Help Thy Neighbour in Carleton Place- Ronnie Waugh Fire 1959

Help Thy Neighbour in Carleton Place- Ronnie  Waugh Fire 1959

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Photo from Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum–Around 1950 the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Moore Streets looked like this. Originally the site of W.A. Nichols’ Sons Lumber, it became W & S Building Supplies around 1948.
Mac’s Milk, which remains on the site today (as simply Mac’s), was built in 1988. It was then known as Waugh and Snedden.


I have always believed that the old days of “Help Thy Neighbour”, are never over. At least that was the way it worked out in Carleton Place on March 24th of 1959. That Tuesday what could have been a disastrous fire at the Nichols Lumber and Planing Mill Fast was minimized by the efficient work by the Carleton Place Ocean Wave volunteer fire brigade.

After four hours the fire was out, but the workshop and mill contained a gutted interior with windows gone and the flooring and walls eaten away. Faced with this blow, and with little insurance, Ronnie Waugh owner and recent purchaser of what was Carleton Place’s oldest business sadly surveyed the damage. Thursday followed Wednesday as a nightmare of debris had to be cleared.



Built after the fire– Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Good Friday arrived and a host of good Samaritans led by Stewart Comba, president of the Canadian Legion Branch 192 turned up to help Ronnie. Over 75 Legionnaires and fellow townsmen turned out in their oldest clothes and invaded the fire-scarred buildings. Materials for repair were available from the storage sheds of the mill.  Muscle, ingenuity and skill were also available from the town of Carleton Place.

The volunteers pitched in and the wreckage became beehive of activity. As the church bells in the town tolled, a group of amateur and professional carpenters enacted the Christian doctrine of “do unto others’. Flooring of one-inch hardwood was laid to take the weight of the planing machines being rapidly cleaned and overhauled. Windows that were broken and sagging were replaced, glazed and fitted.

Coffee served up by the young daughters of Mr. Waugh was consumed as the work continued. Again on Saturday the volunteers returned and the walls were repaired and framed in. The machines, newly painted, were set up and placed into position. The band of helpers carried on until dusk even though their wives had already placed uneaten suppers back in the oven to warm.

As I write this it should be described that a lump has gathered in my throat. Ronnie Waugh, the grateful new owner and a man with energy and vision, summed up my thoughts when he said  to the volunteers with a gashed and bleeding hand caused by broken glass during the clean-up.

“They have done in a  matter of hours what money and a bank loan would take weeks to do”.

Ronnie and 10 employees were back at work in what could have been an almost derelict business thanks to the help of many unnamed volunteers and friends. Easter week was definitely proven in Carleton Place as it still does today.



Clipped from

  1. The Ottawa Journal,
  2. 24 Mar 1959, Tue,
  3. Page 2



Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)




Story of a Locket- Waugh Family

Searching for Elizabeth Cram–Updates on Andrew Waugh

Splinters of Sinders Nichols and Brides

Thanks to Christoper Trotman and family- from their Grandparents that once lived at 244 William st.

Dec 1933 Careton Place Gazette

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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