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Three Cheers: Overview

A virtual exhibition on the early days of sports at Mount Allison University.


Mount Allison institutions

To understand the history of sports at Mount Allison before 1919, it helps to look first at the development of the three institutions that evolved into what Mount Allison is today.

Mount Allison's first institution, the Wesleyan Academy for Boys (by 1889 known as the Academy), opened in 1843 with a class of seven students. [1] It was a private preparatory school, located on the north side of Main Street in an area presently occupied by Windsor, Campbell and Harper Hall residences, and Jennings Dining Hall. Student enrollment fluctuated, but remained under 100 until 1900.

The Academy was followed by a second institution opened in 1854, the Female Branch of the Mount Allison Wesleyan Academy (by 1886 known as the Ladies' College). In 1871 it surpassed the Male Academy in terms of student numbers and remained Mount Allison's largest institution through to the end of the First World War. It was located between York and Main streets in an area bounded by the Owens Art Gallery to the west and the eastern edge of today's Swan Pond.

The final branch created was the degree-granting Mount Allison College opened in 1862, renamed Mount Allison University in 1913. Student numbers at the University were low at first. By 1900 there were just 73 students enrolled although that number doubled by 1910. The University buildings were primarily situated west of the Owens Art Gallery on land bordered by York, Salem and Main Streets.

Mount Allison Wesleyan Male Academy, [between 1866 and 1882]

The first Academy building burned down in 1866. The second Academy building (pictured above) burned down in 1882.

Mount Allison University Archives, Picture Collection, 2007.07/164. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Mount Allison Ladies' College Conservatory of Music, Allison Hall, Lingley Hall [ca. 1895]

Mount Allison University Archives, Picture Collection 2007.07/44. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Centennial Hall and the Old Lodge, [between 1883 and 1894]

The Old Lodge was the University's first building when it was constructed in 1862. It became the men's university residence by the time this photograph was taken.

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture collection, 2007.07/162. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Early town-gown sports

Handball and hurley were the first competitive sports played on Mount Allison's campus. Students, teachers, and even the first principal of the Male Academy, Humphrey Pickard, participated in the games. By the late 1860s Academy students also played baseball and cricket, which were relatively more organized. In 1869 the Academy participated in Mount Allison's first recorded match with an outside team, against the Sackville Cricket Club.

Cricket appears to have been the only sport that students at Mount Allison and inhabitants of Sackville played simultaneously before the 1890s. While Mount Allison students developed and competed in other team sports such as rugby football and baseball, local residents engaged in individual pastimes such as shooting [2], boat racing [3], and horse racing [4]. It was not until a baseball match was held in 1894 that Mount Allison and Sackville met again in sports competition. Two years later the two competed with each other in hockey.

Rev. Humphrey Pickard, [1850s]

Humphrey Pickard was appointed the Male Academy's first principal in November 1842 and the University's first president in 1862.

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/172. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Code of honour

The two most popular sports at Mount Allison before the turn of the century were cricket and rugby football. Such teams sports as these, which were imported from Britain, were as much about socializing among peers as they were about competing fairly. They were also played exclusively by men. In describing a cricket match between the Sackville and Moncton town teams, the local newspaper, The Borderer and the Westmorland and Cumberland Advertiser (2 September 1869), reported:

"The Moncton Club bore their defeat like genuine cricketers -- gallantly, manfully." [5]

The importance of competing fairly was also felt by Frank Parker Day, who scored Mount Allison's first intercollegiate rugby football points on the new University Athletic Field on 3 November 1900. He reflected on his play 49 years later:

"I was pushing hard on the tail of the scrum and had my feet in a very awkward position; suddenly I saw the ball just in front of my left toe; it was impossible for me to heel the ball back, so I picked it up, ran round the right side of the scrum and scored."

Day noted, however, that picking the ball out of the scrimmage was not allowed under the rules used at that time:

"A thousand times through life I have wished that I had not picked that ball out of the scrum. For we learn as we drift along through life that nothing has any real and lasting value unless we win it fairly and honestly." [6]

Mount Allison [Academy?] cricket team, 1886.

One person identified, top right: Thompson T. Davis (headmaster).

Mount Allison University Archives. W. Alan Wright fonds, 8411. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

University rugby players Harold Eugene Bigelow & Frank Parker Day, [ca. 1902]

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/173. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Victorian values

Women at Mount Allison did not participate in competitive team sports until the early 1900s. Those who may have wished to compete in sports were hindered by voluminous clothing and restrictive Victorian values that drew a connection between manliness, morality and sport.

The Victorians believed that a woman's primary function was to be a mother and wife, who was strong physically, morally and mentally, and who could uphold traditional family values. Although females were encouraged to exercise (but not compete), it was only so that they could better fulfill their duties for motherhood and marriage.

Opportunities for women to exercise at Mount Allison existed through curricular activities such as calisthenics, light gymnastics and walking, and also through extra-curricular pursuits such as tobogganing, snowshoeing and skating. Field games such as croquet and archery were also played [7], especially between 1875 and 1885, but these demanded little if any physical exertion and competition would have been slight.

Early attempts by women at Mount Allison to form their own sports teams were few and short-lived. A baseball team was formed in 1888 but lasted only one semester, and suggestions for a cricket team in 1885 and a rugby football team in 1894 did not materialize.

Mount Allison Ladies' College students & faculty, [between 1886 and 1890]

View looking north toward Allison Hall. Lingley Hall is in the background at right, partially obscured by trees. Sports displayed in photograph are archery, croquet, and tennis. Principal Byron Crane Borden is in the middle.

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/163. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

"The Snow-Shoe Girl," by Levi J. Mattall, [ca. 1903]

Reproduced from The Argosy, published by the Eurhetorian Society of the University of Mount Allison College, vol. XXIV, no. 5, February 1903, p. 146b

New woman

"We have now seen that woman is not only coming into various positions, professional and political, but also that her coming proceeds upon a basis of natural right. She is, therefore, coming to stay, for natural rights have in them this quality, that they assert themselves permanently in the interests of all whom they may affect." [8]

- Grace Annie Lockhart, Mount Allison University Class of 1875, speaking at an educational meeting in the Grafton Street Methodist Church, Halifax, 27 June 1896.

By the 1890s cultural barriers faced by women began to drop. The so-called 'New Woman' began to appear in Canada, which coincided with the rise in popularity of bicycling. Uncomfortable iron-rimmed and expensive "penny farthing" bicycles were replaced by cheaper and more comfortable "safety bicycles" which had pneumatic tires and gear and chain systems.

These new bicycles were available to women and men of all classes. For women, riding a bicycle meant physical emancipation and fashion reform. It was more comfortable to ride in shorter skirts and 'bloomers' than in long voluminous dresses, and each woman had the power and means to travel independently wherever and whenever she wanted.

The bicycle craze that swept Canada in the mid-1890s was felt at the same time in Sackville and by females at Mount Allison. The president of the Ladies' College, Dr. Byron Crane Borden, declared in 1897 that there were 25 bicycles in use at the college. In 1898 two women, Mabel Smith and Maud Corbett, rode 75 kilometers on their bicycles from Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, to Sackville to attend the school's closing ceremonies. [9]

Former Ladies' College student Eleanor (Wood) Black and two female friends on bicycles in front of Cranewood, [ca. 1897]

The portico of the house (Cranewood) was altered following a fire in 1939.

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 8933. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Mount Allison University Class of 1875

Individuals include, left to right (top row): Hedley V. Williston, Henry H. Powell, Leonard Allison, Matthew R. Knight,

and (bottom row): Charles S. Gilbert, John Leard Dawson, Grace Annie Lockhart, Frederic H. Wright.

Grace Annie Lockhart was the first female to graduate from a University in the British Empire.

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2007.07/161. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.


By 1902 women and men at Mount Allison both played in competitive team sports. The men joined intercollegiate leagues in rugby football, track and field, and hockey by 1905, and women went on their first athletic trip in 1904 and played their first intercollegiate game in 1910. The development of sports for both sexes flourished in the decade preceding the First World War and formed the foundation for greater achievements following the end of the war.


[1] Obituary Record of Alumni of Wesleyan University, for the Academic Year Ending June 25, 1890. Photocopy of this article located in Mount Allison University Archives biography file on Humphrey Pickard.

[2] Borderer and the Westmorland and Cumberland Advertiser, Jun. 30, 1865, "Shot Accidentally," p. 2; Borderer and the Westmorland and Cumberland Advertiser, Aug. 11, 1865, p. 2 (Cumberland County shooting prize in Amherst)

[3] Chignecto Post

[4] Chignecto Post, Jan. 19, 1871, p. 2; [Sackville] Tribune, Mar. 13, 1902, p. 4; [Sackville] Tribune, Mar. 5, 1903, "The Horse Race," p. 1; [Sackville] Tribune, Jul. 28, 1904, "Races Saturday," p. 6

[5] Borderer and the Westmorland and Cumberland Advertiser, vol. XIII, Sep. 2, 1869, "Cricket"

[6] Mount Allison Record, vol. XXXI, no. 3, Fall 1949, "Bigelow - Recollections," by "Ralph" [Frank] Parker Day, p. 4 (for both quotes)

[7] Mount Allison University Archives, Mellish family papers, accession 7814/4/1/31/7, letter from Mary Mellish to brother John Mellish, Aug. 3, 1868; Allisonia, vol. IX, no. 3, May 1912, "The Mount Allison Commencement Exercises," pp. 79-82. (archery) Allisonia, vol. I, no. 3, Mar. 1904, p. 78. Both sports captured in photograph, Mount Allison University Archives, Picture Collection, accession 2007.07/163

[8] [unidentified paper], "The new woman has come to stay," address by Mrs. J.L. Dawson [Grace Annie Lockhart] of Windsor, Nova Scotia at the conference educational meeting in the Grafton Street church, Jun. 27, 1896, located in Mount Allison University Archives, R.C. Archibald fonds, accession 5501/6/1/6, pp. 50-1

[9] Chignecto Post, Jun. 10, 1898, located in Mount Allison University Archives, R.C. Archibald fonds, accession 5501/6/1/4, p. 74