Donald William MacGillivray

8 December , 194214 November , 2018

Donald William MacGillivray, PhD Big Pond

Donald William MacGillivray, age 75, passed away on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

He was the son of the late Charles Donald ‘Duffy’ MacGillivray and Isobel ‘Bunny’ Bryson, both of Sydney.

Don is survived by sisters: June Rushton, Comox, BC and Corinne Stewart of Nanaimo, BC. He was predeceased by his first wife, Elaine Campbell.

After leaving Cape Breton, Don did a short stint as a pilot in the RCAF, before pursuing an outstanding career in academia. Don gave his best to all his pursuits and was a history professor at Cape Breton University for over 35 years, with his specialties Cape Breton labour and Irish histories. His doctoral thesis consisted of a book: Captain Alex MacLean: Jack London’s Sea Wolf; MacLean was a native of East Bay, and an internationally recognized “sailor, sealer and folk hero”. Don’s book was carefully and exhaustively researched. A dedicated and tireless community contributor, he served 27 years as a volunteer firefighter with the Big Pond Volunteer Fire Department, was managing editor of a local newsletter: The Big Pond Times, and was, for many years, a willing volunteer with the Big Pond Concert events. He also devoted much time and energy to union and labour issues, both at his workplace and in the wider sphere as well.

Don MacGillivray was fiercely proud of his “Ashby” roots and equally attached to his later adopted home of Big Pond and its people.

Cremation has taken place. A Celebration of Life will take place at a later date in Big Pond. Online condolences may be sent by visiting



Donald William MacGillivray

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Susan McLean

3 December 2018

I am so sorry to hear about Don and have been thinking about him since I heard the news. I met Don some 50 years ago when we were both studying at UNB. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, was a voracious reader, passionate researcher and writer and of course loved all things Cape Breton. Most of all, I remember him as a friend. He loved people, had a fantastic wit and was committed to his friends. We all shared so many laughs, in Fredericton, Kingston and Big Pond. Although I had not seen him in years, I always knew he was in Big Pond. I will miss him, but am thankful for the wonderful memories.

Susan Mclean, Halifax

Ronald MacEachern

25 November 2018

I met Donnie a few years back travelling through Cape Breton on our way back home to Dartmouth , with my husband and long time friend of Donnie,,, Ronnie MacEachern. We had a lovely visit and later in the summer Donnie's book of Capt Alex MacLean, arrived in the mail. Ron had a chance to visit Donnie briefly this past summer and always had great things to say about Donnie. Please let us know when the Clebration of Life will be. Ronnie and I would be very pleased to Attend if we are able. Please let family know how much Donnies friendship meant to Ronnie. Prayers out... Joan Smith and Ron MacEachern
thank you.

Sharise McKeigan

17 November 2018

My condolences to you at this difficult time. Don has contributed a vast legacy to Cape Breton history and labour. He spoke many times in support of labour unions. He spent over 20 years researching and writing his book on Alex MacLean. The publishers could not find one mistake in his research...a fine tribute to him.