James Baker | Ruth Empey | Don Gamble Jr. | Ewen MacPhee | Andy McGillis
Jim competed in numerous events including the 100, 220, 440 yard races, the relays, the hop, step and jump as well as the broad jump. It is believed that some records may still stand, in particular the triple jump event where a mark of over 41 feet stands after 64 years.
A record of 10.1 seconds still exists for the 100-yard run. In his graduating year from high school Jim equalled the Canadian junior record at a track meet hosted by Alexandria. As the story goes, Jim ran the quarter-mile so quickly that there were objections from opposing teams regarding the accuracy of the time pieces. The time was accurate,however.
Darkness had set in and it was necessary to use car headlights to assist the officials in repeatedly measuring the 440 m. It was discovered that the measurement of the distance was not 440 yards, but 430 yards. If the discrepancy of the 10 yards had been averaged in, Jim Baker would have better than equalled the Canadian junior record.
Jim recalls one particular track meet where the accumulated points title rested on the relay team to bring the cup home to Alexandria High School. As anchor of the relay team, competition was intense and the pressure was on to win the race. Jim brought the cup home to Alexandria.
On returning to Alexandria, the truck that the team was riding in was stoned by upset competitors and spectators. During his high school years, Jim was also a leader of the Cadet Corps, where he excelled in rifle range shooting. He also had chilling memories of his trips to Maxville by horse and sleigh to play defence for his Alexandria hockey team.
Jim later attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., studying arts and engineering. In 1940, he was honoured by the university with the prestigious “Letter A” for his accomplishments in athletics.
Jim’s athletic prowess, physical and teamwork skills followed him into his army days when he represented his regiment (Royal Canadian Engineers) at track and field meets in Canada and Europe. While in the army, he and his boxing buddy would be placed on draft lists for overseas only to be removed at the last minute for no apparent reason. As it turned out, the two were slated to attend prestigious athletic events bringing honour to the regiment. The two buddies managed to get themselves paraded in front of the big army bosses attempting to ensure they remained on the draft list.
Jim went on to represent his regiment in track and field events in Italy, Holland and the United Kingdom. A back injury he suffered during the war caused Jim to finally slow down. In 1964, he married Edna McMeekin and raised six children; Colleen, Maureen, Jimmy, Chloe, Ann and David.
Jim made the decision to return to his alma mater as a teacher at Glengarry District High School where he continued to earn the respect of his colleagues and students until his retirement in 1982. Jim continued to demonstrate his passion for athletics by assisting and coaching basketball, track and field and football. A dedication by his junior football team reads: “We would not be able to boast of such accomplishments if it wasn’t for our lovable, patient coach, Mr. Baker, who led us on to every victory.
No one gave more time, more energy and more enthusiasm than you did. For your leadership we are indebted, for your enthusiasm and devotion, we are grateful.” Jim, a dedicated family man, resides in Alexandria and has nine grand-children and one great-grandchild. He is proud of his grandchildren, who have followed his love, interest and passion for participation and achievements in athletics.
Ruth moved to Williamstown in 1952 where she and her husband settled on the Glen Road, living there until retirement in 1980. Although she left her native city for the green fields of Glengarry, she continued to return to Cornwall to pursue her athletic passion – badminton.
Ruth played in the Cornwall SDG Badminton Club for 15 years between 1954 and 1969. During that time, she would only lose the ladies’ singles title twice, winning the championship 13 times. Even when Ruth lost her singles’ title, she still managed to be on the winning side. When she was defeated by Jean Malyon for the singles’ title, Ruth still captured the mixed doubles title and the women’s doubles title.
Her daughter Marilyn remembers how at one time, a local celebrity rubbed shoulders with an internationally recognized athlete. While working as the Executive Housekeeper for the Holiday Inn in Cornwall, Ruth had the opportunity to meet one of the greatest basketball players in history – Wilt Chamberlain.
Ruth had her picture taken with the seven foot tall Hall of Famer. Because of Ruth’s height being just under five feet, she was required to stand on a chair. Both athletes used their height to dominate their respective sports.
Ruth would frequent tournaments in various areas in Eastern Ontario with remarkable success, often frustrating her opponents with her skill and her remarkable court sense. Often underestimated by opponents because of her size, Ruth usually made them regret it as she would force the larger layers to chase the bird from one side of the court to the other.
Upon Ruth’s retirement from competitive badminton, the Cornwall SDG Badminton Club decided to retire the Ladies’ Singles Champion Trophy. It was replaced with the “Ruth Empey” trophy in commemoration of Ruth’s skill and dedication of the sport. Once Ruth and her husband retired, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where Ruth became an accomplished bowler.
In 1997, Ruth decided to return to Canada to be closer to her family, and in 1998, she returned to ten pin bowling, but a sudden bout with the flu forced her to hang up her shoes and retire from sports.
Ruth Empey was inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame in 1968, and on August 26 she will be inducted into the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame as well.
Don proved to be an active child. While attending school in Maxville, he played football, softball and even hockey for the famous Maxville Millionaires in the Senior League. He eventually left Maxville to attend St. Pat’s where he played hockey before moving on to Nova Scotia to attend St. Francis Xavier University, where he became a member of the St.FX University men’s varsity hockey team. Don left St.FX after two years to accept a position as Assistant Dean of Men at Kemptville Agricultural College, where he helped establish a sports program.
Despite his travelling and his new responsibilities, Don never abandoned his own personal enthusiasm for local sports as he played fastball for Kemptville and senior hockey for the Shawville Pontiacs. It would be in community athletics and recreation that Don established his legacy.
Don moved to Ottawa, where he was hired as manager of the newly opened Canterbury Centre. His natural ability to promote the organized began to attract considerable attention.
After a number of promotions, Don was appointed Director of Recreation in 1977. After that, he acted as Acting Commissioner of Economic Development, Deputy Commissioner of Community Development and Chief Administrative Officer for the city of Ottawa.
In 1988, Don reached the highest position in Ottawa recreation, being appointed Commissioner of Culture and Recreation. As the Commissioner of Culture and Recreation, Don was responsible for all the recreation facilities and staff, as well as for all the cultural venues in the city of Ottawa.
If there was a ball field, a swimming pool, an arena or a facility that had been amended, renovated or built in the last 20 to 25 years, Don probably had a hand in it. The redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, the restructuring of the Sparks Street Mall and the emergence of Triple A Baseball in Ottawa can all be attributed to Don’s tenacity and skill.
Don was also responsible for the bringing of the Scott’s Tournament of Hearts and the Brier to Ottawa. Throughout his career in Ottawa, Don still skated with several leagues in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.
He also shared his time with the Metcalfe Curing Club and the Metcalfe and District Lions Club, serving as president of both organizations. Despite enormous personal responsibilities at the office and in the community, Don still found time to coach minor hockey and co-ed softball in his adopted hometown of Metcalfe.
But it was not just in Ottawa and the surrounding district where Don donated his energy so freely. Every year at the end of July, you could always find Don in his hometown of Maxville. Most Glengarrians remember Don as the Infield Coordinator at the Highland Games.
With his father, the already inducted “Doc” Gamble Sr. being one of the founders of the Games, it is not surprising that Don would give so many years of time and effort to the Games.
Don started his 39 year commitment to the Games at the age of 13 when he helped his father with the sports in the grandstand infield. Since that time, he never missed a year, serving as Co-Chairman of sports, then as Chairman of Sports and Public Relations, a Director for four years, and then as the Infield Coordinator.
Aside from his sporting achievements, Don was also successful in his family life. He was a loving husband to his wife Gail,and father to his two children, Marcia and Don Jr.
Just recently, Don Jr. had decided to continue the legacy established by his father and his father before him to the Highland Games. Don’s dedication to sports is inspirational, and on his passing, Ottawa and Maxville truly lost the spark and the celebration of life that was Don Gamble Jr.
There were occasional soccer games between some elementary schools during the period prior to World War II, but this was the extent of any organization at the junior level. On entering high school in Alexandria in 1944, MacPhee first became involved in track and field.
Again, there was a minimum of coaching, consisting mainly of help from one’s teammates and some of the teachers. He continued to participate in these events through high school, both at the intramural and interscholastic levels, winning several awards.
All high school pupils were obliged to be in the Cadet Corps for the duration of the war. MacPhee was awarded the Strathcona Medal for being the Best All Around Shot in the Corps for the year 1947-48 as well as several other shooting titles.
He also won track and field awards at cadet camp during the summers of 1947 and 1948.
The first Glengarry Highland Games were held in Maxville in the summer of 1948. MacPhee participated in the track and field events, winning medals in the pole vault and broad jump. In 1946, Lochiel Soccer Club began the rebuilding process . Many of the players had dispersed over the war years and their place was now taken by some of the young boys in the community. MacPhee was one of these promising youths.
Over the next few years, the team started to gel and beginning in 1949 through 1959, the team won the Glengarry Cup, emblem of soccer supremacy in Glengarry, 10 times. The exception was in 1951 when Dalkeith won the trophy.
MacPhee, at centre forward, was a major contributor to the club’s success. He was second in scoring in 1947 and was named Most Gentlemanly Player. He won the scoring championship in 1949 and 1950. He also played for Cornwall United for at least one season.
MacPhee was chosen to play inside right for Glengarry. In the summer of 1997, the members of the All Star team were honoured, marking the 50th anniversary of that game.
After the war, Alexandria got a covered hockey rink and artificial ice. A team was entered in the Cornwall and District Intermediate Hockey League. The team was called the Maroons and MacPhee was a valued member.
He also played for Alexandria in the Border League and later played for the Alexandria Aces and the Alexandria Gems in the Central Ottawa Valley Hockey League. Playing on a line with Reynald Lauzon and Laurent Poirier, MacPhee made a huge contribution to the success of the teams. The most successful season was in 1953-54 when the Gems beat the Lancaster Rainbows to win the first Alexandria championship since 1914. They eventually lost to Cardinal in the O.D.H.A. play downs. In 1947, a reunion of the players of that era was held in Alexandria.
MacPhee joined the Bank of Nova Scotia after leaving high school. After serving in Alexandria, Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury he was eventually transferred to Montreal in 1951, where he remained until 1957. During that period, he played for the Bank of Nova Scotia Hockey Club and in the Montreal Financial Hockey League. There is no telling what other athletic exploits he might have taken part in, but in the fall of 1957, MacPhee was transferred to the bank’s New York agency. He is now retired and living in Toronto, where he is still involved in sports, mainly curling and golf.
MacPhee is married to Mildred MacMillan and they have four children, Joslyn (Ralph) MacGillivray, Jennifer (Paul) Dowell, Melissa and Jeffrey. He and Mildred also have five grandchildren, Karleigh, Cameron and Eric Dowell, as well as Taylor and Sarah MacGillivary.
The versatile McGillis coached all sports, including hockey, football, boxing and basketball. Unlike most high school coaches, McGillis was a full-time athletic director and taught no other subjects. Despite its size, St. Leo’s teams consistently held their own against schools 10 times larger.
During his years as coach, McGillis’s teams won 12 City of Montreal hockey championship and three football titles. In one year in the late 40s, when McGill University won four national intercollegiate boxing championships, all four boxers had been coached by McGillis at St. Leo’s before going on to McGill.
No other coach in the Montreal area ever equalled McGillis’ record of successes with the limited facilities with which he had to work at St. Leo’s. No other coach anywhere, in the opinion of the men who gather every year to honour him, was ever held in such affection and respect as McGillis.
Andrew (Andy) McGillis was born on the family farm, the west half of lot 30, 5th concession of Lochiel Township, in 1911. His mother was Lorinda McMillan of Lochiel. McGillis’ ancestors had come to the area over a century earlier from the Highlands of Scotland.
His father’s sister, Theresa married Archie Chisholm, and their son, McGillis’ first cousin, Colin Chisholm was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.
He came to St. Leo’s Academy as athletic director when he was 27 years old and retired 30 years later. His favorite saying, the one he lived by, was framed on the wall of his office. It was by the famous American sportswriter Grantland Rice: “When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he writes not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”
Andy McGillis passed away in 2005.