“Hardrock” Mac­Don­ald was one of Glen­garry’s many colour­ful char­ac­ters

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

Glen­garry County has had its share of colour­ful char­ac­ters over the years, from the “Big Bishop” Alexan­der Mac­donell, to “Big Fin­nan of The Buf­falo” McDon­ald; from the “Cheese King of Canada,” D.M. Macpherson, to J.P. ”The Singing Mayor” Touchette, and count­less oth­ers.

Nes­tled com­fort­ably, and some­what anony­mously, among those fig­ures is A.J. (Alan John) “Hardrock” Mac­Don­ald, a Glen­garry na­tive who went on to carve a niche for him­self in the Cana­dian Arc­tic as a noted miner and prospec­tor.

A.J. is be­lieved to have been born “near Alexan­dria, a son of John Al­lan McDon­ald ( sic), Fas­sifern,” ac­cord­ing to an obit­u­ary reprinted from the

Cana­dian Press that ap­peared on the front page of The News on March 26, 1959 with an ed­i­tor’s note.

Ap­par­ently bit­ten by the min­ing bug at an early age, A.J. struck out for the Yukon Ter­ri­tory around 1920, while in his early 30s, and pro­ceeded to spend the ma­jor­ity of the next four decades in the Mayo area – about 400 km north of White­horse. It was there that he gained the rep­u­ta­tion, in the words of the

White­horse Star, as “one of the most fa­mous of Yukon old­timers.” And if a story con­tained in A.J.’s obit­u­ary in the March 12 edi­tion of the Star – he’d died the pre­vi­ous day in Daw­son City from a cere­bral hem­or­rhage, five months shy of his 70th birth­day – is to be be­lieved, it’s easy to see how he at­tained such no­to­ri­ety.

“In the mid 1930s, ‘Hardrock’ made his leg­endary walk from Mayo to Aklavik in 17 days, car­ry­ing only a ri­fle and a sack of salt,” recal­led the

Star piece. The CP obit adds that the two-and-a-half-week trek “across moun­tains, muskeg, glaciers and bar­ren lands” was made to de­liver a bot­tle of rum to a friend in Aklavik, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries – a ham­let lo­cated just above the Arc­tic Cir­cle.

The Dic­tionary of Glen­garry Bi­og­ra­phy points out that “Hardrock” was “also re­mem­bered for hav­ing one sum­mer walked the sev­eral hun­dred miles from Keno (near Mayo) to Nor­man Wells (North­west Ter­ri­to­ries), when the oil dis­cov­er­ies at the lat­ter place awak­ened his in­ter­est.”

The late Jane Gaf­fin, a White­horse-based free­lance writer spe­cial­iz­ing in min­ing-re­lated sub­jects, was also im­pressed with A.J.’s story.

“...Known for his stamina and hardi­hood, he had a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion for cov­er­ing vast dis­tances on foot and with dog teams in short pe­ri­ods of time,” wrote Ms. Gaf­fin.

“As an ex­pert bush­man, he could make him­self com­fort­able un­der any spruce tree and over­come most fron­tier hard­ships, re­gard­less of how cold, with his oc­ca­sional nip of rum.”

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