By Andrew Macdonald
After his death this week in Cape Breton, the family of dentist Dr. Royden Trainor began to realize the incredible generosity of a husband and father.
Trainor was 88 and a dentist for 42 years in gritty and industrial Port Hawkesbury, practicing during the 1960 boon times when industries were creating thousands of jobs.
Back than, political don Allan J. MacEachen told a once leading Port Hawkesbury news weekly, The Scotia Sun that the town would become the third largest city in Nova Scotia.
But the industries were later mothballed and for most of his practice, Trainor did his work during lean economic times, in an era when the Strait regional town was better described as being job-pressed.
My Halifax political readers would know one of his sons: Royden Trainor Jr., a former political aide in the 1993-1997 Liberal Dr. John Savage government. He is now a policy wonk with Minister Lloyd Hines in the Transportation & Infrastructure Renewal department.
“Dr. Savage was fond of telling the story of a time when he was campaigning in Richmond County with Richie Mann, when a woman pushed past Savage, and exclaimed ‘Is that a Trainor?’,” recalls Royden Jr.
At the time, Savage was premier and Royden Jr. was his senior aide.
“The lady then recounted a story of years ago when she was a single mom and she and her children desperately needed dental care,” Royden Jr recalls.
“Dad took them in spent all day with them and dad knew they were financially stressed and when she asked what was the charge, dad said $20, which she could not believe and thought he was referring to a payment plan,” Royden Jr. tells The Macdonald Notebook.
“My dad took the $20 and before she left he said, ‘You forgot the change,’ and he proceed to hand her two tens. Confused, she said ‘That is not the right change’ and dad said ‘It is around here’.
“Premier Savage, upon hearing that story kidded that maybe dad was really a socialist, but his cars were too old and not fancy enough to fit in with the lefty crowd on the mainland,” says Royden Jr.
“He might be a real one after my own heart. Now that is what a Liberal should look like,” Savage would proclaim.
Royden Jr laughs about that story now, adding it might explain why his father would often drive a 15-year-old station wagon.
Royden Jr tells The Macdonald Notebook that following his dad’s demise on Tuesday in a Sydney hospital, the family has heard lots of new stories of the elder Trainor’s generosity during his long dental practice in Port Hawkesbury.
Trainor is survived by his wife of 59 grand years, Mary H. (Nee: MacDonald).
He is also survived by his dentist daughter Patty, who is married to another Port Hawkesbury dentist, Dr. Ian Greencorn, as well as other children including Royden Jr., who is married to Peter, and Brian, Michael (Jane), Madonna (Eugene), Robert.
He is also survived by seven grandchildren and had been eagerly anticipating the birth of a great-grandchild.
He graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in 1952 with a BSc and Dalhousie University Dental School in 1956. After practicing for 42 years, he retired in 1997.
“Royden was a lifelong recognized and dedicated community leader and most of all—and of which he was most proud—a devoted family man including his unconditional love for his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and the love of his life, Mary,” reads his obituary in The Halifax Herald.
Donations in his memory can be made to An Cala Palliative Care Unit at Cape Breton Regional Hospital or St. Joseph RC Parish Cemetery Fund in Port Hawkesbury.
One of his often quoted philosophical views of his life included his favourite saying to his children: “Them to whom much is given, much is expected,” fondly recalls Royden Jr.
Former John Savage heavyweight Richie Mann, a former Highways & Economic Development minister, was a long time friend of Trainor, first meeting him as a teenager when Trainor was his dentist.
Mann grew up in St. Peter’s, and served as Richmond County MLA, taking the largest Liberal vote margin in the entire province in 1993, during the Savage Liberal landslide.
“I knew him fairly well, but I hadn’t been close lately because I left Cape Breton 20 years ago. But, I knew him when I was young, he was my dentist,” Mann tells The Macdonald Notebook.
“I knew him certainly when I was in politics,” says Mann. Trainor was an unabashed supporter of the Liberal party.
Mann recalls that Trainor would often fit patients into his workday, even if they did not have an appointment.
“If you needed a dentist, it wasn’t like there was a dentist at every corner—it was a different era. Back when I was young, you’d get a tooth pulled out, and have a lot of pain, and Dr. Trainor would always see you, even if you didn’t have an appointment. Dr. Trainor would never let you continue with the tooth pain, he’d see you.”
Greg MacEachern, a leading Ottawa lobbyist and one of Port Hawkesbury’s best-known exports, has long been a family friend of the Trainors.
MacEachern’s parents, the late community college professor Allan MacEachern (no relation to Allan J) and his mother Anne Marie shared a love of Liberal politics with the Trainor family. She was chief of staff to former Cape Breton Highlands-Canso Liberal MP Francis LeBlanc (1988-1997).
A dedicated Notebook subscriber, MacEachern says Dr. Trainor “was one of the families that lived in Port Hawkesbury previous to the 1960s-70s economic boom times, and Royden and Mary were well known in Port Hawkesbury spearheading town initiatives, and supporting charities.
“He wanted the best for Port Hawkesbury,” MacEachern tells The Macdonald Notebook.
Dr. Trainor was a former town councillor in the Strait town.
“There were a lot of people that Dr. Trainor and his wife Mary supported over the years, and no one was the wiser,” recalls MacEachern.
While the dentist could have afforded to buy the best of cars, he was well known for driving his vehicles for as long as 15 years, notes MacEachern.
“The Trainors had seven kids. And they had a very large 1970s station wagon, with the wood panelling that they kept for a long long time. He held on to it and it was something out of a museum,” laughs MacEachern.
“They were well known in the town. They were the type of family that took up an entire pew at St. Joseph’s RC Church,” MacEachern tells me.
He says Trainor was pivotal in seeing that his son Royden was taught at leading Valley school Landmark East, because he recognized early on Royden Jr. had a severe learning disability.
At the Valley school, Royden Jr. was diagnosed with dyslexia, a disorder that makes reading the written word difficult.
Royden Jr. was written off by Port Hawkesbury’s public school teachers, but his father realized the boy was bright and just had a learning disability.
Royden Jr. would go on to graduating with honours from St. FX and also from Dal Law School, and has written several books on gay rights in Nova Scotia.
Royden Jr. is also an advocate for learning disabled folk, and previously served as a Human Rights Commissioner in Halifax.
“You can’t talk about Dr. Trainor without mentioning his support of Liberal politicians. Port Hawkesbury was known as a Tory town for a long time,” MacEachern says.
That meant Trainor had a life-long rivalry (I am being polite here readers) with Port Hawkesbury’s successful Tory politico, Billy Joe MacLean, a former town mayor, and cabinet minister in the government of John Buchanan.
The rivalry between Billy Joe and Dr. Trainor even made the pages of scandal sheet Frank Magazine in recent years. No more need be said on that score.
“Dr. Trainor was not someone that was going to go along to get along. He was very much a strong Liberal, very proud of his Liberal leanings and very proud of Royden Junior’s work with Premier Savage and his cabinet minister, John MacEachern,” says the Ottawa MacEachern.
“You could always count on seeing a Liberal election sign on the Trainor corner lot.
“I don’t think I am exposing any family secrets when I say Dr. Trainor was not a big fan of Billy Joe MacLean,” he says with a chuckle.
“Dr. Trainor wasn’t scared to (oppose) Billy Joe at times.”