Rugby football has been played in Alberta for more than 100 years – when Alberta was still a district of the Northwest Territories. In those days, there was no such thing as Canadian football – there was only rugby. In fact, the Grey Cup, first awarded in 1909, is inscribed “For the amateur rugby football championship of Canada” – though Canadian football is now neither amateur nor rugby.
Rugby, as we know it, perished in Edmonton at the time of the Great Depression. It was revived in the spring of 1953, when the Edmonton Rugby Football Club was formed by a group of British immigrants and friends. Edmonton’s H.M.C.S. Nonsuch was the venue where recently arrived “Brits” would meet and “bend their elbows.” Naturally, the decision to start a rugger team was not long in the making. Sam Wright was one of the leading organizers of the effort.
Edmonton Rugby Football Club – 1953
Back Row – unknown, Freddy Calderwood, Noel Dante, unknown, Stan Wilson, Sam Wright, J. Mitchell
Second row – Eddy Henrickson, Maurice Heston, Phil Anderson, P. Duncan, unknown
Front row – unknown, Mike Falby (Capt.), unknown
Most of their games were played against Calgary teams until 1958 when a group broke away and formed a second team. This team became known as the Tigers R.F.C. There now being two rugby clubs in Edmonton, it was decided to give the club a second name to avoid confusion. The name chosen was the Pirates after the famous Cornish team, the Penzance Pirates.