REV. RONALD CAMERON MACGILLIVRAY
Rev. Ronald Cameron MacGillivray was born in 1885 at St. Joseph’s, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia; he was one of a family of six children born to merchant Angus MacGillivray and his wife Mary Cameron.
After receiving his education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, and at the Urban College of the Propaganda in Rome, MacGillivray was ordained a priest in Rome in May 1915. After a short time as a parish priest in Cape Breton, he enlisted
as a chaplain with the 25th Overseas Battalion and sailed for the United Kingdom on 9 November 1915.
Over the course of the next four years, MacGillivray was attached to several other units, most significantly to the ‘Fighting 26th’ Battalion from New Brunswick. Although there was no formal expectation for a Chaplain to go ‘over the top’ in the first
wave, Fr. MacGillivray gained a reputation for bravery. He is known to have gone ‘over the top’ with his men on at least seven separate occasions.
In his work with the wounded and the dying, MacGillivray was well noted. The sense of humour with which he was associated throughout his life shone through even in the darkness of battle. In one report, he noted: “[On] the second day of the show a man
was brought in in a dying condition, calling aloud for a Priest. I went up to him and he said, “Are you a Holy Roman Catholic Priest?” I told him I had grave doubt as to the ‘Holy’ but was unquestionably a Catholic Priest.”
In January 1919, the London Gazette carried the following citation for the Military Cross: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack. He went forward with the attacking waves and materially assisted the medical officer with
his duties. In the open, and in the face of the heaviest fire, he dressed the wounded and attended to the dying. He set a splendid example to all with whom he came in contact.”
After demobilization, Honorary Major MacGillivray returned to parish life with appointments in various Nova Scotia parishes before being assigned to the parish of Sacred Heart, Sydney, in 1934.
MacGillivray’s busy but relatively peaceful life was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1941, he enlisted for active service as a military chaplain for the second time. During the course of the war, MacGillivray rose to the rank of
Honorary Brigadier, and was named Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain to the Canadian Army in 1944. For his outstanding service, he was awarded the Efficiency Decoration, and was named in the New Years’ Honours List of 1946, a Commander of the Order of
the British Empire.
Returning to Sydney at the close of 1945, now Monsignor MacGillivray lived out the rest of his life as a parish priest in Sacred Heart, dying in Sidney in January 1963.