Athlete Gerald MacDonald, from Brierly Brook, Antigonish County, described his call to the Highland Games Hall of Fame class of 2019, as “unexpected.”
“This is really nice, I really appreciate it … it’s quite a thrill,” MacDonald, going on 86 years of age, said.
As for what went through his mind upon receiving word, MacDonald talked about coming from a little community outside of Antigonish [Lower Springfield], where there were only four students in his school, and, in 1950, competing at the Games.
“That was the most exciting,” he said. “It was quite a big deal to go and jump in front of all those people.”
Jump as in pole vault. MacDonald talked about how he and friends would do it in nearby fields as recreation.
“There were no computers, no television even, that’s all we did,” he said.
“Quite a few people had a backyard jumping place or vaulting place. At that time, we would just use poles you would cut from the woods and then we got into the bamboo, which was much better. Now they have what I call elevator poles; the fiberglass ones which shoot you right to the sky. There is no comparison at all; it’s like you taking the elevator and me taking the stairs,” he said with a chuckle.
MacDonald recalled how huge the track and field competition at the Games was, with teams coming from military base camps, such as ones in Shearwater and Summerside.
“The camps were still all going so there were kids from all over Canada; they were all coming to compete,” he said. “It was big, quite large.”
His own talents took him to Toronto and the Canadian National Exhibition. MacDonald remembered well the training camp he was part of in the mid-1950s.
“They took 10 kids from every province,” he said. “We all met in Toronto and trained for two weeks and then we competed; that was very exciting. Right on the exhibition grounds, which was wonderful … really great.”
Is he looking forward to the induction ceremony Thursday? Absolutely, MacDonald said, “as long I don’t have to make a speech,” he added, again with a hearty chuckle.
Colin MacDonald by Anita Flowers
Colin Patrick MacDonald was quite active in sports growing up in Antigonish and participated in the Highland Games at an early age.
He was the top middle distance runner from 1967 to 1974, winning numerous medals at the Highland Games and setting new records in the junior men’s 400 metre and 800 m in 1971.
MacDonald feels he had an advantage as a “local” guy.
“I enjoyed the bagpipes playing in the background when I was running. It inspired me. My Haligonian or New Brunswick friends were sometimes a bit irritated. There was definitely a local advantage in a light-hearted way,” he kids.
In his last year of competing, he won the men’s 800 m to help the Antigonish team beat strong teams from Halifax and Fredericton. He was awarded the Father Dempsey Trophy for Outstanding Athlete and credits coach Frank McGibben with his success and the success of the team.
MacDonald went on to become an official with the Nova Scotia Track and Field Association and was able to award his former coach, McGibben, with a trophy in recognition of his work mentoring youth and at Columbus Field.
MacDonald achieved professional success as a lawyer and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2014. However, he continued to encourage the development of young people in sports and the arts in Canada, serving as director of the Canadian Track and Field Association from 1977 to 1980, chairman of the Calgary Olympic Development Association from 2006-2008, and chairman of the Board of Governors of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame from 2012 to 2017.
“As part of my work, I got to call inductees up to say they were going to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. It was a nice moment to be called myself to be inducted into Highland Games Hall of Fame,” MacDonald said.
“Getting this recognition is a surprise – not something I would expect, certainly not 40 plus years after the event, but I think that Halls of Fame are really important for communities and organizations that have lots of continuity over time. The Highland dancers, pipers and drummers are world class. Many of the athletes went on to be on national teams in Canada and to participate in the Olympics. It was a great cultural event in Antigonish and continues to be.”