A championship-winning ball team from the 1960s gives back to its community
The Jr. Softball Mohawks were inducted into the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2001 they were inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. Recently, team members raised funds to erect a Welcome to Thorburn sign that it dedicated to Thorburn resident Lowell MacDonald, who had a successful career in the NHL. The Mohawk committee behind the photo.: Left to right; Gordie MacKinnon, Donnie Bowden, Allan MacLaughlin, Melvin Smith, Randy Palmer. Missing; Hillard MacDonald.
The Jr. Thorburn Mohawks, which won three straight Provincial and Maritime championships between 1963 and 1965, recently raised funds and erected a welcoming sign for Thorburn in honour of another well-known local sports hero, former NHL player Lowell MacDonald.
Allan MacLaughlin, a former Mohawk, said the idea of the new sign came to the group after attending an induction ceremony in 2018 at the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame to commemorate the team’s 55th anniversary. The Mohawks were inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and into the Pictou County Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Team members made the trip to Halifax to attend the ceremony and during this trip, it was noted that there should be some recognition for MacDonald being from the Thorburn community.
“During conversations that we had on that trip; the question came up as to why there wasn’t anything dedicated to Lowell. As many sports celebrities have something similar to what we have ended up doing for Lowell,” said MacLaughlin.
He contacted MacDonald to get his permission to use his name and face on the sign and the project was set in motion.
“We never really asked anyone in the group for funding, but we did open an account and indicated if they were interested in contributing, this is how they can do it. As a result, the contributions started coming in and we ended up with over $2,000 from the Mohawk group,” he said.
He said he never thought the Mohawks would completely fund the project, but their generous contributions covered the entire costs while Nolan Webster of Webster Bros covered the cost of having the sign erected as an in-kind donation.
The bond between the ballplayers has always been strong, he said, adding that MacDonald never played on the Mohawk team but did play some senior ball with players in the past.
“Two coaches and three players from the team passed away and the rest of us are between 72 and 75 years old,” he said. “ For some of us that is all the ball we played, but other guys went on and played high-level ball but the team they kept going back to and had an alliance with was the Mohawk team from the 60s. It is an interesting relationship.”
The new sign is located near Thorburn Consolidated School and the MacLaughlin has heard positive comments about its presence in the community. He said the group was planning an unveiling ceremony, but restrictions under COVID-19 had required them to go ahead with the installation without such an event.
Thorburn Mohawks, Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame Induction 2001:
The Thorburn Mohawks, who won three straight provincial and Maritime championships between 1963 and 1965, are one of Maritime softball’s true dynasties. Thorburn Mohawk teams traced a glittering history through the 20th century starting with five straight Pictou County championships from 1930-34, provincial senior titles in 1932 and 1934, and a Maritime crown in 1934. Today, the Mohawks of the early 1960s are being recognized for traveling three years and three provinces with precision, cutting down every team they faced with low-hit pitching, high-powered offence, stellar defence, and the ultimate definition of the word “teamwork”.
In an era when softball was the game of choice, the statistics compiled by the Junior Mohawks remain without equal in the annals of Maritime softball. A win-loss record of 30 wins, 3 losses, and one tie (in provincial and Maritime playoffs); a team batting average of .333, while the opposition was limited to a mere .170 average; scoring 396 runs, while allowing the opposition only 139; and winning the Trenton Softball League Championship in 1964 and 1965, while competing against both intermediate and senior teams, are all facts that testify to the greatness of the young Mohawks team.
Undoubtedly, the Mohawks would have been successful in any era, including today. It is worthy to note that the actual playing of the game represents only one dimension of this great softball team. The team camaraderie was unique. They recruited players, looked after player cards, developed the ball field, organized transportation, practiced three to five times a week, prepared the field for games, arranged for umpires, looked after advertising, and arranged games. Accordingly, the players became a family wherein trust, respect, and a belief in one another contributed to the concept of team both on and off the field. As a result, there was (and remains today) a bond among this group of young men that contributed to their greatness on the field and individual success in both career and community. Even after 30 years the team remains close.
Team members: Don Bowden, Fred Brow, Phillip Cameron, Art Forsyth, Tom Forsyth (coach), Donnie Fraser, Mason Johnston, Francis (Moe) Kiley, John Kyle, Ernie MacDonald, Hillard MacDonald, Les (Buddy) MacDonald (assistant coach), Steve MacDonald, Bob MacDougall (assistant coach), Sam MacDougall (captain, 1963), Robert MacEachern, Bill MacKinnon, Gordie MacKinnon, Allan MacLaughlin (captain 1964-65), Graham MacLean, Cyril MacLeod (manager), Gordon McKay, Bill Munro, Melvin Smith, John Vance.
Lowell MacDonald, Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame Induction 1982:
Thorburn, Nova Scotia, was the birthplace of, the hockey great, Lowell MacDonald. The fast shooting forward received his first accolade playing for East Pictou Rural High School when he was named the leading scorer on the Nova Scotia Headmasters trophy. His career took him to Hamilton, Tulsa, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.
His achievements reflect not only his prowess as a player but his contribution to the game. MacDonald retired at the end of the 1977-78 season with an NHL career total of 174 goals, 201 assists for 375 points in 484 games.