Doug MacDonald from Antigonish, Nova Scotia grew up around highland games so it’s natural he became a competitor. MacDonald became one of the most travelled highland games competitors in Canadian history even becoming a champion.
The 6’4, 285 pound MacDonald is widely regarded as one of the best caber tossers ever in the world. He retired from heavy event competitions at the peak of his career to follow his calling to become a Priest. Eventually Fr. MacDonald became Chaplain at Cape Breton University and the only Priest around who could bench press 300 pounds.
In 1999 at the Lonach Highland Games in Scotland, MacDonald and Robin Williams lives would collide in a moment caught on a disposable camera.
Robin Williams attended these particular highland games on a regular basis to run what’s called the hill race. He would vacation with Scottish comedian Billy Connoly and Steve Martin, then take part in the run up the local mountain.
The day Robin Williams took to the starting line of his race, he decided to speak with the heavy event athletes and get some tips. Robin was making fun of himself in only a way he could, playing for the crowd and struggling to pick up the heavy lifter’s gear.
Doug MacDonald threw his disposable camera to one of the other athletes, walked quietly behind Robin and hoisted him up onto his shoulder having the moment captured on film.
“At first, he tried to squirm down. But you see, there were two problems with that.” Father Doug said in a CBU publication. “One, I was in pretty good shape back then and I wasn’t letting him down. And two, we had just finished throwing the hammer and my hands were covered in sticky tacky.”
MacDonald and Williams laughed and waved to the audience. MacDonald had to rip his hands from Robin’s legs, taking half the hair in the process. Anyone who has seen Robin Williams knows that’s a lot of hair.
Before becoming a Priest, at university MacDonald participated in football and wrestling eventually graduating with an education degree. He then moved to British Columbia to take a teaching job.
His students brought up the memory of Robin Williams, with one explaining that his father was a stuntman and would be working with Williams. He offered to have a copy of Father Doug’s photo signed for him.
“Douglas, you da man in the skirt – Robin Williams,” was written in Sharpie when it was returned to MacDonald.
“Robin Williams was a man who was so happy on the outside, but inside he was having tremendous struggles.” said Fr. MacDonald “My experience with him was a real lesson, he was sitting on my shoulders laughing and having fun, and all of his movies were lighthearted and lovable, but we had no idea what he was going through.”
Father Doug has said this story serves as a reminder of why we should be kind to people no matter what their background is, saying we never know what someone is going through inside.
“As a chaplain, I’m here to give people hope. That’s what we need in life.”