The Senators' history commences in the deep, foggy reaches of memory -- some 25 years ago, actually -- when a group of old geezers sitting in a pub were grumbling in their beers as to how the young upstarts in their 20s and 30s were ruining a perfectly good game by taking it so seriously.
Ah, the old fellows muttered, if only there was a league for us older, wiser, more moderate, mellow fellows. And lo and behold, with more sloshing of parched throats, the Ottawa Senators Rugby Club was formed. Informally, at least.
That, at any rate, was how Con "Himself" Sheehan remembered it some 15 years later. The late Con, who died in 1996 at the age of 79 and was buried in his Senators uniform with a Senators rugby ball tucked by his side, recalled that he and Bernie Gooding and Reg Boyle were present in the pub along with others, whose names deserted him. (See bottom of this page for a copy of the original minutes.)
Meanwhile, according to another founding Senator, Doug "Fang" Forteath, he and a group of elder clansmen from the Ottawa Scottish Rugby Club were having similar discussions that began shortly before that. People like Alistair MacGregor and Ken Pirie were part of those talks and Forteath thinks it was Pirie who came up with the idea of an Over-40s side composed of aging Scottish players. So they formed the Chieftains.
The Chieftains played their first and only game in New York City at Easter 1981 against the Gentlemen of New York at Randall Stadium. They lost 12-10, but having attracted 16 playing members to make the tour in a rickety school bus, they realized there was enough interest in Ottawa for a permanent Over-40s team. Among the players was Ed Mitchell, who is still playing.
The only problem was that there weren't enough old Scots around to form a full side. Instead, a meeting of about a dozen old rugby geezers in Ottawa was called for November 20, 1981 at Sheehan's home. The result was the birth of the Senators. Ken Pirie, the secretary, dutifully recorded the scene: "Harry Alderton came from Montreal to give us a talk on over-40s rugby and those who were not asleep found this to be most illuminating."
Sheehan was elected president, Forteath was captain, Peter Sloan was treasurer, Ken Pirie secretary, Ken Smith social director, and everyone else became a director. The minutes note: "The name of the club was then discussed and when Con Sheehan heard that he would be referred to in future as 'Senator Sheehan' the name 'THE OTTAWA SENATORS' was adopted." Purple and white eventually were adopted as club colours, but in the first year a checkerboard jersey was used. It was not much appreciated, so was replaced by the royal purple now in use.
Others listed in the official minutes of that first meeting included John Lawson, Bob Gardner, and Peter Green.
The Senators' first road game was auspicious: Only eight players showed up. It was in Toronto in 1982 against the XLs, Sheehan recalled later, "and before half-time, we had lost Al MacGregor through an injury. But the XLs loaned us eight players, including some of their better ones, and it was typical of what Over-40s rugby has become -- a fun thing that shouldn't get too serious." The outcome of the game was neither recorded nor remembered, though a good time apparently was had by all, except MacGregor.
As for the Chieftains' 1981 game in New York, it was remembered mostly for the uncomfortable bus ride and the boisterous time had by all. On the trip down, the group bought out a Montreal corner store's full supply of beer, and the return featured stops in Utica, or possibly Binghampton, in New York State, interspersed by a lively time in an Irish bar in the Big Apple and (oh yeah!) a rugby game.
Forteath remembers kicking all 10 points for the Senators, while the Gentlemen had a try and the rest of their points came from a conversion and/or penalties. That was Forteath's recollection. Ken Pirie's memory was different. "For the record, Fang [Forteath] is wrong. I scored a try, the first and only one for the Chieftains . . . The try was scored in the second half approximately eight to 10 metres to the right of the right goalpost. From approximately the same place, with the last kick of the game, Fang missed a penalty which would have won the game. After the usual pleasantries at the end of the game, I asked Fang to kick it again, so we had a re-enactment of the kick, which he, of course, converted.
"The next time we played the Gentlemen of New York, it was as the Senators. Some of us flew from Watertown to Newark. [Sam] McFall got in a fight at 4 a.m. outside a bar and lost a tooth or two. Rukkers [Ian Ruxton] was there and he and I played cricket in the hallway of some financier's flat, it was that big!"
The good times have continued to roll for the Senators, times that have included overseas tours and visits from European sides, as well as matches against regular and occasional opponents.
Here are a few items eked out of loosely kept club records currently in the possession of Jim Lohoar.
* 1985: The Senators team up with Montreal Irish for a match at the New York Athletic Club's Westchester grounds. Among the Colts this year were current Senators Paul Wheeler and Lindsay McKenna. This was also the first year of the club's annual dinner, held at the Rideau Club.
* 1986: The Senators participate in the Golden Oldies tournament in England, with a pre-tournament tour of Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. However, due to the limited number of Senators on the side, the tuque-topped club is called the Canadian Geezers and includes pickups from a number of our regular opponents.
* 1990: The club is officially incorporated on May 25, 1985. Ian Marrs is president, Al Horsting is secretary and David Spencer is treasurer. Joining them on the executive are Bill Erickson, Sam McFall, and Des Mahon.
Added Sep 17, 2008