Scotland to Canada: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1930 Victoria Sevens [Probably cancelled]
1930 Vancouver Rugby Union Sevens [Date mid April]
1931 Montreal Amateur Athletic Association Sevens [Date unknown, though before 24 September 1931]
1953 Spray Sevens, Vancouver [Date unknown]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

Victoria Sevens of 1930

The ‘History of the Melrose Sevens’ author Walter Allan states that Victoria had a Sevens tournament in 1930. I could not find any evidence of this; and contacted Doug Sturrock, the Canadian rugby union history expert, to see if this could be clarified. Doug stated: [his text is coloured orange throughout this post]

The sevens tournament planned for Victoria in 1930 may not have taken place because I had read many rugby articles in the Victoria Colonist in the pre- and post- 1930 period.

Vancouver Rugby Union Sevens of 1930

From Doug Sturrock:

I did find that in Vancouver the Vancouver Rugby Union had its first Sevens tournament in mid-April and held it every year about that time until 1938.

Montreal Sevens of 1931

We are on somewhat firmer ground with the Montreal Sevens of 1931, however we are no firmer on the date.

This evidence is due to W. Hastie Cochrane – a Galashiels man then resident in Canada – and his attempts to get rugby union Sevens into the Olympic Games of 1932. [See the post on Olympic try-outs.]

Cochrane’s Olympic attempts made it back to Scotland and were detailed in the Hawick Express newspaper of 24 September 1931.

The Express writes:

Mr. Cochrane’s idea was to get Sevens from Scotland, England, Ireland and France to compete at a tournament at the Games. He says that seven-a-side rugby was recently exploited with success by a athletic association at Montreal and that there is a chance of it being introduced in the States.

Spray Sevens

Doug Sturrock has this on the Spray Sevens:

Robert Spray, who emigrated from England to Vancouver after WWII, started the Spray Sevens in 1953. He was a referee who was the BC Rugby Union president from 1952-1958 and the first president of the revived Canadian Rugby Union (now Rugby Canada) from 1965-1972. The Spray Sevens is still being played.

The Walter Allan statement: ” … and in 1975 the Vancouver Club decided to host a Middlesex tournament.” is incorrect. It was the Spray Sevens. I played in it and we beat Bedford “B” in the first round before losing to UBC. Bedford “A” were the winners thanks to captain Budge Rogers.

Subsequently, other trophies were awarded to Sevens winners in Vancouver: Charlie Foster Shield and Nelles Stacy Shield for a 2nd division or consolation winners.

Doug Sturrock also very kindly supplied this list of Spray Sevens winners:-

1956 Kats
1957 Ex-Britannia
1958 Kats
1959 Vancouver Rowing Club
1960 Vancouver Rowing Club
1961 Meralomas
1962 Meralomas
1963 Vancouver Rowing Club
1964 Kats
1965 UBC
1966 UBC
1967 Georgians
1968 Georgians
1969 Georgians
1970 Georgians
1971 Trojans
1972 UBC
1973 Ex-Britannia
1974 UBC
1975 Bedford (England) OT over UBC Old Boys
1976 Georgians
1977 UBC Old Boys
1978
1979 Meralomas

Montreal Sevens

Montreal had another Sevens tournament in 1956.

Seven-a-side rugby in Quebec started in Montreal in 1956 when Toronto Scottish won it this year and for the next two.
In 1960 the winner was Town of Mount Royal. In 1963 it was at St. Chrysostome in May when Anti-Assassins B defeated Toronto Scottish, in 1966 it was St. Chrysostome in May when UBC Thunderbirds won, in 1968 it was at St. Chrysostome in May when Bective Rangers (Ireland) defeated Meralomas (Vancouver), in 1973 it was on May 19 and in 1978 it was in Montreal on May 20.
Other past winners included : Solihull (England), Toronto Scottish and Combined Services (England).

Other Sevens tournaments

A number of other Sevens tournaments sprang up in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The Ontario Sevens (1953) and Quebec Sevens (1955 or 1956) were very popular for many years. Halifax (Nova Scotia) had its first Sevens in 1970 and Calgary and Edmonton had their first Sevens in the early 1960s.

There was also the Westmount Sevens in 1959 and the St. Lawrence Sevens at St. Chrysostome on October 10, 1965 won by Montreal Barbarians II.
Sevens for schools started in Montreal (Quebec) and Oshawa (Ontario) in 1964.

After the 1970s, other Sevens tournaments began to be organised:- such as the very popular Bellingham Sevens [Washington, USA]; the Whistler Sevens; the Cowichan Sevens; the SFU Sevens; and the Burnaby Sevens.

As you can see, the majority of this post has been aided by the extremely valuable input from Doug Sturrock, the authority on the history of Canadian rugby union, who graciously also gave me permission to publish his research on this site in correspondence. I am indebted and very thankful for his help.

Doug Sturrock’s book: “It’s a Try! The History of Rugby in Canada.” is over a 1000 pages long and was published in 2017. You can order the book at https://www.rugbyhistorycanada.ca/