Edinburgh scrum-half Charlie Shiel has taken a major step towards a unique place in rugby history by signing his first professional contract with the club.

The son of Graham Shiel, who played for Scotland 18 times between 1991 and 2000 and captained Edinburgh between 2000 and 2002, he is also the grandson of Dougie Morgan, who was a regular for Edinburgh in the District Championship of the 1970s and made 21 appearances at scrum-half for Scotland in the same period, captained his country and went on to be both head coach and manager of the national team, as well as representing the British & Irish Lions.

Close family connections have featured throughout the history of Scottish rugby, with around 50 pairs of brothers having represented the national team, a proliferation of brothers and sisters having done so more recently since the national women’s team was introduced in the 1990s and some 15 father-and-son combinations, while 1993 British & Irish Lions captain Gavin Hastings’ son Adam has recently appeared regularly for Glasgow Warriors.

There have meanwhile been two relatively recent instances of combinations where a generation was skipped, 2000 Calcutta Cup winning captain Andy Nicol’s grandfather George Ritchie having played for Scotland in the 1930s, while current Scotland women’s team head coach Shade Munro’s grand-father John Bannerman had a distinguished career during which he captained Scotland and played in the first ever Grand Slam winning team in 1925.

Yet, should Shiel go on to represent his country at senior level, his would be the first family to be represented by three successive generations.
Perhaps the closest to such a dynasty previously featured Dougie Morgan’s greatest rival of the 70s, since the most recent father-son combination to represent Scotland was Alan and Rory Lawson.

Rory’s grandfather and Alan’s father-in-law Bill McLaren is arguably the best-known figure in the history of the Scottish sport, known universally as ‘the voice of rugby’ as one of the greatest sport’s commentators of all time and had been considered a strong contender to become an international player before contracting tuberculosis while on military service.

Young Shiel has meanwhile already made an impressive impact in under-20 international rugby, scoring Scotland’s winning try at last year’s World Championships and he is eager to maintain the family tradition, saying: “That is the goal at the minute, just trying to take it step by step, but playing for Scotland will always be a dream of mine so hopefully it goes well.

“It’s really cool to follow in both my dad and grandad’s footsteps.”

Shiel senior has been perfectly placed to keep a watchful eye on his son’s development as a member of Scottish Rugby’s coaching staff and the 20-year-old, who has been playing club rugby for Currie, naturally reported that his new deal had met with parental approval.

“He was pretty happy. I think as a parent you always have that, ‘will they make it?’ so he was pretty pleased for me just to get a pro contract to be honest. It’s at Edinburgh so it’s even better.

“He comes to watch the Currie games and he was my coach for the whole time at school (Royal High). He’s had a lot to do with me, throughout my whole career and he’s been so good, especially when he’s still involved doing the academy stuff, so he’s still learning as much as I am at the same time. 

“We watch a lot of rugby together on the Saturday morning and the Friday nights. It’s good to just chat with him and get his thoughts, and after games as well, he’ll most likely be the first person I will speak to get his feedback as well.”

Shiel has, too, benefitted from his grandfather’s wisdom playing, as he does, in the same position.

“I manage to speak to him quite a bit and he comes and watches games quite often. Obviously the game has changed quite a bit since then, but I still manage to chat about how I’m getting on. He enjoys it. He’ll give me his tips and his little tricks up his sleeve. I still need to try a few out, but he’s good,” said Shiel.

To date his opportunities have been limited at a club with three high calibre senior scrum-halves in Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who is set to leave at the end of this season, his fellow international Nathan Fowles and Sean Kennedy, but he is relishing the opportunities that come his way to pick up what he can from working them.

“Especially when you are a young player and you are coming in especially in such a difficult position, well, not difficult, but it’s got a lot of stuff to it… so it has been really good, especially having boys like Sammy, Nathan and Sean all involved with the Scotland set up and Hodgey (Duncan Hodge) as a coach has a lot of experience with Scotland so you learn a lot,” said Shiel.

“As a young player learning off them, they make it easy, but a lot of it is down to yourself, just keep practicing, a lot more time with them to practice your skills, try and copy what they do and ask a lot of questions about how you go about things as well.”