NEW GLASGOW, N.S. – Retired judge Clyde Macdonald saw plenty of lawbreakers come before him during his time on the bench. But he’d would classify very few as evil.
Most people who appear in court, he said, are those who have used poor judgment – often influenced by alcohol or drugs. But three murder cases he writes about in his latest book, Nova Scotians In and Out of Court, don’t fit that category.
“What struck me was the evil that lurked in the hearts of these men who committed murder.”
The cases took place in 1815, 1838 and 1933 and are chronicled in Macdonald’s 15th book, which will be launched Saturday, Aug. 11 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the New Glasgow library.
The book carries a variety of stories from notable Nova Scotians to the most heinous crimes.
This publication puts Macdonald on par, in terms of books published, with James Cameron, a widely recognized historian in Pictou County. Macdonald said he never thought in a hundred years he’d have this many historical books to his name, considering himself more of a history enthusiast. But he’s been steadily turning out books.
“As soon as I get one to the printer, I start the next one,” he said.
Macdonald thanked those who have aided him in his research and the Pictou County Roots Society which organizes launches for his books, proceeds of which are donated to the Roots Society.
“Writing a book is, as you might deduce, a lonely task,” he said. “When you work on a chapter with someone that is associated with the topic or the person, then it’s very interesting to do.”
Three people worked closely with him on this book for some chapters. Former judge David Milner of Halifax assisted with the story of Dr. W. Herdman who was struck and killed by a train, leading to a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Lois Thompson of Woodstock, N.B., provided information about her great-uncle Alex Copeland. Adrian Pearson, the former town clerk of Stellarton provided information about the time he received the health and lifestyle award in Ottawa in 1977 and some of the notables he met, including Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
HEAD: The spirit world
In light of the pending legalization of marijuana today a chapter in the new book, Nova Scotians In and Out of Court, tells the story of New Glasgow’s entry into the liquor business.
According to author Clyde Macdonald, in 1920 William H. Glendenning of New Glasgow was hired as the town’s first legal vendor to sell liquor in the town. The catch was it could only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription. Ailments could include something as simple as a cough.
“You could imagine how it was abused,” Macdonald said.
Sales generated considerable tax money for the town. Records show sales between September 1920 and May 1921 generated $6,700 with $2,100 going to the town.
Another chapter, related to making alcohol legal, tells the story of John Doull who represented Pictou County from 1925 to 1933 in the Nova Scotia Legislature.
In 1929 Doull was acting as Chairman of Members of the Nova Scotia Legislature sitting as a committee of the whole during a debate over whether or not liquor should be sold in liquor stores governed by The Liquor Control Act.
While Doull didn’t drink personally, he believed prohibition wasn’t working and ended up casting the deciding vote, in favour of the controlled sell.
“A couple of days later they were in church in the United church in Halifax and the minister castigated anybody who drank liquor and anybody who permitted the sale of it,” Macdonald said.
“He had to sit there and take it.”
Want to go?
What: Book launch for Nova Scotians In and Out of Court
Hosted by the Pictou County Roots Society
Where: New Glasgow Library
When: Aug. 11 from 2-4 p.m.
Notes: A light lunch will be served. This book will only be available for sale this one afternoon, so anyone who wants a copy should plan to either be there or have someone pick up a copy for them.