THE year 1984 was a turning point in Ed McCann’s life, with a seismic change in home and career. Prior to that year, he was chief lecturer at Stranmillis Teachers Training College and lived in Belfast. Then he and wife Maggie emigrated to Canada and he entered a career in law.
His first port of call was the University of Calgary, Alberta, where he completed his law degree by 1986, and then he and Maggie moved to Victoria, British Columbia, where he was able to combine law with rugby. He knew people in the rugby community there, notably Tillman Briggs who had brought touring teams over to Northern Ireland to play King’s Scholars, the Stranmillis team, when Ed lectured there.
In Victoria, he became deeply involved in the rugby coaching scene and assisted Briggs with the James Bay Rugby Club, (founded 1886), and one of the best in Canada. Ed’s task was to coach the forwards - especially in scrumaging, and he worked on this aspect of the game with the national team.
He worked in the legal profession in Victoria for two years, but missed Calgary and returned there in 1989. “Calgary was, and is, a city of great energy, both in its people and literally, as it is the oil and gas centre of Canada,” said Ed. It is a city of approximately 1.2 million people and famed for the Calgary Stampede.” It is in the prairies, close to the foothills of the mighty Rockie Mountains.
Ed continued, “I joined the law firm of Soby Boyden in Calgary and became a partner two years later and am still with them. We are what is known as a boutique law firm, practising exclusively in the area of family law. My practice has a considerable focus on international family law, international child abduction and same-sex legal issue. It’s a fascinating field.”
He added that the legal profession in Canada was not “split” as in Northern Ireland - “we are barristers and solicitors, meaning that we do the work of both aspects in courts and at all levels.”
His rugby coaching continued and he helped the Calgary Irish Rugby Club win the Alberta Senior Championships five year in a row in the early 1990s.
Then in 2003, he went into the personal fitness arena, becoming a fully-qualified instructor with a qualification from the USA, working on a part-time basis in a local fitness suite, but packed it in two years ago due to time pressures.
He managed to combine all this with coaching girls’ rugby, “having been sort of dragooned into it because our daughter Claire (now 21 and in her third year at the University of Calgary finishing a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics) is hooked on the game”.
She took it up at the age of 16 while a student at Western Canada High School in Calgary, in a city where there are no fewer than 20 high school girls teams, and Claire persuaded dad to offer his services as a coach. He started in 2008 until last year (even after Claire had moved on to university) and they won the city championships three years in a row, and were runners-up in the fourth. Claire also took up the noble art of coaching, and along with a male scrum-half now coaches the college team.
Said Ed, “So far this season, the team has played three and won three - the season is just 10 weeks - and Claire has a great insight into the game. She is also a level-one rugby referee and I have every confidence the team will make the Division One City Final again. I am no longer involved, but I have to say I’m very proud of her and what we have achieved, sportingly and professionally, since we came to Canada.
“I am also proud that I got my grounding for education and rugby at Portadown College - those were wonderful days.”