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Remembering Beth McRae

Beth McRae
Beth McRae

Beth McRae paved the way for women in municipal politics as the first, and so far only, female mayor to serve in the town of Alberton.

With McRae’s passing on July 8, it has co-workers and community residents remembering her legacy and her story-telling.

Susan Wallace-Flynn, the Chief Administrative Officer for the town, remembers a car ride with McRae that landed them near the other end of the Island.

“We were at a Federation of Municipalities meeting in Charlottetown. Beth and I had driven up together. I was driving on the way home and we were talking and having a laugh. It was a great drive we really enjoyed it.”

But then McRae, said “Uh-oh.”

“We had taken a wrong turn and nearly got on the Wood Islands ferries. We certainly weren’t on our way to Alberton,” said Wallace-Flynn with a laugh.

“We had a real laugh on the way home. It seemed like the funniest thing at the time. When we got back, everyone got a kick out of it.”

McRae was very proud that she was the first female mayor for the town.

“She was a hard worker. She was very diligent in what she did. But she was also a great storyteller.

“I remember on Remembrance Day ceremony she was asked to speak. And she was really eloquent. She told the story of a young war bride and how they were in love and he had to go off to war. She said the woman learned she was pregnant and had twins I believe. It was incredible. And then at the end, ever so softly she said ‘I was that war bride’. I was blown away by her.”

McRae served on the Alberton Town Council from 1981 to 1989. Then in 1989, she took the position as mayor when Hector MacLeod stepped down. Then in 1991 she became a councillor again serving another three years.

Allan McRae, Beth’s son, says she was a persistent worker.

“She was instrumental in establishing the Jacques Cartier Arena, as well as the Alberton District Regional High School and expansion of Western Hospital. But she wasn’t a pushy lady.”

He says his mother was respected wherever she went.

“She was quiet about the work she did in the community. She was very dignified. She wouldn’t take no for an answer and she’d keep moving with an idea until someone said yes.

“She didn’t do things for herself; she always thought of others. And she was like that when it came to her family as well. She put herself last. She wasn’t in it for medals or citations. She wanted to help others.”

A glimpse at Beth McRae’s career:

–1936, attended school in Alberton, passed entrance exam to Prince of Wales College, but unable to further her education in business at the height of Great Depression

– 1937-1946, Worked as a sales clerk at Keenan’s Ladies Wear

– 1946-1984, Opened her own ladies wear store: McRae’s Ladies Wear

– Board member of West Prince Ventures and organized Meals on Wheels program

– 1981-1989, Became first female town councillor in Alberton

– 1989-1990, At 69 she was elected the first female mayor of the town

– 1991-1993, Took on role as town councillor

– Believed to have coined the phrase: Alberton, the ‘Heart of West Prince’

– For 20 years, worked as a co-ordinator for Red Cross Disaster Relief, Red Cross Care Cupboard, Emergency Measures Service and United Fund campaign co-ordinator.

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