Cause worth fight­ing for

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

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.


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