Ian Kennedy’s love of travelling began in 1954 when his family came to Canada from Ireland.
“My father was a Presbyterian minister and he got the call to come to Vancouver Heights in Burnaby,” he recalls. “We came across the ocean by boat and did the whole train journey across Canada, which for me as an 11-year-old was pretty exciting.”
After playing rugby and getting a degree at UBC, Kennedy hitchhiked around Europe, with stops to play rugby for the London Irish and earn an education diploma at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Queens was where a student named Bernadette Devlin was making a name for herself, and Kennedy wisely heeded his father’s observation that the emerging conflict could last for 30 years.
So after a year of teaching and touring Spain, Greece and Turkey, he returned to Canada on a rugby tour and landed a job teaching at Steveston High School.
“Despite trying to get out of there umpteen times I never managed it and stayed on for 30 years,” he smiled.
Kennedy was teaching history and geography, which became his main focus when he turned to book writing.
His first two books were most journalists’ dream assignment – tours of neighbourhood pubs (1982, 1986). He followed that up with Sunny Sandy Savary (1992), The Life & Times of Joseph McPhee: Courtenay’s Founding Father (2010) and Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History (2014).
Kennedy is now researching his next book about the Princess Maquinna steamship which served as a lifeline for West Coast communities in the early 20th century.
During and between writing books, Kennedy carved a name for himself as a respected rugby journalist, a job that took him all over the world and led to a 12-year stint with Rugby Canada.
He retired from teaching and got married in 1999. “My wife (Judith) was living in Powell River and she didn’t want to come to Vancouver, and I certainly wasn’t going to Powell River, so we looked for neutral ground.
“I’d always liked this area ever since I came as a sea cadet in 1959. We were the first group of sea cadets at HMCS Quadra at Goose Spit. It was a great summer. Sailing boats, shooting guns, having a good time with all the lads. I always remembered what a nice place it was so we ended up coming here and haven’t regretted it at all.”
Kennedy’s articles on the Comox Valley Kickers RFC were a regular fixture in The Record for several years, and he is also a familiar figure at Crown Isle where he golfs on Fridays with a group of friends known as The Wolf Pack.
Kennedy has not completely hung up his roving rugby reporter cleats. He has scooped a press pass for this weekend’s (March 12-13) HSBC Canada Sevens Vancouver Tournament, where he is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with his fellow globetrotting rugby journalists.