1926 Kirk Hill Football | Colin Chrisholm | Glengarry Gardens New Seven | Blair MacDonald | Ronald MacLachlan
1926 Kirk Hill Football (Soccer) Club
The organization of the Glengarry Football (Soccer) Association took place in 1924. In 1927 the Kirk Hill Football Club rose up to become the first dominant team in the fledgling football league.
After playing exhibition matches in 1925 Kirk Hill held an organizational meeting on Saturday, May 5, 1926 to enter a team in the GFL. Election of officers was as follows: President J.W. MacLeod, Vice-president W.A. Dewar, Secretary-Treasurer W.D. MacLeod, Coach H.J MacGillivray and Captain Neil Blair Kirk Hill’s first game was held on a cold, rainy evening June 21, 1926 against defending champs McCrimmon. Second-half corner kicks taken by Eddie Carter resulted in two goals, one headed in by Neil Blair, the other booted by Robbie Dewar. Final score: Kirk Hill 2, McCrimmon 0.
On July 15, Kirk Hill defeated Dalkeith 3-0 to clinch first place in the East Division (which included Laggan, McCrimmon, Lochiel, and Dalkeith as well as Kirk Hill), finishing league play with 13 of a possible 16 points.
In the championship finals, Kirk Hill met Greenfield – the West Division champions – who had defeated Maxville 2-1. On Monday, August 23 at Kirk Hill, goalie Angus MacGillivray recorded a strong game against the fast Greenfield forwards, resulting in a 0-0 draw.
From the files of The Glengarry News of the day, a description of the second game follows: “On Friday evening, August 27th, 1926 Krikhill Football team journeyed to Greenfield to meet the Greenfield Eleven, championships of the Western League in the last home and home game to decide (the) Glengarry Championship. The game started at 6:30, Kirkhill taking the kick-off carried the ball to the Greenfield end, play came to the middle field but the Black and Orange (Kirk Hill) had the best of the play in the first period although the Red and Whites (Greenfield) made brilliant rushes but found the Kirkhill backs hard to beat.
The second period started with Greenfield taking the kick-off. Kirkhill’s left wing Eddie Carter dribbled the ball down the left flank and drove the ball to the centre field where the Greenfield back missed the ball. Kirkhill’s centre Neil Blair drove a hard one through the Greenfield goal, the goalie having no chance to save at all, scoring the memorable 1-0 for Kirkhill.”
On July 9 of the following year, 1927, Kirk Hill defeated Lochiel 2-0, Captain Normie John MacLeod scoring both goals in the first half. This result allowed Kirk Hill to repeat as champions and they narrowly missed a third, losing in the final playoff game to Lochiel in 1928.
According to the records of a club treasurer, it was a time to 25-cent admission prices (children free) and loyal, enthusiastic fans. A match between Laggan and Kirk Hill attracted gate receipts of over 60 dollars. It cost $3.50 for a football and 50 cents for a bladder to inflate the ball. Attesting to an era of hospitality, the visiting team was treated to salmon sandwiches, tea and coffee after the game.
Local clubs – as exemplified by Kirk Hill – came from small, closely – knit communities with players ranging in age from 16 to 45, coming from almost each and every farm in that community. This unfortunately led to the demise of the Kirk Hill team after the 1928 season as young players moved away to seek work and could not be replaced. The Kirk Hill team of 1926 was defined by superb goaltending, a stalwart back line, as well as skilled and speedy forwards and a gentlemanly style of play. There were several key players on this championship team. Goalie Angus MacGillivray and centre halfback Alexander ‘Sandy’ MacLeod were invalubable. Forwards Eddie Carter and Neil Blair, both born in Great Britain, were two of the outstanding players of the day.
Eddie Carter went on to play for Maxville and Greenfield teams. Neil Blair helped form and coach the powerful Grove club of the late 1930’s. H.J. (John Archie) MacGillivray was described by Hall of Fame historian Angus H. McDonell as one of the all-time great fullbacks.
These men invested many hours in the following years to work on club and league executives and performed the challenging task of refereeing as the Glengarry League flourished. In Carter’s case, this contribution eventually turned from years into decades.
Perhaps the finest compliment the Kirk Hill team of 1926 received was from Eddie Carter, who was quoted by a good friend as saying it was the greatest team on which he had ever played.
Members of the Kirk Hill Champions are as follows: Angus MacGillivray, H.J. MacGillivray, Donnie MacMillian, Norman J. MacLeod, Mack MacCuaig, Alexander MacLeod, Neil Blair, Evans MacGillivray, William D. MacLeod, Eddie Carter, Robbie Dewar, J.D. MacGillivray, John A. MacLeod, A.N. MacMillian and William Claremont.
Following high school, Chisholm decided to become a teacher, and he began a 39-year stint as an educator on Cornwall Island after graduating from Ottawa’s Normal School in 1928. His wife Fernande also taught on the reserve, In addition to his teaching duties, Chisholm became heavily involved in the sport of lacrosse on the Island as well as neighboring St. Regis, Que. and Hogansburg, N.Y.
Chisholm got into the business aspect of the sport when he founded a lacrosse stick manufacturing company with Frank Roundpoint. With the expansion of box lacrosse and the continued popularity of the field version, the Chisholm-Roundpoint sticks began appearing throughout Canada and the United States.
The sticks were also used at universities around the world where the sport was played. A fire destroyed the factory in 1968, but it re-opened a year later. Sales were so strong following the re-opening that Chisholm retired teaching to concentrate on the business.
Chisholm remained with the company until 1972 when poor heath forced him to sell his portion of the company to Roundpoint. Chisholm was a great promoter of lacrosse throughout Eastern Ontario and he served on the executive of the sport’s national body. He was instrumental in bringing the 1963 Mann Cup national lacrosse championships to Cornwall’s Water Street Arena.
Chisholm was plagued by health problems in his later years, and he died at Hotel Dieu hospital in Cornwall on June 13, 1980 at the age of 72.
Chisholm’s son Robert is a priest at Sacred Heart Church in Lanark while daughters Ann, Helen and Margaret are married and living in Westmount, Rosedale and Toronto respectively.
The Glengarry Gardens was built in 1947 by one of the inductees, Alex DaPrato. In December 1949, a new company, consisting of some 60 shareholders purchased the arena, improving its facilities.
But this arena was short-lived: on January 19, 1952 it was destroyed by fire. A new committee was formed and re-construction began on the same site in late July, 1953. Within a year the arena was in use again. Parts of the interior, however, remained unfinished, and for a variety of reasons, the Gardens suffered from financial difficulties.
At this point the New Company of Seven inductees stepped in and saved the day. Through their efforts the arena was finished, and shortly after, artificial ice was installed. In October 1976 the area was signed over to the town of Alexandria.
Lloyd McHugh, proprietor of the Hub Restaurant, headed the Gardens’ first executive. He was involved in hockey. R.J. Graham, owner of Graham’s Creamery, started the Hub Restaurant. Alex DaPrato, a farmer from the 4th of Kenyon, left the area to operate a grocery store in Ottawa. He returned to Alexandria in 1947 to build the first arena. Wilfred Menard, the owner of Menard Construction, Green Valley, was president when the arena was sold to the town in 1967.
Magnus Lemay, was the proprietor of the Ottawa Hotel. His son Claude was secretary-treasurer of the company when the arena was transferred. Dr. Dominic J. Dolan, local sports-minded physician, often patched up injured hockey players without charging for his services.
Louis Shepherd was the owner of Shepherd Motors. His sons Gary and Rodney today run the sports shop and bus company.
Retired from hockey for the past few years, MacDonald says he still gets nostalgic on Labour Day weekends, feeling he should again be preparing to start another hockey season.
In local hockey with the Alexandria Minor Hockey Association, the youngster was encouraged by some of Glengarry’s great sports promoters. Initially there was Father Michael O’Brien, who, when he was pastor at St. Raphaels, organized the parish’s first hockey teams where MacDonald started out as a peewee. His first coach was his elder brother Tony, followed by Alex MacCulloch, Cameron MacDonald, Archie McRae and Emile Hurtubise. “He was a pleasure to coach,” Cameron recalls. “He had a natural talent and always listened well without any back-talk.”
MacDonald played three years of major junior hockey with the Cornwall Royals, coached the fist year by Ralph Hurley and Jim Larin, the second year (1971-72) by Orval Tessier when the team won its first Memorial Cup and by Ron Racette in his final year.
He made the all-star team the last two years and in the 1973 amateur draft, was selected by the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers.
After signing with the Oilers, he played two-and-a-half years in Edmonton before being traded to the Indianapolis Racers in December, 1975. He was to play there for a year-and-a-half before being traded back to Edmonton in September, 1977.
The next three years were his best in pro hockey. As team captain, he scored 34 goals both in 77-78 and ‘78-79 while making the WHA all-star squad both seasons.
The WHA merged with the NHL in ‘79-80 and MacDonald enjoyed his finest season as a professional as he compiled 46 goals and 48 assists for 94 points, finishing in the top ten in league scoring while joining line mate Wayne Gretzky on the all-star team.
MacDonald was then traded to the Vancouver Canucks and was a member of the team that was a Stanley Cup finalist in 1981-82.
At the end of his NHL career, he headed to Europe where he played three years in Austria, scoring 110 goals in 108 games. He got his first coaching experience serving as an assistant both in Vienna and Innsbruck.
On his return to Canada, he spent the 1985-86 season with the FIA, an organization that conducted coaching clinics in western Canada. The following year, MacDonald broke into the professional coaching ranks, taking over the American Hockey League’s Fredericton Express in late November. HE took the team to the Calder Cup finals where the Express lost to Hershey.
From there it was off to the International Hockey League where he was head coach in Muskegon, the farm tam of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The first year, he led his team to the Turner Cup, but he lost out in the finals the following season.
His third year was a most interesting one as the parent Penguins won the Stanley Cup.
MacDonald retired from hockey at this point so that he could spend more time with his young family. He lives in Vancouver with his wife Lisa and children Tyler, Jordan, Tavish and Alexandra and is busy with minor hockey there.
In 1953, they returned to Glen Sandfield raised a family of three fine boys and began a thirty year-year career as mail driver and school bus operator. The first thing Ronnie did in the early 1950’s was to organize a Glen Sandfield team in the Glengarry Soccer League – a team that has been playing for almost 40 years since then. This, however, was only the start to bigger and better things.
In the mid-1950’s, there was no minor soccer in Glengarry. Young men practised with a senior team until they were good enough to win a place. Although the exceptional one or two could make the big team in their early teens, for the vast majority it would mean waiting until they were 18 or 20.
Groups of teenage boys met near McCrimmon for two or three years around 1953 and played exhibition games, but no league existed for them. Around 1958, Gerry Simpson, newly arrived from Scotland and living in Glen Sandfield, Morlin Campbell, and Ronnie began Saturday afternoon scrimmages at the Lochiel Soccer Field for boys about 10 to 13 years of age. Father Gauthier often came out to watch the proceedings.
These informal gatherings with an old soccer ball and makeshift nets marked the birth of minor soccer in this area. The next year, one minor age group was established and it grew so fast that within five years the Glengarry Soccer League had peewee, junior, and intermediate boys’ divisions. The girls began in the mid-1960’s, and today the league has five men’s and women’s categories and one mixed for children seven and under.
What the league needed in the formative years were dedicated and hardworking organizers in the local areas to get teams organized and outfitted. Players had to be registered, coaches obtained, balls and sweaters purchased and meetings attended.
At the forefront in those years was Ronnie MacLachlan. Ronnie always ensured that there were players for the various new age groups, no small feat when one considers that Glen Sandfield in no way compares to Alexandria in size.
However, without fail, he could always be counted on to field a team and instill in his players the same high level of dedication and honor that he himself held high.
Getting players for the teams was not a problem if the parents were interested and could drive the kids, but for years Ronnie would phone players who he felt might enjoy learning the game, register them at their home if they could not make it out, drive them to games with his bus, organize raffles to raise money for sweaters and balls (in the days when five dollars was a lot of money), attend board of directors meetings and draw up league schedules (and remake them if storms cause cancellations).
Morlin Champbell tells the story about meeting with Ronnie at the Lochiel Soccer Field every Sunday afternoon for an entire summer when a long period of inclement weather forced repeated cancellation of games, and the schedule had to be reworked. He would arrange for coaches, but if none volunteered, he would take on the job. One year he coached four different teams, just so the young of the area would not be let down. His home was a registration point for hundreds of players every year. A lot of children – and now their children – are benefiting from his hard work and perseverance.
Beside him all those years was his wife of 50 years, Christena, who has been an unending source of support for him. Minor soccer would not be what it is today with his work over the past 35 years.
There are those in the world who will never take a chance, never organize unless they are personally involved in the enjoyment, who never want to get the “ball rolling.” Ronnie is not one of these. He was a hard worker who put the game and enjoyment by children before himself.