70 Years Strong
Ten years ago the Markham Irish Canadian Rugby Club was formed with the amalgamation of the Irish Canadian Rugby Club (ICRC) and the Markham Rugby Football Club (MRFC). This merger created one of the largest rugby clubs in Ontario. However, our roots started way back in 1950. This year marks our 70th year of being a club. Come join me down memory lane and learn how it all started.
IRISH CANADIAN RUGBY CLUB
The Irish Canadian Rugby Club was conceived at Riverdale Park as a team in September 1950. The first annual meeting of the club took place in February 1951 and the first executive committee was elected.
The constitution wisely stated that “membership should be confined to Irish or Canadians or such others as may be acceptable to the Executive Committee”. The diversity of players that contributed to the club’s success in the following sixty years validated the wisdom of that initial decision.
The following decades saw huge successes in winning a record number of fourteen McCormick / Carling Cups and multiple Ontario League titles. The club routinely fielded three teams and occasionally managed to get a fourth team on the field. In its sixth decade, a women’s team was fielded and won the OWL League in 2008 and the OWL Cup in 2006, both within their first five years of existence.
Overseas tours to Ireland in 1970, 1980 and 1985 and a few to Bermuda provided lifelong memories for those lucky enough to travel. The same can be said for the annual Easter tours to exotic places such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, Geneva and Schenectady N.Y. and biennial trips to play Montreal Irish for the Inter-Cities Cup.
Numerous club players have represented Canada and Ontario and members have held roles as presidents of Rugby Canada, Rugby Ontario and as board members for both.
In the 1960s the club became a shareholder with Rugby Ontario and four other clubs when Fletcher’s Fields was purchased as a home field.
Bob Elder served as president of Rugby Canada and Bert Reid and Sandy Grant served as presidents of Rugby Ontario.
Markham Rugby Football Club - The Early Years
By Dave Harris
On February 6th,1980 a preliminary meeting was held at Markham High School to find out if there was sufficient interest to start a rugby team in Markham. As a result, an organizational meeting was scheduled at the Markham Vets Hall on Thursday 28 February and with 22 people present the Markham Rugby Football Club was formally founded and an Executive elected, with David Harris as the President and Kevin Jones as Club Captain. Other members of that first executive were Mike Clare, Roger Veale, Barrie Watts and Roy Vernon.
Club playing dues were set at a modest $15, as there was no intention of entering the TRU league that year, and practices were arranged to take place behind the high school. The first game was on 27 April against Stouffville RFC, with Brian Chatland as a referee, Markham winning by 21 to 0. The team went on to play a total of 14 exhibition games in 1980, winning 7 and scoring 207 points for 235 against. At the end of the season, we applied to enter the TRU 3rd Division in 1981.
1980 was the same year that the "Duchess" opened in town and before it was even completed the owner had been approached by us to use the pub as our social centre. His reply was that "every pub should have a rugby team" and for many years thereafter our social events at the "Duchess" were an important part of the club. We ended the year with our first AGM on 5 December at which a balance of $941.70 was reported, and it was generally agreed that we had a successful beginning for our new club.
Who was to guess then how we would grow and progress so much in the following 20 years?
2003 Markham merges with the Wild Boars RFC representing Police, Fire, Corrections, EMS, and Military rugby players in the GTA.
1990 Grey Hares formed (the over 35 team), this was also the year that the junior program was started.
1986 first women’s team was formed
1985 Markham RFC were Club Champions – the club that accumulated the most points for wins per team in a season when measured against the size of the club (thus allowing smaller clubs to compete against the larger ones) MRFC 80.25 points, 2nd Toronto Barbarians 75.56 points.
1982 first time the Club fielded a U18 team, first tour outside Canada (Cleveland, Ohio), first hosting of a tour from outside Canada (Caribs RFC, Trinidad)
AUSTIN DRIVE CLUBHOUSE
On Saturday, June 12th, 2004 Markham RFC celebrated the official opening of the current Austin Drive clubhouse. The honourable Mayor, Don Cousens along with Deputy Mayor, Frank Scarpitti; Regional Councilor, Jack Heath; Ward 4 Councilor, George McKelvey, among others attended the ceremonial opening. The beautiful clubhouse took four years of fundraising and negotiations followed by three years of construction almost entirely by volunteers. We gratefully acknowledge those who contributed financially, donated much-needed supplies and materials, and who volunteered their time and skills towards making our dream come true.
MARKHAM IRISH CANADIAN RUGBY CLUB
In 2010 the Irish Canadian Rugby Club (ICRC) amalgamated with the Markham Rugby Football Club (MRFC) to form one of the largest clubs in Ontario. This was driven by a desire by the ICRC to broaden its membership across age groups and MRFC to provide a pathway for its players to consistently compete at the highest level.
Since 2010 the senior men have won two McCormick Cups and the men’s 2nd team have captured the Gee Gage Cup. The senior women have played in the OWL, won multiple TRU cups and returned to the OWL. The U18 men have won an Ontario Championship. Junior girls’ teams have been formed and mini rugby has become a growth area.
Fletcher’s Fields continues to be the home field for senior teams and the field and clubhouse at Austin Drive is the home field for juniors and minis and a base for social events.
The club has numerous junior and senior players representing Ontario and Canada. MICRC runs Men’s 1stXV, 2ndXV, 3rdXV, Women's 1stXV, U18, U16 & U14 Boys and Girls teams, U12, U10 & U8 co-ed teams.
Three club members were President of Rugby Ontario; Sandy Grant, Bert Reid and Bob Elder, Bob Elder also served as President of Rugby Canada
Markham Irish Canadian Rugby Club Presidents
Sean McConnell (2010)
Pat Hodgins (2012)
Sean McConnell (2013)
Pat Hodgins (2014)
Pat Hodgins (2015)
Pat Hodgins (2016)
Gareth Callaway (2017)
Gareth Callaway (2018)
Gareth Callaway (2019)
Gareth Callaway (2020)
Irish Canadian Rugby Club Canadian Internationals