James “Big Jim” Pendergast was associated with sports in Prince Edward Island, nationally and even internationally for more than 75 years. He was a participant, a promoter and a friend of that five-letter word “sport,” from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
A native of the Kensington area who retired to Charlottetown, he made it known at the early age of 15 that he was a sportsman to be reckoned with, as he won several events at a field day held in nearby Margate. His success at that meet inspired him to train, and he went on to participate in meets held regionally, nationally and internationally. In 1900, he was top point getter at the Caledonia Games in Charlottetown. In 1902, he was top point getter in a Field Day at Boston, winning eight firsts and three seconds. From 1901 to 1904 he was awarded gold watches, medals and cups.
He was a weight thrower of great strength, and in 1904, held the World’s Record for throwing the 56-pound weight for height at the Old Madison Square Garden in New York. In 1906, in the Klondike, he participated in track and field and boxing, winning gold nuggets and gold dust. He was a top rate boxer throughout the New England States from 1912 to 1915. In fact his reputation in the ring was such that “Ring Magazine” listed him as one of the “White Hopes” during the reign of Jack Johnson as Heavy Weight Champion of the World.
From 1915 to 1934, he was Secretary Manager of the old New Annan Race Track. In 1963 and again in 1964, he was Chief Organizer and Promoter of the Northumberland Strait Swims which had international participation.
These are only very few of many, many things that this gentlemen has accomplished over the past 75 years. All of his life he was a leader and organizer of sports, as well as a great influence on the younger athletes with whom he came in contact in his position as a school teacher. He taught the desirability of training for active participation in sports. His slogan: “A sound body begets a sound mind.”
He was a former Prince Edward Island “Man of the Year” Award winner, and when inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame at 92 years of age “Gentleman Jim” was keenly interested in all aspects of sports.
Big Jim passed away on January 25, 1975 at the Somerset Manor, Summerside after a lengthy illness. His funeral was one of the largest attended in the history of PEI, demonstrating the high esteem in which he was held by his fellow citizens.
To learn more about “Big Jim” check out Trailblazer: The Legendary “Big Jim” Pendergast by his father Reginald Pendergast and Patricia Pendergast-Stayer, available for purchase at the PEI Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
Updated: October 2006