We lost a true builder of the game last week with the passing of Freddie Miller, at the age of 89. Miller can certainly be classified as one of the true founders of the Ontario Rugby Union (ORU/Rugby Ontario) and his legacy shines through in many of the current rugby clubs in Ontario.
Rev. Freddie Miller was a true builder of the sport of rugby in Ontario in the early 1950's and a pillar of the Toronto Nomads organization. Miller was also recognized as a member of the Rugby Ontario Hall of Fame's inaugural induction class, in 1999.
The formation of the present ORU began in the fall of 1949, when Freddie Miller, his brother Bob, his step-father Norman Fawdry, and David Holland founded the Wanderers RUFC. The club played games against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, the McGill University Redmen, and Westmount RFC.
In 1950, the Wanderers were growing and it became evident that more clubs must be added to the ORU. The new clubs were named the Nomads and the Barbarians. The University of Toronto Varsity Blues also remained.
Later, George Jones founded the Brantford Harlequins Rugby Club. With the addition of a new club, this meant one more club would be added to round out the competitors to an even number. The Irish Canadian Rugby Football Club joined as the sixth club.
Freddie Miller ultimately had a hand in founding four of the five inaugural clubs in the ORU. Those four clubs still stand today as the Ajax Wanderers, Toronto Nomads, Aurora Barbarians, and Markham Irish. George Jones' Harlequins remain as a member of Rugby Ontario, as well. The Varsity Blues' rugby program also remains, playing in inter-collegiate competition.
Condensed from the late Brian Mathers history of the Irish Canadian Rugby Club:
After leasing a booth at the CNE in 1945 a group of determined rugby types generated enough interest that teams called Wanderers, Nomads, and Barbarians were formed on September 16, 1950. The following week at Riverdale Park it was seen that three teams could not play simultaneously. Various suggestions were bandied about until Fred Miller said: "There seems to be enough Irishmen to form a team." There were indeed seventeen Irish on the field, the Irish Club therefore was conceived at 2:30 PM on September 23, 1950.
Later, Miller also co-founded the Bytown Beavers (now Ottawa Beavers-Banshees) in 1951.
May 27 marks a special occasion, as the five clubs' men's programs will all be represented at Fletcher's Fields. The Fletcher's Fields Annual Luncheon to kickoff the season will be taking place, as well. This day will also mark a celebration of the life of Freddie Miller and his contribution to these clubs and rugby in Ontario, as a whole. The Founding Clubs will be recognized and toasted, and the group will celebrate what would have been Freddie's 90th birthday.
Spots are limited for the Fletcher's Luncheon. For more information on the luncheon and the celebration, please see the below flyer: