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Issue 65 – Ian Douglas-Irving

Ave Atque Vale Ian Douglas-Irving


Donor of the SAAUCC Sports Cup

In January, Ian Douglas-Irving passed away peacefully at the age of 93. Mr Douglas-Irving has a long history of involvement with the College, including as Acting Principal in 2002, and was a well-known figure in the South Australian Association of University College Clubs. 

  Here, former Principal Dr Rosemary Brooks shares her memories of him, and the story behind the infamous Douglas-Irving Cup.

Dr Rosemary Brooks, former Principal


On the passing of Ian Douglas-Irving on 21 January 2021 the Adelaide Colleges lost a dedicated leader, supporter and friend. Ian served as Dean of University Hall at Flinders University 1983-1992, as Principal of Lincoln College for a year and as Acting Principal of St Ann’s College for first term, 2002, when Simon and I were on long-service leave.

Many students will remember him, together with his wife Helen, presenting the Douglas-Irving Cup after athletics at the conclusion of each year’s sports competitions of the South Australian Association of University College Clubs (SAAUCC). He always had a few words to say about the spirit of good sportsmanship. As few know the story behind the Douglas-Irving Cup I will set it down here for posterity.

SAAUCC was not always SAAUCC – it was previously the Inter College Council (ICC), which held sports competitions at which College students competed for a previous trophy, the High Table Cup. Our College History notes on p. 142:

St Ann’s, regarded by some as relatively weak in sport, won the High Table Cup for intercollege sports in 1992 under the leadership of Ben Haslett (1990) as president and Paul Felici (1989) as sports secretary of the College Club. The following year St Ann’s won again, with Paul Felici as president and Astrid Reichelt (1992) as sports secretary. In 1996 with the inauguration of SAAUCC Inc. the old High Table Cup was replaced as a trophy for inter-college competition by the Douglas-Irving Cup, presented by Ian Douglas-Irving, to be jointly owned by all the colleges. St Ann’s played a pivotal role in establishing SAAUCC, the constitution being written by Graeme Jackson (later president of the Collegians) with the help of Ben Hartley [president of College Club in 1997].

St Mark’s College had been founded in 1925 and when Lincoln College was founded in 1952 St Mark’s was glad to have another college with which to play sport. One of their members gave them a trophy, the High Table Cup, for which the colleges would compete. It was never envisaged that another College would actually win, let alone take the High Table Cup home. It was the property of St Mark’s.

As Martin Luther King said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. For example, in 1983 Australia succeeded in persuading the New York Yacht Club that their victory entitled them to take possession of the Americas Cup, after 132 years.

In the world of the Adelaide Colleges, 1990s students from Lincoln and St Ann’s persuaded the ICC that men’s and women’s sports were entitled to equal numbers of points for the High Table Cup.

There were setbacks: in 1992 St Ann’s did not succeed in persuading St Mark’s that their victory entitled them to take possession of the Debating Cup, then the property of St Mark’s.

Between 1985 and 1991 no college succeeded in persuading St Mark’s that their victories entitled them to take possession of the High Table Cup.

In 1991 the victorious Aquinas felt compelled to steal the cup during the night. Next morning the Rector returned it in a bag.

In 1992 when St Ann’s won the cup, the Master of St Mark’s said the cup could circulate provided certain rules, dictated by St Mark’s, were agreed to. Rule 4: “The winning college will be presented with the cup before the commencement of the next academic year”.  The winning college was not presented with the cup until the end of March in the following year, due to damage to the cup at an end-of-year dinner at St Mark’s.

In 1993 when St Ann’s again won the cup, St Mark’s insisted that it be returned to St Mark’s for the intervening vacation period. After nine years of difficulty over availability, the Heads of Colleges on 15 February 1994 agreed that the purchase and circulation of “a significant trophy, jointly owned by the Colleges” would avoid problems of these kinds and “reflect the sportsmanlike and friendly spirit of inter College competitions”. Next day the Master of St Mark’s sent a fax to St Ann’s which concluded, “I have to assume that you do not want the High Table Cup. I shall therefore keep it here, unless you advise me otherwise.”

The purchase and circulation of a significant, jointly owned trophy was agreed in order to avoid the possibility that any single college could unilaterally refuse circulation, delay circulation, limit, restrict or apply rules to circulation because of ownership. No college should be put in a client relationship to any other by having to say, “Please may we borrow your cup that we won?”

When SAAUCC was established in 1996, Mr Ian Douglas-Irving presented a significant sterling silver trophy to be a jointly owned as a symbol of an association of equals.  St Ann’s College student Ben Hartley was the inaugural President of SAAUCC. From then on the Douglas-Irving Cup has been presented to the victorious college each year on the very day of victory, to be enjoyed by those striving so hard all year to win it.

Ian also donated the Douglas-Irving Honour Cup to St Ann’s for the student of the highest honour, integrity and service. The inaugural winner was Emily Graves in 2018. For this and for his dedication to University College students and to university life, for his wisdom, patience and justice, we thank Ian Douglas-Irving and remember him.”

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