What’s in a Name?

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 nix.wadden@sympatico.ca

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 nix.wadden@sympatico.ca

A Hazardous Night at the Y

Many a first time visitor to Ottawa in the carefree Sixties was apt to bed down for a night or two at the old YMCA located on Metcalfe Street at Laurier. Built in the early 1900s, it served as a key recreational centre until new facilities were opened in 1970. The old Y was then converted into a budget hotel, functioning under various names ranging from the Roxborough to the Indigo until its most recent rebirth in 2017 as a boutique hotel, the Metcalfe.

Ottawa YMCA Metcalfe St.

Ottawa YMCA Metcalfe St.

In February 1966, its location only a few blocks from Parliament Hill and Union Station (now the Government Conference Centre), with easy access to the principal sights of the capital, was a popular haven for travellers, students and newly-arrived government employees. It had clean beds and standard if unpretentious facilities, better than average recreational amenities and a friendly atmosphere.

And it was delightfully inexpensive by comparison with its relatively pricey hotel neighbours – the Lord Elgin, the Beacon Arms, the Savoy and, of course, the haughty Chateau. The Lord Elgin had been my first destination on arrival in bitter late January blizzard conditions to report for my first government job as a Fisheries Department information officer. Three nights at the stately Elgin was all my thin budget could bear.

After 12 years working as a radio-TV news reporter in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I wasn’t too flush financially. Getting the best temporary accommodation possible was my top priority pending the sale of my house so that my family could transfer later that winter.

The Metecalfe Boutique Hotel

The Metcalfe Boutique Hotel

Someone at work told me of the Y. My single bag hastily packed, I paid the hotel, and blithely called for a cab. I wondered why the driver looked at me strangely as I told him where to take me. We turned one corner, then a second and in less than a minute, the cab door opened to drop me at the Y door on Metcalfe, one street away! The fare was 50 cents – a lot of money to waste in 1966 when the train ride from Montreal to Ottawa was $3.20. An inauspicious introduction to the venerable Y, to be sure, but perhaps an omen of what was to be found inside.

My room was on the top floor. No penthouse, it was very small, even cramped, but at $3.75 a night, what else could one expect? At least it got me in from the cold – and did it ever do that! As bitterly frigid as it remained outside, the atmosphere in that tiny attic chamber was well-nigh tropical steam bath. Nothing builds up heat like the old style hot water radiator, and as surely as heat rises, the temperature in that room must have been bursting the Fahrenheit scale. No problem, though. Unlike in those modern glasshouse monsters, there was a storm window one could probably open the old-fashioned way with a lift by thumb and finger to let a bracing draught of winter air cool things down a bit.

But wait. What’s this? A plain hand written note on the dresser:



Oh dear, another message from management on the window ledge:



Closer inspection reveals yet another instruction designed to ensure the tenant’s better comfort and peace of mind:


Considering myself well and truly forewarned, I could not forbear from approaching the window pane and falteringly probe its ability to slide open. Oops, what was that? A mere touch of the window frame let loose a fist sized chunk of decayed exterior masonry, which slid fast away to plunge earthward, six storeys below.

Horrified, I listened fearfully for the screams of maimed Laurier Avenue pedestrians and the wail of police sirens. But only silence, and my palpitating heart. Chastened by this narrow brush with tragedy, I backed as far as possible from the deadly dormer. No fresh air for me this night, thank you.

Just one small gesture, though, to thwart big brother Y. A tiny touch, mayhap, but a budding bureaucrat’s blow for human kind. Before lights out, I turned off that sucker radiator – all the way. It was a very warm night!

(with apologies to the Ottawa Citizen which published a version of this story in a Voices column in 1994.)

Dragon Fly Memories

Nostalgia, as once famed Canadian writer Pierre Berton used to say, is one of our most powerful emotions. His formidable output of successful explorations of Canadian history firmly attested to that viewpoint.
That may explain a sudden urge experienced in a weekend drive up the Ottawa Valley to re-visit the scene of many scores of enjoyable outings on the friendly contours of Dragon Fly Golf Course on the Opeongo Road near Renfrew. Though scores is perhaps not an altogether pertinent term, our golfing prowess seldom if ever rose to competitive levels, but gave us ample pleasure in pursuing little white balls whizzing about fairways and trickling across the greens.

Kevin Brown offering golf tips

Kevin Brown offering golf tips

Drawn to this newly opened course by moderate rates and our Corporate Golf cards, we lucked in with the appointment as Golf Pro of our friend Kevin Brown, whom we knew from his previous gig as assistant to Golf Pro Tim Cole at Pine View Golf Course in Ottawa. Moreover, it was Kevin who organized a delightful golfing week in South Carolina for a group of enthusiasts from Pine View. I joined up, along with my friend and former Transport Canada Public Affairs colleague Norm Pascoe for the only time I ever travelled south for golf or anything else.

South Carolina Golf Course

As usual, my golfing endeavours were not remarkable but I earned some credits for playing the group photographer, producing a colourful album celebrating highlights of the week’s adventures.
Playing at Dragonfly began in the 1960s when we joined Corporate Golf, which charged a moderate seasonal membership plus a bare minimum fee – initially $9 per game-for playing at any of 25 or so area golf courses. Courses ranged all over the map from Pine View and others in the city to clubs as far away as Upper Canada near Morrisburg, Buckingham, Renfrew, Cobden, Calabogie and Cassselman. But it was Dragonfly in Renfrew that drew us most often. Just a 9-hole course at the beginning, it expanded to 18 holes a couple of years later. When it did, the one hour drive from home proved well worth it for the four or five hours spent at play and occasional post game socializing.

Ibis, a sideline attraction of South Carolina golfing

Ibis, a sideline attraction of South Carolina golfing

It must be a dozen or so years since we last played at Dragonfly, having moved on to join the Cedar Glen Golf club in Williamsburg, near Morrisburg, but the memories linger on. Now styled the Dragon Fly Golf Links, and under new ownership, the club looks a lot posher, with a splendid log-style club house added since our day, so it seems to be doing quite well. Our friend Kevin retired a few years ago Long may our old course prosper!

A Fond Farewell


Back on the water

Back on the water

We said good bye to a happy memory last weekend.

For a dozen years or so, some of our most delightful hours were spent paddling our smooth riding kevlar canoe on lakes, rivers and streams throughout the Ottawa region. No great adventurers then, we settled for calm waters and easy-going canoe routes that let us enjoy to the fullest the beauty and tranquility of nature at its finest. One weekend we would cruise upon the Rideau River, another found find us idling along short stretches of the Mississippi near Pakenham. Or we would venture as far as Murphy’s Point Park, seeking to find a location that might be free from the hazards of power boat competition.

Our favourite destination, bar none, was Meech Lake which does boast freedom from power craft and is rich with cozy corners ideal for leisurely lunching, swimming and just lazing around in sun or shade.

Ron tries fishing

Ron tries fishing

A twinkle regularly sprang from my dear spouse’s eye when younger folk, seeing us oldsters shouldering our trusty 15 ft. craft en route to a launching point, gallantly offered to take her share of the burden. No way, she would be quick to reply, it’s as light as a feather. And it was – only 38 pounds not counting the paddles. Entirely comfortable and simple to hoist upon the car roof for lashing down on a roof rack or using foam pads and effective ratchet-controlled strapping.

We took up canoeing in the 1970s, investing in a sturdy 65 ft. Grumman aluminum canoe big enough to take our two kids with us for adventurous journeying to places like Prince Edward County, Bon Echo Park, the Tay River near Perth, and even all the way to New Brunswick.

ancient markings at Bon Echol Park

ancient markings at Bon Echo Park

And then, in 1995, we opted for something smaller and lighter, buying second hand from Trailhead a 15ft Novacraft Bob Special kevlar Spectra canoe with ash trim. It suited us perfectly, being easy to mount on our car, delightfully comfortable in any waters and no trouble to store when not in use. And we did indeed put it to good use, exploring routes all around the capital, enjoying the exercise and snapping the odd picture along the way.

a beautiful moment

a beautiful moment

Regrettably perhaps, diminishing energy – or was it a preoccupation with golf? – left the noble craft suspended in our garage from one year to the next. There it remained until, shaking off lethargic inclinations, we put the word out that it was for sale. No sooner said than done, as a friend of a friend agreed to take it and, after brief inspection, loaded it aboard the family car and took it off to a new home a few days ago. Fare thee well, our faithful kevlar companion!

A Golfing Fun Day at Kingsway

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans annual golf tournament at Kingsway Golf Course in 1978 was a prime occasion to mix sports and social activities.





About 24 foursomes teed off on a fine sunny day. I played with Ed Hearnden, Viviane Jennings and Lynn Dolan.





A few pictures from that event were passed around at the time, but a recent scanning session has allowed posting of a full set for interested viewers.


Names are noted when known – help please to fill in any gaps.




Golfers enjoyed a hearty dinner in the Kingsway lounge, after which prize giving was run off with the usual round of plaudits and commiserations for performance on the golf course.








Award presentations were headed up by Assistant Deputy Minister Gerry Ewing.









Oops!  one picture got in twice, but couldn’t find out how to delete it.

Remembering Mary O’Flaherty

Mary O'Flaherty

Mary O’Flaherty

It has been gratifying to see the tributes which have been published marking the death in Ottawa at age 92 of Mary O’Flaherty, who played a vital role in the Canadian Caper in Iran in 1980 as communications officer for Canada’s embassy in Teheran. The group headed by Ambassador Ken Taylor engaged in a cloak and dagger plan to protect and smuggle six American citizens to safety after rebels overthrew the Shah of Iran and took control of the United States embassy. She was one of five recipients of the Order of Canada for her part in the escape adventure.

In her public service career, Mary began work with the Department of National Defence and transferred to the Department of External Affairs. She is reported to have never turned down a posting and, in addition to Teheran, also served in Islamabad, Canberra, New York, Moscow and Ottawa.

Mary O’Flaherty was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and I knew her in her younger days as a member of a family that shared many experiences with my family. Her parents and mine were friends for many years and her mother was a particular friend of my mother, Bridget Wadden. In St. John’s, children went to the same schools, and our families actually shared a pew in the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica). Her brother John and I were at Memorial University together. In summer both families spent vacation time in Kelligrews.


Mary's mother in 1920s

Mary’s mother
in 1920s

Among a treasure trove of family oldie pictures inherited from my mother is one of Mary’s mother, Chris O’Flaherty, mounted on a favourite horse when she was a riding fan sometime in the 1920s era.

A South African Patriot

A chance name search on google prompted a delightful e mail exchange remembering Peter  Hjul, a fascinating individual who played an important role in two widely different spheres – pre-Mandela South Africa and International Fisheries. My search began while scanning photo slides from the 1970s when my work in federal Fisheries Communications brought me together with Peter on several occasions.
We first met in Vancouver in 1973 when I was Canadian Press Officer at the FAO International Conference on Fishery Management and Development. Peter Hjul attended as Editor of Fishing News International, a leading British trade magazine. The ten-day conference was organized at the instigation of Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Jack Davis, as a prelude to negotiations that led to establishment of the Law of the Sea and the 200 mile fishing limit. Two years later we met at the World Fishing Exhibition in Marseilles, France, where we in Canada were promoting the 1977 edition of that exhibition to be held in Halifax, N.S.

Peter and I became good friends during this period and, when my wife and I planned a trip to England in 1979, he invited us to visit him in London and to his home in Windsor. He treated us to an intriguing pub crawl of Fleet Street, then the famous hub of British news media, capping it off with lunch at the London Press Club. In Windsor, a home visit was preceded by a marvelous private tour of Windsor Castle where Peter amazed us with his thorough knowledge of its rich and colourful history.

In re-discovering my pictures from that era, I wondered what might have happened with Peter Hjul in later years, so I browsed through google one day and was rewarded by finding significant references to him and his career. I found that he had died in 1999 at the age of 70 but his obituary paid tribute to his many achievements since growing up in Northern Rhodesia. His family had come originally from Norway.

Most gratifying to find was an article about his South African experiences entitled “Days When My Father and Mandela Stood Against the Forces of Apartheid,” written by his journalist daughter, Jenny Hjul. It was published in 2013 in the Daily Telegraph, one of Britain’s most prominent newspapers. Peter Hjul was working in Cape Town as editor of the South African Shipping News and Fisheries Review. Strongly opposed to the ruling party’s apartheid regime, he became a leading figure in the mainly white Liberal Party, heading its radical wing which advocated voting rights for all adults black and white. His party was unsuccessful in efforts to elect members to Parliament, and his persistent agitation against apartheid policies resulted in his being banned from any political involvement and subjected to police harassment and two years of virtual house arrest. After a Nationalist fanatic’s firing of a bullet into his home, he and his family left South Africa in 1965 for a new life in Britain. There he founded the highly successful Fishing News International magazine, followed later by Fish Farming International. He travelled to all continents to report on, and participate in, major fisheries conferences and events.
Having discovered Jenny Hjul’s article, I contacted her by e mail and had the pleasure of telling her about my experiences with her father and sending her some of my photos from those encounters. She answered enthusiastically, remarking that she knew her father had visited Canada several times and even considered moving here at one point. She was thankful to receive “these wonderful pictures,” which she was sharing with her sister.“ She recalled how much her father loved to travel, particularly after having been banned for several years from going anywhere beyond his house and work.
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Peter Hjul, along with other political exiles, was invited to a celebration with the African National Congress, Jenny recalled, he did not go, downplaying his role in South Africa’s long road to democracy. “But, until his death, he kept Mandela’s photograph beside his bed, a symbol of hope in the years when there was none that one day his country would be free.”

South Keys Deserves Better

Headline writers in Ottawa need a lesson in map reading. The peaceful south end community of South Keys suffers all too often from media reporting of criminal activities occurring outside rather than inside its borders.

Case in point: South Keys double shooting kills man, injures woman. Thus blares the June 7 edition of Your Community Voice: Greenboro/South Keys, a journal that by its very name surely ought to know better. The story in question describes a May 27 incident in which a man tending a barbecue was fatally shot on Patola Private off Cahill Drive. This location is, however, in Greenboro, not South Keys, as it lies east of the Albion Road which marks the boundary between these two communities. So why didn’t this community paper call it a Greenboro double shooting?

Fall day in South Keys

Fall day in South Keys

This was but the latest of many media reports in recent years identifying violent crime activities with South Keys. It seems that reporters, either from ignorance or sheer laziness, like to use the term for anything that happens in the south end of the city,

One of the worst examples was an Ottawa Citizen story some years ago which proclaimed: South Keys, Bayshore areas top spots for gang activity, report finds. Few details were given in that city report but a police inspector attributed much of the problem to armed gang members’ involvement in distribution of crack cocaine and in prostitution of young girls. The report incomprehensibly identified the South Keys area as bounded by Bank Street, Heron Road, Russell Road and the railway right of way.

Wrong. First of all, South Keys is entirely south of the railway tracks that run east-west north of Johnstone Road. The name “South Keys Village” was coined by the Campeau Corporation in the mid-1960s to describe a housing development in the south part of the city between those railway tracks and what were then the southern city limits at Hunt Club Road. The South Keys housing development was entirely within a triangular piece of land bordered by Bank Street, Johnstone Road, and Albion Road. Heron Road and Russell Road are miles away! The Campeau property did include the site, on the west side of Bank Street, of the South Keys Shopping Centre which was not built until 1996. Development of the area east of Albion Road between Hunt Club and Johnston Roads was called Greenboro.

Sadly but truly, shootings and gang violence have erupted in once-placid neighbourhoods throughout the city of Ottawa, and many too close to home no matter where we live. Yet let those in our news media be carefully accurate in pinpointing where these frightening incidents occur. Just as residents of areas as prominent as Rockcliffe and Alta Vista would strenuously resist being named hotbeds of crime and violence, so too should lesser communities undeserving of such damaging generalities. Painting specific neighbourhoods without cause as hubs of violent behaviour is totally unwarranted and harmful to their reputation, let alone property values.

Relics of a Bygone Era

carbon papere cover sheet

carbon paper cover sheet

Nostalgia freaks among us may readily recognize these flimsy relics of that earlier age when the term digital meant something to do with fingers. Labourers in the media and communications world many decades ago resorted often to the use of this stuff – messy black carbon paper – to file away copies of their deathless type-written prose. Secretaries and stenographers were doubtless the principal users but many if not most reporters found them handy when they wanted to keep a copy of text for whatever reason. Letter writers, another nearly extinct breed nowadays, occasionally slipped in a sheet so they’d know what they had said when replies arrived.

carbon paper inky side

carbon paper inky side

Carbon paper is described by one authority as “thin paper coated with a mixture of wax and pigment that is used between two sheets of ordinary paper to make one or more copies of an original document.” Offices of all kinds used carbons constantly with manual typewriters and they only fell into disuse when replaced by word processors and photocopiers. Few if any lamented the loss, relieved of the often messy routine of inserting and removing carbons and filing of dark stained flimsies. (Yet the term cc still commonly used in correspondence to denote copies actually derived from the term carbon copy.)

In my early journalistic days, working primarily in radio and TV in Newfoundland, I had little practical need for carbons, but used them often to keep copies of my stories, since originals stayed with station management. Well did I appreciate this custom when, decades after abandoning journalism for the dark side of government communications and then retirement, I decided to write a book (Yesterday`s News) about my news media career. Being able to quote verbatim from carbon copies of dramatic news stories lent the narrative a base of authenticity which mere reminiscence could not possibly achieve.

Coming upon these unexpected carbon sheets in a seldom opened subject file, my thoughts dredged up a far less pleasant recollection of many miserable hours spent in a student days summer time job in Montreal. As a temporary clerk, posted from one Canadian Pacific Railway office to another, I endured a full week doing nothing but removing carbon paper from copious office files. It took hours every night to wash away those dirty carbon stains.