Friday 19 May 2017

Don't Make Him (La)Cross(e)

This year, lacrosse is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the modern version of the game, though it existed much longer in its previous form. First Nations people were the first to play the game in what is now lower parts of Ontario and Quebec, and it became popular with European colonists in the mid-1800s. Until the 1930s, lacrosse was only played on large outdoor fields during the warmer months. Now, however, it is more commonly played indoors in unused hockey arenas, which allows for Canada’s official summer sport to also be played in the winter.

Seven lacrosse teams existed in Toronto in 1877, when the letter below was written. At the time, the Toronto Lacrosse Club (TLC) used the Jarvis Street lacrosse grounds for its games. Located on the northwest corner of Jarvis and Wellesley, the grounds are now Barbara Hall Park (formerly Cawthra Square Park, named after prominent Torontonian William Cawthra, the former owner of the property). The TLC played there from 1872 to 1890. The grounds were also used by the Toronto Baseball Club in 1885 before moving to its own stadium the following year.

In his letter, Chief Constable Frank C. Draper requested that Archbishop Lynch use a "quiet hint" to remind attendees (referring to, but not explicitly stating, the Irish) to behave themselves at the lacrosse game the next day because he did not want his officers to have to make any arrests. Though no team's fans are specifically identified in the letter, one can guess that the Chief Constable was likely talking about fans of the TLC -- that year's defending national champions!

Perhaps Draper's request was fueled by certain fans' previous bad behaviour, or perhaps the next day's game was going to be a special one. Regardless, he felt the need to write to the Archbishop about it, knowing that Lynch would be a strong influence over some of the thousands of people that would be in attendance. It is unknown if Lynch followed through with the request or if his words were heeded, but it is amusing to know that fans have always been rowdy and very passionate about their teams.

June 8th, 1877

My dear Lord Archbishop

I am informed that party feeling will run very high tomorrow at the Lacrosse grounds and I am sure you will join with me in desiring that no disturbance should take place.  I am sending a detachment of Police to the grounds, but I should like if it were possible that a sort of quiet hint were given from the Palace as to the conduct of those who intend to be present tomorrow.

I should regret, myself, very much, if the Police were called upon to make any arrests, and I always think that an ounce of precaution outweighs the pound of cure. 

I am
Your Lordships obed. servt.
Frank C. Draper, C.C.

L AH22.10
Archbishop Lynch fonds

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