by Keith Smith from Qualicum Beach, BC
Back in 1969 I was in charge of communications for the Manitoba Centennial Corportion. Rumour had it that a very old man living in Minnedosa, Manitoba had had an encounter with Sir John A. MacDonald back in the 1880’s. We thought it would make a good story for our monthly Centennial newsletter.
I sought out the man – Bob McQuarrie – and found him sitting at his favourite table in the Minnedosa Legion, nursing a beer. He was a huge man, blind and very deaf – and he was 99 years old. I asked him about the father of confederation and he told me this story:
Sir John A., according to McQuarrie, was whistle-stopping on the train through southern Ontario during the election year of 1881. At the town of Blythe, John A. got off the train and walked along the platform, shaking hands. Bob McQuarries father – a staunch liberal – had reluctantly brought his 11 year old son to town to see the Prime Minister. As John A. walked by, McQuarrie Sr. thrust out his hand and said “Shake a good Grit hand!” The Prime Minister recoiled in mock amazement and, according to the 99-year-old McQuarrie – said “Not possible! Too honest a face!” Then he smiled, shook hands with both of them and moved on.
Bob McQuarrie lived to be 100. he died during his province’s Centennial year in 1970