Musical Heritage of Ottawa and the Valley

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

September 18, 2005:

The Ottawa and Gatineau Valleys have a unique cultural heritage. The early settlers 
were mainly a mix of Americans, Irish Protestants, French Canadiens and Irish Catholics. 
These groups joined the Algonquin Nation who were indigenous to this area. Other ethnic 
groups came later in large numbers to contribute to our region's fabric.

We are a mixture of rural and urban folks. Our topography is a mixture of rugged
Precambrian Shield territory and beautiful, flat farmland, stretching for miles.

The following link exemplifies the melding of our early pioneer cultures.

Charlie Gardner, well-known Ottawa area musician and long-time friend, has a song 
which captures some of the early spirit of this area. In the background of his video, 
you'll see some of the beauty of the Gatineau Valley. Listen for the names of familiar
local places -- Buckingham, Fort Coulonge, St. Pierre de Wakefield.

Below, he sings the song "Allons Dancer, Colinda", (Let's Go Dancing, Colinda).

Lighten up, turn up your speakers, have fun and click here.         

December 5, 2005: Now, if you'd like to see what our area looks like in the winter time and hear references to many of the places in the Ottawa Valley, Doug Corrigan and Charlie Gardner made a trip in search of the Outouais region. In the end, they discover that There's No Such Place as the Outawais. Source: December 11, 2005: The Log-Driving Song, sung by Charlie Gardner and friends, describes the early log drives on the Upper Ottawa River / Pontiac area.
December 13, 2005: Hi Al: Here's the jpeg version of the Collins Brothers Band who played in and around Carlsbad Springs and Gloucester 1915. They were the sons of Matthew Collins (b. 1837) and Elizabeth McKenna (b. 1851) both of whom were born in Gloucester but who were pioneers of Carlsbad Springs. Charlie (b. 1890), George (b. 1894), Jim (b. 1879), Mike (b. 1891), Willie (b. 1881). ... Jim McKenna
Collins Brothers Band, 1915

January 7, 2006: Thanks to Taylor Kennedy for this great picture of his Uncle Dick Dubois!

January 9, 2006: Hi All Uncle Dick came from a family of violin, harmonica and bass drum players. Thought I would like to submit these photos of the past. Take care ... Taylor Kennedy
Dubois Family Musicians

April 20, 2013: Gavans Hotel in Quyon Fiddling and Step-Dancing on St. Patrick's Day at Gavan's Hotel in Quyon. Congratulations to Gail Gavan who has been inducted into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame. Listen to Ward Allen's classic Maple Sugar. Mac Beattie pays tribute to the great fiddler, Ward Allen. February 18, 2020:
Painting of violin by Julian Ruggles Seavey From the book Painting in Canada: A History, by J. Russell Harper, University of Toronto Press and Les Presses de l'université Laval, ISBN 0-8020-6307-1, 1966, page 255. Violin picture in 1890

March 7, 2013:
Remember a friend of local history in the Ottawa Valley by clicking on the following link. R.I.P Stompin' Tom Connors Ottawa Valley in the 1830's by Stompin' Tom.

June 9, 2013: Thanks to Charlie Gardner and Doug Corrigan for the links to some other great Ottawa Valley songs: O.J. Abbott sings "Chapeau Boys". and here is his version of logging in the Baskatong area north of Maniwaki, Quebec. and "Hogan's Lake", about cutting timber on the Black River with Tom Hogan. Andy Lusk also wrote and sang about lumbering on the Black River. In "How we got back to the woods Last Year" O. J. Abbott sings about travelling to the shanty through Arnprior and Dacre and up to the headwaters of the Madawaska River. The Poor Little Girls of Ontario, sung by Ethel Minifie, tells the story of young men from Ontario, leaving their girls behind as they try to better themselves in Western Canada. Visit the web site of the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame. Lots of good memories there! The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogy Group at Pembroke has in its Quebec collection Shanty Songs and Recollections-The Rusty Leach Collection.
January 29, 2014: Here is a very good history of Celtic Music, imported from Ireland and Scotland, to Nova Scotia and the Ottawa Valley. This film (57 minutes) was created by the National Film Board of Canada.
July 4, 2014: (Happy Birthday, USA!) I am going through old emails and will reply to all on this thread regarding the Chapeau Boys. I have VHS footage of the late Rusty Leach of Chapeau singing Chapeau Boys. This was filmed by TV Ontario in 1984 as part of the celebration of the designation of the Ottawa Valley as 1984 Forest Capital of Canada by the Canadian Forestry Association. Rusty Leach published a book that year (which I cannot find presently in this study) that has a lot of very old poetry and shanty songs, with lyrics and music. This book will be in local libraries I am sure. ... Dave ___________________ For what it's worth , I used to enjoy listening to Lenox Gavin tapping his stick on the floor at Gavin's hotel and singing that one . He of course knew lots of the old shanty songs and stories . I imagine Gail has many recordings of her dad reciting and singing the old songs. Give her a shout . ... Doug __________________ I know Gail and will send her a note. A year ago we had Gail involved in our daughter's wedding at Golden Lake. Now that I think of it, I believe that our TV Ontario footage includes Lenox (and Fred Meilleur and other patrons). ... Dave _________________ Morning everyone: Thanks for this information, Dave. I just tried to find a copy of this book for sale on They do not have any copies so it will be hard to get a personal copy. As Dave says, it will likely be in the local libraries. I'm also interested in poets who came from the valley. These men were amazing, how they were as tough as nails but also were able to compose beautiful music and poetry. On this web site, I'm collecting information about early painting and poetry in the Ottawa and Gatineau Valleys. These men worked in the shanties, in the fur trade, as well as travelling north of Lake Superior and as far as James Bay to negotiate treaties with First Nations peoples. Writing and painting all the way. See pages for Duncan Campbell Scott and Edmund Morris (the painter from Perth, Ontario). If it's OK with Dave and Doug, I'll add your e-mails to our page at Thanks again. ... Al _____________________

Hi All Sorry to take so long to respond. Barb read the emails and put out some of the books that are mentioned below. 1. Pontiac Treasures in Song and Story - Published by the Pontiac Printshop Ltd. 1979 - Put together by a number of historians, coordinated by Venetia Crawford. The book takes you to all the interesting places in the Pontiac including the Chapeau Boys and shanty songs. 2. Upper Ottawa Valley Shanty Songs and Recollections - Published by Dickson Enterprises (Pontiac Printshop) 1984 - The Rusty Leach Collection - Allan, if you are looking for this book we believe the Pontiac Printshop (819 647-2204) has republished the book and you can still buy copies. 3. For Singing and Dancing and all Sorts of Fun - The story of the Ottawa Valley's most famous song The Chapeau Boys by I. Sheldon Posen. This is a very interesting book on the Chapeau Boys and all the interesting characters, tall tales, legend and myth. I'm not sure what you are looking for. Is it the name of the author of the song that was sung by LaRena Clark in 1965 and may be found in the Rusty Leach Collection? - ... Peter ("Peter and Barb Haughton, fine folks who have a wonderful private museum, are well into organizing everything from a voyageur canoe flotilla (if that's the proper term) and much more. Their Bristol township and maybe more through the Pontiac are going to do it up right.") Source for this quotation is from our Champlain 400th Anniversary web page) ... Dave Lemkay
December 11, 2015: Lots of great songs and music history can be found in the Pontiac and Ottawa Valley Facebook Group.
February 12, 2016: Thanks to Mary Quinn who has shared this video of our country music heritage in the Ottawa Valley! See "The Land Where Music Lives" at Allan Lewis
September 22, 2016: Here is Howard Hayes of "Howard Hayes and the Country Drifters" on fiddle at the memorial for the Irish famine immigrants of 1847 at the Pioneer cemetery in Martindale, Quebec.
Howard Hayes on Fiddle at Martindale, Quebec

February 5, 2020: One of the most popular entertainers in Ottawa and the Valley for many years was Hughie Scott (Hugh Scott). He was born in Riceville, Ontario in South Plantagenet Township, east of Ottawa, but built a large fan following in Aylmer, Quebec (at the British Hotel). Photo Source: From Conroy's Inn to the British Hotel. More than 150 years of History in Aylmer, by Richard M. Begin, ISBN 0-929114-21-3, page 83.
Hughie Scott, popular singer in the Ottawa area

E-mail Allan Lewis

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