In the early 1970s rugby had started a bit of a comeback at the university level in Nova Scotia, but senior rugby in Halifax was languishing. The Navy teams were on the decline and the Halifax Rugby Football Club represented the only team with a solid membership.
In 1974 Eric Kranz, a New Yorker who had become enthralled with the game of rugby quit HRFC and decided to start a new team in the city. He actively sought out players with high school or university rugby experience, and former football and soccer players.
With his peculiar Woody Allen sense of humour Eric named the new club the Halifax Hamsters. The Hamsters played few games during its first season – probably only two. However, the following season was more ambitions with the club playing a full schedule. The Hamsters also chose team colours and purchased team kit for the first time.
The Nova Scotia Rugby Football Union had mixed feelings about the Hamsters. They expressed concern over the fact that many of the club’s members did not seem to know the rules of the game and preferred tackling like football players. The Hamsters often found themselves playing a man or two short.
The Nova Scotia Rugby Football Union was also concerned because the Hamsters did not pay their league dues. The Club was suspended and other clubs were threatened by the Union with fines if they played any matches involving the Hamsters.
Eric retreated into the background and the Hamsters’ short lived existence came to an end. However, a meeting of former Hamsters held at the Lighthouse Tavern in early 1976 resulted in the birth of the Halifax Tars Rugby Football Club.
The new, more traditional, club name was the idea of new club president George McLellan. The Tar is a reference to the “Jolly Roving Tar” – a tar (or jack tar) being a sailor who, in olden Times, would often find himself covered in soot and tar after working on the sailing ships.
The rest, as they say, is history. Nearly 40 years later the Tars have enjoyed great successes on and off the rugby pitch. The Club has grown into the largest rugby club in Nova Scotia, boasting more than 100 members in 2013 and teams in both the senior men’s and women’s first and second divisions. Over the years, many Tars have represented the black and blue at provincial, national and international levels.
It was a historical moment when, in the summer of 2002, the Tars welcomed women into the club. The lady Tars enjoyed immediate success on the field by winning the provincial championship with a 43-0 trouncing of HRFC in just their second season in the league.
In 2004, the Club swept the men’s and women’s senior titles. The women (10-7) and men (40-27) both defeated HRFC in their respective Nova Scotia finals. It was the second provincial championship in a row for the women’s side and the first ever McCurdy Cup for the Tars.
As the women’s team grew, a second team was introduced in 2005. The Division 2 team won their first league championship in 2011, and won again in 2013. The Division 2 women’s side also won a “Tier C” championship in 2016.
From 2005-2015 the Division 1 team was very competitive and were Division 1 finalists for 10 of the 11 seasons. In 2016, the Division 1 team finally took home the championship trophy. As the league continued to improve and grow, the women lost the final to Charlottetown, PEI in 2017, and competed in the semi-finals in both 2018 and 2019. The women’s side continues to be competitive, and we are extremely proud to have two competing sides.
The Tars men’s side won its first Caledonia Cup, awarded to the senior Division 1 Maritime champion, in 2010 by capping off an undefeated season with a 20-16 victory over the Fredericton Loyalists. The men repeated the feat in 2012 with a 28-10 win over the Saint John Trojans. The men won a third Caledonia Cup in 2014 after defeating the Loyalists handily in the final, 66-10.
Off the field, the Tars have become a close-knit social organization unlike few others. Many have come and gone, while others remain. Some are near and some live far away, but the love and friendships endure. The Tars are more like a family than a rugby club. ONCE A TAR, ALWAYS A TAR