Nanaimo Rugby History

March 13 2018

Nanaimo District Rugby League Cup 1901-02

Nanaimo Trophy from 1901 Found in Calgary Collectibles Shop - Returned to Nanaimo Rugby Club: GLOBAL NEWS VIDEO

The story got some exposure during the Canada Sevens when Global News covered the return of the cup. The Global video is included below.

Eric Willis found the cup in a collectibles store in Calgary and got in touch with the Nanaimo Hornets Rugby Club who were eager to get it back.

There's some mystery around the original creation of the cup and when it disappeared from Nanaimo.

The photos show it was commissioned in the 1901-02 season and manufactured by the Meriden Brittania Company. Meriden was a company founded in 1852 and focused on producing wares in brittania metal. Brittania metal was a type of pewter alloy composed approximately 92% tin, 6% antimony, and 2% copper. It was often used as the base for silver plating. Meriden was bought by International Silver Company in 1898 but continued to produce under the Meriden Brittania brand. An interesting sidenote is the Oscar statuettes were, up to 2016, a brittania metal core with gold plating. Meriden opened a branch in Hamilton in 1879.

The photos also show that the first two winners of the cup were Brady's and Athletic Club then the engraving ended however a photo in the clubhouse shows the cup still awarded in 1910 and won by the Nanaimo Rovers. The cup had an ornamental lid in the 1910 photo, that hasn't been recovered.

Not much is known about Brady's as a team, company or entity in 1901-02, there was a Nanaimo Athletic Club in operation at that time but their main focus was athletics. Does it picture a time when rugby in Nanaimo was thriving with companies and athletic associations putting together rugby teams to compete for city wide or district wide rugby trophy?

The only in-depth local online resource for searching that time period is the British Colonist newspaper which focused on Victoria mostly. The Nanaimo Free Press which operated at that time is only on microfilm but a website showing the headlines is available. It shows 10 rugby headlines in the paper from 1874 to 1934.

1888 Aug. 25 - Nanaimo Rovers rugby team formed
1888 Oct. 6 - Nanaimo Rugby team, Rovers, in initial match draw with Victoria, at Capital City. Score one goal and one try each
1888 Nov. 15 - Nanaimo rugby team defeated Victoria, in return match at Beaven's ranch, by two goals and one try to nil
1889 March 9 - Mainland won first game for Greyhound Cup, donated by Mr. H. Cole, from Island in rugby match at Vancouver
1889 March 27 - Nanaimo Rovers beat Comox rugby team, playing in hollow off Albert St
1893 Jan. 14 - Nanaimo Hornet Rugby Club formed; J. Dixon, captain; J. Neen, vice-captain
1893 March 25 - Hornets won their first rugby match, defeating Vancouver
1895 March 2 - Nanaimo Hornets won B.C. rugby title
1896 March 11 - Dr. McKechnie donated cup to B.C. Rugby Union
1929 Feb. 6 - Charles "Sharkey" Drake, member of old Hornet rugby squad, passed away

Rugby has a long history in BC, a long history on Vancouver Island, there was an era when it dominated the sports headlines in the papers. Congrats to Nanaimo for collecting a bit of their history and bringing it home. This weekend they're hosting Castaway Wanderers another club with an interesting history, it's Nanaimo vs Victoria all over again, as it was over 100 years ago. Drop by the club to look at their memorabilia, I'm sure a few of their old boys will be happy to talk about rugby and their history.

from Global News

The World Rugby Sevens Series was a time for sports fans to dress in all manner of silly getup and cheer on their countries under the white dome of BC Place Stadium.

But for the Nanaimo Hornets Rubgy Club, it was a reunion with an old friend after a century apart.

In a jubilant ceremony outside the doors to the stadium, Eric Willis pulled the wrapping off a trophy emblazoned with the words, “Nanaimo League Rugby.”

It was a cup that belonged in the club’s trophy case.

Willis found the cup at a store known as Shoulder to Shoulder Collectibles in Calgary and bought it for $420.

“How is that here, who knows,” he said of finding the trophy.

He turned to Facebook for answers, posting photos of the cup on the page belonging to the Nanaimo Hornets.

It wasn’t clear when the trophy went missing from the club’s trophy case, but photos of the cup in the clubhouse dated back to 1910.

“If only this cup could talk,” said Hornets past president John Hanson.

“We have no idea where it’s been.”

Willis handed the cup over to club director Darren Wicks at BC Place Stadium.

The excitement of the Sevens could hardly compete with anything the Hornets were feeling.

Pemberton Holmes
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