andy Fulton, Stevie Gilmore, Austin Hewitson OBE, Alistair Lewis, Mark Lewis, Stuart Marshall, Roger Martin, Roger McBride, Barney McKevitt, Michael McQuitty, John Mullan, Jonny Mullan, Chris Nelmes, Steven Oldham, Jerry Ramsey, John Robinson, George Scott, Will Taylor, Francois Viljoen, Markus Viljoen, Stuart Wickie and John Woods


The English flag

The Blue Sox XV travelled to Bristol on 18th September for their 19th consecutive tour.


Prior to departure there was the small matter of inducting new members into the ten tour club. Andy Fulton and Stuart Marshall received their 10 tour tie and scroll. As well as players and alikadoos, the tour party included 2 ex-presidents.image8image6

On to Bristol and after an afternoon and evening of relaxation under the guidance of local guide, Andy Baird the squad headed for North Bristol RFC on Saturday

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The weather was glorious which made the surroundings look even more superb.

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When the match kicked off the Blue Sox went on the attack and were soon narrowly ahead. The match was played Barbarian style with very little kicking and was a highly entertaining encounter.

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Unfortunately for the tourists, in the second half, Friday night’s relaxation soon kicked in and North Bristol were back in the game, edging a very close game.

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Tour Court was opened with His Honour Stuart Marshall presiding. When all crimes had been suitably punished Court was adjourned until 2016.

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North Bristol RFC were excellent hosts and are most definitely a rugby club as they proved by joining the tour Court and joining in the sing song afterwards.


Another club who would be made most welcome at Rifle Park should they ever choose to visit.

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Tourists to Bristol 2015 were;

Andy Armstrong, Andy Baird, Gareth Briggs, Timo Brown, Paul Cairns,  Andy Craig, Sam Curran, Tom Dawson, Andy Fulton, Leslie Graham, Austin Hewitson, Stephen Jackson, Stuart Marshall, Roger Martin, Roger McBride, Barney McKevitt, Neil McKinney, John Mullan, Jonny Mullan, Chris Nelmes, Jerry Ramsey, John Robinson, George Scott, Francois Viljoen, Markus Viljoen and John Woods