The Antigonish Highland Society’s Games Hall of Fame was instituted in 2013 to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Games, held on October 16, 1863, on Apple Tree Island.
Sixteen individuals and two groups were chosen as the inaugural inductees into the Hall of Fame.
The following athletes, pipers, drummers, dancers and builders are being officially inducted into the Antigonish Highland Games. They comprise the first twenty inductees in the Hall of Fame.
Track and Field
Dr. Ronald J. MacDonald of Heatherton performed and competed as a long distance runner in turn-of-the-20th century Highland Games. In one Games exhibition he ran two miles while being pitted against a fresh runner every quarter mile. He won the Boston Marathon in 1898 and competed on the USA team at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. *
Simon Gillis of Gillisdale, Cape Breton, threw the hammer and discus in early 20th century Highland Games. At the St. F.X university field in 1905 he set a world record in the 12 lb. hammer throw. He competed in three Olympic Games for the USA.*
Fr. Daniel R. (Dempsey) Chisholm of Ohio, Antigonish County, won numerous Highland Games sprint events, anchored tug-of-war champions but excelled at the hammer throw. For twelve Highland Games he won every hammer throw but one. At the Olympic trials in 1928 he set a Canadian record in the 16 lb. hammer. His throw at the 1928 Highland Games stood as the meet record for 40 years. *
Terrence Thompson of Cloverville was one of three brothers (with Gibbons and Leonard Thompson) who excelled at Highland Games strength events from the 1930s to the 1950s. Terry specialized in the 16 lb. hammer throw, which he won on six occasions, and the caber toss, which he also won six times. He later acted as a field judge at the games and served as Highland Society president in 1969. *
James Sears of Plymouth, Pictou County, a founding member of the Old Scotia Heavy Events Association, competed in Highland Games strength events from 1952 to 1997, by far the longest career of any heavy event athlete. Between 1953 and 1962 he won six caber toss events, four shot puts and had three seconds in the discus. His record for the long toss caber event, set in 1960, has never been broken.Hugh Bernard McCarron, a farmer from North Grant, was a caber toss specialist who won the Games’ marquee event twelve times between 1958 and 1977. In the 150 year history of the Highland Games he is one of only two athletes to win the caber toss eight years in a row (1961-1968).
Melvin Chisholm of Antigonish was a sprint specialist on Highland Society teams of the 1970s. He won seven straight Highland Games Open Men’s sprint events over a four year period. He still holds meet records for the 100 and 200 metre races, set at the 1977 Games. He finished his running career with victories in the 200 and 400 metre sprints at the 1980 Highland Games.
Robyn Meagher of Mulgrave won 14 of the 15 middle distance races she ran in her age category while competing in five Highland Games. She also won numerous Open races against women several years older than her. Four of her times are still listed as records in Games annals. She competed for Canada at the Atlanta (1992) and Barcelona (1996) Olympic Games.
Frank McGibbon of Antigonish was a legendary figure who coached the Highland Society track and field teams from the 1950s until the 1970s. He felt that if youngsters could excel in sports, they would excel in life, and exhorted them to do so. Frank built the track at Columbus Field from a hayfield to the best running surface in the Maritimes and devoted himself unequivocally to its maintenance. *
Alex MacAdam of Antigonish was chairman of Highland Games Track and Field from the late 1950s through the 1970s, overseeing the growth of the event from two age groups of male-only athletes when he began, to five age groups and over 500 athletes, male and female, by the time he retired.
Piping and Drumming
Allan Cameron of Springfield, Antigonish County, won numerous solo medals at the Games, was a member of the first pipe band raised in Antigonish, played for Highland dancers for four decades and was official piper of the Antigonish Highland Society for nearly fifty years. *
Scott Williams of Antigonish has played with and/or instructed five championship bands. A fine solo player, he was the second winner of the prestigious Allan Beaton Memorial Trophy. He is a well-respected piping judge and has written extensively on pipers and pipe bands. Scott co-organized the first Highland Games Pipe Band Tattoos and has been Official Piper of the Antigonish Highland Society since 1995.
Fr. Neil McKenna of Antigonish, was a top individual drummer, instructed three Nova Scotia-based pipe bands and co-organized the first Highland Games Pipe Band Tattoos. He was lead drummer for the Antigonish Legion Pipe Band drum corps which was named to the North American Drumming Hall of Fame.
Dr. Angus MacDonald of Glenuig, Scotland, was named Open Piper of the Games six times during the eleven years he lived in Nova Scotia. As a player and instructor he greatly advanced the knowledge of piobaireachd, the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. He has the special distinction of winning the Gold Medal for piobaireachd at Oban, Scotland.
The Antigonish Legion Pipe Band was a consistent winner at the Highland Games from 1970 to 1976. In that time, the band captured two North American championships in Grade 3 and was named Intercontinental champion for Grade 2 in 1975. In August 1976 the Legion band placed 3rd in the World Championship (Grade 2) held in Hawick, Scotland. The band is credited with significantly raising the piping and drumming standards of the Atlantic provinces.
Sandra MacDonald of Antigonish was Highland Games champion in her age grouping six years in a row. She retired from competition after capturing the Angus R. MacDonald Trophy as top senior dancer at the 1957 Games.
Phyllis MacDonald of Antigonish won numerous Highland Games dancing medals during the 1940s and 1950s and was named top senior dancer of the Games in 1952, 1954 and 1955.
Janice Macquarrie of Doctor’s Brook, Antigonish County, was a consistent champion at the Highland Games from mid 1960s to 1980. She was the first local dancer to compete in the world championships and was named Canadian National Exhibition champion in 1976. She has instructed hundreds of fine dancers and for eleven years helped to choreograph the first Scotia Highland Dancers troupes.
The Scotia Highland Dancers (original troupe 1979) from Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond counties performed original choreography made to accentuate the grace, agility, strength and precision of Highland dance. Many champion dancers were included in the 1979 troupe which first performed at the Antigonish Highland Games and represented Nova Scotia at the 1981 International Gathering of the Clans in Scotland.
Florence MacMillan was a premier dancing instructor who brought champion dancers like Mabel MacInnis, Gerarda MacDonald, Janice Macquarrie and Patsy MacAdam into prominence. She bucked the dancing establishment with her methods and eventually saw her students win seven out of eight provincial qualifying berths for the 1968 national championships.