Highland Society platform members , the Highland Games c 1922, the Elm Grounds. The official piper, Angus ‘the Ridge” MacDonald, playing a tune. Courtesy of Antigonish Heritage Museum. Restoration: Kathy Gillis
The power of photo restoration, it was only after Kathy Gillis took her “healing brush” to this stained and damaged photo for the production of Danny Gillis (2013) 150th anniversary book, The Highland Games, that it was possible to identify with any certainty that it was Angus “the Ridge” MacDonald, of Loch Katrine, and that it was the “Big Elm.”
Angus “The Ridge” in this photo compared favourably with the photo in Scott Williams’ (2000) compilation of Pipers of Nova Scotia: Biographical Sketches 1773 to 2000, p. 103. Angus was the son of Alexander “the Ridge,” also a piper of renown, and grandson of Allan “The Ridge,” the Gaelic poet referenced in the letter in this exhibit under Education and Lifelong Learning. In 1933, he and Jack “The Piper” MacDonald (see his photo with the Cooperative Arts banner) piped the Society members down Main Street to their dinner at Wong’s Restaurant.
For further identification of the platform members, Danny Gillis suggests that we go to the Minutes of the Highland Society.
The Big Elm is marked on early maps as the entrance to the tree-lined playing field that stood on the floodplain between St. Andrew’s Street and narrow branch of the Wright’s River. Kathy restoration put time and place to the photo. Danny Gillis records the Elm Grounds as the permanent home of the Games by the end of the 1800s.
The Newsletter of the Antigonish Heritage Society, The Old Train Station includes an article on the Big Elm in January 2011 http://www.heritageantigonish.ca/images/pdf/museum/Newsletter/2009/2011_01_newsletter.pdf
The plot thickens. If the Big Elm met its demise in a 1914 wind storm, then is this photo an even earlier Highland Games?