William Gilbert James Hay
Year Inducted: 1985
William Gilbert James Hay was born March 7, 1885 in Lochiel, Glengarry. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Hay.
William G. Hay, following his elementary public school education, left his Glen Sandfield farm home to establish his life work in Montreal. The hard farm work developed a muscular physical stature that influenced young Hay to join the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association. The club’s objective was to assist the development of young athletes in the sport in which they were most adaptable.
Young Hay played soccer at home, but in the early 1900s lacrosse was the leading summer team sport. So he turned his interest to running, which was also a top priority in athletic competitions.
From the archives of the Montreal Gazette sport files Leigh (Hay) LeBlanc and her father, William Cameron Hay, obtained several columns recording the athletic feats of her grandfather. We reprint a few of the excerpts that confirm the running prowess of this Glen Sandfield native.
Following gradual maturity and knowledge gained by professional training and coaching, William G. Hay was now ready to represent M.A.A.A. in top level track and field competitions.
By 1904, Hay was only 19 and won his first track races, the Summer Handicaps 880 and mile in the Montreal program. Hay continued this pace until 1907. That summer he entered the Amateur Athletic Federation of Canada mile in distance running. Hay was a bronze medal winner.
Hay maintained physical condition in the winter off season by continuing to run, but not on the M.A.A.A. indoor track. He trained on Mount Royal, wearing snowshoes.
There were several snowshoe clubs in Montreal and Quebec City. This sport dated back to the founding of both centres. Among the popular events were snowshoe races, sprints, steeplechase and distance.
William G. Hay, in 1907, entered for the first time the world championship events. He was only 22. He finished in third place.
The following winter, after gaining much experience, Hay was the 1908 world champion. He also won the Latin and French medals. Hay repeated this record in 1911.
In the intervening summers, Hay continued his winning ways. The Gazette stated that on August 14, 1908, Hay established a record, 4:31, in the mile M.A.A.A. race. In succeeding reports of track meets, including the major Labor Day annual program at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, it is noted that the name of W.G. Hay is either first of second, rarely third.
At the last M.A.A.A. meet, September 11, 1912, W.G. Hay was the winner of the greatest point aggregate and the gold medal for the best season work.
In the April 16, 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star sports page, a final brief chapter closed the book of one of Glengarry’s illustrious native sons.
“W. G. Hay is dead at age 61. He was the former secretary-treasurer of the Toronto Art Gallery after a successful business career in Montreal. At that time he was a world’s champion snowshoe runner and also noted as a mile runner with M.A.A.A. He was a member of the Handicraft Guild, Royal Arcanum and Trinity United Church.”