Ulster Stadium: Home of the Red Handers

FInal3Ulster Stadium mapBehind the decaying Ulster Arms between Greenwood and Coxwell Avenues, lies a neat few streets. Blocky houses, called “four squares” and post-War bungalows line Hertle and Highfield, making this enclave unique. Most of the houses in the surrounding neighbourhood are 25 to 30 years older, having been built between 1912 and 1930. But that is not all that makes this tidy corner of the East End special.

Before 1925 this was a brickyard, the Morley-Ashbridge brick pit. When the brickmakers had used up the clay they left a rectangular crater in the ground – a muddy crater with a creek running through it. Ashbridges Creek crossed Gerrard in a ravine and through the brickyard, providing the water needed to make the bricks. Joseph Russell sold the property. An investor purchased it but instead of building houses, he built a stadium – Ulster Stadium, the home of “the Red Handers”, formally known as “the Ulster United Football Club”.

Area of Ulster Stadium 1947 Aerial Photo
Area of Ulster Stadium 1947 Aerial Photo
ulster_red_hand_map_postcard-rd624aa2ab3fe49b081f278338a9dd263_vgbaq_8byvr_324
The Red Hand of Ulster, representing Northern Ireland, and the emblem of the Ulster United Football Club, Toronto, worn on their jerseys.
TORONTO STAR, January 13, 1914
Toronto Star, Jan. 13, 1914
TORONTO STAR, 24 Jan 1914
Toronto Star, Jan. 24, 1914

On Friday, January 9, 1914,  a group of Irish Protestants, mostly members of the Orange Lodge, got together in the Occident Masonic Hall at Bathurst and Queen in Claretown to form a football club. The Ulster United began playing that season in the Toronto and District League and immediately won renown by winning the Third Division Champion in its maiden year. In 1915 it won the Second Division. In 1916 the Red Handers captured the championship of the Toronto Senior League.

Ulster United built their name by winning the Brigden Cup in 1916, 1917 and 1920. During that time, many Ulster men enlisted. Fiercely proud of their Irish Protestant Loyalist identity, Ulstermen formed a regiment that became known for its bravery in battle.

ulster-divisonThe neighbourhood had a strong connection to Northern Ireland, the Orange Order, and the 36th Ulster Division which distinguished itself at the Battle of the Somme in World War One. Many who had immigrated to Canada returned to enlist in the 36th Ulster Division and many others enlisted in Canadian regiments to fight overseas.

After the Great War, the Red Handers went on from success to success in football,  captured the championship of the Inter Cities League in 1921, 1922 and 1923.

19210402TW Ulster Soccer Club - Copy
Toronto World, April 2, 1921 Before 1925 the Club played at “Broadview Field” near Gerrard and Broadview  as well as other fields.

Ulster plan - Copy

In 1925 they won the first of what would become three national championships. Their home field was the new Ulster Stadium. Here they played daytime matches and night games under floodlights against visiting teams, including the famous Glasgow Rangers. Ulster Arms was their clubhouse and not a tavern as it later became. Visiting teams could stay in the clubhouse which became known for its good food and good cheer. The home team streamed onto the field from a door in the basement of the Ulster Arms.

ulster-arms
Photo taken about 1945
Stairs out of brickyard2 - Copy
Stairs out of brickyard, from Hertle to Athletic Avenue. Photo by Joanne Doucette.

The steep concrete stairway at the east end of Athletic Avenue was the main pedestrian entrance to the Ulster Stadium. Bleachers lined the western side of the football pitch, utilizing the steep walls of the abandoned brickyard.

1925 ulster_1925
Ulster United Football Club [The Red Handers], 1925
Who are the people in the picture?

These are my best guesses.

Inset McCullough, HaroldInset Johnston, R.A.Inset Varley, A. (Art)

Rear row a

Rear row b

Centre row a

Centre row b

Front row a

Front row b

19250718TS Chattering magpies Pullman Giants - Copy
Toronto Star, April 18, 1925

Racist comments like “those chattering magpies” referring to the Pullman Giants, an all-black team, were common. I think we’ve come a long way as a society since then, but not far enough by a long shot.

19250504TS Architect drawing Ulster Arms and Stadium - Copy
Toronto Star, May 4, 1925
19250518GL Opening - Copy
Globe, May 18, 1925
toronto-star-may-18-1925-copy.jpg
Toronto Star, May 18, 1925

British Consols Soccer Trophy, front. - May 20, 1925

British Consols Soccer Trophy, May 20, 1925

T.T.C. motor coaches, in Orange Celebration, (Motor Coach Department)

Toronto Star, July 13, 1925
Toronto Star, July 13, 1925
19250718GL Pullman Colored Giants at Ulster Stadium - Copy
Globe, July 18, 1925
Grant Home Run Johnson 1904 - Copy
Grant “Home Run” Johnson, 1904
Globe, July 18, 1925
Globe, July 18, 1925
Globe, Aug. 24, 1925
Globe, Aug. 24, 1925
Globe, Sept. 2, 1925
Globe, Sept. 2, 1925
Globe, Sept. 5, 1925
Globe, Sept. 5, 1925
Globe, Nov. 7, 1925
Globe, Nov. 7, 1925
19260407GL Enlarge Ulster Stadium - Copy
Globe, April 7, 1926
T.T.C. soccer team, City of Toronto Senior League, (Executive Department)
T.T.C. soccer team, City of Toronto Senior League, (Executive Department) at Ulster Stadium.

 

T.T.C. motor coaches, in Orange celebration, (Motor Coach Department)

Globe, May 18, 1926
Globe, May 18, 1926
Globe, May 27, 1926
Globe, May 27, 1926
Globe, May 31, 1926
Globe, May 31, 1926
Globe, July 5, 1926
Globe, July 5, 1926
Globe, Sept. 6, 1926
Globe, Sept. 6, 1926
Globe, Oct. 2, 1926
Globe, Oct. 2, 1926
Globe, May 21, 1927
Globe, May 21, 1927
Globe, June 11, 1927
Globe, June 11, 1927
Globe, June 11, 1927b
Globe, June 11, 1927
19270705TS Ulster Stadium Orange Athletic Club - Copy
Toronto Star, July 5, 1927
19270709TS Young Orange - Copy
Toronto Star, July 6, 1927, Ulster Stadium
Globe, Aug. 29, 1927
Globe, Aug. 29, 1927
Globe, July 2, 1927
Globe, July 2, 1927
Globe, April 5, 1928
Globe, April 5, 1928
Globe, April 28, 1928
Globe, April 28, 1928
Globe, May 4, 1928
Globe, May 4, 1928
Globe, May 4, 1928b
Globe, May 4, 1928
Globe, May 12, 1928
Globe, May 12, 1928
Globe, May 23, 1928
Globe, May 23, 1928
Globe, May 24, 1928
Globe, May 24, 1928
Globe, May 28, 1928
Globe, May 28, 1928
Globe, June 12, 1928
Globe, June 12, 1928
Globe, June 16, 1928
Globe, June 16, 1928
Globe, June 16, 1928b
Globe, June 16, 1928
Globe, June 29, 1928
Globe, June 29, 1928
Globe, June 30, 1928
Globe, June 30, 1928
19280704GL Dot Underwood - Copy
Globe, July 4, 1928
Globe, July 5, 1928
Globe, July 5, 1928
Globe, July 6, 1928a
Globe, July 6, 1928
Globe, July 6, 1928b
Globe, July 6, 1928
Globe, July 14, 1928
Globe, July 14, 1928
Globe, July 28, 1928
Globe, July 28, 1928
Globe, Aug. 7, 1928
Globe, Aug. 7, 1928
Globe, Aug. 10, 1928
Globe, Aug. 10, 1928
Globe, Aug. 15, 1928
Globe, Aug. 15, 1928
Globe, Aug. 29, 1928
Globe, Aug. 29, 1928
Globe, Sept. 3, 1928
Globe, Sept. 3, 1928
Globe, Sept. 4, 1928
Globe, Sept. 4, 1928
Globe, Sept. 5, 1928
Globe, Sept. 5, 1928
Globe, Sept. 26, 1928
Globe, Sept. 26, 1928
Globe, Sept. 17, 1928a
Globe, Sept. 17, 1928
Globe, Oct. 19, 1928
Globe, Oct. 19, 1928
Globe, Oct. 27, 1928
Globe, Oct. 27, 1928
Globe, Nov. 3, 1928
Globe, Nov. 3, 1928
Globe, Nov. 13, 1928
Globe, Nov. 13, 1928
Globe, Nov. 13, 1928b
Globe, Nov. 13, 1928
Globe, April 8, 1929

Globe, April 8, 1929

Globe, April 19, 1929
Globe, April 19, 1929
Globe, May 13, 1929
Globe, May 13, 1929
Globe, June 8, 1929
Globe, June 8, 1929
Globe, June 11, 1929
Globe, June 11, 1929
Globe, June 12, 1929
Globe, June 12, 1929

 

Orange Band8
Orange band, July 8, 1929, Ulster Stadium. Looking northwest towards Greenwood and Gerrard.
Orange bands, Eastern Lily Juvenile Band, girls. - July 8, 1929
Orange bands, Eastern Lily Juvenile Band, girls. – July 8, 1929, Ulster Stadium. Looking southeast towards the parking lot at the dead-end of Highfield Road.
Orange bands, bandmaster and youngest boy. - July 8, 1929
Orange bands, bandmaster and youngest boy. – July 8, 1929, Ulster Stadium
Globe, July 9, 1929
Globe, July 9, 1929

19290709TS Young Orange - Copy

Toronto Star, Aug 23, 1929
Toronto Star, Aug. 23, 1929

 

English rugby, scene. - May 3, 1930
English Rugby, May 3, 1930. Looking southeast and the backyards of houses on Woodfield Road.
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English Rugby, May 3, 1930. Looking southeast and the backyards of houses on Woodfield Road.
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English Rugby, May 3, 1930. Looking northeast and the backyards of houses on Woodfield Road.
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English Rugby, May 3, 1930. Looking northeast and the backyards of houses on Woodfield Road.
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English Rugby, May 3, 1930. Looking east and the backyards of houses on Woodfield Road.
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English rugby action. – May 3, 1930 Creator: Unknown. Ulster Stadium (north end).
English rugby, action. - May 3, 1930
English rugby, action. – May 3, 1930 Creator: Unknown. Ulster Stadium.
English rugby, scene. - May 3, 1930
English rugby, action. – May 3, 1930 Creator: Unknown. Ulster Stadium.
Toronto Star May 22 1930 - Copy
Toronto Star, May 22, 1930
FInal3
The Ulster United team that played the Glasgow Rangers on May 21, 1930 at Ulster Stadium

While its most well-known game was this one against Glasgow Rangers, Ulster faced other world-class teams such as Audax Italiano (Chile), Fortuna Dusseldorf, Kilmarnock, Liverpool, Manchester United and Sparta Prague. The members of the 1930/31 Ulster United included:

Adams, Alexander
Aiken, John
Anderson, James
Axe, Thomas
Bennett, Samuel
Best, David
Bolton, Edwin
Bowles, Ernest, J
Breadon, William. J
Brewer, Carl
Brown, George
Bruce, John
Brush, Paul
Bryan, Thomas, J.
Bundy, Kenneth
Bundy, Norman
Cairns, W.
Campbell, William
Churchill, Ernest
Clulow, Joe
Connor, WilliamCurley, S.
Currie, Peter
Davidson, William A.
Davies, John
Dinnie, William
Dougall, Neil
Douglas, Jno.
Duncan, Donald
Duncan, W.
Eadie, David Patterson
Elder, Samuel
Erasmusson, George Herbert
Farrimond, Harry
Fraser, Alexander
Galloway, James
Galloway, William
Gault, W.J.S.
Gibson, Harry H.
Gordon, Robert P.
Guldie, John
Graham, George
Greenwood, Jack
Grigor, George
Hagan, James
Hume, Robert
Jarvie, John,
Kelly, James
Kirk, Robert
Lake, James
Ledwell, Stanley
Loney, James
Lumsden, Jack
Magill, Joseph, John or James?
Manuel, P.E.
Martin, Dave
Mateer, John
Mathieson, Allan
McBride, Douglas L.
McClure, Andrew
McCrone, George
McCullough, Harold
McCusker, Thomas
McGraw, Peter
McNabney, Robert John
McNabney, Sam
McNally, Ed
McQueston, Harry
Meldrum, Norman
Moir, James N.
Morgan, Aubrey
Noble, Lester
Partridge, William
Paxton, John
Payne, Andrew
Porter, Edwin
Prior, Harold Ritchie
Quinn, William
Ramsey, James
Rankin (or Rankine) Walter
Redmond, Thomas
Roxborough, John
Seymour, J. Harold
Simpson, George
Simpson, James P
Sinclair, George
Singleton, George
Somers, W.
Spence, W.
State, Eric D.
Stewart, William
Sutton, Oliver
Taylor, Thomas
Torrance, Robert
Towner, Edgar
Turner, John
Wadlow, W. Stan
Watt, David
Williams. Walter
Wilson, Matthew
Wilson, W.

Ulster Stadium - Copy

Athletic Ave
From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930. Looking west on Athletic Avenue as the crowds of spectators walk towards the staircase leading to the ticket office.
Ticket office
From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930. Lining up at the ticket office at the foot of the stairways from Athletic Avenue.

Close ups of the Ulster United team, From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930.

Untitled-5

Untitled-4

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looking nw
Looking northwest towards Greenwood and Gerrard, past the grandstand. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Looking north to Gerrard
Looking north towards Gerrard Street, From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Looking East to Highfield
Looking east towards the backyards of the houses on Woodfield Road, at half time. The pipers are from the Toronto Scottish Regiment. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Spectators bleachers
The crowd “on the bleacher side”, east side where Highfield Road runs today, From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930

 

south goal
Looking south east towards the parking lot (left) behind the goal posts. Highfield was a short stub of a road that only led from Applegrove Ave. (now Dundas East) to the parking lot for the Stadium. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Looking south east Toronto Scottish half time
Looking south east towards the parking lot (left) behind the goal posts. The band of the Toronto Scottish Regiment. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Duke of Connaught
Looking south towards Applegrove Avenue (now Dundas East). The Duke of Connaught School and houses on Woodfield Road are in the background.  From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
South Dundas
Looking south west. Houses on Applegrove Ave. (Dundas East) are in the distance. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Highfield bleachers
Glasgow Rangers score. From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930
Toronto Star, April 24, 1931
Toronto Star, April 24, 1931
19310706TS Crowd Ulster Stadium - Copy
Toronto Star, July 6, 1931 The crowd in the grandstand at the Ulster Stadium
19310706TS Sons of Derry1
Toronto Star, July 6, 1931 Ulster Stadium

1932 ulster_united 2

Toronto Star, May 6, 1932
Toronto Star, May 6, 1932
Marshall W. H. Harper on horse in Orange Parade, Queen Street West, July 12, 1932, Alexandra Studio fonds
Marshall W. H. Harper on horse in Orange Parade, July 12, 1932
Toronto Star, Oct. 4, 1933
Toronto Star, Oct. 4, 1933

toronto-star-sept-19-1933-ulster-stadium-motorcycles.jpg

Toronto Star June 12 1935 - Copy
Toronto Star, June 12, 1935
19351017GL Two stalwarts - Copy
“Soldier’s Field” was another name for the Ulster Stadium, much less politically loaded than “Ulster” associated with the Orange Lodge. Globe, October 17, 1935
19391103GM Balmy Beach - Copy
Globe and Mail, November 3, 1939 The Ulster Stadium was the Balmy Beach Football Club’s home field.

 

19410825 TS Holland1b

19410825-ts-holland1-copy-e1507193175936.jpg

 

19410825 TS Holland2 - Copy

19410914GM Greyhounds Ulster Stadium
Globe and Mail, Sept. 14, 1941

19411124 TS Singleton - Copy

19420731GM In Ulster Stadium Show - Copy
Globe and Mail, July 31, 1942
Save the Ulster Stadium Toronto Star, May 10, 1944 - Copy
Save the Ulster Stadium, Toronto Star, May 10, 1944
19441114TS Ulster Stadium - Copy
Toronto Star, November 14, 1944

World War Two ended unemployment, but it made the housing crisis worse.  New houses filled the few remaining open spaces in The East End such as the grounds of the old Ulster Stadium south of Gerrard at the east end of Athletic Avenue. This was a well-known Toronto sporting stadium, where the local soccer club the Ulsters (known as “the Redhanders”) even played night games under floodlights against visiting teams such as the Glasgow Rangers. It was built in a former brickyard. Not far away, another The East End brickyard had hosted the site of the Motordrome, Canada’s first motorcycle raceway. It too became housing (Hiltz Avenue).  In the 1920s, Dunlop Field, south of Jones and Queen Street East, also became housing.

Sod for sale Toronto Star, May 1, 1945 - Copy
The final days of Ulster Stadium — even the grass was for sale. Toronto Star, May 1, 1945

19450706TS Orange parade in east end

Toronto Star, November 1, 1945
Toronto Star, November 1, 1945
Toronto Star, June 1, 1946
Toronto Star, June 1, 1946

19460605 GM Stockings Ulsters - Copy

Globe and Mail, July 13 1946
Globe and Mail, July 13, 1946
Globe and Mail, July 13 1946b
Globe and Mail, July 13, 1946
Globe and Mail, July 13 1946c
Globe and Mail, July 13, 1946
Managing Director Toronto Star, May 12, 1948 - Copy
Managing Director of Ulster United (Red Handers) Football Club and owner of the Ulster Stadium. Toronto Star, May 12, 1948
DSC00761 - Copy
Post World War Two housing, looking east on Hertle from the foot of the stairway, 2011. Photo by Joanne Doucette.
DSC00759 - Copy
Looking down the stairway from the eastern end of Athletic Avenue, 2011. Photo by Joanne Doucette.

19520102 TS Singleton obit - Copy

City of Toronto Interactive Map, Aerial 2016
City of Toronto Interactive Map, Aerial 2016

Published by Leslieville Historical Society

Welcome to the Leslieville Historical Society's website. Please feel free to join us, to ask questions, to attend walking tours and other events, and to celebrate Leslieville's past while creating our future. Guy Anderson, President, Leslieville Historical Society and Joanne Doucette, local historian and webmaster.

5 thoughts on “Ulster Stadium: Home of the Red Handers

  1. I have a penant that was given to me by a former member of the Ulster United. At least a relative of a member. It commemorates the May 1946 Liverpool FC visit to play Ulster United. I’d post a picture, but not sure how. Perhaps the page creators might be interested.

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