Meet the McCains of New Brunswick

Great Families of Canada: first of a series

November 1 1973

Meet the McCains of New Brunswick

Great Families of Canada: first of a series

November 1 1973

Meet the McCains of New Brunswick

Great Families of Canada: first of a series

If you cross to the western riverbank on the covered bridge at Florenceville, New Brunswick, you’ll find the road winds higher and higher for a couple of hundred yards, and then you cut left and higher still and, now, you’re up in the hills, driving south on a highway that’s unmarked but that everyone in these parts knows as River View Drive, and the view of the river makes you want to give up hurrying for ever. The McCains own a lot of the view. They live up here, and so do most of their top hands.

They’re the Texas cattle kings of bigtime agribusiness in modern New Brunswick. Their line is potatoes.

The companies that the McCain boys own process 250,000 pounds of potatoes every hour of your life.

Somewhere in the world, every second of the day and night, McCain plants are cooking up potatoes, freezing them, sending them out to accompany finger-lickin’ this or fingerlickin’ that in a billion cardboard boxes for people who talk a dozen different languages (often with their mouths full). McCain Foods Limited sells a range of green vegetables and juicy desserts as well, but the base of the empire remains the sturdy New Brunswick potato. “French fries,” says Arch McLean, McCain’s latest marketing chief, “French fries are still the name of the game.”

McCain Foods Limited is scarcely 16 years old and yet, in the fiscal year ended last June, it — and the companies it has spawned and bought — did business totaling $85 million. Since there are other profitable McCain enterprises that are outside the operational control of McCain Foods, you would not be far wrong if you were to say that the McCain family has carved out of this supposedly sluggish and underprivileged part of Canada, has dug out of backwoods New Brunswick, a $100-million-a-year multi-national conglomerate that competes brilliantly in North, South and Central America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

The empire includes not only the massive food-processing operations, not only the traditional family business of exporting seed and table potatoes — this older firm, McCain Produce Co. Ltd., is now the biggest potato exporter in Canada — but also companies that own thousands of acres of growing

The dynasty that processed spuds into a $100-million empire. By Harry Bruce

land in both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, a fertilizer company, a cold-storage company, a company that makes potato-harvesting equipment and front-end loaders for sale around the world, the biggest trucking company in east-coast Canada, trading companies, a beef cattle ranch, a dairy cattle ranch and, more than likely, other interests that few people other than the McCains themselves know anything about.

The companies all work to the benefit of the McCain family; and, of course, to the benefit of their 3,000 employees and the economy of the valley. But the assorted parts of the group also work to the benefit of one another in a way that keeps the whole snowball hurtling along very nicely indeed. Example: McCain Foods buys potatoes from McCain Produce and that might be good for both of them. McCain Foods and McCain Produce also buy potatoes from hundreds of local farmers. The farmer must sell his potatoes. It might just occur to him that, if he wants to be 100% sure of a market, he’d be wise to buy his fertilizer and his harvesting machinery from the McCain group. Another example: McCain beef cattle eat McCain potato waste.

McCain Foods employs agricultural technicians with walkie-talkie radios in field operations out in the potato country. In everything it does to promote its own well-being — whether it be investigating some local potato company it might just buy up and then close down, leaning on a federal Liberal government to gain a DREE grant, leaning on a provincial Tory government to gain a low-cost loan, fighting charges of dumping potatoes on the State of Maine, lobbying for a change in trucking legislation, or developing a new piece of potato-harvesting equipment — in everything it does, McCain Foods is notorious for a combination of shrewdness, determination and military efficiency.

Florenceville is grateful for the McCain success story, and proud of it, too; but no family that rises so far in so short a time in so tiny a community can escape a certain amount of sour opinion. “You’re looking for the McCain boys?” a man asks. “Don’t you mean ‘the Skinner brothers’?”

The care and feeding of the empire impose on some of the McCain boys a terrific travel burden. (McCain Foods owns a Mitsubishi MU-2 turboprop aircraft, a Piper Aztec, and its own hangar and airport at Florenceville.) Wallace McCain says that for years he’s been on the road anywhere from a third to a half of all his time. If you arrive in Florenceville, looking for a McCain, you might find that Wallace is in Toronto or New York, Harrison McCain is in the Netherlands or Australia, Andrew’s in Uruguay or Greece. Bob mayjust be in town.

The family, the whole family, still calls Florenceville home and, as you move south on River View Drive, the St. John River Valley slides along below your left and eastern elbow; like a huntsman’s dream, the voluptuous fields and the wooded hills fade to the sky for miles; and, close at hand, on both sides of your car, there are these houses, modern mansions really, and it’s doubtful if any dwellings anywhere in Canada speak so eloquently of New Wealth. One has great white pillars out front, as though its owner had never recovered from a love affair with Gone With The Wind.

Surely, you think, these houses do not belong here. They must be foreigners. Torontonians maybe. It must have cost a dozen fortunes to pluck them off the tame lawns of Toronto’s superaffluent Bayview Village and set them down here so that their Importance can observe the river and, each morning of another profitable day, can greet the sun as it rises over tens of thousands of acres of potato fields.

In this country of older painted wood, of slim pickings for so many and dead cars in the pastureland, of Alpine beer cartons on the shoulders of back roads, of bony-faced potato growers and rare good times at the Legion ... in this country of hovering wilderness where, it is said, the Eastern Panther still haunts the forest gloom, where men have been planting potatoes for South Americans since Queen Victoria was happy ... in this country, the swimming pools, the lavish architectural pretensions, the gleaming white newness of the places where the McCain boys now house their wives and many children, these appear as their Baptist father might have looked if he’d ever found himself in the local drunk tank. Distinctly out of place.

No appearance could be more deceiving. For no family anywhere could possibly be more in place than the McCains are on River View Drive; and their homes, no matter how they might offend some presumptuous stranger’s delicate eye for the historical mood of the valley, belong up here as surely as God made big, white spuds. The rightness of their location is not simply a matter of the McCains’ being able to see from their windows the steam and smoke and far bustle of the plant where the big money began.

Rather, it’s that there have been McCains in the neighborhood since before the road itself was here, since the reign of King George IV (he died June 26, 1830). One of the first places on your right, as you start up River View, is a white farmhouse with pink and blue trim. It’s empty now and — who knows? — perhaps haunted. Until a few years ago, two old aunts of the McCain boys lived here.

Back in the time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, this was the home of the late Andrew McCain — the father of these McCains, of Marie, Andrew, Robert, Eleanor, Harrison and Wallace — but that was long before he’d even met their mother. She’s still worth meeting. Just continue south on River View a spell, only this time keep an eye peeled for a good, old, solid, bright, white farmhouse on the left side of the road. It’s opposite the little church and it, at least, has a no-nonsense air about it.

Andrew Sr. brought his bride to this house 55 years ago, and she’s been here ever since: Mrs. Andrew McCain, born Laura Blanche Perley in October of

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THE McCAINS from page 26 1891, raised down the river at Maugerville (pronounced Majorville), arrived in Florenceville in 1916 as a schoolteacher, married Andrew McCain in 1918 when she was 26 and he was 39, gave birth in this very house to all six children, disciplined them for decades, widowed now for 20 years, do-gooder par excellence, holder of an honorary doctorate from the University of New Brunswick, real-estate investor, stockmarket investor, reader of three financial papers a week, president of McCain Produce, determined driver-aroundtown of a big cream-and-green Chrysler Custom Newport and, at 82 — with white curly hair, pink cheeks, and eyes that are both fox-bright and spanielfriendly — quite possibly the most remarkable old lady in the province.

Recently, she walked into a local Manpower office, and asked if she could take a course in estate planning, taxation, insurance and other aspects of farm management. The Manpower officer took one look at her — everyone’s vision of the perfect octogenarian Sunday school teacher — and said, “But you’re no farmer.” She let him know fast that McCain Produce had hundreds upon hundreds of acres in potatoes. “We grow a lot more potatoes,” she said, “than a lot of these other fellows who come in here.” She made her point. She took the course but refused the payment that normally goes with it. She is, as hundreds of reluctant donors to worthy causes can testify, an extremely hard woman to refuse.

“Mother looks after people’s affairs up and down the river,” her daughter Eleanor says. “You can’t even finish dinner there without people coming to her door. I give her full marks for looking after people’s affairs.” In his quieter way, her husband was a lot like that himself, not nosy but caring about his neighbors’ welfare. The Great Depression came to the valley, and Andrew McCain backed potato farmers whom the banks refused to help. Even Tories. People remember him for that.

He was a school trustee in 1916. Laura taught right here on River View Drive and now, if you move just a few hundred yards farther south, you’ll see between you and the river the cosy brick schoolhouse that stands on the site of her first teaching job in these parts. Twice since her day, fires have destroyed the schools on that spot, but it is nevertheless a part of the time Andrew courted her and, not only that, all six of her children got all of their gradeschool and high-school education at that tiny place, and every one of them went on to university. Not only that, about a dozen of her grandchildren have spent time there, too.

It’s just little kids who go to the old school now, and it fascinates them to

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THE McCAINS continued see an adult stranger tip-toeing around the lobby outside the two little classrooms but, if you look higher than they ever look, you’ll see the dusty photographs of earnest teen-aged faces above white collars and thin ties: R. R. and A. H. McCain in a graduating class of eight in 1939; G. Wallace McCain in a graduating class of only three in 1947; G. Wallace again, as right winger of the Florenceville Superior School hockey team in 1946.

And what’s this? The principal in the late Thirties was one F. A. McCain. Who’s that? Oh that’s Fred, they’ll tell

you. That’s Freddy. He’s the Tory MP for Carleton-Charlotte. He’s just a forty-second cousin, a Tory you know. We hardly have anything to do with him at all. Still, when the NDP are giving the McCain name a hard time in the hearings on food prices who’s that on the blower from Ottawa to Harrison McCain in Florenceville? Why it’s Freddy, and Harrison tells him exactly what he thinks of the hearings, that blankety-blank-blank witch-hunt, and he tells Freddy what he’d like to hear him say about them in the Commons and, as Eleanor McCain is fond of

saying, blood really is thicker than water after all, isn’t it?

If you climb back into the car now and continue even farther south, past Wallace’s place, Harrison’s place, Bob’s place, the houses of six or seven vicepresidents and other senior McCain Foods people, past the snowmobiles and skis, the corrals for ponies and the swimming pools in hibernation, you’ll find the last good reason why the McCains belong on River View Drive. A small graveyard. “Yes,” the widow McCain says, “my husband’s father and mother are buried there, and two sisters, and my husband is buried there.” Her own house, her husband’s earlier house, the school, the graveyard, the grandeur of her sons’ new houses where 13 of her grandchildren have been growing up . . . they’re all packed into a few hundred yards of River View Drive. McCain Lane.

Andrew Sr. has been gone for 20 years now. His portrait holds the place of honor over the fireplace in the widow’s living room. His face is stern and pleasant. He never felt the need to strike his children. Wallace says he is harder on his own children than his father ever was on him. “At home,” Andrew recalls, “if I got in trouble at school or something, and needed a good tanning, it was mother who would give it to me. I don’t think Dad ever laid a hand on me. But you knew. He just had to say one word, and you knew.”

It was a pleasant, conventional household of the times and, if the McCains appeared to be as comfortable as anyone else in the little town, they were nowhere near being extravagantly wealthy. The children had their chores to perform, a cow to milk, wood to chop, and chop, and chop. There was always enough to eat and somehow they knew that, one day, each of them would go to university.

Andrew McCain hated travel, and the day he died he was about to set out for South America for the first time. He was 75. (In the older days, the buyers had come to the potatoes. They’d come up from hot Latin American countries to the more austere culture of Florenceville and stay in a wooden hotel that’s still standing on the east bank of the river.) “He was a terrific person,” Eleanor recalls. “Very quiet. . .You know, he married late. People thought, My Lord and all those kids! . . .You know how some men who are getting on get all stooped over. Not Dad. I used to say Harrison at 35 became Dad at 75. If you want to know what he looked like, you’ll know when you see Harrison.”

Harrison, at 46, is fairly short, brisk, bald, quick. His back is straight. His mouth is broad, his eyes canny, his brow strong, his manner supremely confident and so energetic it’s disturbing.

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THE McCAINS continued

“Yes,” says the widow McCain. “Harrison looks a lot like him but unfortunately he’s got his mother’s hustle and bustle. He can’t keep still for two seconds . . . My husband was cool and collected, a real Scotsman. He was a clever man, an unassuming man. He could take the ups and downs. He’d be whistling, and he might have lost $50,000 that day. You wouldn’t know it . . .”

A “real Scotsman” but in fact the first Florenceville McCains came from County Down, Ireland, about 140 years ago. There were three brothers and a

sister. The brothers imported Irish wives a few years after they’d settled and, before 20 years had passed, the three couples had a total of 21 children. The men were scarcely 40 and still going strong.

Andrew Sr. wanted to be a doctor but, during the Boer War, his father suffered a business reverse that wrecked his medical career before it began. Hugh Henderson McCain had ordered from local suppliers gigantic quantities of hay for the British government’s use in the war. The war ended, the British no longer needed the hay, and Hugh

Henderson McCain owed a fortune. He told Andrew to come home from school in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and help out in the effort to pay the debts.

It took them 15 years and, a generation later, Andrew Sr. tried to turn son after son after son into doctors. Each one followed his example rather than his advice and became a businessman. The potato country, however, has a long memory, and the name McCain came to mean People Who Pay Their Debts. Andrew McCain Sr. rarely took a drink, did not smoke, did not swear, did not break his word. You could do business with him without writing things down on paper. He was a gambler; potato exporters are all gamblers. In the late Forties, he played the stock market, too, and it was there rather than in potatoes that he finally made enough money to leave his six children a modest fortune. He also left them his reputation, his terrific credit.

He was a Baptist. Laura was an Anglican. “It was a joint affair,” she recalls. “We’d go to both churches. He would certainly never change, nor would I.” This respect for one another’s rights and differences may be a source of the McCains’ intense clannishness and the public appearance, anyway, of sweet harmony at all times. They avoid openly intruding on one another’s business territory. Each one is forever telling you that he’s speaking only for himself. The harmony is partly a matter of taste. You don’t air family squabbles for the entertainment of the whole countryside.

“Look, I don’t know what kind of a novel you’re writing,” Harrison says with huge good nature. “I mean about this nice, sweet, hardworking family, but I may be no more hardworking than you are, and we may be a lot more irascible than you think.” On brotherly relations, Bob says, “Yes, she gets quite vicious at times. Sometimes three of us might gang up on the other one, and so on, but the next day it’s as though it never happened.” The widow McCain says, “Those boys are very unlike one another and if they feel like telling off any member of the family they will, but don’t you try it.”

The brothers keep their wives in the dark about business matters, and perhaps that in itself contributes to fraternal harmony. In any event, it’s a family tradition. Eleanor recalls that, at home, “It was politics, potatoes and the stock market, that’s all we talked about.” But the sons remember their father told their mother so little about his work that, as Wallace puts it, “He wouldn’t even discuss with her what day it was so far as the business was concerned.” In the light of her ignorance at the time of his death — she was 61 — her self-generated transformation into the elderly

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THE McCAINS continued wheeler-dealer she is today is all the more astonishing.

Politics is another McCain tradition. Andrew Sr. and Laura were a kind of Romeo and Juliet of the potato country. Laura’s family, the Perleys, were rockribbed Tories; Andrew’s father was as Grit as any Grit that ever lived. At one point, Laura’s father was on one side of the provincial House and Andrew’s on the other. “I can get along just fine with your father,” Andrew used to tell Laura, “just as long as we don’t talk politics.” Which considerably narrowed the range of conversation. Andrew himself had run as a Liberal before he’d met Laura, and lost; and, half a century later, his son Bob tried again (“One more week of it, we’d have won”). The whole district, Eleanor says, has always been full of these really rank Tories.

You could keep your religion but politics was something else. Laura Perley, the Tory, became Laura McCain, the Liberal. Her sister Mary, 90, remains a bright and vehement Tory. (Mary lives in Lloydminster, Alberta, and Laura says, “We sashay back and forth. This year it’s my turn to go out there.”) Eleanor remembers the children used to kid their mother about her inherited politics. You can’t trust mother, they’d say. Then, though it’s hardly necessary, Eleanor confides, “You know, we’re all really big Liberals.”

Harrison is as hard-driving, devoted and useful a Trudeau man as you’re likely to find anywhere in the Canadian business community. He’s married to Marion (Billie) McNair, and Billie’s father, John Babbitt McNair, was probably as big a big Liberal as there ever was in New Brunswick: a Premier, a Chief Justice, a Lieutenant-Governor. Wallace happens to be married to Margaret Norrie, and she’s a daughter of Senator Margaret Norrie of Truro. Senator Norrie, of course, is a Nova Scotia Liberal of considerable stature.

One night in March, Mrs. Norrie phoned long-distance to Wallace’s house on River View Drive. Wallace answered. “No, I’m sorry, Mrs. Norrie . . . your daughter tonight is down to the ballet in Fredericton. Really getting cultural, eh? . . . Listen, I’m going up to hear your favorite boyfriend speak in Toronto on Thursday . . . What do you mean ‘Who’? . . . Pierre!”

By family tradition then, by business instinct, by personal inclination, by affairs of the heart, at least some of the McCains are up to their ears in whatever Maritime Mafia exists on behalf of the federal Liberals. The six sons and daughters of the widow McCain are remarkable for other reasons as well.

Marie, the firstborn, lives in Woodstock, a half-hour’s drive down the river, with her husband, a courtly dentist named J. B. Sutherland. Dr. Suther-

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McCAINS continued land was one of the founding directors of McCain Foods Limited, back in the mid-Fifties, and the board still consists of him, Marie’s four brothers, and that’s all. He is, as well, a good personal friend of the McCains, and shares with Robert a keen interest in the fine art of raising horses for harness-racing. Marie, Robert says, “really holds the family together.”

She is the hostess and chief promoter of the annual McCain family reunion and picnic at a cottage on a nearby lake. Marie is a graduate of Mount Allison University in home economics. The Sutherlands have three children — Andrew, Lloyd and Heather — and Woodstock is a fine, shady, old town with many elegant wooden houses.

Marie’s smile is quiet, her manner both graceful and timid. This, at least, is how she appears in the presence of a magazine snooper who’s asking her all about her brothers. Eleanor, on the other hand, is open, vivacious, funny, talkative, quotable, all zest and instinct to entertain. She is the wife of Patrick Johnson, the British-born headmaster of what used to be one of the snootiest boys’ private schools in the country, Upper Canada College in central Toronto. The school’s atmosphere is apparently more democratic than it used to be; and Eleanor is enough all by herself to shatter whatever illusions you might harbor about the stuffy wives of headmasters. She remains a girl from the potato-and-lumber country, ever ready for a good bash at the old Legion hall, the nutty vitality of a backwoods election scrap, or a sleigh ride on the hills of home.

Eleanor is particularly close to Harrison and Wallace. She’s on the phone to Florenceville every week and, since their business interests bring them to Toronto at least twice a month, she probably sees them almost as often as she would if she were herself living back on the road where she was bom. They stay with the Johnsons at the big house on the school campus, and “I always tell them it’s the best hotel in town.” Eleanor studied commerce and finance at McGill. The Johnsons have two boys, Rick and Derek.

The two young McCain brothers, Harrison and Wallace, run the relatively new and explosively successful group of companies under the umbrella of the food-processing operation, McCain Foods Limited; while the two older brothers, Andrew and Robert, run the traditional family potato-exporting effort, McCain Produce Ltd., as well as a clutch of related companies.

Andrew and Robert are the only McCains of their generation who look quite a bit like one another. They are both bluff, stocky, bespectacled men with thinning dark hair. More than their

younger brothers, they have the air of the farmer about them; and, judging from their involvement in community affairs, they are more . . . well, Florencevillian.

Andrew looks a bit like a former hockey player who’s managed to stay in shape during his middle years, and perhaps coaches kid hockey now. He’s 51, an Anglican, a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, an Elk, a Rotarian, a director of the local curling club and the North Carleton Centennial Arena, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Union Club of Saint John, a Boy Scout worker. He eschews River View Drive as a homesite, and lives down by the river in the village.

Andrew had two tries at university more than 30 years ago, one at the University of New Brunswick and another at Acadia. If potatoes can be in anyone’s blood, however, they were in Andrew’s. University did not take. He came home to the potato business, and “I’ve been here ever since, altogether about 32 years I guess.” Andrew is married to Marjorie Pearson of Hartland, which is down the river a few miles and, in the prolific McCain tradition, they have six children: Allison, Katherine, Linda, Margaret, Stephen, Nancy.

Robert, too, has been active in “just about everything there is going.” He’s been on the school board, the hospital board, the county council. He made a respectable stab at running federally for the Liberals. He, too, is a distinguished Rotarian, Mason, and curling club luminary; and, a generation ago, he attended University of New Brunswick for three years, and studied medicine at Dalhousie University for two more. “Then,” he says, “I was involved in the Army and lost the use of an arm, and didn’t go back.” Robert attends the United Church. He’s married to Rosemary Baird, a doctor’s daughter fiom Saint John. They have four children: Elizabeth, Andrew, Kirk and Mary.

By the mid-Fifties, the two younger McCain brothers were rising stars of the K. C. Irving industrial empire. (All the McCains, incidently, always refer to Irving as Mister Irving.) Harrison, before he was 30, was Irving Oil’s sales manager for New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. Wallace, at 23, was already manager of the Irving-owned Thorne’s Hardware operation and supervised a sales staff of 16. “Mr. Irving,” Harrison says, “is a brilliant operator, a very industrious man.” Apparently, something rubbed off on Harrison and Wallace.

Harrison got fidgety in the mid-Fifties. He began to feel he simply had to go into business for himself. He didn’t even know what business. He knew only that it had to be his own. “Secretly, I guess, I wanted to be the boss.” He

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McCAINS continued knew, too, that the Irving organization was treating him so well he’d never do anything on his own till he’d quit his job. He resigned. He took an extension course for investment dealers. He considered the Christmas tree business, the hardware business. Then, Wallace, too, got it into his head that, no matter how well he was doing with the Irvings, he’d rather be doing it for himself, for McCains.

Wallace and Harrison toyed with the idea of buying seats on the Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges. They considered the dry-cleaning business, a bottle works, a department store. “Their fa-ther always told them,” the widow McCain says, “he told them that, if they were any good, they would get out on their own ... At his passing, there was some money available, and the four boys threw theirs in . . . They united ... At first, they didn’t even know what they were going to do with it.”

It was Bob who convinced the others they were crazy not to have a good, hard fling at founding a frozen-potato plant. The four brothers — and the brother-in-law, Jed Sutherland — founded the company in 1957. The family agreed that, while Andrew and Robert would continue to run the old potato exporting business, Harrison and Wallace — who were still in their twenties — would try to get this new food-processing operation off the ground. “The deal was,” Robert recalls, “that they’d leave after two years for another business, and then Andrew and I would take over. I like to kid Harrison now. I say, ‘Hey, Harrison, when’s thè two years going to be up?’ ”

Sixteen years are up and, thanks largely to the brains, energy, quick decisions, terrific sales abilities and freewheeling, transoceanic, corporate gambling of Harrison and Wallace, McCain Foods Limited is already not only a

miracle of the food-processing industry in Canada but something of a hotshot in the international food business as well.

“It was completely a long shot, really,” Wallace remembers. “At that time, I think there was only this one small frozen french-fry plant, in Quebec I think, and it was floundering ... We just thought it sounded good. But today? To start a new business you don’t know anything about at all? No way! It’s easier to buy one . . . We’re buying them all the time.”

Wallace is the tallest of the widow McCain’s children. (She recalls he used

to complain that, since he was also the youngest, his period as the official milker of the family cow went on longer than everyone else’s.) He’s a lanky, breezy man in his early forties with brown eyes, a lot like his mother’s, and a good, rich crop of prematurely grey hair. His style is quieter than Harrison’s.

Wallace took premedical courses at Acadia and then switched to science. Assorted hell-raising at Acadia inspired him (and his father) to think he’d be better off at the University of New Brunswick for a while, and he ended up

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THE McCAINS continued majoring in mathematics and economics at Mount Allison. There’s scarcely a Protestant university in the Maritimes at which one or another of the McCain boys has not put in time.

Wallace is an Anglican. Both he and Harrison live by such grueling travel schedules they have little time for local community affairs though Wallace says, “Margie is up to her neck in it.” Wallace and Margie have four children: Scott, Michael, Martha and Eleanor.

The Harrison McCains have five: Mark, Ann, Peter, Laura and Gillian. Many of their first cousins are university graduates or undergraduates now, but it’s a little early to tell exactly what careers Harrison’s kids will pursue. Their grandfather, their McCain uncles, their own father, they all took a crack at medicine for a while. “I studied chemistry at Acadia,” Harrison says, “because my dad wanted me to be a doctor. I studied economics because I liked it. A lousy doctor I’d have made.”

It’s hard to believe Harrison would have been lousy at anything he’d set his mind to doing but, in any event, there is at last a real doctor with McCain blood in his veins. Only he isn’t a McCain. He’s a Sutherland. He’s Marie’s second son, Lloyd Robert Sutherland, and this spring he graduated in medicine at McGill.

That might have pleased Andrew McCain Sr. quite a bit. Indeed, if you leave your car for a while and stroll along River View Drive under a high and sunny springtime sky, if you keep company with the far river, respect the fragrance of the grass and consider the timeless birds, it may occur to you that just about everything old Andrew McCain’s remarkable offspring have been up to in the 20 years since he died would have pleased him more than he could have brought himself to say. ■