MONTREAL - The late Air Vice-Marshall Frank McGill is among five new additions announced recently for induction to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame.
Once referred to by The Canadian Press as "a hazel-eyed superman", McGill was previously inducted to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1959 and also elected as a player to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Born Frank Scholes McGill on June 20, 1894 in Montreal, he developed into an all-round gifted athlete out of Montreal High School. In 1911, he established a Canadian swimming outdoor record in the 100-yard freestyle at a pool in Halifax in addition to winning three Canadian titles (100 free, 220 free, freestyle relay) at an outdoor pool on Ile-Ste. Helene. In 1913, he was awarded the Sir Vincent Meredith trophy as best all-round athlete at the MAAA. The next year, he captured the Canadian swim title in the one-mile freestyle, completing the race in 30 minutes and 25 seconds.
He attended McGill University, where joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity and starred on the varsity swimming and water polo teams, guiding each of them to intercollegiate championships. He also played for both the varsity football and hockey teams.
After graduating with a commerce degree in 1915, McGill served in the First World War as a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service. In 1918, he rose up through the ranks of Flight Lieutenant, Wing Commnder and Group Captain with the Royal Air Force, serving with the British War Mission to the United States. He survived two brushes with death - a 1915 plane crash into the Thames estuary and a 1926 collision with a Montreal tram which hospitalized him for almost eight months.
In 1919, he set another Canadian outsdoor swim record in the 100-yard freestyle and won the Gordon Johnson memorial trophy as Canadian champion. That fall, he captained and quarterbacked the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association to the interprovincial Big Four football title — there was no Grey Cup contest played that year— in a legendary victory over the Hamilton Tigers. McGill realized that the Tigers’ players had decoded his offensive signals which were then-called at the line of scrimmage, so he began calling the plays in French, catching the unilingual Hamilton defence off-guard. McGill returned to quarterback the MAAA team in 1920, and later spurned offers from Tom Duggan, who was organizing franchises in New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh, to play professional hockey in the newly expanded National Hockey League.
Also a distinguished yachtsman, he represented Canada in international sailing races and captained the MAAA water polo team to three Canadian titles, from 1921 to 1923.
After his playing career, McGill was involved in sports administration. He was a director and vice-president of the MAAA, sat on the advisory committee of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was president of the "Big Four" Interprovincial Rugby Union, sat on the rules committee of the Canadian Rugby Football Union when it adopted the forward pass in 1929 and later served as chairman of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
He also served during the Second World War, as an Air Commodore with the RCAF and rose to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal. During his time with the RCAF, he made a point to stress the importance of competitive games and sports. He was an early advocate of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, which trained thousands of pilots in the war. He served as aide-de-camp for Governor General Viscount Alexander after the war.
McGill was decorated with numerous distinguished awards, including a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB), a Haakon VII Cross of Liberation and the Order of Lafayette.
McGill has the distinction of being the only individual to be twice named for an honorary award in the RCAF. He was first appointed on Feb. 1, 1939 as honorary wing commander to the RCAF on his retirement from active service. With the start of the Second World War, McGill accepted active service and lost his honorary appointment. He received his second appointment after retiring again on Oct. 1, 1961.
McGill became manager and director of Dominion Oil Cloth and Linoleum, Ltd., and was involved for more than 40 years with the Montreal business community. He actively participated in several charitable organizations. In the 1960s, he served as a trustee of the Canadian Football League's Schenley Awards.
Frank McGill married Margaret Williamson and the couple had three children (Isabel, Nancy and John). When he died in Montreal on July 4, 1980 an editorial in The Gazette stated that "he led a life of action worthy of the most honorable and courageous characters in an Ernest Hemingway novel."
Other 2012 inductees to the McGill pantheon include football defensive lineman Mark Joncas (BEng '82) of Val d'Or, Que., soccer goalkeeper Aldo Braccio (BA '85, MA '87) of Montreal and swimmer Carol Chiang (BSc '99) of The Pas, Man., and the 1962 McGill Redmen football team.
A profile of each new inductee will be featured online every week at www.mcgill.ca/athletics
The induction luncheon, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, kicks off the University's Homecoming Week celebrations. Tickets for the event are $65 and can be reserved by contacting the McGill Alumni Association at 514-398-8288.
Submissions for future inductions can be made by obtaining a nomination brochure from Kathryn Weaver at kathryn.weaver [at] mcgill.ca. A list of previous inductees can be found online at (www.mcgill.ca/athletics/varsitysports/athletes/hof/inductees/).
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