July 26 1879 – Canterbury Rugby Football Union formed.
New Zealand’s first provincial rugby union was formed.
A match was due to be played in Timaru on Saturday, July 26, between North Canterbury and South Canterbury. Rugby in South Canterbury was then very strong due in the main to the stimulus provided by Englishmen who had settled in the area.
This seemed an ideal opportunity for club representatives to get together and consider their future.
So it was that, on the afternoon of July 26, 1879, in a paddock in North Street, Timaru, North Canterbury beat South Canterbury by a goal and a touchdown to nil.
And that same evening, in the Grosvenor Hotel in Timaru, the Canterbury Rugby Union was formed.
There were delegates present from the Christchurch, South Canterbury, Temuka, and Ashburton Clubs, and Monty Lewin was voted to the chair.
The first proposal before the meeting was to form a New Zealand Union, and invite other clubs in the colony to join. But this was dropped in view of the difficulty in communications. (In the event the New Zealand Union wasn’t established until 1892).
But the Canterbury Union was formed instead, with R. J. S. Harman as the first president, M. Lewin as the first secretary, A. St. G. Hammersley and F. Tavender as vice-presidents, and W. V. Militon as the treasurer.
The original clubs in the Union were Christchurch, Christ’s College, Temuka, North Canterbury, South Canterbury, Eastern, Ashburton, and Southbridge.
The South Canterbury clubs went on to form their own Union in 1888, while Ashburton also now operates independently as the Mid-Canterbury Union. Other areas like North Canterbury have become Sub-Unions.
“The Canterbury Rugby History 1879-1979” by Larry Saunders p.11.