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John Macneill, who maintained property belonging to L.M. Montgomery’s family, dies at age 86

John Macneill
John Macneill

CAVENDISH, P.E.I. - John Macneill, owner of the Macneill Homestead, where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived with her grandparents, died April 7.

Macneill was the son of Montgomery’s cousin, and grew up next door to her grandparents’ house.

Mary Beth Cavert of the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society became friends with Macneill and his wife, Jennie.

“John was an Islander through and through,” says Cavert, “he loved his home and land and represented it beautifully to thousands of visitors and fans of Lucy Maud Montgomery.”

Cavert also praised the work the Macneill’s put into turning the homestead into a site for tourists.

“They restored the grounds with an authenticity,” she says, “which allows Montgomery fans to experience the sense of place that the author herself felt so keenly.”

Obituary: John E. Macneill

Back in 2008, the Macneill’s were honoured by the L. M. Montgomery Literary Society for being “Pioneers of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Legacy.” They were given this honour at the Eighth International L. M. Montgomery Conference.

Elizabeth Epperly, founder of the Montgomery Institute, and long time friend of the Macneill family, describes Macneill as “the kind of man you’d want your family to know.”

She praises the effort Macneill put into restoring the homestead to what it used to be, saying he, “built that garden himself. He filled it with plants that he knew Montgomery would have had and loved, because he’d read all her journals.”

Epperly draws particular attention to an apple tree beside the homestead.

“That was alive in Montgomery’s time,” she says, “They tended it, and John shored it up.”

“The tree is emblematic of John and Jennie,” she says, “and the care that they give.”

Epperly says he was a dedicated worker, with deep love of his country and heritage.

“They certainly could have made money by selling that property off, but instead they preserved it, so we have access to that for all time.”

His ties to P.E.I. literary heritage were also of great note.

“He met Montgomery,” Epperly says, “he heard her talk at the table in that house he lived in with Jennie. He had direct access to that legacy.”

Management of the homestead passed into the hands of Macneill’s son, David Macneill, some years ago.

“While John continued always to labour, because that’s the kind of man he was,” Epperly says, “it’s David who now manages it, and will continue to do so.”

Macneill is survived by his wife, Jennie, his four children, and his seven grandchildren.

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