About the Author


Throughout the author’s life, his collector instinct never diminished. He began at age 5 with coins and stamps, moving on to virtually anything that was old and interesting. Wherever he lived or travelled, to some 80 countries in all, many well off the beaten track, he would seek out both the typical and the unusual, from fine art to tobacco cards, 18th Century armour, 19th Century medals 19th Century books, early 20th Century magazines, post cards, music, mounted game and reptiles, old African spears, Persian carpets, vintage clothing, musical instruments, tools, stained glass, even an ancient cannon he discovered in the Maldive Islands. With his son Scott, he collected antique cars, including 2 Rolls Royces, a McLaughlin Buick, a 1928 LaSalle, a classic 1961 Mercedes limo and a 1927 Ford Pickup. He has an unused 1957 Triumph motorcycle and a Vespa scooter which he bought in Stockholm in 1956 and has used ever since. One of his more esoteric interests is in old Ottawa advertising items and it is thanks to his successful search for such advertisements, especially those issued by the pioneer Merchants of Sparks Street, that this unique Victorian Album, “OTTAWA – the Golden Years”, became a possibility.


Ian Verner Macdonald is a true native son of Ottawa and one of the first to be born at the newly-built Ottawa Civic Hospital – on January 19, 1925. He was raised on Glen Avenue in Old Ottawa South which in those days bore all the characteristics of a village where most everyone knew everyone else. Summers he spent in a real village – Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia – where his Highland Scottish ancestors settled 200 years ago. He attended Hopewell Public School and Glebe Collegiate, leaving early to join the RCAF, as did most other patriotic teenagers at the time who could qualify for Aircrew and were ready to die for King and country.

Following service in the RCAF and RN Fleet Air Arm, he took degrees in Economics at Queen’s (where he was Manager of the Queen’s Brass and Pipe Bands and leader of a popular dance band) and Toronto Universities, wrote the Foreign Service exams, in which he placed 2nd nationwide, and embarked on a career as a commercial diplomat that took him officially to over 50 countries. He had the privilege of meeting such notables as the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, the Duke of Gloucester, Sir Charles Woolley, Konrad Adenauer, Hjalmar Schacht, Alfried Krupp, Arthur C. Clark, Rosemary Rogers, Felix Bandaranaike, Cyrus Eaton Jr, Averell Harriman, John J. Hopkins (President of General Dynamics Corp.) George Romney, Joan Crawford, Frank Carlucci, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum (Ruler of Dubai), Tarik Aziz, Robert Winters, Ernest Manning, Lester Pearson and a host of international senior officials and businessmen, not least of whom the genial Ken Taylor, his Vice-Consul in Detroit who became a legend when, as Canadian Ambassador to Iran, he guided the rescue of six American hostages. He helped cub-reporter Peter Newman with one of his first stories for the Financial Post and went on to write many published articles of his own and innumerable letters to Editors and others. In Beirut he co-published the first Canadian-Arabic international trade magazine.


Heeding the oft-repeated assurance of his engineer father, a seasoned WWI Veteran, that “nothing is impossible” (which he would invariably challenge with: “Well, how about taking a walk on the moon?”) he consistently went where angels feared to tread. When only two years into his first posting to Bonn, West Germany, despite ambassadorial apoplexy when he learned Macdonald was “selling military equipment to the enemy”, he became arguably the most productive trade official in Canadian history. Inspired by his aviation background, Ian sought out the deeply-covert head-of-procurement-in-waiting for the future German Luftwaffe and single-handedly initiated negotiations leading to the purchase of 300 Canadair F86Mk6 Sabrejets, powered by the Canadian-built Orenda engine, an order worth several billion dollars by today’s standards. There were subsequent unprecedented accomplishments in his career as a trade diplomat – first sale of a Canadian hydro-electric project in Asia, first arms-length sale of Canadian auto production parts in the USA, first sale of aircraft to Oman (11 CL41G jet trainers), first agreements in principle for major sales, concessions and joint ventures in the Middle East and North Africa worth billions of dollars. He brokered Canadian construction of a large American tourism development in Cuba by raising $171 million in financing for the project.


He was chided by wisecracking colleagues for not having sold refrigerators to Eskimos, but countered by selling overcoats to Africans, a feat that earned him a picture story in a Toronto newspaper He introduced water-skiing to Sri Lanka and while not skimming the water was skimming the treetops in a Canadian-built Chipmunk borrowed from the Ceylon Air Force or an old Tiger Moth biplane left over from the Colonial era, or a Stinson L5 from the WWII Burma campaign. In Johannesburg he moonlighted by forming a Swing Band that became an instant hit by introducing North American-style big band music live. He now plays trombone in a Swing Era band in Ottawa. After six foreign postings, on five continents, he was appointed Chief of Planning and Policy for export development from which position he was able to propose much improved programs and policies based on practical experience, including a pre-emptive trade and foreign policy offensive in the Middle East and North Africa that would have brought Canada incalculable benefits. His proposal was leaked to the powerful Israeli Lobby, resulting in his summary, illegal dismissal from the Foreign Service and serial litigation following fraudulent seizure of his properties and defamation. His lawyer was the indomitable Douglas Christie. He has undertaken numerous speaking engagements and has written many papers on trade, finance, foreign policy, subversion, immigration and other subjects.


In his spare time, he founded a company to manufacture vinyl-based premium dental plastics (a first in Canada), opened a feldspar (dentalspar) mine in Quebec, established a downtown gallery, grew barley on one of his farms, undertook a national consumer survey for a major U.S. client, organized a 96 member Canadian Peace Delegation to Libya, spoke at international conferences on sanctions in Moscow and Baghdad, led a Canadian mining delegation to Southern Africa and built a lavish-decor, 190 seat Hollywood-theme restaurant and piano bar in the By Ward market. He acquired the last of the old Centretown tourist homes (the Lauderdale Arms, 356 Maclaren St.) and operated it until its conversion to the Marrakesh Restaurant, named by Town & Country Magazine as one of the five best in the Ottawa region.


In the late sixties, he saw Ottawa’s neglected antique houses as the ultimate collectible. Despite the world-wide travel demands of his second career in Overseas Project Marketing, he purchased, over a 15 year period, three pioneer farmhouses just south of the city, with 350 acres and, among others, a dozen prime heritage properties in Sandy Hill and downtown. He conscientiously restored and rented the properties as embassies, restaurants, apartments, rooming houses, video studios, health clubs and as offices for psychiatrists, architects, lawyers, diplomats, computer consultants, dentists, doctors, mortgage brokers, Heritage Canada, former Prime Minister Joe Clark, the Honourable Flora Macdonald and the occasional journalist. He established the exquisitely-furnished Olde Bytown B & B using two large Victorian houses overlooking Strathcona Park and operated it for many years. He bought and restored the Lucerne Apartments on Charlotte Street that were once among the most fashionable apartment addresses in Sandy Hill. His most prized acquisition was one of the grand houses on Wilbrod Street built for Sir Henry Newell Bate that had been occupied by Bate family members since its construction in 1890. Little had changed in the house and its large coach house since that time and it remains to this day an authentic reflection of the lifestyle of its former occupants.


Iona Skuce (long-time friend and colleague)