The name Kewley is synonymous with Scottish ice hockey of the 1940s and 1950s. Toronto sports journalist Claude Kewley was the Canadian scout of the Scottish Ice Hockey Association, responsible for selecting the line-ups of the seven teams of the Scottish National League until 1949. Four of his six sons were to play successfully in Scottish ice hockey – Keith, Herb, Hal and Danny.
William Keith Kewley, born at Stratford, Ontario on July 10, 1925, was to be the driving force behind the winning of major trophies at 3 different clubs in the 1940s/50s – as Captain and then Coach of Dunfermline Vikings, and as Coach to both Ayr Raiders and Paisley Pirates. A full-time coach aged only 22, he was a keen student of the game and receptive to new ideas. His coaching methods, including meticulous preparation and innovative development of strategy and set plays, set him apart from most of his older coaching rivals.
He was particularly supportive of the discovery and development of Scottish players, and was able to mould some outstanding home-grown talent into key components of Canadian-dominated line-ups: the Syme brothers and Johnny Rolland at Dunfermline; Lawson Neil, Dave McCrae and Ken McMurtrie at Ayr; Billy Brennan, Joe Brown, Billy Crawford and Dave Ferguson at Paisley .
Although he was genuinely interested in the development of young players, and had great admiration for the determination shown by Scottish youngsters to compete on equal terms with Canadian players, who had enjoyed all the advantages of growing up in an environment where hockey was a way of life, his reasons were not wholly altruistic.
Above all, Keith Kewley wanted to win. It was his livelihood, and he was pragmatic enough to look at any angle which would give his teams an advantage. He realised that a small roster of 10 or 12 Canadian imports, playing in a punishing schedule of 60-plus games, was going to need replacements during the season. The cost-effective option was to develop the local youngsters to provide cover – and it also produced a talented legacy to British ice hockey.
Keith had first started playing hockey when growing up in Kitchener, Ontario, where he was educated at the Victoria School. The family moved to Toronto when his father became Assistant Sports Editor of The Globe and Mail newspaper.
Keith played as a winger for the 1944-45 Ontario Hockey Association Junior ‘B’ champions, Toronto Victory Aircraft (along side younger brother Herb.) The team was sponsored by the wartime Victory Aircraft federal agency, which built Lancaster bombers for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Keith worked as an office supervisor at the Victory Aircraft plant in Toronto.
He came to Scotland in 1946, aged 21, and captained Dunfermline Vikings in the first post-war season of the revived Scottish League. As left wing on the second line, he contributed 22 goals and 14 assists for 36 points, accumulating 37 penalty minutes. As captain, however, his interest in coaching was given free rein by Head Coach ‘Scotty’ Cameron, and Kewley was a major influence in Vikings’ success in 1946-47 – winning the Play-Off Championship, Autumn Cup and Canada Cup, and finishing close runners-up to Perth in the Scottish National League.
Dunfermline Rink Manager Bill Creasey asked Keith to coach the Vikings the following season, and he guided them to the Simpson Trophy in 1947-48. He had also met his wife to be while in Dunfermline, Miss May Campbell of nearby Cowdenbeath, and they married in January 1948.
The newly-wed Kewleys returned to Toronto for two years, until Keith was approached by Ayr Rink Manager Ross Low in the summer of 1950 and invited to coach the Ayr Raiders. His wife was keen to return to Scotland, and Keith enjoyed two seasons at Ayr, steering Raiders to a Scottish National League and Autumn Cup double in 1951-52.
The opportunity to team up again with his former Dunfermline mentor Bill Creasey, now manager at Paisley, tempted Kewley away from Ayr for season 1952-53, and he was to enjoy four successful years with Paisley Pirates. He particularly enjoyed the almost unlimited ice time available to him for practice at Paisley ’s East Lane stadium, as training opportunities had been severely restricted at both Dunfermline and Ayr, due to the demands of curling.
Kewley’s Pirates dominated Scottish hockey during 1953-54, winning the treble of Scottish League, Autumn Cup and Canada Cup. He took great pleasure from the significant contribution made by his five-man Scottish unit: the Syme brothers on defence, with a forward line of Dave Ferguson, Billy Brennan and Billy Crawford, augmented by Joe Brown – vindication indeed for Kewley’s faith in local talent.
He oversaw Paisley’s first two seasons in the ill-fated British National League, culminating in his belated recognition with an All-Star ‘A’ team nomination for 1955-56.
At the age of 31, and with British hockey then in serious decline, Kewley took his wife and two young sons – Harold and Keith – back to Canada in the summer of 1956. They settled in St Thomas, Ontario, and Keith developed a career in industry management, before moving into real estate brokerage.
Kewley’s All-Time Scottish League/British League coaching record reads:
The lure of hockey was still strong, however, and he coached the Senior ‘A’ St Thomas Royals from 1956 to ’58, signing Canadian players like Ed Lochhead, Cece Cowie and Art Sullivan who had played for him in Scotland.
He took up the coaching role again in 1961, with the introduction of Junior ‘B’ hockey to St Thomas, and again showed his aptitude for developing young players over the next seven years with the St Thomas Barons, taking the Barons to the All-Ontario finals in their first season, and to a runners-up slot in the Canadian national championship in 1967-68.
He subsequently wound down his hockey coaching career after 1968, working for several seasons at Midget level in St Thomas.
His wife, May, sadly passed away in 1969. Keith lives in retirement in St Thomas, and his two sons have provided him with four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He plays golf regularly with old hockey teammates from his days in Scotland, like Art Sullivan, and he usually heads south to Florida for the winter.
A very private person, Keith has always preferred to stay out of the limelight in order to allow his players to take the credit. Fitting testimony to his coaching abilities, however, is provided by two of his Scottish players, who are also now in the Hall of Fame, ‘Tuck’ Syme and Billy Brennan. Billy remembers his first coaching session with Keith Kewley when he was just 17: "It really opened my eyes - I learned more in that hour than I had picked up in the previous four years." ’Tuck’ is equally generous to both Keith and his late brother Herb, who was an All-Star defenceman at both Dunfermline and Ayr : "The best coaches I had ever seen, way ahead of their time. Without those Kewley brothers, I'd just have been another good skater. They made me a hockey player."
Compiled with research, provided by David Gordon – 2005.