Hugh Angus MacDonald was
born in Lanark, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia on December 3, 1889 and
died in Lanark on December 2, 1976. His parents were Angus MacDonald from
Lanark and Mary MacInnis, from the Keppoch, Antigonish County.
His great grandfather, John
MacDonald, emigrated from the Scottish Highlands in 1791 and settled on
Lot #11 in Antigonish County and since then, the MacDonald family have
carried the nickname of the "number elevens".
On November 22, 1937, Hugh
A. married Anna Winnifred MacDonald, daughter of Eliza Elizabeth Kennedy
& Daniel Angus MacDonald.
Hughie and Winnie had six
children; Dorothy (married to Ervin Doak and live in Halifax), John Hugh
(married to Anita MacKenzie and live in Halifax), James (married to Ann
MacLellan and live in Lanark), Rosemary (married to Andre Voyer and live
in Quebec), Roy (deceased) and Janice (married to Tony MacGillivray and
live in Lanark).
Hughie and Winnie have
twelve grandchildren. Robert, Normand & Bertrand (children of Rosemary
& Andre Voyer), Kendra, Sabra & Troy (children of Janice &
Tony MacGillivray), Laughlin, Heather, Lindsay & Bonnie (children of
James & Ann MacDonald) and Cassie Anne & Maggie Jane (children of
John Hugh & Anita MacDonald).
Hugh A. was one of the most
popular fiddlers in eastern Nova Scotia. For about seventy years, he
played for concerts, dances, weddings, funerals, highland balls, and
picnics. He did not play music as a full time job, but he would play for
many functions, giving freely of his time or for very little pay, maybe a
couple of dollars for hours of music.
Fiddler" also used to make live performances on radio. He would visit
CJFX AM 580 in Antigonish and play live on air with his wife, Winnifred on
piano or his sister, Janie MacDonald Bailey.
Musicians from Antigonish
County, Cape Breton, throughout Canada and Scotland have all paid visits
to the MacDonald home to hear Hugh A.'s fiddle music. Some of his visitors
included Cape Breton composer/fiddler Dan R. MacDonald and Scottish
violinist Ron Gonella.
He was a very popular dance
player and his specialty was polkas. There are five figures to the
Antigonish square set and polkas were played for two of the five figures.
It is said, that for every dance he played a new polka and so he had a
very large repertoire. Because of this, he was nicknamed ³The Polka
King². Cape Breton fiddler, Winston Scotty Fitzgerald used to say that
when you go to Antigonish you've got to play lots of polkas, probably
because they were so used to dancing to Hugh A's polkas.
To this day, his
grand-daughter, fiddler Kendra MacGillivray, plays many of the polkas that
Hugh A. made popular. Tunes such as the Honeymoon Polka and Crooked
Stovepipe are favorites for fiddlers and listeners all over Canada. He did
not compose these tunes, however he put the names to some of the them and
recorded them first. It is believed that a man from Westville, NS wrote
many of the polkas that Hugh A. used to play.
In the spring of 1935, Hugh
A. & Colin J. Boyd, a fiddling friend from Lakevale, Antigonish
County, made an historic trip to Montreal, Quebec by train, to make some
of the first fiddle music records which would someday become treasures to
family members and music collectors. They each recorded two records with
two selections per record. On this trip, Hugh A. recorded the Honeymoon
Polka & Crooked Stovepipe/Archie Menzies & Fisher's Hornpipe on
his first record (002) and on the other (004) Mrs. Hutton & Miss. E.
Elder/Clear the Track & Napoleon. Hugh A. was accompanied on piano by
Mrs. Bess Sidall (Willie Hector) MacDonald.
Later in the same year of
1935, Hugh A. & Colin J. returned to Montreal to record five more 78s
along with other musicians from Cape Breton.
About sixty years later, in
1996, Hugh A.'s grand-daughter, Kendra MacGillivray recorded, "Clear
the Track", a CD where she dedicates her musical inspiration to her
grandfather. She selected many of the tunes that he recorded and often
played for this recording and this CD was very instrumental in bringing
those tunes back to the forefront. MacDonald's 78rpm records are no longer
available and it's very hard to find gramophones to play them, so some of
the music hadn't been heard for many years.
In recent years, Hugh A.
MacDonald has been showered with honors for his contribution to East Coast
(Atlantic Canada) music.
In 2001, Hugh A. was
honored with a special award at the East Coast Music Awards in St. John,
New Brunswick. He was one of four recipients of the "Stompin Tom
Award". Previous winners of this award include fiddlers Colin J. Boyd
and Don Messer. His wife, Winnifred accepted the award on his behalf and
his grand-children, Kendra, Sabra and Troy MacGillivray performed one of
his most popular pieces of music, The Polka #3.
In 2002, Hugh A. was
inducted into the Clan Donald "Hall of Fame" which is located in
the Hall of the Clans at the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts & Crafts in
St. Anne's, Cape Breton.
On August 14, 2003, Hugh A.
will be inducted into the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame, Home of
the Hank Snow Museum. It is believed that many years ago while Hugh A. was
playing for a function at the Celtic Hall in Antigonish, that a very young
Hank Snow was there and asked to accompany Hugh A. on guitar for a few
Celtic music has never been
so popular and it is due to musicians such as fiddler, Hugh A. MacDonald,
who loved the music so much and played to make people happy. He has
inspired countless musicians and is definitely one of Eastern Canada's
Celtic Music Label 1935 (78 rpms)
1. Honeymoon Polka/Crooked
Archie Menzies/Fisher's Hornpipe (002B)
2. Mrs. Hutton/Miss E.
Clear the Track/Napolean (004B)
3. Betty's Polka/Bonnie Bonchory (012A)
The Rights of Man/Miss Elder (012B)
4. Polka # 3 (013A)
Jackson's Fancy/Bridal Jig (013B)
5. Walker Street Reel
Ariel Hornpipe (016B)
6. Favorite Polkas (018A)
Starlight Waltz (018B)
7. MacDonald March (019A)
Prince Albert Hornpipe (019B)
- St. Francis Xavier
University Prom - 16 years old Opening of St. Francis Xavier University
- Morrison Dining Hall Recording of "MacDonald March"
- Played in
Canadian Pavilion, Expo '67
- Antigonish Highland Games (numerous years)
- St. Francis Xavier University Prom - 16 years old
- Opening of Morrison Dining Hall, St. Francis Xavier University
- His recording of the "MacDonald March" was played in the Canadian
Pavilion, Expo '67
- Numerous performances at the "Concert Under the Stars", Antigonish
2003 - Induction into the
Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame
2002 - Induction into the Clan Donald Hall of Fame
2001 - Honored with a Stompin' Tom Award - East Coast Music Awards
1977 - Antigonish Highland Games Dedication