Cause worth fighting for
Fr. Greg Macleod compiled quite a resumé during his 81 years. From ordained Roman Catholic priest to lifelong educator, community advocate, founder of the Tompkins Institute at Cape Breton University, a member of the Order of Canada and so much more.
MacLeod also left behind an enviable legacy – one that prompted his peers, in interviews with the Post this week, to recall his energy, the dedication he had for the community, his ability to inspire those around him and his championing of local causes.
One of those causes that MacLeod took up in 2015 at the age of 79 concerned the future of the railway in Cape Breton – specifically the line running from St. Peter’s Junction to Sydney.
Written off as a lost cause by many, MacLeod begged to differ and was instrumental in the formation of the Scotia Railway Development Society whose primary objective was to prevent Genesee & Wyoming, owner of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, from tearing up the Cape Breton portion of the tracks and selling it.
MacLeod called meetings, recruited committee members and wrote compelling op-ed pieces in the Post.
One of those op-eds opened as follows:
“Fifty years ago Nova Scotia had marvellous rail service, but over the decades it has been cut back or abandoned. Piece by piece. In September, 1961, the last train operated on the round trip Maccan-River HebertJoggins in Cumberland County. In that same year, the Cornwallis Valley Railway was abandoned.
In 1981, the CNR abandoned the Liverpool to Yarmouth main line and the Bridgewater to Bridgetown branch. The latest is the attempt to abandon the Cape Breton line.”
MacLeod went on to conclude the article by stating: “However, if citizens do not make their voices heard, politicians will not act. We have lost a lot in Cape Breton because we did not speak up. We tend to complain when it is too late. We were passive when CN sold the Truro-Sydney link and when the government sold the Devco railway. We were passive when we lost ECBC, etc., etc.”
He stated his case clearly, concisely and with compassion. Supporters of the railway could not have hoped for a better spokesman.
“Greg recognized (the railway) was ... essential infrastructure for our island,” Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke told the Post this week. “He was able to inspire and bring together a lot of our fellow citizens to look at making a case (to save it), not just making an appeal. People sitting down and exploring the idea of what can be.”
Just a few months ago in an interview with the Post, MacLeod spoke with optimism about the railroad’s future on the island but cautioned that it couldn’t be allowed to deteriorate while waiting for the port of Sydney to be developed.
Sadly, he is no longer here to lead the fight, his lifelong boundless energy finally being extinguished on Wednesday.
He will be missed but we hope the Scotia Railway Development Society will continue to carry the torch in his absence.