Atlantic Canada’s first international Scrabble tournament is set to take place in Shediac this fall. The event will be hosted by the Greater Shediac Chamber of Commerce in celebration of the world’s first crossword board game, which was developed in the small town.
“The crossword board game was first invented in Shediac in 1926,” said Pierre Cormier, with the Greater Shediac Chamber of Commerce.
Cormier says local renaissance man Edward R. MacDonald invented a game compiling words on a checker board for points simply called “crossword game.” His version was patented more than a decade before the world-renowned game of Scrabble was ever born.
“Edward MacDonald was a former mayor of Shediac, he was a lawyer, he was an author.”
MacDonald owned one of the province’s first cars, was a provincial politician and a scholar with a love for the written word, Cormier said.
Longtime Shediac resident, 86-year-old Romeo Leger said MacDonald’s invention is about to put Shediac on the map.
“I think it’s great history and I’m sure there is a lot of people that don’t know about it either.”
They’re about to, as more than 5,000 scrabble players from around the world will be invited to play in the tournament this September and October. It will be the first international Scrabble tournament ever to be held in Atlantic Canada.
Players will also get a chance to try out MacDonald’s version of the game, as it’s believed his “crossword game” may have pioneered today’s version of Scrabble.
“Although it wasn’t his that went on to be such a renowned game, I think he did have a vision of something,” Cormier said.
To date, Scrabble has sold more than 150 million copies in 20 languages world-wide, said John Chew, co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association.
“We are trying to develop awareness of the fact that there was a crossword game invented and played here in Shediac for 90 years and well before the game of Scrabble was invented,” said Chew.
“So as a Scrabble player I am excited to see how this game differs.”
MacDonald never did mass produce and sell his version of the game. Those tiny numbered tiles he created may have been worth millions, but MacDonald appears to have lived a full life.
“If you look at his history he didn’t miss out on much. He ran a business, wrote a book, raised a family, I don’t think he missed out on anything,” said Cormier.
MacDonald’s legacy does live on.
“I think he would be amazed to see his initial board game be resurrected and seeing so many people participate,” said president of the Greater Shediac Chamber of Commerce, Ron Cormier.
“We hope to have many people from across Canada and abroad.”