Clippings and Memories of Mac Beattie — The Buchanan Scrapbooks

Clippings and Memories of Mac Beattie — The Buchanan Scrapbooks

With files from The Keeper of the Scrapbooks — Christina ‘tina’  Camelon Buchanan — Thanks to Diane Juby— click here..

Mac Beattie was the Ottawa Valley. And for almost everyone who knew him he will always be the personification of the area he loved. Even in death. Monday Beattie died in the Arn-prior Hospital having lost his five-month battle with cancer. Born at Braeside, near Arnprior, 65 years ago, Beattie spent more than 40 years celebrating his native valley in song and poetry, lie was one of the first artists to appear on national television when CTV first came into being, performing on Cross Canada Barn Dance out of CJOH.

He and his Mclodiers were frequent performers in the early days of radio station CFRA, founded by the late Frank Ryan, as well as on national radio out of Pembroke and on television’s Don Messer Show. When news of his death circulated around town it was obvious nothing else would be talked about, nothing was as important. In the Cameron Country Hotel the oldtimers had their Beattie stories to tell. “He wanted to give people a little bit of enjoyment,” Max Mooney said. “He was the Ottawa Valley, his father before him was a fine musician.

His father used to sit in this very bar room and when he’d play the bagpipes, we’d all rush to the door to sec who the band was.” Murray Dark of Belleveue Farms recalls “hundreds of dances with Mac in Pukenham and at Sunny-dale Acres in Lake Dore where Mac found his inspiration for the Lake Dore Waltz. “Mac and the Melodiers used to drop in at my place every time they came by,” says Jim Reid, owner of what was then Reid’s Fine Foods. “My wife played the piano and they sometimes set up the band for a little bit.” “He was a hell of a hockey player; a goaltender,” Mooney remembers. “He played Junior hockey for years three of the Major Leagues were after him.” But music and the valley kept Mac.

He married Marie McMunn, raised his three children in Arnprior, and daughter Bonnie began to sing with her father’s band at a young age. A year ago, some 400 people attended a testimonial dinner for Beattie at Renfrew Armory, when he was presented with a plaque on behalf of Premier William Davis for his outstanding contribution to country music in the Ottawa Valley. He recorded nine albums, mostly of his own music, and published a book of poetry in the ’60s. He leaves 80 poems, which will be published, and at the time of his death was writing some of the history of the Valley, with particular attention to the lumbermen who worked the Ottawa River. His most successful song was The Logdrivers’ Song. 5 June 1982

With files from The Keeper of the Scrapbooks — Christina ‘tina’  Camelon Buchanan — Thanks to Diane Juby— click here..

John MacNab Beattie (Mac) was born where the Madawaska and Ottawa Rivers converge at the town of Arnprior, Ontario, in the year 1916. His father, Jim, was away at war in Europe and would not see him until it was ended. When Jim Beattie returned home the family moved a few miles upstream to the village of Braeside where he would take a job with the Gillies Lumber Company.

Jim Beattie, a harmonica and bugle player, ventriloquist and jokester, would spend his winters in the shanty camps of the Gatineau Hills in Pontiac County, Quebec. It was at these camps that Jimmie would hear the songs and stories of shantymen from all over the valley. They’d sing Irish songs, Scottish songs, French songs and songs of the shanty life. They’d dance the reels and entertain themselves to pass the monotony of daily life in the winter camps.

When Jimmie came home each spring, he’d bring back those songs and stories that would fascinate his family. It was in this atmosphere that Mac grew up. It was in this folklore of the valley that he would dedicate his life. His love of the stories, the lives of the people, of the gentle times, the hard times, it all hit home by the time he was a teen-ager. Mac Beattie utilized these spiritual forces to forge ahead during those very interesting times.

Listening to Mac Beattie’s lyrics now, you could not fail to notice his frequent mention of the people and places of the Ottawa Valley. You would also probably notice the strange way he used his voice to enunciate his words, the old-style inflections he utilized in his poetic ballads. I have not heard anyone else sing like this, and even now in the Valley with its distinct Irish/Scotts accent, Mac’s accent remains unique.

Mac Beattie never played a melodic instrument other than a bit of harmonica. Instead, he chose the washboard to accompany his songs. Along with friends Gaetan Fairfield and Garnie Scheel, he formed a band called the Melodiers in the early 1930s to mimic the sounds of the big dance bands of that era.

It is probably because his songs were either learned or composed without the accompaniment of a melodic instrument that Mac’s vocal patterns remained in theold traditional style. He didn’t have a wonderful voice, but what he had he used well. He sang a cappella, using the syllables of words in the traditional way of Celtic melodies. He’d teach these songs to his friends who would then work out arrangements to fit around his singing style.

In time, Mac Beattie would go on to become Mr. Ottawa Valley with his Melodiers, riding the ups and downs of the music business for over 5 decades. During that time he would be heard and seen on national television and radio; he would associate his show with step-dancing great Don Gilchrist; he would make lifelong friends with important cultural leaders of both sides of the Ottawa River. And lastly, he would be inducted into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame as its second inductee (at Mac’s insistance, his late fiddler, Reg Hill, received the honour of being the first to be inducted). He would also leave us with 90 tracks of music spanning 9 LPs recorded between the years of 1960 to 1975.

And Now there is great news! Peter Beattie has just released The Best of Mac Beattie and the Ottawas Valley Melodiers CD – this means that you can now purchase Mac’s wonderful music for the first time in years. Contact Peter at Read —Mac Beattie and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers __ CLICK

With his oldtime music group, the Ottawa Valley Melodiers, he was heard regularly on CFRA radio, Ottawa, until the late 1950s and on CHOV, Pembroke, until the early 1960s. He also performed at local fairs, dances, and clubs. The Melodiers included at various times Beattie’s daughter Bonnie, the steel guitarist Garnet Scheel, and the noted fiddler Reg Hill. Beattie’s first 78, ‘The Log Driver’s Song,’ released by Rodeo Records in the early 1950s, was followed by 11 LPs under Rodeo’s various labels. Many of his songs were based on Ottawa Valley events, people, and places – eg, ‘Lake Dore Waltz’ and ‘Train Wreck at Almonte’.

Memories of Bob Whitney and his Wobbleboard Carleton Place

Memories About Bernie Costello

Remembering Etta Whitney Carleton Place

Reserve Me a Table –The Silver Fox –Ron McMunn

Good Old Lanark County Music–From the 70s to now

Fiddling in Lanark County by David Ennis

Looking for Info on The Happy Wanderers etc.

The Hayshakers — Charlie Finner

All About Lorraine Lemay –Mississippi Hotel

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.

2 responses »

  1. I loved Mac and the Meloderies, I grew up with Donnie Poirier in Chichester in our teens, I pushed him to lift 100 lb Anvil or his head, I can still see that smile on his face after he did it


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