Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Timothy Wilson

I was privileged to meet Judge Macdonald (as I called him then) a few years ago. My brief experience of Ron (so I think of him now) runs like this.

Somehow Ron thought that I would be a suitable person to interview Professor Pharand (as I called him then) for an article Ron was preparing to write. I arranged to meet Donat at his delightful cottage with a commanding view of a lake north of Ottawa. I was warmly welcomed by Donat and his wife, Sylvia Herrera. We went to work. The interview took place over two or three week-ends. The tapes were then transcribed by Sylvia, completed by Donat, and sent to Ron.

Ron and I spoke periodically about the project, sometimes directly, sometimes through his sister, Dr. Mairi Macdonald. I really felt like a member of the extended family (which also included Donat and Sylvia).

When I started planning a trip to China, Ron suggested that I meet up with some leading academics whom he knew well. He gave me a list of three or four prominent law teachers and practitioners. I managed to set up meetings with two of them. These meetings led to various invitations, both social and academic.

Thanks in large part to Ron, I now have strong ties to Professor Bai Guimei at Peking University (Beida). Guimei was a student of Ron’s in Halifax. She is also a member of Ron’s extended family.

When I last spoke with Ron, I said that I felt like I was his representative in China. “No”, he said, “you are your own man in China”. Such was Ron: a consummate networker, an empowering influence, and a great example.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sylvia Herrera

I am, by my own definition, the antithesis of diplomacy. This is to say that I am the opposite of Ron’s approach to people. I am not in the legal profession, and have not known Ron as a student, colleague, judge, consultant, or a world-known authority on human rights. However, through Donat Pharand, I met Ron in 1993, and it took me a while to realize the beautiful human being he was. I came to admire his sharp intelligence, his big soul and his incredible human condition.

Thinking back, perhaps what most impressed me was his deep interest in poetry and how he linked it to his genuine concern for human rights. This was obvious in his deep admiration for the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was seen as an enemy by the right-wing forces in the Spanish civil war and was executed without trial by forces loyal to Francisco Franco, in August 1936. Ron was also a great admirer of Pablo Neruda, Chilean Nobel Prize winner in 1971 and one of the greatest and most influential poets of the 20th century. When Neruda died in 1973, the new President Augusto Pinochet, who led a coup d’état to displace Salvador Allende, denied permission for a public funeral because of Neruda’s collaboration with the socialist Allende. Nevertheless, thousands of Chileans flooded the streets in tribute to Neruda and his funeral became the first public protest against Pinochet’s dictatorship. Discussing this event with Ron obviously heightened his admiration for Neruda and I was very pleased to give him a bilingual version of “Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair”. He thoroughly enjoyed and was quite moved by Poem No. 20, which I recited for him on one of his last visits.

Ron was universal in his knowledge and interests. He had an extraordinary sensitivity which allowed him to understand the lives of the elite as well as those of the common people. This became evident to me when speaking with the driver who took him to the hospital for his treatments over the years and from the numerous testimonies of his friends and colleagues.

Thank you Ron for all you have given throughout your life to so many people. You have touched us deeply by your kindness and understanding. Your memory will always be with us and will encourage us to continue living and struggling in this crazy world we live in.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Professor Macdonald in May 2006

Tributes to the life and work of Ronald St. John Macdonald

Professor Macdonald passed away in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 7, 2006, at the age of 78.

Created at the initiative of Professor Donat Pharand, a friend of Professor Macdonald since their law-school days in Halifax, this web log is open to all his dear friends and colleagues who would like to post their tribute. You may have a story to share or a special feeling you wish to express.


Please feel free to submit your contribution in the language of your choice by email to macdonaldtributeblog@hotmail.com.

Comments are also welcome.