ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Bruce MacDonald taught high school social studies for years.
Ironically, it wasn’t until after he retired that the Antigonish, N.S., resident found time to learn more of the First World War and the Nova Scotia veterans from the time.
MacDonald writes a blog, First World War Veterans of Guysborough County, uncovering and writing about the stories of those who served from neighbouring Guysborough County.
He also gives guidance to Nova Scotia teachers, providing insights and advice on how to teach students about the war years and help them understand the significance of that time and how it shaped Canada’s future.
He says the best way to entice the younger generation is by focusing on the human stories.
“What I try to emphasize with the people I interact with is the price that families and communities paid in the First World War… the stories of those who died and never got to contribute what they could.
“For example, the community of Canso lost about 25 young men and the impact that would have had on the families was quite remarkable.”
MacDonald feels a sense of accomplishment to be able to help people better understand this period of history.
The cenotaph in Antigonish, like cenotaphs across the country, bears names of young men who never returned from the First World War.
“Every year,” he says, “this fellow would go out to the ceremony, look at the cenotaph and wonder, ‘Who were these guys?’”
That question started MacDonald on his research journey and work with a group on a new blog about Antigonish County veterans on the 100th anniversary of Armistice.
“I think to make them real people in their community humanizes them, and humanizes the impact of the loss,” he said. “You start to begin to realize they were real people, and they didn’t come home, and how would that have impacted their communities and their families.”