History of IC Canada

The first meeting of Active Members of the International Lawn Tennis Club of Canada was held at the Albany Club in Toronto on Wednesday, August 11, 1965, at 12.30 p.m. Laird Watt, the first president of the Club, was unable to attend and Gilbert Nunns chaired the meeting. In addition to Gilbert those attending the meeting in person or by proxy were familiar names in Canadian tennis history: Peter Barnard, John Bassett, Bob Barnard, François Godbout, Bruce Harrison, Sydney Hermant, Jim Macken, Harry Marpole and Walter Martin. Don Fontana, captain of the Club, agreed to approach the I.C. of the USA for a match in 1966. There were discussions of a black tie dinner, a match against a touring team from England and plans to participate in I.C. matches in Holland.

The Canadian I.C. was up and operating. It had officially received “International Club” recognition just six weeks before, at the annual meeting of the Council of I.C.’s held each year during the fortnight of Wimbledon. It joined thirteen other nations with International Clubs, all existing with a common interest in the game of tennis.

According to Bruce Harrison, the idea for the creation of a Canadian International Club came from Bob Barnard, Peter’s father. Peter had been made a member of the I.C. of Great Britain in 1962. His experience with the I.C. Clubs in Europe led Bob Barnard, encouraged by Monty Ganger of Cleveland, who Bob had met in a Gordon Trophy match, to speak to Bruce Harrison about the formation of a Canadian I.C. Bruce then helped to spearhead the creation of the Club, for which he was later made a life- time Vice-President.

With Bruce’s encouragement the Club took life at a meeting in early 1965 at the home of Sydney Hermant. At the meeting Gilbert Nunns, Bruce Harrison, and Laird Watt worked with Sydney in starting the process of drafting a constitution and obtaining accreditation from the Council of I.C.’s. An executive was appointed with M.L. Watt as Honorary President, Walter Martin and Gilbert Nunns as Vice- Presidents, Don Fontana as Captain and Bruce Harrison as Secretary, Sydney Hermant as Treasurer and a Committee consisting of Peter Barnard, John Bassett, Bob Bedard, Francois Godbout, Paul Haynes, Jim Macken, Lorne Main, Harry Marpole and Bob Winters.

Since that time a lot of tennis has been played. On June 11 and 12, 1966 the first annual match against the United States International Club was played at the Donalda Club in Toronto. Canada won 14-4. A black tie dinner was held on the Saturday evening. At the dinner it was agreed that the match should become an annual event and John Proctor offered to donate a permanent trophy to be presented to the winners of the annual match.

The annual match with the USA Club has been the main regular event of the Club since that time, with matches alternating each year between the Donalda Club and various locations in the USA. The Piping Rock Club on Long Island, The Merion Cricket Club in Philadelphia, The West Side Tennis Club on Long Island. In 1971 the matches were divided in an open event competing for the Proctor Cup and a seniors event for the new Lawrence Baker Trophy. Women’s matches were included in the late 90’s and starting in the year 2000 teams will play for the Carole Graebner Trophy.

At the same time members of the Canadian I.C. in Western Canada were also holding matches against USA I.C. members from the Northwest United States, although these matches have been held on a less

frequent basis.

The U.S.A. matches have provided members of the Canadian I.C. with the opportunity to compete with some of America’s great players: Dick Savitt, Chuck McKinley, Gene Scott, Frank Froehling, Bill Talbert and Gardner Mulloy. And there were three teenagers, relatively unknown at the time: John McEnroe, Vitas Gerulaitis and Gene Mayer. The Howe brothers, Ralph and Sam, were regular participants in the early matches. Along with Chuck McKinley and Gene Scott they formed the core of the US team for many years, with much laughter at the match dinners.

While the matches against the I.C. of the USA have been the most prominent fixtures throughout the Club’s earlier years, the Canadian I.C. has also competed in an increasing number of matches with other countries. In 1973 the Club hosted a match against a Swedish International Club team, in 1975 a four man team competed in the Golden Jubilee Tournament to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the English I.C., in 1987 teams competed in the I.C. week in Sweden, in 1988 in Switzerland, in 1990 in
India and Japan. Teams toured the UK in 1990 when matches were played at the Queen’s Club in London, and again in 1996 with matches at four Clubs.

In 1992 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary, of the discovery of the Americas, a Canadian IC. team travelled to Mexico to compete for the Windmill Trophy and the new Columbus Trophy donated by the Mexicans.

In 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999, Canadian I.C. teams competed in IC weeks for the Windmill Trophy in Germany, France, Belgium and Great Britain.

The 1999 event was a special one, it coincided with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the IC movement. A record of 30 countries participated in what became the largest mixed team tennis event ever held in Great Britain, and on the immaculately kept lawns of the “All England Club” at Wimbledon.

Canada was represented by a strong men’s team which defeated France and Israel before losing to the US team. Our ladies’ team competed for the first time for the new Christiane Mercelis Trophy. A group of “Canuck supporters” supplied vocal and moral support for our teams and all enjoyed the hospitality of the host Club.

In January 2000 a team visited Mexico City in what what is hoped to be the first of a regular Canada- Mexico match to compliment our long-standing event with the USA.

Senior teams participated in the Columbus Trophy matches in Switzerland (1995), Belgium (1999), and a team will be travelling to South Africa in August 2000 to help the South African IC celebrate their 50th anniversary.

There is no doubt that tournaments for the Windmill, Christiane Mercelis, and Columbus Trophies represent the highlights of the I.C. Movement. On these occasions many of the now 34 International Clubs meet in team competition. In these tournaments old friendships across the net and across the nations are renewed, and new ones made.

Equally enjoyable are the I.C. Tours where teams of I.C. players tour other countries at the invitation of their I.C.’s, or host visiting teams.

In the 90’s Canada enjoyed the visit of teams from India, Great Britain, Belgium, and Australia/New Zealand, while participating in tours of India, Great Britain and Mexico.

This brief review of the Club’s history would not be complete without an expression of gratitude to the spirit behind the creation of the I.C. Club of Canada, the Late Bruce Harrison and those who have served on the Club’s executive, particularly its presidents: Laird Watt, Walter Martin, John Proctor, Jim Skelton, Frank Mott-Trille, Brian Flood and David Dimmer.