A GROUP of 80 students and teachers from South America were welcomed to Cumnock.

They were representing The Mackay School from Chile, founded in 1857, which is the oldest British origin school in South America.

It has strong ties with Scotland with one of the founders, proud Scot Peter Mackay, also becoming the school’s first headmaster.

The purpose of creating the school was to provide a suitable education for the children of the English, the American and especially for those of the Scottish craftsmen who worked in the railway workshops in Valparaíso during the midst of the 19th century.

As the school grew in number, an assistant teacher was required and another Scot, George Sutherland arrived in Valparaíso from the Moray House Training College in Edinburgh.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the annual tour of Europe which always starts in Scotland, in recognition of the school’s roots, which brought them to Cumnock.

Derek King, club development officer at Cumnock Juniors Community Enterprise (CJCE) was delighted to be able to make arrangements for the large travelling group.

Working in partnership with Cumnock Rugby Club and Cumnock Juniors Youth FC, two members of the Enterprise, an evening of Football and Rugby was arranged.

Football — Cumnock Juniors Under 17’s welcomed the football party to the Astro at Townhead Community Sports Hub where the Chileans were excellent visitors, mixing well and showing off their excellent English language skills as well as some silky football ones.

Torres, Buceta, Hernandez, Sanchez and the rest of their South American teammates as well as the young Scots made sure that everyone was enthralled with an action packed night.

They began with two small eight-a-side matches as a warm up to an 11-a-side one.

The 11s match was won 2-1 by the Mackay School who had their goalkeeper to thank for two breathtaking saves during the game, worthy of being shown on television.

Post-match hospitality followed in the Cumnock Juniors Social Club with new friendships forged and the visitors invited to return on next year’s tour.

Rugby — The team plays in the Valparaíso Area Schools competition which is quite a high standard. The match itself, held at Broomfield was a very close affair with Cumnock scoring late in the game to secure the win.

Coaching teams for both sides praised the players for what was a very tough, physical encounter that was played with the true spirit of rugby where no quarter was spared or given.

After the game, the teams retired to the clubhouse for some hot food and as is traditional an exchange of plaques and some souvenirs.

Cumnock Rugby Development Officer Harry Reilly thanked CJCE on behalf of the rugby club for including them in the hosting of the The Mackay School who are the first South American Rugby team to play at Cumnock Rugby.

This was a very challenging match for the club’s under-18 side and everyone was delighted with the spirit in which the game was played, with both sides giving their all.