“Fiddling Day” Two Step

27 May

If you were anywhere near the Senate Courtyard on Parliament Hill a few Saturday’s ago, you might have heard the first-ever performance of Canada’s Fiddling Day Two Step. Penned by Dunvegan’s Kelli Trottier, the tune (subtitled “Fiddle Bill”) was created to mark the occasion of Canada’s first National Fiddling Day.

When I queried Kelli about the subtitle (did it refer to Bill S-218 or was there a spritely old codger by that name who had been a mentor) she wrote back to say that the tune required a formal title and Canada’s Fiddling Day Two Step was chosen by the powers that be. However, Kelli didn’t think the title “rolled off the tongue very well.” In her opinion, it should have more of an every-day title. “I figured it would morph into some sort of nickname,” says Kelli. “I wanted to choose the title myself, and decided on Fiddle Bill.”

In case you missed it in the flurry of infantile backstabbing and prevarication that is the norm on the Hill, on March 25, 2015 the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of Senator Elizabeth Hubley’s private member’s bill, S-218, an Act to formally recognize Canada’s rich fiddling heritage. With the passage of this bill, the third Saturday in May has been designated as “National Fiddling Day.”

As Kelli wrote in her recent newsletter to family, friends and fans, “I can’t tell you what a thrill and an honour it was to write and to share Canada’s Fiddling Day Two Step (aka Fiddle Bill)… to commemorate this occasion and the many Canadian Fiddling Days to come. I had the pleasure of playing the tune with many friends and fiddlers from Ottawa… for the first public performance at a Senate reception in honour of this very significant step in preserving our Canadian Fiddle Heritage.”

Kelli was kind enough to share a copy of the sheet music for her commemorative tune. Here’s a link to the PDF:


“Adjustment and closure systems”

This is the term used in a recent contract notice issued by the Department of Defence for 12,000 new pairs of mukluks — those high, soft boots often worn in the Arctic and traditionally made from sealskin. Simple folks like you and I call such adjustment and closure systems… “laces.”

If you’ve ever wondered why a simple tool like a hammer costs taxpayers hundreds of dollars when bought by a government department, there might be a clue in the tender for this footwear contract. The document contains a total of 167 pages of specifications for the new mukluks.

Just in case there was any doubt, potential mukluk suppliers were told, “For the purpose of this document, the extreme cold weather mukluk assembly is defined as a left and right boot…” Our soldiers don’t have two left feet. Who knew?

And this was only one of the countless specifications that comprised this document, including:

  • Provide performance characteristics such as, but not limited to, ventilation, insulation, cushioning and moisture management
  • Be made using compounds and a tread pattern which provides traction and stability to the user on all surfaces
  • Prevent the collection of dispersion of small objects: stones, nails, screws and etcetera
  • Incorporate fabrics and materials to ensure the foot, to ankle height, remains dry from exterior sources

Now, all these conditions… and the many, many more mentioned in the document… are no doubt valid. But are they also not implied when one specifies a mukluk? I suspect if Inuit hunters had had to follow these same procurement guidelines, they’d be walking about in their bare feet.

It’s no wonder that our Canadian Forces have been waiting for a replacement for their aged Sea King maritime helicopter since 1983.

MacLeod, McRae, Ishikawa

Which of the three above names are NOT from Dunvegan?

While it looks like a “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong” segment from Sesame Street, it’s really a trick question. They are all names from Dunvegan.

Mary Catherine (née MacRae) Ishikawa was born on July 8th, 1872 in Dunvegan to Norman (“The Drover”) MacRae and his wife Mary McKenzie.

The entry on Mary Ishikawa in Royce MacGillivray’s amazing Dictionary of Glengarry Biography records that she went to school in Alexandria, where the family had moved at some point following Mary’s birth. While I have no details as to its source, the family must have been relatively well off financially.

From Alexandria, Mary was sent to the Ontario Ladies’ College in Whitby, Ontario. Rev. J. E. Sanderson, a Methodist minister and James Holden, founder of the Dominion Bank and a man with five daughters of his own, founded the College in 1874. The independent day and residential school for girls and young women in grades 5 through 12 was located in Castle Trafalgar, a building that, when it was built in 1859, was the largest private dwelling in Canada. Amazingly, Ontario Ladies’ College is still in business today. However, the name has been changed to Trafalgar Castle School.

Following graduation from the Ontario Ladies’ College, Mary attended the Cornwall Business College and was, allegedly, its first female graduate.

The next stop in Mary’s journey was Wisconsin where she went to work for her uncle Duncan J. McKenzie who had left Glengarry in 1868 to seek his fortune in the lumber trade south of the border. It was no doubt through her uncle’s extensive personal and political connections that she met the man she was to marry: G.S. Ishikawa or “Ishikawa” as Mary called him. The two were wed in August of 1901 in Alexandria, shortly after Mr. Ishikawa obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

From Alexandria, the newlyweds headed for the West Coast where the boarded a ship for Japan. Some accounts suggest that it was a Japanese warship. From Japan, they travelled to Germany where Mary’s husband worked until the outbreak of WWI in 1914. When the hostilities commenced, Germany interred the Ishikawas. Fortunately, in 1915, they were given 24 hours to leave the country. In Royce MacGillivray’s account, he notes that: “Even in internment, she (Mary) is said to have received every issue of the Glengarry News.”

Mary, along with her young daughter, Maybelle, returned to Madison, Wisconsin. While her husband returned to Japan. While the marriage was effectively over, the couple did meet again on at least two occasions… once in Madison in 1917 and again in Montreal, where Mary had moved to in 1919.

In the 1920s and 30s, Mary ran a boarding house at 4110 Western Avenue in Montreal. As I discovered when I went to Google Maps, Western Ave. no longer exists. Apparently, in 1966, Western (which I believe ran from Atwater to Greene) was combined with Burnside and other east-west routes to form the western end of De Maisonneuve.

By all accounts, this remarkable woman from Dunvegan was said to have a heart as big as Montreal. And, over the years, her home was a refuge for young women from Glengarry who were working in the big city.

A story in the April 27th issue of the Standard Freeholder tells of a bronze and marble radio lamp her Glengarry friends gave her as a gift. The Freeholder article went on to quote from the presentation ceremony: “We certainly have appreciated your kindness in placing your home at our disposal for our weekly gatherings during these long winter months… Our sincere hope is that this lamp will light your future days to continual health and happiness.”

According to a 1992 story in the Glengarry News, Mary Ishikawa died in December of 1952 — at the age of 80 — in a nursing home in Lachine, Quebec. Before that, she had lived for several years with a sister in Montreal. The article went on to say, “She is said to have been in extreme poverty at the end of her life.” Which, if true, is extremely sad.

Soccer Schedule Soon

Dunvegan Soccer co-representative, Bob Linney, tells me that there are grumblings about the lateness of this year’s soccer schedule. He wanted me to tell readers that the League apologizes for the delay. They are still learning to work with the new scheduling systems.

He also wanted me to reassure players and their families that the 2015 schedule will be out by the end of this week… and that the season will start on June 1st.

The schedule will be posted on the Glengarry Soccer League web site — www.glengarrysoccerleague.ca — as soon as it’s ready. Or you can contact your local soccer rep.