Grace Macdonell

2009 Jun

Grace MacdonellWith her twin, Cosie, Grace was the youngest of seven children of Angus J.A. and Elinor MacDonald. Born in 1912, she attended school in Alexandria and later at Iona Academy in St. Raphael’s.

In 1920, Grace began dancing lessons from Miss Carrie Biggers and soon became proficient enough to compete and win medals for the three Highland dances, the Fling, the Sword and the Shean Triubhas. Along with the Gormley sisters, Dorothy and Joan, Grace competed not only locally and in Cornwall, but took what was then a long trip to Ottawa for competitions. The Glengarry gals must have found it a thrilling experience, especially when all three came home with medals.

In addition to competing, in 1930 Grace became a talented and sought-after teacher in Glengarry when she conducted her classes in Alexandria, Williamstown, Greenfield and Finch. Her students were also in demand at church socials, St. Andrew’s concerts and recitals where they entertained. In 1934 she was awarded the Teachers’ Cup and was named “Champion Dancer of Glengarry” by the Glengarry Highland Society. During the presentation of the silver vase, Mr. Myles Campbell, President of the Society…

referred to the prompt and cheerful response of Miss Grace MacDonald to each and every request for assistance in promoting and furthering interest in the Society. He spoke in glowing terms of the excellent and artistic exhibition she fave of Highland dancing, particularly the sword dance in which she revealed an ability that will be difficult to equal…*

According to one of her students of that era, Donalda Lafave, Grace gave total commitment to all her students and was generous with her time for each of them. She was compassionate and her love of dancing was passed on to her students and her impact on Highland dancing continues to this day.

She retired as a dance instructor in 1940 when she married James Macdonell and moved to Glen Nevis to become a housewife and mother to four children. There was was involved in community work as a parishioner of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish and a member of the Catholic Women’s League.

After a short illness, Grace died in August of 1977. She is buried with her husband and young son in St. Margaret’s Parish Cemetery.

* The Glengarry News, October, 1934

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