Brennan's Hill, Quebec
and the "Battle of Brennan's Hill" Song

Painting by Ruth McMillan in 1976
Shows the Head of the Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa, Canada in 1893

March 16, 2007:

Hi Al; I thought this would make you grin...  The story to follow.
... Garry McFadden

Come all you young fellows, come listen to my song
It is not my intention to delay you very long
For I know you all have read of it, it's in the papers still
All about the famous battle that was fought at Brennan's Hill

The County Officers started their duty for to do
And they were assisted by the Provincial Crew
The came up at midnight when everything was still
For they were afraid to pass that place called Brennan's Hill

Camp was pitched at Brook's Hotel at Low
And early next morning Officers were heard to say
Check your revolvers to see they are in good trim
Then I'll put through your exercises and we start for Brennan's Hill

They examined their revolvers and found them all serene
They put them through their exercises the best you ever seen
Their horses they were ready and they started them
You would think it was for Sebastopol instead of Brennan's Hill

The first places they visited the men they were away
The houses were unguarded and the Officers did play
They acted up unmanly, they thought they were great men
But they were forced to take backwater on reaching Brennan's Hill

They were hunted from Driscoll's to the hotel at Low
To see them marching up the road, they made a splendid show
Major (the lawyer) was awful angry and Bailiff Groulx did grin
They said they'd bring the Militia to conquer Brennan's Hill

The Militia unto his men did say
I believe tomorrow morning you have got to bear away
Up the Gatineau Valley unto a place called Low
Where they do hunt the Bailiffe when up to them they go

The gallant 43rd came up and pitched their tents in Low
The people of our township to visit they did go
They used us very friendly, they seemed to be nice men
But that was their best policy with the town of Brennan's Hill

They started them for Willis's they duty for to do
To see them marching down the road they were a splendid crew
The winding paths around the hills that led them to their den
But they could not find Willis, he was out at Brennan's Hill

The place it was deserted and nothing could be found
So Bailiff Groulx he got to work and seized the ground
They returned back to Ottawa to practice up their drill
And thanked the Lord they were safe from the boys of Brennan's Hill

Surnames for search engine: Brook, Groulx, Willis, Brennan, Driscoll
March 20, 2007: As promised the Story of The Battle of Brennan's Hill as sent to me by my cousin Eric Mahoney whose mother was my great Aunt Violet Myles of Low, Quebec. Garry McFadden Prince George, BC.
Battle of Brennan's Hill The Story Author unknown
The Low Rebellion On November 14, 1895 some remarkable news hit the headlines in the Ottawa papers. Subscribers to The Journal must have been surprised to read "Pay or Seizure…. The Provincial Police are now in Low Township… Arrived in the Rebellious Settlement late last night…. They are all armed to the teeth and payment will be forced" The county council had finally decided to take action against the ratepayers of Low township only 36 miles up the Gatineau from Ottawa, who had successfully avoided paying their taxes for 15 years. The headlines sounded fierce, but there were in fact only 8 policeman in this armed force, and their orders were to help the bailiffs collect arrears from over 200 delinquent ratepayers, mainly of Irish descent who, to quote The Journal again, "All possessed the vigor and determination that characterizes their race." For some reason the authorities didn't expect glorious resistance from these vigorous Irishmen, although officers of the law had frequently been chased away on previous occasions, and once poor bailiff Flatters of Aylmer had been locked in a cellar without food or drink for 48 hours. However, this time each Provincial Policeman carried two Smith and Wesson revolvers and they were all big, strapping fellows…." Just the class of man that would not flinch from duty". They were accompanied by county solicitor C.B. Major, and county treasurer Desjardin / Desjardins, bailiff Groulx, high constable Genest, and two men sworn in as special constables to drive the police wagons. Although the roads were horribly muddy, it had been decided to travel by wagon, rather than by train, and to arrive late at night so that the party would have an initial element of surprise on their side. Unfortunately this advantage was denied the little force since news of the expedition had somehow leaked out and the delinquent ratepayers had been busy hiding cattle and belongings back in the bush behind their farms. It wasn't surprising that so many farms had appeared deserted the following morning, but finally the police finally encountered one very lively inhabitant, a Miss O'Rourke who threatened to pour boiling water on anyone who tried to serve a tax notice on her. Hearing that she owed $2.35 in taxes she seized a stick of firewood and started to belabor one of the policemen. But the upholders of the law and order retired gracefully with the warning that the farm would have to be sold to pay for arrears. The same unsympathetic reception awaited the constables at the next O'Rourke farm. Only this time it was a neighbour, John Raine who stole the show, apparently brandishing a shillelagh. He made an eloquent speech that ended "as long as there is heart blood in an Irishman in the Gatineau, we will fight. You want to treat us as our fore fathers were treated in Ireland. They came out here to escape heavy taxes. Now, gentlemen, ye's better git". However, Mr. Raines suggestion was ignored and the little party continued on its discouraging search for delinquents until a mob of about 40 men began to hamper operations to such an extent that it was decided to go back to Brock's Hotel for lunch. To somewhat shorten a long story, the next morning, a Friday, it was discovered that all the bolts had been removed from the police wagons overnight. Further operations had been neatly sabotaged until the wagons had been mended. So, an irate solicitor Major returned to Hull and armed himself with a requisition for military assistance signed by the Sheriff and 3 Justices of the Peace. Once the legality of the request had been established, the Honourable A.R. Dickey, Minister of Militia, General Gascoigne, commander of the Canadian troops, Lt. Col. The Honourable Matthew Aylmer and Lt. Col. Joshua Wright, held a council of war which resulted in the following announcement: Orders by Lt. Col. Aylmer, commanding Military District No. 4, on the occasion of being called upon to assist the civil authorities in the township of Low, county of Ottawa, province of Quebec. 21 NCO's and men, and 21 horses of the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, with 40 rounds of ball ammunition per man; one Major, two subalterns, one Medical Officer, one Vetinary Surgeon, one trumpeter, and 21 NCO's and men with 25 horses of the No. 2 Ottawa Field Battery, with 40 rounds of ammunition per man. One Lt. Col., two Captains, four Subalterns, one Quartermaster and 60 NCO's and men; two Buglers and two horses of the 43 Battalion, Ottawa and Carleton Rifles, with 70 rounds of ball ammunition per man. Will entrain at the Gatineau Valley Railway Depot at Ottawa at 08:30am Sunday, the 17th inst., and proceed to Low. Early Sunday morning a large crowd gathered to wave farewell to this force of over 120 men. There was a military band, and General Gascoigne inspected and addressed the troops. Finally, to the tune of "The Girl I Left Behind Me" the military special steamed out of the station with 3 passenger coaches, 4 stock cars for the horses and 2 box cars full of ammunition, camping equipment, hay and oats. There had been a rumour that the belligerent men of Low might try to blow up sections of the track, but the journey went smoothly and the men came into the Low station while most of the inhabitants were still at church. The Rev. Father Foley of Farrelton and father Blondin of Low had been asked, and were indeed trying to convert their Parishioners to a more docile state of mind. Father Blondin used as his text "render onto Caesar those things which are Caesars". Certainly from the minute the white tents were pitched and the troops were finally encamped, there was a notable lowering of blood pressure. Perhaps more than anything else the knowledge that Low Township would have to pay for these impressive maneuvers rapidly cooled the tempers of the wiser townsmen.

However the throngs of repentant ratepayers who woke county Treasurer Desjardin from a sound sleep early Monday morning, positively clamoring to pay their taxes must have astounded the authorities. Two cavalrymen had to be detailed from the camp to keep the queues in order. At this point, it is only fair to say that not all the farmers had not been equally adamant in their stand against taxpaying. The men of Brennan's Hill and a group known as the Stag Creek Kickers had shown the most determined opposition to court orders and bailiffs. There were others who were said to have paid over their taxes to unauthorized bailiffs who then took the money to Brooks Hotel and drank it. It is sometimes hard to tell where the truth lies. But the facts of payment were fairly clear that Monday and Tuesday. Accounts that had originally totaled about $1.80 and now amounted with costs to $47.00 were paid off without hardly a murmur. Although this wonderful replenishment of the county council coffers had been one of the main aims of the expedition, there was another vital point of principal to establish. Obviously it would be impossible to send an annual military expedition to Low. A responsible town council would have to take care of things in the future. The comfortable ostrich theory that because there was no elected council, therefore there was no assessable township, would have to be abandoned. So that Monday there was an exchange of telegrams with Quebec City, including a formal petition to the Hon. J.A. Chapleau to appoint as Municipal "Councilors" the following men: Messers. T. McDonald, William McCrank, P. Gannon, John Skillen, D. Smith, J. Sullivan, Edward McSheffery - Mayor, Patrick Hayes - Sec. Treas. On these 7 men fell the heavy responsibility of seeing that the $5,000 bill for the expedition was paid. Meanwhile the only attempted military skirmish took place on Tuesday afternoon. The Citizen aptly described it as "Mountain and Mouse". How a mounted escort rode 4 miles for nothing. A detachment of 30 cavalrymen under the command of Major Bliss proceeded with proper caution to the southern most holding of the township which belonged to a Mr. Jim Willis. Unfortunately Mr. Willis' cabin had been abandoned for a considerable period, and it appeared that Mr. Willis himself was of rather unsound mind. So there were now only a handful of taxpayers left who had not reported with cash and these lived in remote sections, inaccessible locations until there was sufficient snow for travel by sleigh.
A certain amount of snow fell Tuesday evening which was to be the last night under canvas for the troops, but it would have needed more than snow to chill the lively spirit of the expedition. A sample of the troop's behaviour which had so impressed the townshippers, could be seen Wednesday afternoon while the cavalry were waiting on the station platform. They had to stand for two hours in an icy wind while extra cars were sent up from Ottawa, but with supreme gallantry they removed their greatcoats and spread them over their horses. Finally, about 6 O'clock a triumphant army arrived back in Ottawa where a great welcome, and the prospect of a fine Thanksgiving dinner, awaited the boys. A magnificent song was published in The Journal celebrating the victory. Here is the verse: And in the days to come when veterans brave Tell of the glorious tales of the past Of the victories won 'neath the banners that wave Over Britannia's unconquered host, Our boys will simply smile and say With accents complacently gay No doubt you made a goodly show But We are the boys who conquered Low Note: One of the Hughes held the bailiff for 3 days in a root cellar on Jim Brennan's farm up behind Delberts. (Brennan?) The above was sent to me by Mr. Eric Mahoney formerly of Low and who has resided in Edmonton, Alberta with his wife Jean Givens for sometime now. Eric is into his family history and has been a great encouragement to me and is a wonderful person. Thanks to my wonderful wife Veronica for dictating to me. This helped immensely with the time factor of the typing. Garry McFadden Prince George, B.C.
August 22, 2007: Hi Mr. Lewis, my name is Linda and am originally from Timmins, Ontario. My grandfather's name was Thomas Brennan and he met my grandma here, Maria Vincent who he married and had 12 kids. One being my mom. Have you ever heard of a place here called Brennan's Hill? Located near Wakefield. My great grandfather was James Brennan of County Kilkenny Ireland. Am Looking forward to knowing more. I was wondering if you or anyone else out there would know the history. Thank you. ... Linda

February 12, 2012: Thanks to Doug Hughes for the following: Hi Al, I went back to your site and came across the poem about The Battle of Brennan's Hill and was curious to find out more. I found the item from the Ottawa Journal below at the web site shown. (November 14, 1895 Ottawa Journal clipping, describing the Battle of Brennan's Hill) It may be of interest to you. Cheers, ... Doug Extracts from the article: "It is well known that all efforts by the country authorities to collect these taxes have been baffled by the resistance of the ratepayers. Not only have the officers of the law been openly assaulted in the past, but driven from the township. This state of open defiance to the law has existed for years, but with the appearance of this armed force it promises to arrive at a speedy termination one way or the other. The squad of police have been sent here from Quebec by the provincial government to protect and assist the country officers while they compel the ratepayers to pay the taxes which they rightfully owe. This armed force consists of eight persons, under the command of Sergeant Poitrais. Tomorrow morning they and the bailiffs, accompanied by Country Solicitor Major and Country Clerk Desjardins, who are also here, start out to perform their mission. Pay up or seizure. All the ratepayers in the township upon whom the bailiffs have succeeded in serving notices of arrearages in taxes, and who since the service of such notice upon them, have not paid up will be forced to pay without a moment's grace or the effects will promptly be seized upon to cover the amount of taxes owing by them. The delinquent ratepayers in the township number 209. Owing to the resistance which the bailiffs had to encounter last week only twenty-four ratepayers could be served with notices. One hundred and eighty-five delinquents have not yet had notices served upon them, having successfully avoided the bailiffs, who had endeavoured to fulfill this part of their duty. These will now be forced to accept the notices and if they do not pay their arrears within fifteen days their effects will be in turn be seized upon. "The bailiffs and provincial police," said Country Solicitor Major tonight, "will remain here until every cent of the taxes are paid. We are not going to do this thing by halves now. The ratepayers of Lowe have given us too much trouble already, and now they must pay and pay promptly. Their day of grace is past." It is not believed here that there will be any serious resistance, for although the ratepayers have hitherto shown no reluctance to drive a company of two or three bailiffs out of the township they will not be prepared to offer resistance to an armed force, especially when such a force comes upon them unexpectedly. The force drove up. The provincial police and bailiffs drove in two large express wagons from Hull, arriving here long after midnight, having taken more than seven hours to drive the distance of 36 miles, owing to the muddy condition of the road and the darkness of the night. They might have come the entire way by train, but County Solicitor Major explains that it was arranged that they should reach here in the middle of the night, so that the people of the neighbourhood would have no intelligence that they were coming until they had arrived. There is, however another reason which shows with what prudence the trip was planned. Had they arrived by train it is exceedingly doubtful if any of the people in the vicinity would have cared to supply horses and rigs to drive the officers back to the locality, where they will begin to carry out their mission, for fear that they would put themselves on bad terms with the people in the vicinity by giving such assistance to the officers of the law. Bailiffs sent up a similar errand have several times been refused rigs for the reasons stated. The officers will drive through the township, having the s ame accommodation that brought them up from Hull. The drivers of the rigs are sworn [...] special constables, and consequently there is no fear of them deserting at a crucial moment."
E-mail Allan Lewis

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