Books Are For Reading …. NOW

Why do we stack a lot of books at home but never get around to reading them? You maybe don’t do this but some of us do, and I’m one of them. One could say that mystery surrounds this lamentable failing – mysteries, actually – that addiction to successions of finely written tales of murder, intrigue and whodunits by such masters and mistresses of the genre as Robert Goddard, Quintin Jardine, Anne Perry, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Peter Robinson, and the like. Frequenting public libraries bulging with such goodies for the crime-obsessed took over reading hours all too fully, leaving scant opportunity to sample the literary riches here at home. Lately, a touch of reform has finally set in, and I’ve actually pulled a few off the shelf, learning swiftly and not a little shamefully, how very much I’d missed.

Our ill-sorted library goes heavy on Newfoundland books, many read but others long intended but not yet actually explored. Until lately when, spurred by so much reminiscence about the Great War a century ago.

Kevin Major brought home in No Man’s Land the stirring experiences of Newfoundlanders, especially at ill-fated Beaumont Hamel in 1916. A Blue Puttee At War by Sydney Frost is a master work, authentically detailing the wartime exploits of Newfoundland soldiers.

Michael Winter brilliantly reflected on those same experiences in Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead.

A.J. Stacey`s A Soldier’s Story traced one man’s experiences throughout the conflict.

Joan Sullivan’s In the Field tapped into similar themes.


Other Newfoundland-based reading highlights have ranged from Alan Doyle’s entertaining recollections from his musical career, Where I Belong and A Newfoundlander in Canada toMichael Crummeys’stirring novel Sweetland about one man’s struggle against resettlement of remote outports.

But I have yet to get into his imaginative and much praised family saga Galore.


One book I very much wanted to read, and finally did, was Grace Sparkes: Blazing a Trail to Independence by Mary Beth-Wright. While I greatly enjoyed stories of this Newfoundland icon’s exploits in journalism, politics and education, I lamented its occasional editorial lapses.


Of all the Newfoundlandia, I was most impressed and highly gratified by the superlative account by Greg Malone in Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders of the conspiratorial British and Canadian machinations behind Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation. Thoroughly documented at last was the shocking storyline that everyone who lived through that era firmly believed to be the case but could never find proper evidence.

My journalistic friend Bren Walsh tried his best to unravel the true story in his 1985 book More Than A Poor Majority but access to adequate records was denied him.

A lot more invaluable reading riches remain on my still too overloaded To Do List!

World Fishing Exhibition in Marseilles

Of all the places I might ever have expected to see when I was a mid-level communications guy in Ottawa, the rough and ready Mediterranean port of Marseilles, France, was never likely to be it. Thus it was with utter astonishment and no little excitement that I found myself flying out there with a few other Canadian fisheries folks to attend a World Fishing Exhibition in May 1975. I had mostly to thank for this rare opportunity my new boss, Ken Lucas, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Fisheries and Marine Service, Environment Canada. I had started work as his Chief of Information Services in January, after completing a six month French training course, and managing participation in fisheries exhibits was part of my job.
Getting involved in international fisheries exhibitions was an important way of promoting measures Canada was taking to prepare for the extension of territorial limits over fishing activities on the continental shelf. Law of the Sea deliberations would usher in this new era of fisheries management with the establishment of a 200 mile limit in the following year. Fisheries and Marine undertook, in cooperation with the province of Nova Scotia, to host a World Fishing Exhibition in 1977 in Halifax, and needed to see how it was organized at the 1975 Exhibition taking place in Marseilles.
Ray Mills from the Nova Scotia government, Frank King from Federal Fisheries in Halifax and I joined forces to outline plans and answer questions about the 1977 event. Nova Scotia’s Minister of Fisheries and the Mayors of Halifax and Dartmouth also attended. Canada’s exhibit included three dimensional representations of the ocean floors around our coasts, illustrating the extent of our continental shelf.
One of the feature presentations at the exhibition was a selection of films on fisheries subjects, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of them was a film I had been closely involved with during its production. When I mentioned this, I was asked to speak about it and, with great trepidation, found myself doing so in French. While I had emerged from training at the top level in December, it was a nerve-wracking experience but I somehow managed to get through it without too much anguish. Perhaps it helped that I was still sporting a thick black beard which I had cultivated during the French course.
During the exhibition, I spent some enjoyable time with Fishing News International magazine editor Peter Hjul and his colleagues, a most interesting group. Peter had provided his readers with extensive coverage of the 1973 FAO Conference on Fishery Management and Development in Vancouver. He was accompanied in Marseilles by staff members who reported on fisheries activities at various world centres. One of them was impressively multi-lingual but spoke English in the unmistakable dialect of a London cockney. Another told me he was soon leaving to take on a new job doing fisheries training in the Seychelles, and he sent me a postcard from there later.

Whaling and Wandering in London

The Thames of London, even though it’s a whole lot cleaner than it used to be, is hardly a habitat for great whales, yet there is a lot of talk about them when nations around the world send delegates to meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Formed in 1946 to provide for the conservation and management of whale stocks, the commission has its headquarters in Impington, a village near Cambridge in England. Canada is one of some 88 member countries. Only a few countries engage in whaling today but it remains a highly emotional subject.
A Canadian delegation took an active part in IWC deliberations in London in June 1935, and I attended, mainly to gauge the nature and extent of controversy then surrounding this issue. Delegate discussions dealt largely with scientific studies of whale populations and the impact of whaling operations in that period.

Federal fisheries policies at the time focused on conservation concerns, seeking to ensure the protection of whale stocks, but with growing awareness of campaigns by anti-whaling interests.

Several outspoken opponents of whaling attended the meeting and used every opportunity to present their views. One notable individual was a New Zealand scientist, Dr. Paul Spong, who began whale research at the Vancouver Aquarium, primarily focused on a killer whale named Skana, and became a leading Greenpeace activist. What I did not expect was hearing the highly biased views of some American government officials whose anti-whaling sentiments proved even more extreme than those of protest groups.

Lancaster House interior

Lancaster House interior

Officials at Canada House on Trafalgar Square, particularly Press Officer Don Peacock, provided helpful support to me and other Fisheries staff attending the IWC meeting. Canadian High Commissioner Barry Mawhinney led a group of us at a stately reception held at Lancaster House in St. James Park, tendered by the British Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

For the IWC meeting, I stayed within walking distance at St. Ermin’s Hotel on Caxton Street, a most impressive building. Almost across the street I discovered another imposing structure, bearing identification as New Scotland Yard. After the meeting, I had to settle for less grandiose accommodations at the Athenaeum Hotel.

Sight seeing in London, meanwhile, was an entirely enjoyable experience, partly accompanied by Fishing News International editor Peter Hjul whom I had met two years previously at an international fisheries conference in Vancouver. One locale he made sure to show me was London’s famous Billingsgate Fish Market. He also welcomed me to his office and on a tour of Fleet Street, then still a thriving journalistic centre.

I also had the pleasure of spending time with my good friend Cy Fox who was then on the staff of Reuters News agency on Fleet Street, and sporting a G.K. Chesterton moustache.

Places of interest I visited during my stay included Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Gallery, The Tower of London, and many more.

Remembering ICNAF at Edinburgh

One of the most satisfying experiences of my career in federal government communications was also one of the rarest: doing media relations at an overseas international conference. The event was the annual meeting of the International Commission for Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (ICNAF), taking place in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh in June 1975.

Deliberations focused on the impact of Law of the Sea negotiations which resulted a year or so later in establishment of the 200 mile limit of national jurisdiction over fisheries and marine resources. I was there to handle communications for Environment Canada’s Fisheries and Marine Service, predecessor of today’s Fisheries and Oceans Department. Some 18 countries having some involvement in the then thriving fisheries of the Northwest Atlantic were members of ICNAF.
Federal fisheries representatives – Dr. Art May, Dr. Mike Sheppard, Bob Applebaum are some whom I remember – took a leading role in the discussions. Promoting Canada’s interests in international fisheries had been a dominant theme of government policy since Law of the Sea deliberations began in the early 1970s. Fisheries Minister Jack Davis had hosted in Vancouver in 1973 a 10-day FAO Technical Conference on Fishery Management and Development, and I was there as a Press Officer.

Our Canadian group stayed at Edinburgh’s hospitable George Hotel where we found a most enjoyable custom of allowing guests to take their refreshments after hours in the open lounge. Socializing so comfortably after long days of serious negotiating was an unexpected boon. The rafters rang often with song, much stimulated by the spirited talents of Art May and his songstress wife Sonya.

My first impression of Edinburgh came aboard a bus taking us from Prestwick Airport into the city when watching two little girls talking to their obviously Pakistani parents in the thickest Scottish accents one could imagine. A plethora of Scottish speech and no small quantities of Scotch liquor served to lighten the task of supporting media coverage of an important international event. In between business meetings, delegates were treated to several receptions, one of which was hosted at Edinburgh city chambers by the Lord Provost and members of the Edinburgh district council. A particularly enjoyable reception came from a Scotch whisky organization, serving top rated malt whisky in stylish wine glasses – with neither ice nor soda to mar the taste. Never much of a Scotch fan (leaning usually toward rye in those days), I was amazed how smooth and flavorful all of them were.

Leading Canadian reporters attending the conference were Tom Earle, CBC; John Hay, Canadian Press; Peter Calamai, Southam Press; and David MacDonald, FP Publications. Others included Pat Massey, Reuters; Peter Hjul, Fishing News International; and Spike Noel, World Fishing Magazine.
A cherished memento of that experience was this letter dated June 24, 1975, addressed to Hon. Romeo LeBlanc, Minister of State for Fisheries, from Tom Earle, London Correspondent for CBC Radio News:
“On behalf of John Hay of Canadian Press London Bureau and myself, I want to say how much we appreciated the help given to us at the ICNAF Conference by Nix Wadden, your Chief of Information Branch. His professional assistance, rendered at all times, helped us a great deal.”

Women’s Soccer Team Launched in 1984

Soccer became a dominant theme in our house in the mid 1980s when Dianne wanted to play soccer and persuaded Ron to start and coach a women’s team for her to play on. And that’s how I got the job of women’s team manager.

South Ottawa Rovers 1984

South Ottawa Rovers 1`984

Set up as the South Ottawa Rovers by the South Ottawa Soccer Association, the team had a good first year in 1984, ending the season in second place in a five-team league competition. Rovers tallied 19 points behind Nepean Furies with 25 but ahead of South Ottawa Internationals and Glens Falcons, each with 16 and Aylmer with 12. Jackie Burbridge was captain. Sparked by fleet-footed Debbie Kerwin, who scored 15 goals in league games and six in others, the team’s 17 players had their special merits toasted in the manager’s irreverent end-of-the-season tribute:

Award and Honours that we wish we could present:-
1) Andrea Sinclair, the Mudpuppy Award for all that rolling in the mud and other tribulations of a soccer goalie;
2) Nancy McCall, the Rainbow Trophy for the most colourful bruises sustained in the line of full back duty, and a special Sportswomanship Award for playing Backup Goalie (with one shutout) and for putting up with Pat Carruthers’ jokes;
3) Jill Umbach, the Unintentional Backup Goalie Award, with a gift certificate for purchase of a pair of velchro goalie mitts for ball handling in the goal area;
4) Loretta Desoudry, the Prettiest Headband Prize, plus a Soccer Field Pathfinders Map of the National Capital Region;
5) Pat Hunt, the Windmill, Grunt and Bellow Award for excellence in scaring the wits out of opponents by unorthodox kicking, running and blocking the ball with the belly;
6) Lily Fayad, the Flying Foot Award for intercepting the ball in mid-air and directing it, usually, in the opponent’s direction;
7) Catherine Rancey, the Pushy-Pushy Enthusiasm Award, for the most aggressive defensive play when the referee is looking;
8) Sharri Walsh, the Muhammed Ali Challenge Cup, for the most aggressive forward, when the referee is not looking;
9) Joey Thayer, the Most Surprised Goal Scorer Award, plus a seasonal dispensation from attending classes on Soccer Nights;
10) Robin Kealey, the Most Honest Ball Handler Award, and recognition as the unchallenged champion in toe curling;
11) Dianne Wadden, the Corner Kick Triathlon Award, with the hoped that it won’t always be necessary to do all that swimming, cycling and running 15 kilometres before kicking the ball;
12) Brenda Agard, the Late Bloomers Scoring Trophy, for making her first in the team’s last game for the season, with a forecast of lots more in ’85.
13) Jackie Burbridge, the Golden Mouthpiece Award for Sportswomanship and for showing team mates how, in every way, to use their heads;
14) Cindy Mills, the Generosity Award for giving the ball to others to score, and the Runner-Up Award in the Late Bloomers Scoring Race – two in the final two games;
15) Alana McNamara, the Leaping Librarian Award for dexterity in bypassing opposing backs;
16) Debbie Kirwan, the Mercury Medal for the fastest feet on the football field, and the “You’ve Got Time” Award for leadership in Team Spirit both on and off the field;
17) Wendy Knight, the Whizzing Winger Award, for keeping up, almost, with Debbie, plus a gift certificate for a stainless steel ankle support complete with spurs to fend off attackers’ cleats;
In addition, a few other Awards are appropriate:
18) Toni Fitzpatrick, the Toni Award for First Aid to Ankle Sprainers, and a special Sportswomanship citation for playing in exhibition and tournament games when the team was shorthanded;
19) Pat Carruthers, the Linesman of the Year Award as the best (and only) team linesman;
20) Gwen (surname not remembered), the Welcome Aboard Award as the newest recruit to the S.O Rovers in its tournament at Williamstown.

That Memorable Drive in ’75

Incredible as it may seem today, I once drove a car in London, England, blithely undaunted by busy traffic and the challenge of working my way into the very heart of the city. I was alone and braving my first experience driving on the left side of the road. But that was in 1975, over 40 years ago, so maybe it wasn’t such a big deal, though it felt like it at the time. I did breathe a big sigh of relief when I pulled into the car rental parking lot to hand over the keys. It had been an eventful journey.
My journey had begun in Edinburgh, pausing at first for a brief look around Gretna Green, that romantic haven above the Scottish border where lovers thronged to be wed when forbidden to do so by English law.

The village blacksmith was its most  respected craftsman so the Blacksmith’s Forge became a favourite place for weddings. The tradition of the blacksmith sealing the marriage by striking his anvil led to the blacksmith and his anvil becoming symbols of Gretna Green weddings. The Old Smithy where lovers have come to marry since 1754, is still in the village and still a wedding venue.

I told in a recent blog about my overnight stop at the fascinating Bleaze Hall bed and breakfast in Old Hutton near Kendall. I have learned since that this more than four centuries old heritage dwelling still stands today, thanks to substantial upkeep by its private owners.

The property was advertized for sale in recent years for 570,000 pounds after it had been extensively renovated and modernized by a couple who had occupied it since the early 1980s. Its many features detailed on the sales notice included “the magnificent plasterwork ceiling and frieze in the drawing room, substantial fireplaces, oak staircase, floors, doors, beams and oak uprights, stone mullion windows (some of which had been walled up in 1692 to avoid window tax) and flagged floors. The history has been documented and includes details of previous owners, dates of extensions and the fascinating ‘dobbie’ stone which was brought to the house in 1636 and hangs from the ancient rafters for good luck.”

It was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a maiden, “old, fleeting shadows”, and a phantom funeral which relates to the maiden who died brokenhearted when her lover failed to return from a Crusade. I’m glad I didn’t know that when I slept there in my canopy bed.


Being close to the fabled Lake District, I took a brief detour into Lake Windermere, a favourite holiday destination reputed to be England’s largest lake. Scores of sail boats, and plenty of sun worshippers, were enjoying the beautiful weather.

My only other stop along that southbound route was at the city of Manchester where I discovered a beautiful sunken garden built probably on a site devastated by wartime bombing. An imposing monument also caught my eye.

While there I witnessed a political gathering in which a Liberal party candidate was campaigning for re-election. Interestingly enough, he was distributing a flier advocating proportional representation, a cause which crops up frequently on both sides of the Atlantic, but usually in vain. Don’t know if he made it but his party came third after Labour, led by Prime Minister Roy Jenkins, went down to defeat at the hands of the Conservatives under William Whitelaw who won a modest majority. Labour had been in power for 16 years.

When nervously wending my way along London streets, I couldn’t help noticing there were still some bombed out buildings, stark reminders of the Second World War which had ended just 30 years before. The task of rebuilding this great city had yet to be completed.


My Bleaze Hall B and B

The first time I visited Britain in June 1975, my most poignant experience was spending a night in one of the most unusual bed and breakfast hostelries I ever encountered. My trip began with a visit to Scotland’s venerable capital, Edinburgh, and was to end in London, so I decided to drive the 400 miles between those cities. Undeterred by the fact that I had never before driven on the left side of the road, I rented a car in Edinburgh, and hoped for the best.
My adventure began rather scarily, as I had to back the car out of the rental lot in a long lane onto a busy roadway, but I managed to do so without mishap. Driving through Scotland proved safe enough and quite enjoyable, stopping briefly out of sheer curiosity to see Gretna Green, the romantic Scottish border village famed as a wedding haven since the late 1700s.

As evening approached, I found my way to a district known as Old Hutton located near the English town of Kendal, the southern gateway to the popular Lake District not far from Lake Windermere.

Watching out for a likely bed and breakfast, I came upon a sign for Bleaze Hall, an imposing stone building set back from the roadway. Politely assured by the hostess, Mrs. L.M. Porter, that it was indeed a bed and breakfast, I agreed to spend the night in what proved to be a most unique setting.

I found that my bed for the night was smartly furnished with a full canopy, giving me the impression that I was really living in style.

Moreover, the ceiling and upper walls were richly decorated with swirling designs reminiscent of Moorish architecture.

I expressed such interest in the Bleaze Hall building that my hostess dug out for me a set of historical notes about its remarkable background. An 1892 document described Bleaze Hall as being used as a farmhouse, but “worthy of note as containing the remains of some originally splendid woodcarving and paneling of this period.” It was built about 1600, probably by Roger Bateman, a cloth maker. A descendant, Henry Bateman, was credited with doing the woodwork, with his initials H.B. and the date 1644 incised in the word.

On the first floor, the main room had remains of an original plaster ceiling of elaborate design; the decoration consisted of large spirals of vine-ornament with smaller spirals in the spandrels; on the north wall was a plaster frieze of similar ornament with human heads or busts at intervals. The bedroom I occupied had to have been that same room, complete with its uniquely designed plaster ceiling.

Reclining that night in my cozy, comfortable centuries-old bed, I couldn’t help recalling an expression my Dad used to quote, mostly to get a rise out of my very properly raised mother, that the ultimate in home comfort in olden days was to have “canopy over the bed and a canopy under the bed,” (except that the second one was not spelt the same way!)

60th Anniversary celebrated

Madeline and I had a leisurely celebration of our 60th wedding anniversary this week, sampling the splendid amenities of the rustically elegant Wakefield Mill Hotel. Passing up on its notable spa facilities, we settled for casually strolling alongside the thunderous Wakefield Falls and relaxing in our Eco River Lodge. Breakfast served beside the Falls in the comfortable Muse Restaurant was a delightful treat, both for the quality fare and the charming spectacle of the swiftly cascading falls beside us.



A special treat was watching a very thin but patient heron gliding up the river to hunt for his own breakfast delicacies just below the falls.

Driving out to the Wakefield river shoreline, we enjoyed strolling along its firmly built boardwalk – something new to us since our last visit – and dropping in to shopping boutiques in search of a suitable souvenir. Our lunchtime choice was the large and unexpectedly non-traditional Le Hibou restaurant. We marveled at the eccentric jumble of seating arrangements – everything from bar stools to church pews – and the exotic sounding menu selections. Choosing to be sure but not adventurous, we wisely opted for mussels and French fries, which were just fine.
For an afternoon outing, we decided to drive northwards on highway 105, a route we had not ventured upon for many decades. With no particular destination in mind, the drive was enjoyable enough as fine weather prevailed, though its windy curves, hilly terrain and fairly constant flow of speedy vehicles left little opportunity for admiring the landscape.
On one of the first times that we drove up that highway, we made an obligatory stopover to have a drink at the Kazabazua Inn, then celebrated as “the Longest Bar in the Gatineau.” As recorded in the delightfully entitled “Low Down to Hull and Back News,” the super-sized bar was run for 37 years until 1994 by Joe Payette. The news article, written by Bob Mellor, an old friend from National Press Club days, told how Payette catered especially to hunters and fishermen, and used part of the bar to display local fish which he sold to his customers. The bar closed down in 1994, and later burned down.

Kazabazua on this trip marked for us a superlative of another kind as “the longest detour of the Gatineau,“ as highway 105 traffic had to be diverted because of a serious motor accident. We never did find out any accident details but had to wonder why as we rumbled along an extremely dusty side road for miles and miles behind hundreds of cars and trucks until finally able to rejoin the highway. On our return drive along the same dusty route an hour or so later, the detour took a full 40 minutes. We had carried on as far as Gracefield where we paused at the casse-croute LaPatarie for a nourishing lunch, including the biggest club sandwich I have ever seen.
Capping off our getaway celebration was a sumptuous dinner expertly prepared and served in the Muse restaurant and shared with friends Janet Long and Jean laFlamme and our cherished daughter Dianne. Finishing touch was a complimentary round of champagne kindly offered by Wakefield Mill Hotel to toast our most enjoyable 60th anniversary.

What’s in a Name?

Family hidstoru

Of many sane and sensible answers to that oft-quoted query, one that seldom appears but in my view rates highlighting is HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT!

Immediate cause of this mini-rant is the irritating frequency of hearing my surname uttered as  WAY-DEN – rather than its common rendering as WAD-DEN,  rhyming with sodden, or Godden or, if you like,  Culloden.  

Bringing up this minor grievance just now stems from the recent release in Ottawa of the booklet, The Waddens: A Family History, co-authored by me and my late brother Brian Wadden of St. John’s, Newfoundland.   While delving into many aspects of family background, including the various ways in which the family name has been spelled, we never got around to describing how it is pronounced.  There never was a pronunciation problem in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, where families of this name are not uncommon, but in Ottawa this wayward take on the name does abound.  Maybe it is an Ottawa Valley thing!

Telling the story of one Irish family’s migration to Newfoundland in the 1830s, well before the Famine, this little booklet touches on a few surprises found in digital parish records. Family origins are traced to Norman and Flemish invaders of Ireland more than eight centuries ago. Descendants remain in Newfoundland but many more are scattered throughout North America.

A few pictures help to identify some key individuals in family development.

Copies of The Waddens: A Family History may be ordered by contacting

An Irish Based Family Story

With Paddy’s Day fast approaching, images of old Ireland come readily to mind in announcing the launch of a small booklet tracing the old world origins of the Wadden family of Newfoundland. Entitled The Waddens: A Family History, its scope ranges from the Norman invaders of Britain and Ireland to far flung descendants throughout North America. The 86-page booklet, including family photos in both colour and black and white, is co-authored by Nix Wadden and his late brother, Brian, upon whose extensive research most of the content is based.

Their great grandfather Nicholas Wadden and several siblings emigrated from Ballynaboola in the New Ross area in southwest Ireland to Newfoundland in 1830. One brother moved on to found a widespread family branch in New England. Another Nicholas from New Ross later settled in the U.S. Midwest. Studies of digitized family records in Ireland produced positive results, along with some surprises, welcome and otherwise.

Visiting a modern Wadden family add a fresh perspective, while extracts from an historic text recounts the rise and fall of distinguished ancestors in the Norman Wadding family.  Rounding out the content is the story of Wadden families in Cape Breton, probing the mystery of its founding by a young Newfoundlander.

Produced by Allegra Printing in Ottawa and self-published, copies of The Waddens: A Family History may be purchased at $20 plus 2.50 for mailing by contacting