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Gryphon Gallery: Rugby at GNS (1932–1986)

Edward Wilkinson joined Ian Simpson as his Associate to open Glenlyon Preparatory School in September 1932. He was an experienced and gifted teacher from St. Michael’s School. Born in 1869, he earned a degree at Keble College, Oxford and a coveted “blue” for rugby. 

It was not until the second year of this new school, that total numbers were such (30) for ‘Wilkie’ to introduce rugby football to the boys. He taught them how to scrum and how to apply pressure on their opponents. The Glenlyon XV consisting of an understandably wide range of ages, won two matches against Monterey, largely due to the speed of one boy who was to leave at the end of that school year. With the clear differences of age, weight and speed and the great concern by Matron who had trouble dealing with the vast number of cuts and bruises from the stones on the pitch, rugby was put on hold.

It wasn’t until the Spring term of 1954, that rugby returned to the athletic program and it was one year later, before a series of home and away games against Shawnigan Lake, University School, Oak Bay Wanderers, J.B.A.A. and a trip to Vancouver to play St. George’s got underway. “This was all part of a concerted effort to resuscitate and develop a love for the grandest of all games among the younger generation,” said Major Simpson. By 1964 rugby was embedded in the programme for Grade 8 and 9 students (Glenlyon only went to Grade 9 at this time), and success through the ’60s led to GNS’s (Glenlyon) first overseas tour of any kind. With the addition of Murray MacAlpine and Mel Jones—two rugby enthusiasts new on staff, a successful tour to England, Wales and Scotland was organized. This included a visit to Glen Lyon. 

Glenlyon’s rugby program continued as a regular part of their athletics program through the 1970s up to 1986 (now including Grade 10 students). Three alumni from this era would turn selectors’ eyes at the national level. Paul Monaghan, graduating after Grade 10 in 1974, was GNS’s first rugby international, gaining international caps playing for Canada Sevens in Hong Kong in 1980, 1981, and 1982. In 1982 he was awarded a Canada XV full test place as a centre vs. Japan in Osaka, losing 24–18. Marius Felix, also graduating after Grade 10 in 1974, gained international honours firstly as a rower and then in rugby. On four occasions he played in full Tests as a  lock forward, from 1985-96, going with a 2–2 record. His first match was vs. Australia in Sydney, and his last match was vs. USA in Hamilton. Chris Whittaker left Glenlyon after Grade 7 in 1985, was selected for Canada U19, U21, and U23 sides and would go on to play professional rugby in Europe and play sixteen Full Tests as a Lock forward between 1993–1999. His first match was vs. USA in Winnipeg and his last match was also vs. USA in Markham.