– Dr. Ian Mc Donald is a beacon to this Nation’s youth
By Mike Baptiste
If there was ever an award for a truly Caribbean man living in Guyana, then the name of Dr. Ian Archie Mc Donald would surely top the list of nominees.
And indeed, he has received his share of the awards and recognitions.
Just over a week ago, Dr. Mc Donald, now considered one of Guyana’s treasures, was again honoured for his decades-long contribution to sports and arts in Guyana.
This time, he was selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), receiving its 2014 Award for “Sport and Art”.
The event, hosted by the Guyana Olympic Association, fittingly saw the attendance of members of the Diplomatic Corps, officials of the association, and other special invitees.
In paying homage to Dr. Mc Donald, the Olympic association said that he had the unusual distinction of representing his country in five different decades: tennis (Trinidad) in the 1940s; tennis (Trinidad, Guyana and the West Indies) in the 1950s; tennis and squash (Guyana) in the 1970s and squash (Guyana) in the 1980s.
The new generation of lawn tennis fans has perhaps heard the name Ian Mc Donald, but would little realise that he is one of this country’s sporting legends.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago to a Trinidadian mother and Kittitian father, Ian’s maternal grandparents were Antiguans, and he has lived in Guyana since 1956.
With this pot-pourri of ancestors, Ian is proud to describe himself as a
In sports, Ian, as he is fondly known, was the Junior Tennis Champion of Trinidad in the 1940s.
At the tender age of 10 years, Ian embarked on his tennis career in the land of his birth, where, six years later, he was named a member of the “Humming Bird” team which participated in the Brandon Lawn Tennis tournament, the most prestigious in the Caribbean.
That was way back in 1950 when he and his team-mates copped the trophy. Incidentally, that winning Brandon debut was on our own GCC courts, where years later he was to carve his name in Guyana’s lawn tennis Hall of Fame, and become this country’s premier player.
Ian went to Cambridge University in 1951 and showed such remarkable talent that he earned his “Blue” on the tennis team one year later, and represented the “Light Blues” until 1955.
During his playing years there, he had the unique distinction of captaining the team.
Mc Donald is perhaps the only West Indian to have graced the hallowed Wimbledon courts so often, appearing in the World’s premier tournament in 1952, ’54, ’55 and ’59.
He first donned Guyana colours in 1956 and held his place in the team, almost as a right, until the early 1970s.
According to him, “There are so many marvelous memories. Even the defeats and they are many, have been softened by time into honored places in the long pageant of tournaments that stretched over five decades.”
Ian went on, “When I played in my first tournament, it certainly never entered my head that I would compete for so many years”.
In 1957, the last time he played internationally on the GCC grass courts, Guyana won the Brandon Trophy, beating Jamaica in the final.
Ian was unbeatable that year, playing undefeated throughout the tournament and with team-mates Derek Phang, Edgar Readwin and Ivan Phillips, was the toast of the country’s lawn tennis fraternity.
On the local circuit, his skill was unmatched, and his match-play so superior, that after winning the National Singles title in 1956 for the first time, his court-craft and dominating style earned him the crown ten more times, the last in 1973, setting a record that stands to this day.
During this period, he was never beaten at the National level and this feat remains unmatched.
This period also saw him winning the Men’s Doubles title with various partners, nine times.
Such was Ian’s love for the game, that in 1984 he came out of retirement and, in tandem with another stalwart, veteran Roy Dookum, captured the National Men’s Doubles crown and went on to retain it the following year, when their combined ages were 105.
Mc Donald made his debut for the West Indies in the first Davis Cup tie in 1953 against the United States in Jamaica, and from thereon, was a regular member of the team, being named captain on several occasions against the USA, Canada, Cuba and Yugoslavia.
During his long career Ian won several sports awards, being favoured both by his adopted country and farther afield.
But his biggest thrill was in 1957 when he won the Guyana Sportsman of the Year award jointly with middle-distance runner George De Peana.
Ian was also as effective a coach as a player. When Guyana last won the Brandon Trophy at GCC in 1976, it was his experience and knowledge that contributed a great deal to the team’s success.
The Aries-born legend describes his tennis career as exciting and gratifying and says, “On the way from so long ago to now, there have been occasions memorable to me that would take a score of articles to recount. All I can do today is to bring nostalgically to the tennis times I remember best of all”.
In addition to representing Guyana at tennis and squash, the sportsman showed another part of his diverse self…he dearly loved cricket.
He delivered the Inaugural Frank Worrell Lecture at the London Metropolitan University in 2005 and was a member with P.J. Patterson and Mister McIntyre, of the Patterson Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket in 2008.
As if he was competing with himself, Dr. Mc Donald’s love of the arts also saw him excelling in this field.
Besides his prowess with a lawn tennis racquet and his erudite analyses on a wide range of issues, he is also a renowned poet, author, literary and art critic, as well as a brilliant writer on the game of cricket.
His love for literature and writing began when he was a schoolboy.
He has authored over 200 articles, speeches and lectures on sport over the decades.
With regards to his writings, he authored The Humming Bird Tree, which was reprinted many times and made into a BBC film in 1992.
He has also been a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 1970.
A poet also, he has contributed to magazines in the region and internationally for over fifty (50) years.
Dr. Mc Donald has also been a Founder and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Theatre Guild of Guyana, as well as a director.
He was a member of the management committee of the National Art Collection from 1994 to 2014 where his contribution was invaluable.
The legacy left by Ian Mc Donald is a national treasure. His achievements as a sportsman and a person should be a beacon to this nation’s youth.
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