Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Welcome Home, Champs!

Fiori Gorgan and his family in the World Chapionship Parade, Belleville, 1959

The Belleville McFarlands were welcomed home twice following tournament victories.

In the first instance, they roared back from an almost insurmountable deficit to defeat the Kelowna Packers. They were down three games to one, and thumped the Packers in the final game to win the Allan Cup.

The players boarded the train in British Columbia, and headed east to Belleville. Following a gruelling three day hike across the country, they disembarked at the train station in Belleville.

The city welcomed their heroes with open arms. In his soon to be published book, “More Macs, More-Celebrating the Belleville McFarlands”, Aaron Bell writes: “Belleville Mayor Gerald B. Hyde declared their homecoming day to be Civic Allan Cup Day and the city hosted a tickertape parade down Front Street. The players rode in convertibles and wore white cowboy hats that they had received as congratulatory gifts in Calgary on their journey home”.

The headline on the front page of the Intelligencer the next day read: “Fifty Thousand Welcome Macs Home”.

Picton Mayor and team sponsor Harvey McFarland declared: “This is the proudest moment of my life. The Macs are a wonderful bunch of guys who showed true championship merit when it was needed.” McFarland also declared a Civic Holiday in Picton, enabling Prince Edward County residents a chance to catch the festivities.

Players rolled down Front Street in convertibles, waving at their fans. There were several bands, and hastily prepared floats. As was the case with many civic parades, it was led by an ardent Macs fan, “Senator” Harry Rollins, a former Belleville mayor.

Following the victory in the World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1959, the city again prepared to welcome the McFarlands with a parade.

There was a delay in their arrival as the team had to play three exhibition games in Czechoslovakia, and three games in England. They then headed home on the Queen Elizabeth, the world’s largest ocean liner from Southampton. The team was booked in third class, and County resident Keith MacDonald remembers it well.

“I can remember just being able to lean out of my hammock or bunk and I could feel the steel side of the ship right there.’ He remembered seeing Billy Graham walking up to one of the dining rooms and waving for us to follow him. It wasn’t very long after that the people on the ship heard that they were travelling with the team that had won the World Championship in hockey. They invited us up to first class. Swimming pools, theatres, dining room, you name it.”

Not a complete bed of roses, mind you, as the ship was battered by seventy foot waves in the North Atlantic. The bad weather delayed the Macs arrival for a day. They then headed to Montreal, and boarded a train for Belleville. They were met in Kingston by H. J. McFarland, and their wives.

The Toronto Telegram described the parade on that day as “the biggest ticker tape parade in Eastern Ontario history.” The players were again paraded through the streets in convertibles.

Rather prophetically, Mayor Hyde exclaimed: “This will probably be the only chance in our lifetime to welcome home a World Champion team”.

With that, fifty years have elapsed. Eighteen players remain from the teams that won the Allan Cup and the World Championship. Twelve of those players are expected to enjoy a wonderful weekend in April as the Quinte Region pays homage to the Macs.

Plans are being formulated to parade the players down Front Street in convertibles, to meet at the Memorial Arena on the Market Square, the scene of many of their battles.

On Saturday evening at 7:00pm, the Empire Theatre will host the premiere of the documentary about the McFarlands. Also at that time, Bell’s book on the team will be released. Tickets are available for the evening from the box office, by phone at 613-969-0099, or online –theempiretheatre.com.

For $ 55, you will receive a copy of the documentary in DVD format, a copy of the book, and a chance to share the story of the McFarlands amazing journey. General admission is $ 25. Therefore, for eighty bucks, a couple can enjoy a great evening, with great souvenirs!

Be prepared to shout: “More Macs, More”

James Hurst

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