A Brief History of Rugby in Peterborough

Rugby has a long history in Peterborough. In 1899, Ireland toured Canada and played a team from Peterborough. Interestingly, the game was played at Nicholl’s Oval, the same location that is the home of Peterborough Rugby today.

In the early 1900’s rugby in Canada gradually transitioned into the game now called Canadian Football. In the 1950’s though, driven by an influx of immigrants, the sport of rugby gradually re-emerged. It was generally called rugger to differentiate it from Canadian Football.

In 1956 a team, the Peterborough Rugby Union Football Club was formed. The team began play in 1957, primarily against teams in Toronto. In the succeeding years, the club continued to play in Toronto leagues, then in the new Mid Ontario Rugby Union (MORU) for smaller teams in the area. Later MORU was disbanded, and the club returned to the Toronto Union.
The focus for the club was to gradually to expand from its immigrant roots to develop a base of Canadian players and to get rugby into local schools. The inception of Trent University in the 1960’s with its rugby program also helped the club’s development. In 1970, the club formally adopted its current name, the Peterborough Pagans.

Dan Murphy (left) and Seamus Murphy (right) in Peterborough Pagans and Trent Rugby gear.

In 1980, a separate old timers’ club – the Krocks – was established for the noncompetitive over 35 crowd. They played an active schedule against other old timers’ teams.

In 1990, the Pagans and the Krocks joined together to form an umbrella organization, the Peterborough Rugby Union Football Club. The joint organization provided a more efficient organization to grow and manage rugby in the community.

In the late 1980’s the club began to expand – first a men’s 2nd team, then a junior boys team then a women’s team, then complete programs for junior girls and junior boys. Today, the club has programs for female and male from under 6, through every age group up to men and women, with 3 men’s and 2 women’s teams. The club is nearly divided equally between
female and male, with a brand new co-ed Mixed Ability team in 2023. It is among the largest clubs in the province.

The playing quality of the club has also grown. Both of our senior teams play in the top leagues in Ontario. The club has had numerous players represent the province. As well, four club players have gone on to play for Canada – Barbara Mervin, Brian McCarthy, Hannah Darling and Kal Sager.

In 2010, the City of Peterborough offered the club an opportunity to develop what they had long wanted – their own clubhouse. This was the Lawn Bowling Clubhouse, built in 1930, which would have to be moved to Nicholls’ Oval. In 2011, the club took ownership of the building and, in a Special General Meeting, approved proceeding with the project. An agreement was reached with the City of Peterborough for a donation, a loan and a 50 lease. Further funds were raised by a Trillium grant, support from club members and through club operations.

 peterborough lawnbowling building move timelapse from ian macdonald on Vimeo.

In spring 2011 the Clubhouse was moved to Nicholls’ in 3 parts. Construction started later in 2011. The construction was complicated, and costs went over budget, but construction was completed in 2013 and the Club received an occupancy permit for the Clubhouse. In 2023, after a difficult financial period, Peterborough Rugby had fully paid all Clubhouse loans.