Rugby History in BC

January 01 2017

Historic Colonist Cup Rugby Trophy Found and 2017 is 30th Anniversary of 1st Women's International in North America

posted January 1st 2017
[ed. comments below]

Our first article of the year will start with the 2017 BCRN theme, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" which I'll ironically forget by February. Feel free to remind me during the year.

A couple of stories, a rugby trophy found in the dusty basement of a junior high, and the first women's international played in North America. I suppose you could say both stories have in common the rise of women in sports, that could be another theme this year.

The Colonist Cup

The Times Colonist newspaper in Victoria evolved from the British Colonist (1884) which later became the Daily Colonist. Perhaps as a means of promotion they created many Colonist Cups over the years. If you were to google the term Colonist Cup the soccer version would appear in recent results.

Inaugurated in 1934, the soccer version of the Colonist Cup is one of the later versions. Before that came many other Colonist Cups in Wrestling, Baseball, Basketball, Cycling, Tug of War, Shooting, Athletics, Gridiron football, they even had one for the annual Soap Box derby. Many of these were before 1934, the rugby version of the Colonist Cup came into being in 1925 awarded to the Victoria schools rugby champion.

From Daily Colonist Feb 8 1925 - "The handsome silver cup pictured above is the gift of The Daily Colonist to the Victoria Public School Rugby League. It will be known as The Daily Colonist Cup and will be up for competition among the public schools each year. At present there are four teams, Oaklands, Boys' Central, South Park and George Jay, striving for city honors. Keen rivalry features each game and the teams are training hard to gain either the first or second place. The final game for the city championship will be played prior to the Victoria "All Blacks" match at the Willows on Wednesday, February 18th. The cup is now on view in the windows of Mitchell & Duncan, jewelers, Government and View streets"

It disappeared into the mists of time some time between 1925 and the present, just recently being found in the dusty basement of Central Junior High now known as Central Middle School. The Central Middle school site was the original public school site of 1853 but subsequently rebuilt in 1902 and later in 1952.

The Howard Russell Cup is now the trophy given to the Victoria school rugby champion. The following is taken from "The history of Oak Bay Senior High" -
HOWARD RUSSELL CUP – Ernest Howard Russell (1867-1926) was an outstanding Rugby player and professor of Mathematics at both Victoria College and U.B.C. Presented after his death for rugby competition between Oak Bay and Victoria High, the cup was originally for “junior” teams from the school as the Thompson Cup was for the “senior” or representative teams. It later replaced the Thompson Cup. Other Schools entered competition after the Greater Victoria School District was created. The Cup is awarded each year to the team winning the Greater Victoria Inter-High School Rugby League.

Originally the Howard Russell Cup was just a trophy between Oak Bay and Victoria High schools, it replaced the Colonist Cup at some point in history as the city rugby trophy. Was this intentional, was it because the Colonist Cup was misplaced? Perhaps some of our older readers can answer that question. Our initial research indicates this happened during or recently after the World War II years so a person would be closing in on 90 to be a high school student during that time period.

These are facts as we know them. The last published winner of the Colonist Cup rugby trophy was Oaklands in 1938. We can't find mention of the rugby Colonist Cup after that. The war, of course, went from 1939 to 1945. The photo below from April 10th, 1938.

Since the trophy ended up at Central and they were one of the four original teams contesting the cup we could speculate that Central won at least once during the war years, it wasn't published in the daily paper and then it got boxed before the new school was built in 1952 - but that's just a guess.

The Howard Russell Cup morphed from "feature rugby series of high school contests" in 1947 to "emblematic of the city championship" in 1950.

So what happened during the war years to the rugby Colonist Cup? If you have more information on the subject please pass it on to

I forgot to mention, it's been decided to re-purpose the cup to be the Girls high school rugby trophy now for Victoria. I bet they never would have guessed that back in 1925, what was that iconic advertising slogan from the 60's, "you've come a long way..."

Another FYI, 1925 was the year the New Zealand All Blacks played the Victoria representative side (they weren't called the Crimson Tide at the time) which is why the newspaper caption mentioned the "Victoria "All Blacks" match" and the inaugural Colonist Cup match was the curtain raiser. Pretty historic, eh? I hope the first girls team that wins in 2017 will be mindful of its history, we'll perhaps rerun the story then. The All Blacks won 68-4 in that match by the way.

Here's the trophy after it had been returned and restored to its original beauty by Heritage House Trophies, one of our sponsors.

First Women's International in North America

We're on a historical blitz on New Year's day. 1987 the first International women's match in North America was right here in BC, in Victoria at Royal Athletic Park. It'll be the 30th year anniversary in November, November 14th to be exact. It was Canada v USA, the Americans won that first one 22-3 but we've been getting our own back in recent years.

Some iconic names in that first roster, Stephanie White, Ruth Hellerud-Brown, Jenny Vincent and many others.

November this year would be a good time to revisit Royal Athletic Park for a historic women's match.

Pemberton Holmes
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