To view the history of our club, by decade, use the links to your left.
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In 1961 the club first attempted to acquire its own grounds and in 1963 joined with four other clubs from Toronto (Irish Canadians, Toronto Wanderers, Toronto Nomads and Toronto Saracens) under the tutelage of the Ontario Rugby Union to purchase 20 acres of land at Victoria Square, north of the city for this purpose.
By 1965, the grounds and facilities were in use. In the years since, many improvements have been made and the complex ranks as one of the finest centres of rugby in North America. Fletcher's Fields, as it is now called, has been run by a number of Club Members including Mike McCreight, Tony Moscrop and John Mead who is the current president.
The next generation of Toronto Scots was more international in flavour. The club welcomed Ian Rugeroni and Charlie Drever from Uruguay, and Peter Bauman from South Africa. After the dazzling 1950s and early1960s, the boys had leaner times on the field and had difficulty consistently fielding two teams. This changed when Bob Downie joined the Club. Bob was an immigration officer who screened newly arrived immigrants.
When Bob broke his teeth, his teammates passed the hat and paid for a new set of choppers. Ian Rugeroni took over the reins of the club and he set up a membership campaign headed by Tom Smiley, recently transplanted from Australia. In gratitude, Bob steered many fine looking specimens from South Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to the Scottish. It was also thanks to Tom's organization that home-grown athletes came and, in only a few years, club membership at least tripled in size and there was competition for positions in three teams in league play.
In the late sixties and seventies, Toronto Scottish attracted outstanding athletes who enjoyed great success and many earned representative honours with Toronto, Ontario and Canada select sides: Tom Ross, Doug Crawford, Alan Geddis, Alan Douglas, Rod Eastwood, John Griffin, Martin Sullivan, Iain McKay, Ken Scott, George Semple, Richard Brightling, Cec Moody, Paul Emmett, Geoff Curry, Bill Fritz, Bill Holmes, Chris Scottford, Robert Jenkins, Ken McCarnan, Roger Swinburn, Robbie Thompson, Mike Williams, Peter Mason and Phil Dowd. [names in bold were capped for Canada]
It was in this era that Rugeroni lured Hal Rowan away from the Nomads, where he had distinguished himself as a player, to become coach of the Scottish. Under his direction, the First XV was League Champions four times, Carling Cup winners, and Eastern Canada Club Champions twice, with the second triumph coming in 1978, our Silver Jubilee year.
It was also during these heady times that Donald Sinclair was president for several years. Donald, Tony Cunningham and Ian Wright were in the Sentry Box - a well known bar in the Lord Simcoe Hotel - lamenting that there was not a good Burns Supper in Toronto and so was started the annual Burns Supper and set the standard for these events with the colossal success of the first big dinner at the Science Centre in 1972. It continues to this day on or about January 25 in the Great Hall at Hart House of the University of Toronto.
It takes luck as well as good management to develop a successful club and Toronto Scottish has had its share of both good and bad. When it came time to put up the initial payment for Fletcher's Fields, Charlie Drever and Ian Rugeroni convinced some South American friends who were local chefs to prepare an Assado Gaucho – a South American lamb barbeque – as a fund-raising event. Norm Donaldson arranged for a farmer's field to be available for the event; it was well publicized and everything looked like it would be a success – if the weather behaved.
On the day prior to the event, the weather was very wet and it threatened to wash out the whole thing. But the organizers trusted the weatherman who predicted a break in the storm for the following afternoon. As luck would have it, for a change, he was right. The Assado Gaucho was a smashing success, and with the money it made the Scottish paid their way into the heart of Ontario rugby.
Weather played another role in good fortune for the club. In 1978, the First VX and supporters took the train to Montreal to play the Montreal Wanderers for the Eastern Canada Club Championship. The team's formidable challenge was to handle a tough, experienced pack and a very quick set of three-quarters who ran circles around their opponents all year. If the ball got out to their backs often enough, we were in big trouble.
On game day, a storm howled with a driving rain and temperatures barely above freezing. The Wanderers tried to call the game off, but Phil (One-Man-Crowd) Dowd insisted that 'real men' could tame the weather as well as the opposition and the referee allowed the titanic battle to begin.
Hal Rowan selected Stewy Taylor, still in high school and playing his first game for the First VX, as scrum half. He was instructed to not pass the ball out to the backs until he was told (or physical harm would result). Risk of hypothermia was real as the two packs slugged it out for most of the game until the Scottish won possession in a loose ruck from a lineout about 20 meters from the Wanderers' try line. Roger Swinburn told Stewy to let the ball out -- and a few successful passes later Michael McCreight went in for the score.
The game ended with Scottish up 4-0, proud and worthy champions once again.
Bad luck comes in many forms, the worst kind being when friends suddenly die. Geoff Curry, Scottish captain and centre for Ontario and Canada died in a car accident. Tom Ross – London Scottish, Toronto Scottish, Ontario and the XL's succumbed to cancer. Duncan Taylor, the man who brought the Burns Supper to Hart House and who was by far the best to address the Haggis, was lost at sea in the Indian Ocean. And most recently, Howie Hoag, Club stalwart and Burns organizer, lost to cancer as well. Their spirit of competitiveness, pursuit of excellence and contribution to the overall cause of the Scottish and rugby in general is the living legacy passed on to us by our absent friends.
Sometimes bad luck comes as the result of bad management. Toronto Scottish parlayed $1,500 in the bank into the purchase of two adjoining houses on Marlborough Avenue in 1969. Three years later they were sold leaving a profit of $30,000 in the club's coffers. In 1976, a property on Nelson Street (downtown in the theatre district) miraculously fell into our hands. The $500,000-plus location was a bargain – the ultimate dream, a downtown club headquarters.
But bad luck hit again when the old man who agreed to sell us the property died and his estate put pressure on the club to settle before we had completed all of the financial arrangements.
An oversight in the wording of a financial agreement cost us the whole thing. It can be argued that the club was in over its head in this project. So much effort went into the project that its ultimate failure took the wind out the Scottish. Eventually, the hangover from that sordid experience, the skid in morale, revised immigration restrictions that reversed the trend of the late 1960s and 1970s and the retirement of the old heroes, took its toll on the field and we dropped out of Senior League competition.