MacDonald, James W.

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                                       MACDONALD JAMES W.
                                      By Nicholas Stephens


A long-awaited trip overseas included a poignant, bittersweet moment for Miramichi’s Jean O’Connell.

When O’Connell and her husband Phil visited Northern Ireland as part of a grand tour of the British Isles, she was overwhelmed by the hospitality she received in a small corner of the Emerald Isle.

In the town of Garvagh, 40 minutes from the famous Giant’s Causeway, the O’Connells and their travelling companions, Jan and Ron Bubar, were delighted to be received by a delegation from the local branch of the Royal British Legion and escorted to s special memorial service at the site of a granite cross set in the middle of a remote field.

It was on that spot 55 years ago in 1947 that Jean O’Connell’s brother, James W. MacDonald, died when the aircraft he was riding in crashed into the boggy ground.

MacDonald, from Newcastle, was a steward serving on the Canadian Navy’s aircraft carrier HCMS Warrior. The crew had been sent to take delivery of HCMS Magnificent from the Belfast Ship Yards. The 25-year-old serviceman had accepted an offer to accompany a friend on a short flight when the craft they were in got into trouble. The pilot managed to parachute to safety, but MacDonald was not so fortunate.

When local residents saw the crash, they did their best to recover MacDonald’s body, but the plane had come down in the middle of an open peat bog and quickly sank into the soft ground. The more the rescuers dug, the more the plane sunk.

       Eventually efforts to recover the craft and MacDonald’s body were abandoned.  

In the 1950s the site was marked by a large slab of concrete and a granite cross was donated by the Women’s Section of the Garvagh Branch of the Royal British Legion.

The cross stands atop a memorial stone which bears the inscription:

H, S1139 Steward James W. MacDonald, 825 Squadron, R.C.N. Newcastle, N.B., Canada, lies here with the plane in which he crashed 4th Nov. 1947. Erected by the British Legion (Women’s Section) Garvagh.

O’Connell emailed the British Legion shortly before her trip started, asking for details about the memorial so that she could include a visit to it in her itinerary.


Source: Miramichi Leader – July 16, 2002

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