Gordon Samuel Dales Wright, Q.C., M.L.A.
Sam, as he was always known in Alberta Rugby was born in England. During the war he was sent to live in Northern Ireland for some time. He entered Cambridge University where he studied philosophy and eventually became a lawyer and member of the English Bar.
He immigrated to Canada in approximately 1951 and gained employment with the Province of Alberta in the Attorney General’s Dept. At that time provincial liquor laws were extremely repressive, with no consumption of hard liquor allowed other than in one’s home, beer parlors were also segregated. However there was one area where provincial jurisdiction did not apply, namely Canadian military bases, here it was possible to drink in a “civilized” manner, – from the perspective of the transplanted “Brit”, of course! Sam was instrumental in the formation of the Edmonton R.F.C. (Pirates) and was the mainstay of Edmonton rugby for the first decade. Whereas everyone had great ideas and resolutions, when it came to actual organization and delivery, it fell to Sam to ensure that arrangements were made. He contributed particularly through his vision and legal work for the club and the formation of the Edmonton Rugby Union in 1961.
By 1964, the club had fallen on hard times. Most of the players who had been mainstays of the team for a number of years had moved on. It was left to Sam and about half a dozen stalwarts to try and hold the club together. The club struggled for some time and was again successful in 1967, but almost fell apart in 1968. In the early 1970’s, the club awarded Sam an Honorary Life Membership.
Sam later assisted in the background, but his legal career and political activities took precedence. He was finally successful politically in the late 1980’s, defeating the P.C. Cabinet Minister. One of the great highlights for the club was Sam playing for the Pirates just after his election to the Legislature, duly noted by a photo in the Edmonton Journal. Sam was an outstanding M.L.A., who gained the respect of all members of the Legislature. So much so that when it became known that his condition was terminal, the Government took the unprecedented step of naming him a Queen’s Counsel by unanimous consent of the Legislature.
At the dinner in his honor, held at Ellerslie Rugby Park in July 1990, some months before he died, Sam spoke of his love for the game of rugby. He said that he was never a “good” player but was always competitive. He used his height to its best advantage, and his legal training and Cambridge accent to hector and browbeat the referees into awarding dubious penalties to the Pirates. This was particularly galling to non-Pirates, as the Pirates at that time (1961/2) were unbeaten in 24 straight games.
In his late 50’s, he ran a 10 km race in the morning and played for the Pirates’ 3rd division in the afternoon. He was always available as a player until his final illness. Sam was an ethical gentleman, sportsman, lawyer and legislator whose standards all Pirates should honor and endeavor to emulate.
Fr. Connor Kennedy, B.A., B. Ed., M. Ed., C.S.S.P.
Connor Kennedy was born in Ireland. He grew up in Cork where his father was a bank manager. Connor learned his rugby at Rockwell College in Co. Tipperary and Blackrock College, Dublin ~ two of Ireland’s premier rugby schools.
There are many priests and clergy who have played rugby. However, the difference in Connor’s case is that he was and will always be the rugby player who became a priest. Connor was ordained into the Order of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Ireland, now known as Spiritans. In Canada, he first taught at Neil McNeil High School in Toronto where one of his pupils was the late John Candy of Second City fame. In 1965, he, Fr. Michael Troy and Fr. Colum Corrigan came to Edmonton to open Archbishop MacDonald High School.
Connor’s influence on Edmonton Rugby and the Pirates was immediate and still endures. Connor loved rugby and played with skill and passion, – a forward’s forward. Connor was a fabulous recruiter for the Pirates and promoter of the sport. Many distinguished and long serving Pirate members will attest to this. Connor never came across as a “Priest,” yet he won respect for the church by his down to earth manner, sense of fun and enthusiasm for life. At Connor’s going-away party, the late Sam Wright attested to this by saying that Connor had even brought him back to a state of belief, just by example.
Fundraising for what became Ellerslie Rugby Park was kick-started the year Connor’s associate Fr. Nick Nolan persuaded his friends “The Dubliners” to detour through Edmonton from Seattle for a concert at the Jubilee Auditorium in 1969. At the post-concert “bash,” at the Holy Ghost rectory, it was suggested that Rugby should bring “The Dubliners” back the next year. The Dubliners’ Concert at the Jubilee Auditorium in 1970 was the first fund raising effort for rugby’s own grounds and produced a profit of about $1,400.00. It should be remembered that the entire budget for the E.R.U. the previous year was $900.00! Then in 1971, the effort was repeated. Fr. Connor Kennedy was the first to suggest to the Pirates’ executive, that rugby players should consider Bingo as a fund-raising medium. Although, this suggestion was initially met with silence, bingos have since paved the way for the millions of dollars raised by Edmonton Rugby.
Connor embodied Celtic traits of character, such as passion, stubbornness and determination. As a priest and teacher, he was loved and respected by the students for his easy manner.
In 1980, Connor left Edmonton to become a missionary in Malawi, where he still resides. Connor has made a difference in the lives of all of us who have had the privilege to know him as a club member, priest, teacher and especially “friend.”
Con, as he is better known, was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. Through Con’s career, he has worked at a bank, in a machine shop, was part-owner of North Canadian White Truck Sales, and most recently, has been in the bar and restaurant business for more than 30 years.
Con joined the Club in 1969 and went on to win, at the age of 36, Rookie of the Year for that season. Right from the start of his career with the Pirates, Con exemplified a tremendous willingness to participate in all club activities both on and off the field. Over the years, he has served on the executive in virtually all positions and held various positions with the ERU as well. In addition, Con was an integral part of the team that developed Ellerslie Rugby Park.
His ‘piece de resistance’ is his catering ability from wonderful barbeques at some of the early Seven-a-Side Tournaments to feeding several hundred rugby players at the Kinsmen Field House duringRugbyfest. His latest triumphs have been hosting the Pirates/Winnipeg Wasp barbeque at his home for many years on the Monday of the Rugbyfest weekend.
With or without receiving an honorary life membership, Con will, no doubt, always be around to assist in any capacity needed, due to his commitment to the club. He truly is one of the Pirates’ crew.
Phyllis Chaloner, R.T., R.
Phyllis was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, moved to Edmonton when she was only seven, and now resides in St. Albert. She studied x-ray technology at the Edmonton General Hospital, and has been a loyal technician, working more than 30 years, for what is now known as Medical Imaging Consultants.
Phyllis joined the club in 1969 and has been around ever since. Phyllis always enjoyed the camaraderie of the club at any particular time and early on enjoyed helping out at social functions – like when the club sold beer for 50 cents and hot dogs for 25 cents at the Queen Alexandra Community Hall after games.
Over the years, Phyllis has been Club Secretary, Treasurer, Social Director and has been a bingo worker since the 1970’s. For several years, she also organized the Pirates’ Seven-a-Side Tournament and the annual banquet. She has been involved with ‘the land’ from the beginning, from helping to clear trees, bringing in the garage, painting the goal posts, insulating the clubhouse, etc., after all, Phyllis had done all these things at Ellerslie back in the 1970’s.
Although, Phyllis may be found bending her elbow at the St. Albert Rugby Club on Friday evenings, she always proudly sports her Pirates’ blue attire, her loyalty to the Pirates never wavering.
It is Phyllis’ unfailing devotion and her willingness to assist the club, no matter what shape or form, that makes her such a Pirates’ treasure.