British Lions “Anglo-Welsh” Tour of 1908 Stops in Vancouver for One Match on September 26th After 26 Matches in NZ and Australia
[Editor’s comments below]
This morning Jason D Beck, the BC Sports Hall of Fame Curator, posted an interesting story to Twitter.
September 26th – On This Day in BC Sport History: 1908
Vancouver hosts the first visit to BC of an international rugby side as the Anglo-Welsh Fifteen (later known as the British Lions) defeat the BC Reps 61-5 at Stanley Park’s Brockton Oval before 2500 spectators who were enthralled by what the newspapers described as the best display of rugby ever seen in BC. BC scored its only try right off the opening kickoff when the large number of Welsh immigrants in the crowd began singing the Welsh hymn ‘Land of my Fathers.’ As the Welsh players stood distracted by the emotion of the moment, the local side went down the field and scored a converted try for five points. The Anglo-Welsh responded by scoring 61 unanswered points.
I went through the Victoria Daily Colonist papers for the three days around the event, the day of the event and 2 days after. I’ve posted the Victoria news reports below. I also consulted Doug Sturrock’s “The History of Rugby in Canada” for more information and the Wiki page on the British Lions tour for some context.
I should mention even though Vancouver took a thumping in this match, BC did get some measure of revenge when the Lions returned in 1959 and 1966. BC defeated the British Lions in 1966 8-3 and just lost by a narrow margin 16-11 in 1959, the Lions continued east afterwards in 1959 and defeated Eastern Canada 70-6 in Toronto. Don Burgess was a key figure in both of BC’s games against the British Lions in ’59 and ’66 putting points on the board from the boot. He would later go on to invent the Burgess kicking tee, which with sponsorship became the Tetley kicking tee.
The 1908 tour was called the Anglo-Welsh team as Scottish and Irish rugby unions refused to release players for the tour to NZ and Australia. After playing 17 games in NZ and 9 in Australia they stopped in Vancouver on their way back home for one match. Their record in NZ was 9-1-7 losing 2 of the 3 test matches and drawing the other. In Australia their record was 7-0-2 with no test matches played.
The attendance report for the match varied, 2500 seems to be the consensus, although one report had the number at 4000. The referee was Reverend Stanley Horsley, a former student at Loretto School in Edinburgh who went to Cambridge and played for the Cambridge University “Blue” from 1901-1903.
An interesting note in Sturrock’s book was that even though there was a good gate, the Brockton Point Athletic Association took a large cut and the Vancouver Rugby Union which had organized the match was left with a $100 deficit.
The Vancouver and Victoria papers were effusive with their praise for the visiting team, especially the play of the Welsh backline brought many plaudits.
The Vancouver roster was:
The Anglo-Welsh roster for this match is marked with a + in front of their name. The full list is taken from the Wiki article on the 1908 tour and then compared to Doug Sturrock’s list of the match.
John Dyke (Penarth)
+ E.J. ‘John’ Jackett (Falmouth/Leicester)
Frederick Ernest Chapman (Westoe)
+ Reggie Gibbs (Cardiff)
+ Johnnie Williams (Cardiff)
Rowland Griffiths (Newport)
+ Jack Jones (Pontypool)
+ James Phillips Jones (Guy’s Hospital)
Pat McEvedy (Guy’s Hospital)
Henry Vassall (Blackheath)
+ James “Maffer” Davey (Redruth)
Herbert Laxon (Cambridge University)
+ William Llewellyn Morgan (Cardiff)
+ G.L. Williams (Liverpool)
Herbert Archer (Guy’s Hospital)
+ Robert Dibble (Bridgwater)
+ Percy Down (Bristol)
+ Gerald Kyrke (Marlborough Nomads)
R.K. Green (Neath)
+ Edgar Morgan (Swansea)
+ L.S. Thomas (Penarth)
Arthur Harding (Cardiff) (captain)
Jack Williams (London Welsh)
+ Guy Reginald Hind (Guy’s Hospital)
F.S. Jackson (Leicester)
+ William Leonard Oldham (Coventry)
John Anthony Sydney Ritson (Northern)
Thomas William Smith (Leicester)
The newspaper reports below indicate they wanted to stop in Toronto, presumably for a match, on the way back but “no reply was received”. Rugby in the Toronto and Ontario region was well on its way into morphing into Canadian football and the rules were starting to diverge, that may have been a factor. You can read my articles on the 1902-03 Canadian tour to the UK for more information on that transition.
Newspaper reports from Victoria Daily Colonist
September 26 1908
September 27 1908
September 28 1908