Development & Alumni Relations Office 



QUEEN’S RFC TO TOUR CANADA IN 2022  Collage of former Queen's rugby players (in black and white) including Jack Kyle and Trevor Ringland, and inset current students.

23 June 2021

After what has been a challenging year for everyone – on and off the field of sport – Queen’s Rugby Football Club (QUBRFC) has announced that (subject to COVID-19 guidance in relation to international travel) it is to embark on the trip of a lifetime next year for the University’s senior squad, a tour along the east coast of Canada.

The 2022 visit – scheduled for 2–13 August – will be the first time QUBRFC has undertaken a tour of this magnitude since 1980, when Queen’s sent a team to the west coast of Canada.

Davy Chambers, Rugby Development Officer at the University, says it will be ‘an unforgettable experience’ for all involved:

“The prospect of a tour to Canada – the first in over 40 years – has really ignited enthusiasm among the players, at a time when University sport has been restricted for the last 15 months. It really will be a wonderful experience – the trip of a lifetime – for the squad of 40+ players, one that I expect will live on in the annals of QUBRFC folklore for generations to come.” 

Reflecting on those who donned the famous Queen’s rugby jersey to tour North America as far back as the 1950s, he added: “I have no doubt much of that passion stems from the knowledge that they will be following in the footsteps of so many Queen’s, Ulster and Irish rugby giants.”

The 1980 QUBRFC tour included games in Vancouver and Calgary when the squad comprised Irish Internationals Trevor Ringland, David Irwin, Nigel Carr and Philip Matthews. Prior to that, Queen’s toured North America in 1953, when the line-up included Queen’s Hall of Famer Jack Kyle and fellow Irish internationals Robin Gregg, Robin Thompson, John Smith and Noel Henderson, to name but a few.

The 2022 tour will centre on the cities of Montreal in Québec and Toronto in the province of Ontario, and will include the highlights below:

  • 3 Matches for both the 1st and 2nd XV against club, regional and international opposition
  • Sightseeing and excursions taking in Niagara Falls, CN Tower and a Toronto Bluejays Baseball Game
  • A chance to experience life on campus at McGill University (Montreal) and the University of Toronto

Warmly anticipating the visit of the rugby tourists is Moira Loughran, Head of Northern Irish Connections, who said:

“What a wonderful series of games to look forward to in 2022, which will no doubt bring together so many Northern Irish diaspora living on the east coast of Canada.

“Queen’s has many graduates in North America and I know they’ll be looking forward to welcoming the University’s rugby squad and, indeed, to coming out to watch the matches. 

“If the University tours of the past are anything to go by, this visit will be a brilliant networking opportunity not just for the playing students, but for Queen’s alumni living in Québec and Ontario, those in Canada with connections to Northern Ireland and for anyone who loves a good game of rugby.”

Looking back – and forward

The 2022 tour will be the fourth major Queen’s rugby expedition to North America in 70 years and promises to impact on the current generation of players just as much as it did on their fellow alumni of bygone years.   

West Coast Tour – 1980

Recently appointed Special Envoy for Northern Ireland to the United States, Queen’s Law graduate Trevor Ringland (LLB 1982) – who made 31 competitive appearances for Ireland – reflects on the 1980 tour.

“We toured Canada in 1980 and arrived in Vancouver where we played a match before moving on to Vancouver Island where we played against the University of Victoria and a team in the Fraser Valley. We then travelled by train in an amazing trip through the Rockies to Calgary where we took on and beat the Calgary Irish.

“From there it was on to San Francisco to play against the Poppies and back to Calgary for a return game against Calgary Irish. We finally went back to Vancouver where we played the University of British Columbia. We lost to Fraser Valley and the Poppies.

“Overall, it was a very successful tour. Great fun in so many ways as well as fascinating places to visit, new friends made and of course excellent rugby. The singing of Ricky Stewart was particularly appreciated by the Canadians and the team included David Irwin, Nigel Carr, Philip Matthews, Brian McCall who unfortunately sustained an injury, the Moles Brothers and Philip Rainey. Memories for a lifetime!”

Canada Tour – 1972

The memories of the 1972 tour are captured by Harry Steele, BAgr 1973, who played lock for Ireland 10 times.

“Dick Milliken – he played for the British Lions; for Ireland there was Colin Grimshaw and myself, for Ulster there was Trevor Wright and then there was another 10 players that got Ulster trials. So in that squad there were 14 players that had Ulster trials or better, so it was quite a good team.

“We played seven games we won seven, we had 213 points scored and 42 against.

“The match I remember the most was against the University of British Columbia; they were the best team in Canada and I think were unbeaten that year and had just come back from a tour of Japan.

“It was a great place to tour, the whole country is nice and it was great for us to see it. I was lucky enough to travel to New Zealand and Australia with Ireland but that Canadian tour meant a lot to me, it was great experience for me.”

North American Tour – 1953

When Harry and his teammates were in Canada, not surprisingly people they met were still talking about the Queen’s team that had toured almost twenty years earlier.

The legendary Cecil Pedlow, who also excelled at squash and tennis – who would go on to represent Ireland at rugby a total of 30 times and play for the Irish and British Lions – took part in the 1953 North American Tour.

An extract from the Cecil Pedlow chapter in Ciaran Donaghy’s book The Pride of Queen's, covering the tour (reproduced with permission) reads:

The highlight of Pedlow’s time at Queen’s was when the University embarked on its first rugby tour of North America in 1953.

As well as Pedlow, seven other Irish internationals – Robin Gregg, Noel Henderson, Jack Kyle, John Smith, Fuzzy Anderson, Robin Thompson and Adrian Kennedy – boarded the plane for the 10 game tour of Canada and the USA; the tour manager was Harry McKibbin a Lion in 1938.

As Jan Turner the scrum half on the tour explained, Queen’s was not meant to originally travel.

“Oxford were meant to go on the tour. Field Marshall Montgomery (who had signed Blair Mayne’s recommendation for the Victoria Cross) was in Canada and when somebody mentioned to him that they were going to ask Oxford University to tour, he said sure Queen’s beat them each year and then they said shall we ask Queen’s and that’s how it came about,” recalled Turner.

“The gates on the tour paid for the trip as quite a few people turned up to watch the games.”

One Queen’s player John Smith capped 12 times by Ireland at prop came home from the tour with more than the usual souvenirs. “We were going from Canada to the States, we played five matches in the Canada and five in the States, John met his wife on the train,” added Turner. "Despite John talking very fast their relationship survived that.”

Queen’s won all five games in Canada before heading to California to play another five matches which they also won.

As well as the rugby, the team did plenty of socialising. They sang at the Hollywood Bowl emulating the likes of Al Jolson, Judy Garland and Billie Holiday who all performed at the famous Los Angeles venue.

On a trip to Paramount Film Studios which produced movies such as ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Psycho’ the tourists met Jerry Lewis. Lewis, who joked with the Queen’s players, was proclaimed as a comedy genius for his roles in films such as ‘The Nutty Professor’ and for his on-screen chemistry with legendary crooner and Rat Pack member Dean Martin. 

Fundraising

In the coming weeks, QUBRFC will be announcing plans to fundraise to help offset some of the costs of the trip. Details will be announced on social media and the Club website.

If you would like to support the next generation of sport at Queen’s through one of our five Sporting Academies – including Rugby – visit the Queen’s Foundation website or contact Paddy Gilmore, Queen’s Development and Engagement Manager, Queen’s Sport.

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit graduate news items, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen's University Belfast or telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

Main photo details/credits - top (L-R): Nigel Carr (© Irish Rugby), Jack Kyle (© BBC),and David Irwin (© Ulster Rugby); bottom (L-R): Trevor Ringland, current QUBRFC players James Humphreys & David Whitten, and Noel Henderson (© QUBRFC)

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