Behind 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”.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
Who are the people in the picture?
These are my best guesses.
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.
Globe, May 18, 1925
British Consols Soccer Trophy, May 20, 1925
Globe, April 7, 1926
Globe, April 8, 1929
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.
Close ups of the Ulster United team, From With the Glasgow Rangers in Ontario, 1930.
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.
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.
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