Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bilingual Voice of Blue Bonnets Dead

For Montrealers who enjoyed harness racing in it's heyday over at Blue Bonnets Raceway (Hippodrome de Montréal) Donald Pinard was an integral part of the experience. His track announcements and bilingual call of the race was familiar and enjoyable. He worked the microphone and filled other positions at the track for over thirty years.
"Celle Depart! -- They're Off!"

The track was a Montreal institution for over a hundred years until the impact of casino gambling and poker machines sent it into a sharp decline as it's gambling revenues dwindled.

I found this on YouTube, but can't attest to it's veracity, supposedly it's a call of a race in 1922.

I used to go quite often, but lost interest about the time (1995) the facility discarded it's fabulous name and changed it to something more politically correct- 'Hippodrome de Montréal'

The original Blue Bonnets Raceway was located in Montreal West but had to be moved in 1886 when the newly installed Canadian Pacific Railway line split the facility in two.

The track was built on the old encampment of the Scottish Highlanders, who had fought in the Battle of Montreal.
In 1760, the two battalions of Royal Highlanders, accompanied by eight companies of Montgomery's Highlanders would launch from their final assembly point at Oswego as part of Amherst's army expedition to capture Montreal, the last defended city of New France in August 1760. It would be in that captured French city that all three Highland regiments would meet for the first and last time during their existence. (Their former campground, now a large stadium for harness racing is appropriately named Blue Bonnets Raceway.)

The "Blue Bonnet" appellation is an obvious reference to the hats worn by the 77th Highland Regiment.

Donald Pinard's passing highlights the sad end of the venerable institution as it lies dying in bankruptcy protection.

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