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 history

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

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.”