The MacTier Cup
- Canada's Oldest Rugby Trophy
June 21, 2006
The Cup was thought to have been destroyed when a fire subsequently razed the Museum yet it somehow ended up back in the St. Francis Xavier showcase...
The MacTier Cup, donated in 1922 by A.D. MacTier, is one of the oldest rugby trophies in the Rugby Canada collection. The MacTier Cup has a rich history and has mad a grand reappearance as the championship trophy for the Rugby Canada Super League.
Doug Sturrock, Honourary Historian and Past Director of Rugby Canada has done some investigating on this prized possession and has divined the history of this one-of-a-kind piece.
In June, 1993, Director Rick Graham listed the trophies then in use by Rugby Canada. He suspected that the oldest of these, the MacTier Cup was of considerable worth but had limited knowledge of its past. Graham, who was granted the funds to restore the Cup, was asked to obtain an appraisal of its worth. When the restoration was completed in 1995 the trophy was valued at $32,000.
Though I had been collecting information about the Cup since the late 1960's, I had never seen it since Graham brought it to a Board meeting. Made of Sterling silver, it stood about two feet high, fit snugly into its carrying case but was without the original base that could be seen in a photograph of a previous winner.
A former Cape Breton player, Pat Macadam, revealed that the Cup had been 'kidnapped' and 'rescued' several times over the years. Donated in 1922 by Canadian Pacific Railway administrator and rugby follower A.D. MacTier, the Quebec and Maritime clubs who competed heatedly for it from 1922 to 1941 boasted proudly that the winner was the champion club of Eastern Canada. After all, the Cup the inscription reads: Challenge Cup presented by A.D. MacTier, Esq. for the English Rugby Championship of Eastern Canada.
The most frequent winner in these years, the Caledonia Club, was comprised of miners employed by the Glace Bay collieries. Visiting teams often complained to no avail about the cinders and stones studding Glace Bay's grassless South Street Park where Caledonia was virtually unbeatable.
The Cup was not played for during the Second World War years but after St. Francis Xavier University received McGill's challenge in 1949 they refused to return it for competition, even after the University folded its rugby program in 1953 in favor of football. Pat Macadam, a St. Francis Xavier student from 1952 to 1957, recalled that the Cup sat in a trophy case on the main floor of the Administration Building.
The Caledonia Club challenged St. Francis Xavier for the Cup in 1953 but as its university had no rugby team the challenge was ignored. Not to be deterred, three Glace Bay gentlemen, namely Donald MacInnes, Geno Scatalone and Alfie Kubic, drove the 130 miles to Antigonish, removed the trophy and returned to Glace Bay where they deposited it in the Miners' Museum. Maclimes, who had both played for and coached Caledonia, later served as a Member of Parliament for Cape Breton South and East Richmond, as a multi-term Mayor of Glace Bay and was the purported driver of the car. It seems that the MacTier Cup, much like the Maritime's McCurdy Cup, was treasured silverware.
The Cup was thought to have been destroyed when a fire subsequently razed the Museum yet it somehow ended up back in the St. Francis Xavier showcase where it was again liberated by enterprising University of New Brunswick students in the 1960's. Bill Thorpe wrote in 1966: "Three other chaps and myself rescued the MacTier Cup in the spring of 1963 near the beginning of a long weekend on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. We took the trophy out of the trophy case at the University -- the case proved rather strangely to be unlocked -- so we caused absolutely no damage to anything. The local paper put out a number of articles on the trophy which was rather well received." Apparently, when the Montreal Wanderers captain Ken Gordon heard about it he wanted the rivalry renewed and made contact with someone in New Brunswick. By then, the organizers of the annual Maritime Rugby Tournament already had plans for it and on Thanksgiving weekend, 1963, Saint John dismissed Fredericton 20-9 at Camp Gagetown.
The MacTier Cup was returned to inter-provincial competition in 1964 and in 2004 it became Rugby Canada Super League's ultimate prize. As it is one of the oldest rugby trophies in Canada, it deserves a pride of place in the Canadian rugby community.