History of the A's


Athletics Host Visiting Irish Team

After repeated invitations from both Canada and the United States, the Irish Lacrosse Union sent a team to tour North America in August of 1886. John Sinclair of Belfast, one of the best players in Great Britain, and Hugh Kelly, Deputy Sheriff of County Down and another pioneer of the game in Ireland, put a team together and landed in New York in early August. Their first match came very next day against the "All America team." They traveled on to Montreal where they played the Shamrocks (the Irish team's only tour victory) and the Caughnawaga Indians, before moving on to play games in Ottawa, Brockville, Toronto, Richmond Hill, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

Reports suggest the visiting team encountered great hospitality throughout its tour (with one exception) and were able to cover all the expenses of the trip.



FRIDAY AUGUST 20, 1886   

On Wednesday the Irish lacrosse team visited St. Catharines to play with the Athletics. A large number went down from Thorold. The visitors were met at Port Dalhousie by a delegation from the Athletic club, the mayor and several aldermen, and escorted to St. Catharines, where carriages were waiting, and they were taken for a drive through to Thorold, visiting several of the different manufacturing industries on their way. They returned along the line of the new Welland canal, and were much surprised at this magnificent piece of work. After returning to the city and being driven through streets, they put up at the Welland house. About 3 o’clock they were driven to the lacrosse grounds, where over two thousand five hundred people had gathered to witness the match. The appearance of the Irishmen on the field was the signal for hearty cheers, which the visitors acknowledged. The different stores in the city had all agreed to close at noon, thus giving their employees an opportunity to attend the game. 

The starting of the game was somewhat delayed owing to two of the Irish team having missed the boat at Toronto in the morning, and having to come by rail. Arriving on the grounds about 3:30 p.m., the men were immediately called out on the field. W.K. McNaught, of Toronto, was appointed referee, and Mayor King and ex-Ald. McIntyre umpires, and the teams took their positions as follows: 

Irish gentlemen – M. McDonald, A. W. Childs, A. H. Dill, H. Seaver, J. L. Gibb, J. Nelson, W. A. Wheeler, D. J. Ross, J. McLeish, J. Blow, R. Montgomery and J. Sinclair. H. C. Kelly, field captain. 

Athletics – H. M. Rogers, A. W. Marquis, F. Williams, J. D. Chaplin, W. Yielding, A. H. Fralick, W. Kales, J. Downey, B. Fairfield, T. Young, J. Notman, and A. E. Collins. J. S. Carlisle, field captain. 

The Irish team, in many cases, made some fine catches and team play. The Athletics, however, proved too much for them, and won the game by five goals to one, the Irishmen taking the second game in ten minutes, and the Athletics the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth in seven, ten, thirteen, one and four minutes. The seventh game had been in progress about five minutes, when time was called. 

In the evening the mayor and city aldermen entertained the two teams at a banquet in the Welland house, which proved to be a very fine affair. About 125 sat down to supper, after which toasts, songs and speeches followed one another in rapid succession until a late hour. The Belfast men express themselves as well pleased with their reception.


AthleticsLacrosse.Com footnote: James Dew Chaplin of the 1886 St. Catharines Athletics would play ten years for the team before moving on to be the president of the Welland Vale Manufacturing Company as well as the M. P. for Lincoln Riding for 18 years (1917 to 1935). He was named the Minister of Trade and Commerce by the Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen in 1925 and also served as the Minister of Customs. He developed a reputation of dedicated service to his constituency and it was common knowledge that no appointment was necessary to meet him at the House.

When J. D. Chaplin passed away in 1937, the St. Catharines Standard wrote this of his lacrosse career:

"The fine spirit of fair play and good sportsmanship which he carried through life may, in part at least, have been gained on the sports fields of St. Catharines. He was one of the originals of the Athletics Lacrosse Club and always retained a keen interest in Canada's national game. When lacrosse players scorned pads and wore little more than the modern bathing suit, he for ten years carried a stick for the senior Athletics. As a home player he showed speed which cost the opposing team many goals.

Long after his playing days had gone, he was an ardent follower of St. Catharines lacrosse teams and it is said in sporting circles that there has never been a city club formed, from midget to senior, that has not received both moral and financial support from J. D. Chaplin."