There was little in sport that Lou Broderick Macmillan did not do, and do well. L.B.’s athletic career began in the 1890’s, with the great Charlottetown Abbies football, hockey and track teams that dominated Maritime amateur sport. It was L.B. Macmillan who would be chosen as the Abegweit Athletic Association’s first president in 1899, shaping the Abbies into one of the most efficient and influential organizations in Canada.
Born October 17, 1873, in Summerside, Louis Broderick Macmillan would move with his parents in 1878 to Charlottetown. These were simpler times, when the Island’s social and community life was alive with the observance of church and clan gatherings, and a variety of exciting new sporting contests were appearing.
In 1884, the first rugby team on PEI, the Abegweits, would be formed. Hockey, the first organized indoor game of which had taken place only a dozen years earlier in Montreal, had spread like wildfire across Canada, and Island teams were quickly being assembled. L.B. was perfectly matched to this golden era of sport, as a speedy footballer with the Abbies rugby team, and as a daring goaltender for the Charlottetown Victorias hockey team, from 1893 to 1896. It would be in 1895, upon the Victorias’ first trip to Summerside for a match with the local squad, that the first inter-city sport rivalry on the Island arose.
L.B. transferred from the Victorias to the newly-formed hockey Abbies in 1896, a seven-man squad composed of Abbies rugby footballers. For the first time, two distinct sports organizations, rugby and hockey, had banded together under the same name, the Abbies. By 1897, the hockey Abbies would win their first provincial championship.
L.B. also excelled in other athletic pursuits, in particular running. The first athletic contests of colonial P.E.I. were possibly the Scottish Games of the Caledonian Club. It is interesting to note that the Scottish Games originally were conducted on a professional basis, with the competitors receiving small sums of cash for their efforts. With the organization of local amateur athletics by A. E. Ings and Dr. H. D. Johnson in 1896, L.B. Macmillan and others were reinstated as amateurs.
At the gala opening of the Charlottetown Athletic Association sports complex on Upper Prince on Labour Day, 1897, it was L.B. who won the half mile race in a time of 2:08 – an excellent time in the age of fob watches and cinder tracks. Later that month, the Abbies organization would send L.B., Dan MacKinnon [inducted 1979], Lorne Unsworth [inducted 1978] and Cyrus Macmillan to the Maritime Championships in Halifax, the first time amateur track athletes had ever left the Island. The Abbies legend really begins here, as L.B. won in the half-mile, the future Col. Dan took the mile, and “Whitey” Unsworth beat the field in two cycling events.
When the Abegweits, Crescents and Anchors Athletic Clubs amalgamated in the spring of 1899, L.B. was selected as the new association’s first president. Serious training methods would lead to the Abbies deposing the Halifax team as Maritime amateur champs for the first time in its history in June 1900, before thousands of surprised spectators in Halifax. The Abbies would be Maritime Champions eleven times between 1897 and 1913, and they resumed their dynasty following the First World War.
At the Maritime level, L.B. was elected Vice-President of the M.P.A.A.A. in 1901 and re-elected in either this capacity or as secretary for twelve consecutive years. In 1910 he would compile the Maritime association’s constitutions and bylaws, athletic rules and statistical records for the period of 1888 through 1909.
As an active athlete, L.B. would reign as Island champ in the half-mile from 1895 to 1899, setting a Maritime record of 2:05 in 1897. L.B. was also successful in the quarter-mile, and his many medals included a gold in the pole vault as late as 1909.
As part of the Abegweits’ senior hockey team, L.B. would be involved in several hockey excursions to the mainland and Newfoundland, in the era of the fifteen foot ice boat crossings. Once, aboard the S.S. Stanley in March 1907, the entire team was forced to walk away from the ice-bound ferry to Pictou Island, and four days later trek to Caribou, Nova Scotia, receiving a hero’s welcome when they finally arrived back on the Island.
L.B. would be part owner of the Charlottetown Arena, new home of the Abbies, built for the pricey sum of $7000, which opened in 1907 and flourished until the advent of artificial ice. His family recalls how Mrs. L.B. painted enormous posters announcing “Hockey Tonight” and placed them on strategic corners around the town to advertise for upcoming games.
Giving up active hockey out of kindness to his wife, who feared his serious injury, L.B. turned instead to tennis, curling and golf. His enthusiasm for sport even led him to an unsuccessful experiment which involved using barrel staves for skis.
Outside sports, L.B. Macmillan would become the Island’s longest-serving public servant, working with the government from 1890-1957. He was appointed in 1900 as Deputy Minister of Public Works, and remained in this position until 1946.
Lou Macmillan passed away on July 25, 1958. Athlete, pioneering sports executive, referee and coach, he will be remembered as the proud and unstoppable heart of both the Charlottetown Abbies and amateur sport on Prince Edward Island for over 50 years.
Updated: January 2007