Tricolour dynasty

An archival photograph of Frank “Pep” Leadley and Harry Batstone, in their Golden Gaels uniform.

Photo courtesy of Queen's University Archives

One hundred years ago, Queen’s reigned supreme in Canadian football, laying claim to the titles of Intercollegiate and Dominion champions for three consecutive seasons in 1922, 1923, and 1924. 

The dynasty began on a cold December day in 1922, when, having already secured the title of Intercollegiate champions by winning the Yates Cup, the university played host to the annual Grey Cup championship for the first and only time in its history at the original Richardson Field.  

Richardson Field, which had opened the previous fall, was an appropriate venue to mark the return of Queen’s to football prominence. In the immediate post-war period, the football team had failed to match the success enjoyed by the Tricolour prior to the First World War. But key infrastructure investments, such as the building of Richardson Stadium, and decisive modernization of the athletics department, dramatically changed the team’s fortunes in 1922.  

The opponents on that day were the Edmonton Elks, who, despite entering the game as underdogs, led 1–0 at the half. The second half was more to the liking of the capacity crowd, who were treated to 13 points by the home side and a first Grey Cup victory. 

While the 13–1 victory in 1922 launched a dynasty on the field, the players were equally accomplished off it. The team featured a group of linemen known as “the doctors” – future medicine graduates Art “Curly” Lewis, MD’26, John “Red” McKelvey, BA’23, MD’26, LLD’54, Charles “Chick” Mundell, BCOM’24, MD’30, and William “Bill” Muirhead, MD’26. 

The dominance continued in 1925 until a surprise eastern semifinal loss to the Ottawa Senators in dreadful conditions snapped the Tricolour’s 26-game unbeaten streak. It was the end of an era in more ways than one, as university and professional football diverged in Canada, securing Queen’s legacy as the last university team to win Canadian football’s ultimate prize.

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