Duncan Alexander Macdonell

2018, Inductee

Duncan Alexander Macdonell was a major promoter of Scottish and Celtic Music in Glengarry for nearly 30 years. He was born in St Raphael’s to Angus Alexander Macdonell and Marjorie MacKenzie. He was the youngest of seven children and the only boy. It was said that “Angie Alex” rang the church bells in St Raphael’s to announce that he finally had a son.

Duncan and Patch (Marie Paule Ménard) were married in St. Raphael’s on Oct. 9, 1951. They had five children, Andrea, Dwayne, Mark, Dean and Sherry. Duncan owned and ran the family’s general store and later the St. Raphael’s Egg Grading Station before relocating to Alexandria in 1960.

From 1960 to 1989, The Atlantic Hotel in Alexandria was owned and operated by Duncan. The Atlantic Hotel was among the first hotels in Ontario to feature live entertainment when the liquor laws were changed in the early 1960s. Duncan wanted the hotel to always be called “The Atlantic Hotel” as some others were changing their names.

The impact that the Atlantic Hotel and Duncan Macdonell made to Celtic Music in Glengarry is evident in the members of the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame that are mentioned in the following paragraphs.

Duncan Macdonell had a tremendous love of Celtic music He and his family made this establishment the hub for friendly gatherings where one could listen to top quality Celtic entertainment. Renowned Glengarry fiddler, Gerry O’Neill, stated that he felt Duncan was responsible for the initial promotion of Celtic music in Glengarry by searching for local and visiting musicians and providing the venue to display their talents. In addition to finding great local attractions to perform at the hotel, he brought in musicians from other parts of Canada or the USA when they were in the Eastern Ontario or Western Quebec.

One of the highlights that was among Duncan’s favourite memories was when he opened the new lounge at the Atlantic. For his opening night his entertainers included many who have since been inducted into the Glengarry Celtic Music Hall of Fame. Performing that night were: Donald (Dougie) MacDonald, Donald Ian MacLeod, Elmer (Dougie) MacDonald, James Nixon, Beverly MacQueen, Rene Trottier, Donald Joseph MacPhee, Duncan (Dougie) MacDonald and Wilf Gillis. They were followed by a group called the Dalcimers.

In the mid 1960s, three-time North American Fiddling Champion, Johnny Mooring, from Spring Hill, Nova Scotia was in Eastern Ontario and it wasn’t long before Duncan had him performing at the Atlantic. He was a hit and played at the Atlantic for many years until his death in 1974.

In the mid 70s, stage bands took over from the fiddle as the main attraction and Duncan had the best groups in the area perform at the Atlantic. Groups such as Sylvester MacDonald and The Clansmen, The Brigadoons, Hughie McDonell, The Celts (Don Kavanagh, Mike Shea, Joe McFadden), South County (Brian Davis, Benny Lynch), Fiddlers Elbow (Gerry O’Neill, Roy Arbuckle), and the Dornie Express to name a few. Groups such as Bruce Golden and Country Gold and Jim Connors added a country flair to the list of entertainment.

Duncan A. Macdonell
In 1971 Glengarry’s Brigadoons who have played all over North America got their start at the Atlantic. Without even being heard, Duncan booked them for several weeks including matinees. Rob Taylor credits Duncan with getting the Brigadoons started and the rest is part of Glengarry’s rich Celtic, musical history. Duncan always encouraged young talent and gave them the opportunity to display their musical ability.

Along with the daily tasks of running a great business, Duncan was also very involved in many organizations as a volunteer and leader. He was elected to the Glengarry Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 for his contributions to sports in Glengarry. His contributions were diverse – rod and gun club, broom ball and particularly the Alexandria Curling Club. He served two terms as president of the Alexandria Lions Club, was active in the Friends of the Ruins, and was a Councillor and Reeve for the town of Alexandria. He also represented Alexandria on the Stormont Dundas and Glengarry County Council and The Raisin River Conservation Authority.

Inducted in 2018

Category:   Promoters