Personal Profile Collections


John Alexander "Black Jack" McDonald

Short Biography:

John Alexander McDonald, more commonly known as Jack or “Black Jack”, was from Soldiers Cove, NS, and was born on December 28, 1894.

In April, 1916, Jack joined the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) which at the time was recruiting in Broughton, NS. He was a piper in the 185th Battalion’s pipe band. Jack trained with the 185th Battalion in Broughton, Aldershot, NS, and in England. While in England, Jack met and married Elsie Fogwill from Paignton in Devonshire. After the 185th Battalion was disbanded for reinforcements, Jack ended up in the 85thBattalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) which was in action at the front. He joined the unit on March 18, 1918 and remained with them until the end of the war.

After the first world war, Jack was employed in the utility business as a lineman and worked in the United States and Quebec. Later he was the lighthouse keeper on St. Esprit Island located on the south coast of Cape Breton.

Shortly after the outbreak of the second world war, Jack again volunteered for military service. He joined the Cape Breton Highlanders on March 22, 1940 in Sydney. He was 45 years old and became pipe major of the unit. Jack trained with the battalion in Canada and then sailed to England with then where training continued. Being too old for active service, Jack was returned home to Canada in early 1944 where he was attached to the 2nd Battalion Cape Breton Highlanders as pipe major. The 2nd Battalion was the Reserve Battalion which was located in Sydney. After the war, Jack remained with the Cape Breton Highlanders after they reverted back to militia status.

“Black Jack” McDonald was involved with piping all of his life and many of his descendants continue the piping tradition. “Black Jack” passed away on June 29, 1954 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Notes on the Collection:

I would like to thank Jack McDonald's daughter, Marjorie MacKay, for allowing me to copy her family's photos and documents contained in this collection. I visited her home in St. Peters in 2013. I also added one photo in Section 3 from my own collection. 

Links to Access the Collection:

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