The Edmonton Irish Sports and Social Society can trace its origins to a meeting on April 18th, 1958, when a group of newcomers formed the Edmonton Gaels. In February 1959 they adopted the title Irish Sports and Social Club, and soon saw the formation of the Shamrock Rovers soccer club. On November 28th, 1962 the club attained society status and thus became the Irish Sports and Social Society.
In 1972 the Irish were among the first eleven pavilions to participate in the Edmonton Heritage Days festival. They have been a high profile fixture at the event ever since.
The first Feis was held in 1972, and is now North America’s longest running Feis.
Some other important milestones in the clubs history are as follows.
- First Boxing Night dance was held at the Old Timer’s Cabin on December 26, 1959.
- The first annual picnic was held at the Southside Athletic Grounds on July 17, 1960.
- Irish dancing classes were first held in October 1960.
- A bowling league was organized on Sunday January 6, 1963, at Park Plaza.
- The first charter flight to Ireland took off on September 19, 1963.
- A curling league was formed in October 1964.
- The first Golf tournament was held at Broadmoor on June 27, 1965.
- The first New Years Eve dance was held at Club Embassy on December 31, 1965.
- The Tara dramatic group staged a play on May 14, 1966.
1986 was to prove to be the biggest years in the clubs history. A two-bay furniture refinishing shop was purchased, and after hundreds of hours of volunteer work by the members, on Grey Cup weekend 1987, the first pint of Guinness was pulled at the new clubhouse. Finally, the Irish in Edmonton had a place to call home. The Clubhouse, at 12546 126 St. was officially opened on March 17, 1988. In the years since, the club has become home to many activities and events throughout the year. The club is open Wednesday through Saturday, with live entertainment every Saturday evening.
Since the late ’80s, Gaelic games have been broadcast live from Ireland via satellite every weekend throughout the summer. A hearty Irish breakfast is served to all in attendance.
In 2007 the club hosted their first Rose of Tralee festival. The first ever Irish Week was also added to the calendar of events in 2007.
Recent guests at the club have included Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandell, Irish ambassador Declan Kelly, G.A.A. president Nicky Brennan, and Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.
The Edmonton Wolfe Tones Gaelic football teams also call the club home. The men’s and ladies teams compete in several tournaments each summer. Their opposition comes from Calgary, Vancouver, Red Deer and Fort McMurray. Their youth and enthusiasm bode well for the future health of the Irish club.
Irish dancing schools entertain regularly at the club. Two of the bigger schools are the Knock School and the Matterin Dancers.
Another group closely associated with the Irish Club is the recently-formed Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce Edmonton Chapter. The chamber hosts a very successful annual Saint Patrick’s Ball, and the proceeds go towards the ‘Wild Geese’ endowment fund. This newly-established fund will be used to provide support for students from the University of Alberta wishing to study in Ireland.