Agnes MacDonald

2009, Inductee

As a performer, a teacher and an accompanist, Agnes MacDonald earned a reputation as a supporter of the Celtic music tradition of Glengarry.

“When Agnes was of tender school age, her aptitude for music was noted by the Sisters of the Holy Cross teachers.”* Her parents purchased a piano and encouraged her in her musical pursuits. She later took lessons from Professor Mulhern of Montreal and Alexandria and acquired an Associate of the Toronto Conservatory of Music Degree. Professor Mulhern, recognizing her exceptional talent, arranged for Agnes to entertain by playing classical music at a dinner for Royal guests in Montreal.

In subsequent years, Agnes continued to perform, accompanying silent movies in Alexandria and playing with a dance band in Northern Ontario. She also provided accompaniment for many violinists who played in the area. In the 1940s she began teaching, and taught in Alexandria over Shirley’s Restaurant, operated by her husband.

Agnes was very active in the reorganization of the Glengarry Highland Society and it was with her assistance that a Highland dancing teacher, Miss Carrie Biggers, came to Alexandria. “This venture on our part (Highland Society) was the beginning of restoring Glengarry Scottish heritage almost obliterated during World War One.”*

As a promoter, she was always ready to help out other Celtic venues. She helped the Gormley sisters with choreography and costumes for many of the concerts at the Alexander Hall and was a regular participant in the shows.

In the late ’60s or early ’70s Agnes fell and broke her wrist. On the advice of her doctor, she took up the accordion as a means of strengthening the wrist. Not only did it become therapy, it became another instrument on which she became quite proficient. According to son, Jack, she also played the mandolin, but he doubts she ever played in public.

Throughout her musical life, Agnes gave freely of her time and talent. While she was quite content to be in the background, her actions influence many.

Agnes died on Saturday, February 16, 1991. She would have celebrated her 96th birthday March 19.

* Angus McDonell, The Glengarry News, February 27, 1991.

Inducted in 2009