Virginia Heffernan, principal of GeoPen Communications, is a science and business writer who specializes in writing about mineral and energy resources. She provides research and writing services to both corporate and government clients and is a regular contributor to publications such as Investment Executive, The Northern Miner and Canadian Consulting Engineer. www.geopen.com/
“From the Ground Up” is an autobiography of one of Canada’s most notable mining women, Viola MacMillan, best known for her involvement in the infamous Windfall mining scandal of 1964. Although her autobiography presents her side of the controversial story some gaps and context were missing. Virginia Hefferernan’s thorough investigation cleared up many of those gaps and provided much needed context in the “Afterword” final chapter of the autobiography.
Afterword (March 2001)
The name Viola MacMillan evokes one of two responses. Those who knew her personally describe a generous and dynamic professional who became the sacrificial lamb of a corrupt Bay Street. Those introduced to her by the press recall a scoundrel who swindled innocent investors out of their savings. Will the real Viola Rita MacMillan please stand up?
If MacMillan were alive today, she would readily rise and state her case, just as she did on the 1960s television program, “To Tell the Truth.” As her memoirs divulge, she was an aggressive personality who rose from humble beginnings to achieve success in the mining industry: Canada’s own Horatio Alger, some would say. Despite her tiny stature – she stood just five feet tall and weighed little more than 100 pounds – she fought her way to the top of a man’s world by sheer force of will and a refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer. “Anybody, regardless of sex or circumstance, can do anything they want to do. All you need is the guts to stick to things,” was her favourite response to queries about the secret of her success.
But she rarely spoke of what became known as the Windfall affair, a mining scandal in the 1960s that triggered a royal commission investigation, exposed weaknesses in the market regulatory system and shamed several high-ranking officials. Even MacMillan’s otherwise detailed autobiography gives scant attention to an event that not only rocked her world, but changed the dynamics of share trading in Canada forever. MacMillan carried a long list of accomplishments to her grave, but her name will always be synonymous with Windfall.
MacMillan and the mining industry were joined at the hip.