Jerry Gagnier | John MacDonald | John MacDonell | William MacNeil | Dr. Randy McLennan | Roderick McRae
Jerry Gagnier was born May 10, 1892, son of Mr. and Mrs. Adelard Gagnier operators of the Atlantic Hotel station, at that time. After attending local schools, Gerry worked in Western Canada for a short while. Returning home he joined his parents and family on their newly acquired 4th Kenyon farm. It was at this time Jerry began his athletic and sportsman career that extended over a period of 20 years by playing football with the concession team. In addition to his brother Joe, other players were: Donald McDouglad, Allan MacKinnon, Ambrose and Joe Kennedy, the Gauthier brothers, Charlie (later Father Gauthier), Hugh Allan and John, plus the Eigg Road McCormicks.
Many legends have been told of Jerry’s sportsmanship and their Reo one-ton stake body truck. Jerry had two padded benches made that fitted along the stake sides. This was the transportation means for lacrosse fans to games in Cornwall, St. Andrew’s and Harrisons Corners. Return fare was 25 cents and to an exhibition game in Montreal (Point St. Charles grounds), cost half a buck. If there were a few without the silver charge standing around. Jerry opened the rear stake-gate and “hoisted” them on board flashing a big grin.
A summary of Jerry Gagnier’s distinguished citizenship and athletic prowness was fittingly told by The Glengarry News editor’s tribute at the time of Jerry’s death, July 19, 1938. “Seldom has such a cloud of gloom overcast this town as was the case Tuesday when word of Jerry Gagnier’s passing circulated.” Lacrosse, which was his favorite sport, was the main channel through which Jerry came to be so widely known and beloved throughout Glengarry and its environs and in return he game the game as unswerving loyalty and love which was reflected in his steady, highly effective play on Alexandria teams during the past 20 years. Both in the old field game and in the newer box variety. “The old horse” as he was affectionately known to the fans came to be regarded as a necessary adjunct to any winning Alexandria team, even more so when he had reached an age which entitled him to rest of his laurels.”
Jerry Gagnier was married to the former Blanche Dumouchel and they had three children, Lloyd, Laurent and Georgette.
In 1921 Joe MacDonald founded the Blue Room restaurant on Main Street, Alexandria remodelling the pioneer John McLeister drug store that flanked another ancient business establishment, the Meloche and Sabourin butcher shop.
The Blue Room became a popular social meeting place with Mrs. MacDonald, the former Agnes “Sandy Ranald” MacDonald, Glengarry’s all time great pianist, as joint hostess.
During this time “Joe Blue Room” became one of the Alexandria pillars in reorganizing, after World War One interruption, hockey, lacrosse, building the curling rink and the lawn bowling green on the now Shepherd Brothers site facing Elgin Street at Main. Among the fellow sportsmen associated were Donald Sandfield Macdonald, John R. MacRae and Dr. H. L. Cheney.
Soccer from day one was played throughout Glengarry except in the lacrosse strongholds of Williamstown and Alexandria. A delegation of soccer enthusiasts met at what has become the historic organizing meeting in Dunvegan’s Orange Hall.
Their application was unanimously endorsed and for the first time in Glengarry sport history, soccer and lacrosse shared the Alexandria Fairgrounds’ field located across the McCormick Road at the monastery.
During the mid-20’s “J.J.” was an executive leader of Alexandria hockey and the lacrosse team that were Eastern Ontario intermediate champions. That was the last era of field lacrosse, replaced by the hockey style box lacrosse in 1930-31.
Another hall of fame member and sportsman, Rt. Rev. Ewen J, Macdonald, donated the box site, Chisholm Park, where Alexandria town hall is now located.
In this compact grounds with bleacher seats made from the long gone fairgrounds’ grandstand, sporting bouts were held. There were no local boxers in the class of still another hall of fame athlete, Joe Grant, and as class boxers were too costly, the promotion was discarded.
“Joe Blue Room” was an avid curler and became a skilled skip. After transferring his restaurant enterprise to the now Jade Garden in Cornwall, he joined the Cornwall Curling Club. Among his cherished memories apart from playing in championship bonspiels was one night skipping his rink to the unique honor of scoring an eight ender. With his daughter Shirley as assistant manager, they renovated the building next to the Cornwallis Hotel and this locale became widely known as “Shirley’s” Restaurant.
Ill health forced “Joe” MacDonald into retirement and he died a few months later, January 26, 1966.
After the war John Alex enrolled at Queen’s University, Kingston. He played soccer with the Golden Gaels intercollegiate team and was noted for his skill in dribbling the ball as he set up scoring plays. During summer holidays, John Alex played third base with the Greenfield baseball nine, about the only baseball organization in Glengarry’s sport history. Their home field was the present location of the Kenyon Township garage.
Graduating from Queen’s with a B.A. degree, teacher John Alex Macdonell taught in Pembroke for a while. In the meantime, his brother “Angus Angus John,” sold the family home and purchased a farm just west of Walter Blaney’s on the north side of Maxville road. This was 1924 and football in Glengarry, played as exhibition games since day one, was now organized as the Glengarry Football (later soccer) League. John Alex, now residing within sight of Maxville, played with the village team under the direction of Benny Villeneuve.
It wasn’t all football during summer holidays. John Alex played lacrosse with the Alexandria intermediate champions in 1925-26. We remember this lanky, rugged fielder as a solid defence and offence handler of the gutted stick, always in superb condition, seemingly able to run all afternoon without tiring. First 12-man lacrosse, then 10 and finally hockey box style, John Alex retired before the era of box lacrosse.
In 1938 soccer officials persuaded John Alex Macdonell to assume the presidency of the Glengarry Soccer League. In the ensuing 16 years John A. successfully guided the destiny of Glengarry soccer, despite a few tempestuous periods. During World War 2 when teams were depleted to enlistments, John Alex kept the game alive with exhibition games against army teams. The leader’s achievement drew admiration, not at home but in Ottawa.
As a result, this writer and Geo Mercer and others of Ottawa initiated a playoff series between Ottawa’s Glengarry top teams at the close of the summer schedule. We approached president “John Alex A. John” and he became so enthusiastic with the expansion play idea those playoffs were the highlight of Glengarry soccer for several years. we donated the challenge trophy known as the Angus H. McDonell Shield, home and home games. Goals to decide the winner.
All was well until Sunday afternoon, February 5, 1951. The widely known and highly respected athlete, soccer executive leader and Lochiel school teacher, “John Alex Angus John” was no more. He died suddenly as the result of a heart attack.
At this time, Willie was 24-year-old farm boy in scoring skills from his inside right position. During an interesting weekend interview with Willie MacNeil, now 87, in his bachelor parental home, we turned back the pages of time 63 years.
That was 1924, when Laggan played Greenfield on the Alexandria Fairgrounds for the Glengarry championship. (Dunvegan’s win had seen disputed.)
Midway through the game, still no score, Greenfield’s full back, Allan (Archie John) MacDonald, had a leg fractured accidentally. It was game over. Willie recalled that was the first accident in Glengarry’s newly organized football league.
Willie MacNeil was a luminary with Laggan football teams for the next 18 years. His remarks about retiring were, “When you are in your 40s you become a step slower and a bit heavier.”
We asked Willie if he could recall the Laggan champions by name. He pondered for a moment and then recited the lineup as if it was yesterday. “We had two goalies, Henry Weber and Kenzie MacDonald. The fullbacks, half line and forwards were John Rory MacNeil, Gregor MacMaster, Alex and Duncan MacCuaig, Donald John MacMaster, Angus Urquhart, Donald Duncan, Willie MacNeil, John Thomas MacDonald, Harry and Alex Franklin, Dick and Eddy Brydson.”
As a result of playing football all those years, displaying skill and sportsmanship on and off the field, Willie MacNeil in 1940 was presented by president J. Alex Macdonell with the Glengarry Football League Testimonial Award.
As a talented young lacrosse player, Randy McLennan joined the world champion Cornwall Lacrosse team. While still only a senior high school student, he was a medal winner at Caledonia Games in Glengarry, Cornwall, Ottawa and Montreal.
Randy McLennan emerged prominently in university sport in 1983-94. As a medical student he played hockey with Queen’s University in intercollegiate and senior OHA hockey. The following year was historic in the annals of Williamstown sport history. The young lad from “West the Road” played on Queen’s forward line in the Golden Gaels Stanley Cup challenge play against the Montreal M.A.A.S. They lost 5-1.
The Queen’s hockey team of that era was rated among the leaders in the Ontario Hockey Association next to professional. In the 1896, Queen’s defeated Stratford 11-4 to win the OHA championship. They then played an international series with Pittsburgh, PA. Randy McLennan was listed in Queen’s hockey records as a good rusher and trick stick handler.
On the gridiron, Randy McLennan was a luminary carrying the football as he was in hockey. He was a member of Queen’s intercollegiate football winners and their Dominion champions, the Grey Cup of today.
Dr. Donald David Randolph McLennan after graduation was lured to the Yukon by the magnetic Gold Rush of 1898. He continued to play hockey. Then in 1905, Randy was a member of the Dawson City, Yukon hockey team that challenged Ottawa’s famed Silver Seven in Stanley Cup play. Thus Randy set an all time Glengarry hockey playing record by taking part for the second time in a Stanley Cup Series.
Randy McLennan mined for a number of years and for a time was mining recorder. He died December 12, 1935. He was survived by his wife the former Margaret Kinney.
That characteristic became evident to intermediate lacrosse fans of the Glengarry League in the 1930s. Roddy was among the leaders of the Dalhousie team that won the 1934 championship and played Burlington in the Ontario finals.
Roddy McRae was a stalwart two way hockey player with Dalhousie in the Border League. When still a junior, Roddy was a walk-on at Canadiens Major Junior camp in Cornwall. In that era, there were no draft classes, if a player felt he might have a chance he just reported to the officials. Hence the term “walk-on”.
After retiring from hockey, Roddy MacRae enjoy all matters in the while working. That was during the years but then failing retirement. In 1980, gedness was being saminal illness. Journeyman athlete distinguished classified they are essential in greats especially in lacrosse, baseball, and hockey.