SAUNDERS, DYCE WILLCOCKS, lawyer, cricketer, and Anglican layperson; b. 22 March 1862 in Guelph, Upper Canada, son of Thomas Wilcocks Saunders, a lawyer and police magistrate, and Jemima C. Wilson; m. 12 Sept. 1889 Amy Julia Percival Bréhaut (d. 1927) in Westmount, Que., and they had three sons and three daughters; d. 12 June 1930 in London, England.
Dyce W. Saunders was educated at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont., where he played some of his earliest cricket. In 1879 he was captain and wicketkeeper for Trinity’s first eleven. Later that year he was admitted into the Law Society of Upper Canada as a student-at-law. Articled with Kingsmill, Cattanach, and Symons in Toronto, he joined this firm after he was called to the bar in Michaelmas term 1884. Saunders would remain with Kingsmill for his entire career, becoming a partner in 1891 and senior partner in 1913. He served as president of the County of York Law Association in 1906-7, was named kc in 1908, and was elected a bencher of the law society on 23 Nov. 1922. Despite such recognition, little is known of his legal work; in 1928 he was appointed to chair a board of arbitration over a wage dispute at the Toronto Transportation Commission.
As a law student, Saunders had lived with his sisters who ran a private school in Yorkville (Toronto). After coming to Toronto, he had continued his interest in cricket, as a wicketkeeper for both the Guelph Cricket Club and the Toronto Cricket Club, his sporting home for over 40 years. Cricket was a gentlemen’s sport, the preserve largely of a male elite who supported a code that eschewed professionalism. Contests between local clubs were social affairs; greater importance was attached to international contests, called test matches. Saunders’s first international appearance came in 1881 at age 19 against the United States; he went on to play in the annual international match versus the United States 12 times. Between 1885 and 1905 he represented Canada on 20 occasions against teams from America, Ireland, Scotland, and England. In 1887 he and fellow lawyer and TCC member George Goldwin Smith Lindsey assembled an all-star Canadian team for a tour of England, which they chronicled in a book written largely for insiders. The “gentlemen of Canada” had embarked “to learn upon the English cricket fields by the lesson of experience the best features of the good old game.” In doing so they hoped to “inaugurate a new era in Canadian Cricket.” Saunders, who participated in 17 of the team’s 19 matches between 30 June and 27 August (five wins, five loses, nine draws), finished with the second-highest batting average on the squad, 23.58 runs per inning. He would take part in another tour of England in 1922. The “new era” in cricket at home did not happen, however. The continued play of the game for elitist recreation and socialization meant that it would not become widely popular in Canada.
Saunders’s reputation was based on both his play as a wicketkeeper, a position of responsibility on the pitch, and his administrative work for cricket. On 28 March 1892 he was one of 34 delegates, all male and most based in Toronto, at the founding meeting there of the Canadian Cricket Association. From 1904 to 1908 he was its president. The association oversaw the J. Ross Robertson Cricket Cup, which recognized the winner of a national competition; in 1911 Saunders was the trustee of this trophy. At his death he was honorary vice-president of the TCC and the Toronto District Cricket Council. By this time, however, the game had declined in the limited popularity it enjoyed. Cricket and international competition were attracting little attention from the sports press as it followed games with broader consumer appeal, such as baseball and hockey, which were often dominated by professional teams.
Outside law and cricket, Saunders’s interests included Anglicanism and its educational offshoots. (A Conservative, he was never active politically.) Following his marriage to Amy Bréhaut in 1889, Saunders had settled on Lowther Avenue in Yorkville; for their entire married life they would live in exclusive neighbourhoods in north Toronto. By early 1891 the couple had joined the Anglo-Catholic congregation of St Thomas’s Church on Huron Street, where Dyce became a chorister, a representative to synod, and a warden. In this last capacity he was instrumental in 1908 in the construction of a parish hall and the purchase of an adjacent house for use as a rectory. In addition, the church acquired the former residence of Edward Blake*, Humewood, which was converted and opened in 1912 as a maternity home, with Saunders as a trustee. In St Thomas’s, a window was donated by the Saunderses in memory of their eldest son, Thomas Brehaut, a lieutenant in the Royal Highlanders of Canada who was killed in action at Sanctuary Wood in Belgium on 16 Oct. 1916. Saunders participated as well in the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada and was a member of the national committee of the Laymen’s Missionary Movement. From May 1927 until his death he was chancellor of the diocese of Toronto. In education, he was secretary of Bishop Bethune College in Oshawa and a member of the board of governors of Trinity College School (where he led a fund-raising campaign for a new building) and, in Toronto, of the council of Bishop Strachan School and the corporation of Trinity University.
Saunders was in London to argue a case before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and to take in a cricket match, when he died suddenly in June 1930. Following a service there at Grosvenor Chapel on South Audley Street, his remains were cremated; his modest estate was valued at $26,000. On his passing, noted sportswriter William Abraham Hewitt* called the former wicketkeeper the “dean of Canadian cricket.” The Toronto Daily Star recalled that “in the days when international cricket was played between Canada and the United States, an international team was said not to be complete without him.” Despite these accolades, obituaries in Toronto and Guelph newspapers drew more attention to Saunders’s legal career and diocesan contributions than to his lifelong involvement with cricket.
Dyce Willcocks Saunders is the co-author, with G. G. S. Lindsey, of Cricket across the sea, or, The wanderings and matches of the gentlemen of Canada, 1887, by two of the vagrants (Toronto, 1887), reproduced on microfiche by CIHM.
ANQ-M, CE601-S77, 12 sept. 1889. AO, RG 22-305, no.65064; RG 80-27-2, 79: 21. Law Soc. of Upper Canada Arch. (Toronto), 1-1 (Convocation, minutes), 18: 205-6; Ontario bar biog. research project database. Gazette (Montreal), 14 Sept. 1889. Globe, 14 June 1930. Guelph Weekly Mercury and Advertiser, 12, 19 Sept. 1889. Times (London), 14, 17 June 1930. Toronto Daily Star, 13 June 1930. K. E. Boller, “Canada has colourful cricket history” (typescript, Toronto, 1984; revised 2001; copy available at the Canadian Cricket Assoc., Mississauga, Ont.); “Canadian Cricket Association celebrates centenary, 1892-1992,” Canadian Cricketer (Toronto), 20 (1992), no.1: 4; “Canadian wicket-keeper Dyce Saunders could bat with the best” (typescript, Toronto, 1983; copy available at the Canadian Cricket Assoc.). Canada Law Journal (Toronto), 21 (1885): 27. Canadian annual rev., 1922: 674; 1928-29: 210. David Cooper, “Canadians declare ‘It Isn’t Cricket’: a century of rejection of the imperial game, 1860-1960,” Journal of Sport Hist. ([Lamont, Pa]), 26 (1999): 51-81. Directory, Toronto, 1884-1930. J. E. Hall and R. O. McCulloch, Sixty years of Canadian cricket (Toronto, 1895). Household of God: a parish history of St. Thomas’s Church, Toronto, ed. D. A. Kent (Toronto, 1993). Alan Metcalfe, Canada learns to play: the emergence of organized sport, 1807-1914 (Toronto, 1987).