From The Old Club: The History of the Christchurch Football Club 1863 -2013.
Written by Tony Murdoch
Edward Millton’s selection for the 1884 New Zealand team to tour NSW may not have been without controversy. WG Garrard writing in the first volume of The History of the Canterbury Rugby Football Union, 1879-1929, reported that a letter writer had stated, “I cannot agree that the four chosen [W Millton, G Helmore, E D’Auvergne and E Millton] are the best. A number of players were under the impression that they would have to pay their expenses and get them refunded at the end of the trip. If the matter had been more clearly understood we might have had better representatives than those selected by the Rugby Union.” Without being too cynical it is worth noting that all four selected were Christchurch players and that William Millton, Edward’s brother, was at the time secretary of the CRFU and a prime mover in organising the tour. It should also be noted that the financial arrangements for the tour were precarious and those able to pay their way may have had preference. These permutations should not detract from Edward Millton’s selection or from his character because after his playing days finished he became a notable citizen and a trust he had set up has done countless good for over 70 years.
Details around Edward Millton’s sporting life are difficult to discover. This is in part because at various times he was one of three brothers who played for Christchurch and also turned out for Canterbury. The newspaper reports of the time invariably used surnames only and there is no way of knowing which of the talented Millton’s was the subject of comment. Unlike his brother William he does not have seem to have involved himself in club administration but this is likely to be because he was not living in Christchurch but was based at the substantial family holding at Birch Hill. Certainly he is listed in North Canterbury rugby and cricket teams after the 1884 tour of NSW and there are numerous references to his life-long invoveemt in this rural community.
Educated at Christ’s College Edward Millton was the younger of the first set of brothers to have been New Zealand representatives. The Millton brothers came from one of the prosperous upper middle class families who were among the early settlers of the Canterbury province. They came to rugby from Christ’s College and then the Christchurch club and featured in clubs combinations from around 1877 through to 1885.
Like his brother, Edward played as a forward and on tour in Australia won praise from the team manager S E Sleigh for his dribbling skill. He played in seven of the eight tour matches and between 1883 and 1886 played in seven matches for Canterbury. The highlight of his brief provincial career was in 1886 in the Canterbury side which beat the touring New South Welshmen 17-0.
In 1927 he spoke at the clubs Diamond Jubilee celebrations. His speech was ostensibly about football in the 1880s but it became one of the best speeches of the night when he talked of the clashes between the Club and North Canterbury. It was a speech of high humour and provided a glimpse into his character and his intellect. Such was the delight of the audience at the dinner that they rose and sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” when Millton finished.
Unlike his brother William, Edward Millton had a long life and was 81 when he died in 1942.
He had owned one of Canterbury’s biggest sheep stations, Birch Hill, presumably having taken over this well established run at the death of his father who originally settled the land. In 1892 he had married Maude Ford and the couple established the EB Millton trust to assist children in need. Over the years it has assisted numerous local charities and continues to operate for the benefit of children in the region.
Seasons for CFC: 1877 - 1885
Matches For Canterbury: 7
Matches For New Zealand: 7