History of Druids RFC
History 1 of 5

1. History of Druids RFC

The Druids Rugby Club was founded at a rugby party in the fall of 1959, when Welshman Chris Battin stated that he could form a team of Welshmen that could beat any team in the province of Alberta. Quite a statement, for at that time it was very difficult to get anybody with any rugby experience, let alone fifteen Welshmen. Chris subsequently placed a brick in the International section of Millennia Stadium, Wales in recognition of the Camaraderie between the Druids and his father Tom Battin who was the clubs 1st trainer. A duplicate of the brick is now presented each year to the clubs female captain and the Camaraderie mug presented each year to the male club captain.
The club was given the name Druids by Brian Jones the club’s first captain. Brian went on to become the Edmonton Rugby Unions first President and author of its first constitution and bylaws in 1965.
The team’s original playing kit was a red jersey, white shorts and red socks with white trim.
The Druids crest, designed by Lynn Davies, is a Canadian Maple Leaf with a Welsh Dragon embedded in the centre. The crest symbolizes both the Canadian and Welsh cultures involved in the formation of the Druids Rugby Club.
In the early years, the Druids met with only limited success on a team basis, winning perhaps about half of their fixtures. The club has always met its commitment in traveling to Calgary for the inter-city league. Many times, however, the team would meet at the Park Hotel on a Saturday morning with less than ten players prepared to travel to Calgary, panic phone calls would be made to rustle up extra bodies. Then came the problem of transportation, many times there were only three cars road-worthy enough to stand the 400 mile round trip. During those days, we drove the old Highway 2 via Wetaskiwin and Ponoka stopping for lunch at the Peacock Inn in Red Deer.
In 1966, Rod Jacques joined the club and even though Rod broke his leg that year, his presence was to be a major factor in the success for the next few years. Full success came to the Druids in 1966 when they won both the Edmonton and Alberta titles. The 1966 Alberta final was played against the Calgary Saracens with the Druids defeating them by a score of 8-3 at the South Side Athletic Park (now known as Rollie Miles Park) in Edmonton. Brian Heffel, Gerry Halliday and John Franklin with Lynn Davies as captain, were members of that team
1966 and 1967 were boom years in talent for the Druids with people like Ken Goodall, John Franklin, Bill Spaul, Len Harvey, Gary Wilsmore, Bill Yeomans, Hec MacLean and Mike Booth joining the club. Also joining the club that year was Roger Cowper who was not only a valuable player, but also an outstanding executive ( Roger was awarded a Recreation Achievement Award in 1982 from the` City of Edmonton for his service to Rugby )
The Druids won both titles again in 1967 by defeating the Saracens in Calgary in a game that was played in gale force winds, the final score being 3-0. Pom scored the try. Roger Cowper, Gerry Halliday, Brian Heffel and John Franklin were members of that team.
Both titles were won for the third time in 1968 when the Druids beat the Calgary Rams at Kinsmen Park in Edmonton by a score of 14-6. Bill Yeomans scored two tries in that game and Mike Booth dropped a goal from inside his own half. Lynn Davies, Roger Cowper, Bob Fairbairn, John Franklin and Gerry Halliday were members of that team.
Druids 2nds also won the Provincial Championship that year over the Hornets by a score of 23-3. Don Melnick, John Popko and Bill Armstrong were members of that team.
During the late sixties the club established games against the strong clubs of British Columbia during the Edmonton Rugbyfest and their fall visits to the West Coast over the Thanksgiving weekend. In 1969 the Druids lost 8-6 in the mud of Connaught Park to the BC champion Meralomas and then established a strong relationship with the Capilanos RFC ( then North Shore All Blacks) of North Vancouver.
While 1969 proved to be an excellent year for the Druids, The Druids placed thirteen players on the senior men’s rep squad and eight players, Roger Cowper, Steve Hodgetts, Keith Asquith,Gary Wilsmore, Dr Brian Ivey, Hec MacLean, Mike Booth and John Parton, on the Alberta Rep team. In1969 the club also played against the Special Air Services (SAS) the legendary Army unit from Britain. The club ended the season losing 5-3 in Calgary to the U of C Stags in the Provincial final. Dave Schaeffer scored the try for the Druids (Yes a try was worth 3 points in those days)
In 1970 Druids 2nds lost to the Calgary Rams in the Provincial Championship and later in the 70’s won the first two years of the new 3rd Division Provincials.
In the early 70’s the Druids, in combination with the other senior clubs of the day (Pirates, Tigers, Leprechauns and Clansmen) purchased land and developed the Ellerslie Rugby Park. These clubs along with a special agreement with the U of A rugby club became joint owners. Subsequently the half share of the Golden Bears was assumed by the Edmonton Rugby Union. A special arrangement was made with the Norwesters when they were formed in 1974.
In 1973 Druids men played against the Anti Assassins RUFC from Northern England a touring side which included two Internationals and British Lions: Peter Stagg of Scotland (28 Caps) and John Spencer of England (14 Caps).
In 1974 the club continued their rugby experience with clubs from outside of North America starting with co-hosting of the Porthcawl RFC from Wales, a team which included three Welsh Internationals and British Lions Clive Williams, John Bevan and Clive Schell.
In 1977 the Druids went on their first UK tour playing games in South Wales and North East England. The feature of the tour was their success in seven a side rugby. Firstly in the Porthcawl 7’s beating the Castaways of Vancouver Island 18-4 and going on to participate in the `Northern 7’s`in Newcastle where they beat the 1976 ‘Players Cup’ holders Gosforth RFC plus Alnwyk RFC and trophy holders Luddites RFC before succumbing to injury and `tour fatigue` to the host Northern FC in the semi finals. That year Druids also won the Rams 7’s ( now Stampede 7’s) with an impressive win over the Calgary Irish who had beaten a BC squad with 4 Canadian rep players to advance to the final.
The interchange with Porthcawl RFC Wales opened us up to future matches in both Canada and Wales plus established the club practice of sending young players overseas to Porthcawl during their winter season to enhance their rugby experience. This practice continued until 1989 and has since been extended to other rugby clubs in Wales and England.
Traditional annual tours on the Druids fixture list included the Louis Riel Tournament in Saskatoon and a Thanksgiving West Coast tour to the Seattle-Victoria-Vancouver area.
In 1975 the club established its Druid Security group which has gone on to provide services to over 100 events a year from major concerts at Commonwealth Stadium and Rexall Place, Grey Cup , Canadian Music Awards, World Track & Field, World Figure Skating, Indy, Capital Ex and thousands of other events. Lately events at the River Cree Venue were included. Restrictions placed on Security by the Solicitor General in 2011 drastically reduced our security function.
1978 was to see its first clubhouse (Stonehenge 1) taking over an old house in a residential district just west of 124St. Future clubhouses were developed under a Credit Union off 82nd Ave in 1981 and the subsequent rental of Clarke stadium where the old Eskimos dressing room became the 3rd Druid Clubhouse.
The 80’s were to see the first temporary imports coming in to play for the club. In 1981 Gery Juleff and Mick Lynn came to Edmonton and were hosted by Roger Cowper in his house on 66Ave and 110 St Edmonton. The club did not assist financially but jobs were found for the lads. The following year the two Irish lads were to return with three other Irish players including Hugo McNeill who went on to play for Ireland and The British Lions.
The 80’s saw more outgoing tours for the Senior club with a hugely successful tour of Atlantic Canada in 1985 and a tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1989 both of which were organized by Eric Germain.
The 80’s also saw an expansion into Juniors and Old Boys winning provincial and city championships. It also saw the importing of a number of international coaches.
In the 1990’s the club ramped up its import program including the attracting of a huge number of overseas players which encouraged the governing rugby unions to put limits of the numbers of non resident players allowed per game.
The 90’s also saw the merger of the Edmonton Druids RFC with the Strathcona Outlaws RFC a move which saw the acquisition of a 1st class rugby facility of a clubhouse, changing rooms and four playing fields. The facility has been used for University Championships , Western Canada Games, a training facility for international teams including, Canada, USA, France and England and hundreds of High School and club games. The facility is also made available to numerous community groups including Dog Shows, Ultimate Frisbee, Aussie Rules Football etc.
The 90’s also saw the development of a women’s rugby program at both the Junior and Senior level, winning the 2nd division Provincial Championship in 1990 and 1996 and the 1st division Provincial Championships in 1997 and 1998 and under 18’s city championships in 1998.
The club continued to tour overseas with the Senior women touring Venezuela in 2000 and U18 women to England in 2001 and U19 Men to Scotland in 2001.In 2002 the club took a developmental tour to the Cayman Islands and subsequently took a team to participate in the Cayman Island 7’s.The club completed their 50th anniversary year with a under 20’s tour to Yorkshire , UK.
In the 2000’s the club won Provincial championships in Men’s 1sts (2005), 3rds (2004, 2008), Women’s 2nds (2005) and Juniors (2001, 2002, 2005 & 2007)
In July 2010 the club celebrated their 50th anniversary with four days of reunions including games for seven of their teams and a huge banquet where over 300 participants (including six of the original 1960’s team) attended, shared stories and presentations in a huge tent on their site. That night the park was named the Lynn Davies Rugby Park in appreciation of the work Lynn had done in the acquisition and maintenance of the park. Also three members (Brian Jones. Roger Cowper and Barry Giffin) were inducted into the Edmonton Rugby Union Hall of Fame to join Lynn Davies who was already a member of both Edmonton and Alberta Rugby Halls of Fame.