INSTANT REPLAY COVER STORY: Our 1927 soccer greats
Part 1 RECAP: North Van soccer players, Don Archibald (second from left in the first row of the photo on the cover) and Dick Williams, were selected to play for Canada on a lengthy tour of New Zealand in 1927. Archibald, the youngest player at 20, and Dick Williams, one of the oldest at 29, were born in Nova Scotia and Wales respectively but moved here as youths with their parents. Now, at the peak of the Roaring Twenties, they were about to embark not only on the trip of a lifetime but also on the most successful tour in the annals of Canadian soccer. (Read Part 1 in its entirety at northshoreoutlook.com/sports).
In selecting Don Archibald as the starting centre forward for the national touring team to New Zealand in 1927, Canadian soccer officials were taking a bold step indeed.
You see, Archibald was really still an unproven entity in top-class company.
Yes, he had been the goal-scoring star for North Van High, winners of the Vancouver & District championship in 1923 and 1924, plus the unofficial B.C. title-holders of 1924. And, yes, he continued his net-bending ways for North Van Excelsiors, the 1924 junior Mainland Cup victors, and with North Van Ex-High which topped the Vancouver senior men’s third division in 1925-26 and then did the same in the second division in 1926-27.
A meticulously kept scrapbook found at the North Van Archives belonging to Roy King, Ex-High goalkeeper who began his 31-year North Van teaching career in 1926, contains records for the ’26-27 season, proving Archibald was a first division talent in waiting. Archibald suited up for 30 of 33 games and tallied no less than 46 of the team’s 93 goals, a mind-boggling 49.5 percent. Fred Obee, Bert Russell and Art Stevenson followed, well back with 11, 10 and nine.
Nevertheless, the fact was, Archibald had not yet played in the first division, certainly a step up from anything he’d experienced on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, adding the veteran Dick Williams to the touring team as a utility player who could play on either the half or forward lines was acknowledged as a good move. One news clipping in Archibald’s scrapbook, also found at the Archives, even notes, “Williams was well recommended and it was pointed out in his favor that he possessed considerable experience as an ambulance man and might come in handy as an assistant manager or trainer.”
Arriving in Auckland on May 23, 1927, after a 19-day voyage on the RMS Niagara, the Canadians played the first two of their 23 matches versus New Zealand opposition in New Plymouth against Taranaki F.C. on May 25 in front of 4,000 fans and then against Wanganui F.C. in Wanganui three days later with 3,000 in attendance.
To say that Archibald was an instant success after reaching New Zealand would be an understatement as he blasted home four goals in each game as Canada won 10-1 and 7-0.
Following two more shutout victories on the North Island, 6-0 and 2-0 – the latter witnessed by Governor General Sir Charles Fergusson, Prime Minister Gordon Coates and 12,000 fans – the Canadians continued south, crossing to the South Island to meet Marlborough in Blenheim on June 3. It turned out to be the most one-sided game of the tour, 11-0, as Archibald again led with three goals and Williams potted his first. Williams also tallied in a 5-0 triumph over host Nelson in the next game.
Everywhere they went the Canadians were received like royalty, attending receptions before or after every game.
After Archibald was held off the scoresheet for three straight games, including a 1-0 loss to Westland F.C. in Greymouth on June 15 (one of only two Canadian defeats on the entire tour), he connected for three goals in a 6-0 victory over Canterbury on June 18 in Christchurch before a throng of 8,000.
Four days later Archibald got two in a 6-2 win over Otago F.C. in Dunedin, the fifth time he’d racked up multiple goals in a game.
With 11 games completed, it was now almost halfway through the tour and Archibald had scored 16 of the 49 goals that I could account for (among Canada’s total of 60) through scrapbook clippings and various newspaper sources. You could certainly now say his selection to the team was obviously the right move.
Four test matches with the New Zealand national team were still to come however. The first, with 10,000 looking on at Carisbrook Ground in Dunedin on June 25, ended in a tie: New Zealand 2 and North Van… err, Canada 2. NZ led 1-0 at the half. The Auckland Evening Post explained what happened next. “Two minutes after resuming, Archibald got clean away, drew the goal-keeper well out, and beat him, but in trying to dribble through the open goal-mouth struck the upright. Anderson [NZ fullback] rushed in to defend and drove the ball unexplicably [sic] into the goal net.”
Later, with NZ ahead 2-1, “Archibald and Williams advanced together… the goalkeeper stopped the shot, but Williams secured again and brought the scores even.”
Archibald scored Canada’s first goal in a 2-1 test match victory in Invercargill on July 2. New Zealand took the third test 1-0 on July 9 in Wellington to even the series at one win, one loss and one tie apiece. Some 23,000 turned up on July 23 to see the final test match at Carlaw Park in Auckland, a 4-1 Canadian victory thanks in large part to two more Archibald goals.
Three first-half goals by Archibald in a 6-2 win over Auckland F.C. in the last of 23 games on July 30 – producing an overall record of 20 wins, two losses and one draw – gave the North Van lad a total of 34 of Canada’s 116 goals. Dave Turner was next with 16.
But our boy wasn’t finished. En route home, the team won games in the Fiji Islands, 2-1, and Honolulu, 9-0. Archibald scored six in the latter. Before dispersing to more mundane lives, the team defeated New Westminster Royals 6-2 on Aug. 27 at Con Jones (later Callister) Park. Of course Archibald scored another two.
Archibald later played for first division North Shore United, setting several goal-scoring records. A clerk with Dodwell and Co. steamship agents and later an accountant with Burrard Dry Dock and The Vancouver Sun, he married Maxine Glanville about 1938 and they lived in Vancouver until he died May 10, 1968, at just 61.
Williams married Margaret “Meta” Scott of North Van on Oct. 19, 1927. Unless they fell in love right after he returned from New Zealand, that must have been quite a difficult four months apart. After the wedding, they lived at 860 Grand Boulevard for 32 years. Williams, who gained another measure of fame as the pairs lawn bowling silver medallist with Sam Gardiner at the 1954 British Empire Games, continued working with Birks Jewellers until retiring in 1963. He died at 75 on Jan. 12, 1974.
The story of North Van’s two soccer stars of long ago was now over; but, thankfully, not forgotten.
This is episode 463 from Len Corben’s treasure chest of stories – the great events and the quirky – that bring to life the North Shore’s rich sports history.