Brian French gained recognition as a youth in Sackville as a talented and lanky basketball player during the early days of Tantramar Regional High School but has travelled many roads over the past 40 years. He returned to his native community recently where he launched and autographed his latest book, entitled simply Tintamarre.
His first major work, Mojito, a novel of the next Cuban revolution, gained him a reputation as a best-selling author.
But he had a second purpose in coming home, which was to conduct some research in preparation for a nomination of the Titan basketball teams of 1972 and 73 to the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame.
However, he points out that the success of those teams had little to with him or the players but more about the marvelous manner in which Wayne MacKay and Rod Aube had in preparing the players for what was to come.
MacKay, of course, is the man who really launched basketball as a recognizable sport in Sackville, while Aube did the same in Dorchester. Later, similar things happened in Port Elgin where Henry Davis and a host of volunteers performed magic.
Prior to 1972 there had been high schools in all three communities and it was difficult, especially for Sackville High, to come up with a winner. However, with the merging into one high school the talents of all were combined and for several years the Titans not only built a reputation but advanced to the provincial finals at the top level of competition.
From the tiny Dorchester school came a surprising array of skilled athletes like Frank Kingston, Brian LeBlanc, Mike Lannigan, Fred Dube and Malcolm Bowes to name a few. From SHS came fellows like Jim Faulkner, Ralph Allan, Bill Hirtle, Alan Withers and Brian French, also to name a few.
For the first time in history the local schoolboys were able to take down the big schools like Moncton and move on in the playoffs.
In discussing those teams it brought out similarities to the 1952-53 Sackville Eagles â the team that brought senior hockey back to the community. Starting with a core of local players, organizers went out and recruited seven strong athletes from Moncton and ended with a championship team that drew more than 6,000 fans to a three-game playoff series victory over the well-stocked Memramcook Rovers.
To return to Brian French, after graduating from TRH he enrolled at UNB, played basketball for Don Nelson and earned an undergraduate degree. From there his life took many directions. He worked for a finance company for a couple of years, then joined the FDBB where he worked with small business and in training and this was followed by stints with the city of Toronto as financial consultant and seven years with a major US real estate company. Currently he works as a communities consultant with a number of other projects in the works.
At some point he was convinced to put thoughts, research and knowledge onto paper and thus began his first works on Cuba where he had many visits and spent a good deal of time exploring, interviewing and learning.
In its review, the New York Times said: âThis book is not only a powerful read, this guy knows Cuba the way Hemingway knew it. Compelling and raw and gutsy.â
Meanwhile, French now had the writerâs bug and finds it much easier to begin a new book â having a couple ready in the back of his busy mind. Tintamarre is the story of the terror and triumph of an Acadian family, Mathilde and Acquila Girouard, who are raising their family in a pictorial paradise.
âMati and âQuila should be at the mercy of the English empire. Theyâre pushed around by pestilent priests and pursued by violent rangers that keep count of their victims with scalps. When Mati and the children are captured by the English for expulsion far away from home, all appears to be lost. But Acquila and the Acadian resistance will not give in to terror.â
This is an excerpt and French goes on to say that Tintamarre is a story of how ordinary people in a merciless land endure and defy inhumane attempts to extinguish them from the land of their ancestors.
With his skills as a writer and with his firm belief that the 1972-73 TRHS basketball teams deserve a spot on the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame it will be a test of the wills of the selection committee to rule them out as deserving and worthy inductees in 2016.