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MILLS, Sir THOMAS – Volume IV (1771-1800)

d. 28 Feb. 1793 in London, England


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Promotion of Sport and Physical Education

Charles LENNOX, 4th Duke of Richmond and Lennox, who became governor-in-chief of British North America in 1818, used sports as a means of winning the support of the colony’s elite:

“As in Ireland, Richmond considered the encouragement of leisure an important means of popularizing his administration, at least among the élite. According to Frederic Tolfrey, an officer of the garrison, Richmond, who had been ‘one of the finest tennis-players in England’ and an excellent racket-baller, ‘joined the officers around him in all manly games with an unaffected urbanity and good nature that endeared the Duke to all.’ He was patron of the Garrison Racing Club, and he encouraged the Tandem Club, formed to make winter excursions into the countryside, by taking his turn in a rotation among the principal families of the town to supply the excursionists’ luncheons.”


An enthusiast of several sports from an early age, and a strong proponent of physical fitness, the Montreal businessman, civil servant, and philanthropist William Gillies ROSS contributed to the development of organized sport, especially sports on ice, at the end of the 19th century:

“Although professional life and a growing family made increasing demands upon his time after 1890, [Ross] continued to be active, both as a competitor and as an administrator. He firmly believed in the character-building role of amateur sport and worked to stimulate participation, improve facilities, and expand organizations. He was one of the founders of the Canadian Amateur Skating Association in 1886 and served as its president from 1893 to 1895, in 1905, and perhaps in other years. In 1894 the association organized what he called ‘the greatest skating meeting ever held in the world’ in Montreal. In 1908 he served on the Central Olympic Committee.”


A promoter of a form of Christianity that emphasized bodily health, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) benefited from the patronage of people such as industrial magnate John Rudolphus BOOTH, who associated sporting activities with manliness:

“In Ottawa, Booth, a Presbyterian, quietly made substantial financial contributions to community projects, including the Young Men’s Christian Association building and St Luke’s Hospital [see Annie Amelia Chesley*], which he helped found in 1897 and endowed in 1914 with a new wing. Described as ‘a believer in and a generous patron of clean, manly sport,’ he was a member of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Club and the Ottawa Rowing Club.…

“On 27 March 1920, in a rare public appearance and to a ‘rousing ovation,’ Booth dropped the puck for a Stanley Cup match between the Ottawa Senators and the Seattle Metropolitans.”


A soldier, teacher and pioneer of physical education, Henri-Thomas SCOTT strove to offer urban youth places where they could devote themselves to various sports that he believed would encourage social and moral improvement:

“[Scott’s] arrival [at the Montreal Catholic School Commission in 1905] coincided with the rise in Montreal of a reform movement concerned about the ravages of infant mortality and tuberculosis. It was calling for parks, public baths, playgrounds, vacation camps, and a more practical education, better adapted to an industrial and urban society.…

“In his campaign to provide for the all-round development of young French Canadians, Scott emphasized the need to take part in sports. To increase access, he had received authorization from the Montreal Catholic School Commission in the winter of 1906–7 to build a large open-air skating-rink on the grounds of the Catholic Commercial Academy. In order to ensure some permanence for athletic activities, he worked to set up various clubs. He was also keenly interested in playgrounds. He urged municipal authorities to set them up ‘in every park,’ as was common in the United States, and he offered to train instructors. As a member of the Parks and Playgrounds Association of Montreal [see Grace Julia Parker*], he proposed that swimming pools and public markets be converted into gymnasiums during the winter. In the summer of 1910, to improve the lot of children in the city, he became the first francophone to found and run a vacation camp – in Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal), on the banks of the Rivière des Prairies.”


The difficult conditions in which many city dwellers lived at the beginning of the 20th century emphasized, in the eyes of Joseph-Pierre GADBOIS, a medical doctor and columnist, the need to establish physical-education programs in schools. In his view, people who engaged in regular exercise and adopted a healthy lifestyle would be sound in body and mind:

“Although Gadbois appreciated the advantages of the city, he worried about its effects on the health of his compatriots. He believed that in the country, where they remained in contact with a harsh but abundant nature, they had been able to maintain their strength, sturdiness, and physique. Once they became city-dwellers, crowded into smoke-filled cities, confined to unhealthy lodgings, and cooped up in poorly ventilated offices, workshops, and stores, they grew sickly and were threatened with degeneration. He thought that physical education … guaranteed health and a balanced and harmonious condition. He advised against overeating and advocated dieting and occasional fasting to cleanse the body. He preached abstinence from alcohol, drugs, tea, and coffee, and recommended drinking plenty of water and eating vegetables, fruit, and nuts. A vegetarian, he gave a lecture at Quebec in 1909 under the auspices of the Vegetarian Society of Canada. It is essential, he noted, to have eight hours sleep every night, keep windows open summer and winter, brave storms, heat, and cold, and get as much sunshine as possible.”


The biographies arranged in the following lists provide more information about the promoters of sports, physical fitness, and physical education in the 19th and 20th centuries and about their initiatives and achievements:


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