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Clyde Macdonald presents new book on notable people from county


Published on August 3, 2017

Clyde Macdonald holds a copy of his latest book, Pictonians In and Out of Court. He will be releasing it on Aug. 12.

©ADAM MACINNIS/THE NEWS

NEW GLASGOW – It’s been a busy publishing year for retired judge and local historian Clyde Macdonald.

Next week the retired judge will be releasing his third book within a year in addition to a booklet he co-published with Philip MacKenzie.

Macdonald’s newest book, Pictonians In and Out of Court, is his 14th book and includes some of the stories he’s been wanting to put to print for a while.

A personal favourite and one he hopes readers will enjoy is about bareknuckle boxer Duncan MacDonald, who was a cousin of Macdonald’s grandfather.

Duncan MacDonald moved away from New Glasgow at the age of 20 and became a bareknuckle boxer not long afterward.

He would go on to fight two famed boxers, John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett. Both matches with the future heavyweight champions of the world ended in a draw.

“MacDonald went on to train Corbett for Corbett’s heavyweight championship of the world title fight over Sullivan in New Orleans,” Macdonald said.

As Macdonald notes in his book, few individuals who hail from New Glasgow have had their death notice recognized in the New York Times.

“The April 3, 1947, of the edition of that newspaper did so for Duncan MacDonald, famous bareknuckle boxer of Montana.”

Another person Macdonald says he always wanted to write about was Justice William O. Douglas who in 1939 was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the United States Supreme Court.

Douglas’s father had been born in Alma before moving to serve as a Presbyterian minister in the U.S. Douglas holds many records including being the longest continuous-serving member of the United States Supreme Court with more than 36 years on the bench. He also holds the record for the most divorces and most marriages for a sitting judge of the Supreme Court – three and four respectively.

Douglas was also a potential vice presidential candidate for both Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

He famously told Truman while declining his offer: “Why be a No. 2 man to a No. 2 man?”

Truman of course went on to prove Douglas wrong and won the election.

Macdonald said Douglas’s great-great-grandfather had been a passenger on the Ship Hector and throughout his life he remembered his roots in Pictou County.

“His widow still owns 23 acres in Green Hill,” Macdonald said. “In Justice Douglas’s will he wanted to turn that into a retreat.”

Unfortunately he never designated any money to make it a retreat and that wish has never been accomplished.

Other stories of note in the book include a lawyer who murdered a lawyer and got away with it because the jury determined he was insane at the time he committed the crime.

Another is of a man who escaped the noose, but was branded for grand larceny.

Copies of the book with these and more historic stories with ties to Pictou County will be available at the launch which will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 12 at the New Glasgow library. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Pictou County Roots Society, which is hosting the event.