While the City of Summerside and the board of directors of the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame and Museum discuss a permanent location for the sports hall, a major and important local piece of sports history has been forgotten.
John “The Realm” McNeill is considered by many to be a legend in local sports reporting. His popular column “The Realm of Sport” ran for 56 years in the Journal Pioneer, where he touched the lives of thousands of Islanders.
According to the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, when his last column was published in 2001, he had written approximately 36 million words.
McNeill’s contributions to local sports have been recognized on several occasions. In 1988, Summerside city council dedicated a room in the former Cahill Stadium as the “John ‘The Realm’ McNeill Nostalgia Room.” Upon the 50th anniversary of his column’s publication, May 17, 1995, city council officially proclaimed “John ‘The Realm’ McNeill Day,” complete with a sold-out testimonial dinner. And in April 2006, Special Olympics P.E.I. named an award in his honour, to be presented monthly to an athlete who displays outstanding sportsmanship and fair play.
McNeill died on the Feb. 35, 2006, at the Wedgewood Manor in Summerside at the age of 87.
What has happened to the memorabilia, artifacts, newspaper stories and pictures that were on display in the John “The Realm” Nostalgia Room?
They have been locked away like the bulk of the artifacts contained in the sports hall of fame and, most likely, won’t be retrieved until the new hall of fame is firmly established.
That doesn’t make sense.
What McNeill did was to showcase local and area sports people. Many not proficient enough in their sport to qualify for the hall but nonetheless were an integral part of sports history in Summerside and the surrounding area. It has nothing to do with the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame and to tie it into the provincial museum is unfair – unfair to the people McNeill wrote about.
City council should look to rectify this. Find a spot in Credit Union Place, an area that can bring the contributions of local athletes and sports figures to the public. It’s a Summerside story, not a provincial one, and Summerside needs to make it right.