Celtic ceilidh a fitting tribute to a great man
It always makes me feel special when someone emails me out of the blue to tell me about an event being held in Toronto that I might wish to attend. When Dennis McVeigh, formerly of Dominion and fellow past resident of Ocean View, emailed to tell me about a celtic ceilidh being held to honour Fr. Leo Campbell, who passed away on Valentine’s Day in 2008, how could I say no?
Fr. Leo also grew up on “ The View,” as my friends and I liked to call it, but moved away to Ontario to serve as a priest, teacher and administrator in various academic institutions. In my mind, he was a larger-than-life figure, a man of the cloth who could dazzle you with his sermon as well as his musical abilities. I remember well an outdoor mass he held on our street, followed by a massive bonfire with singing and guitar playing. He was certainly the life of the party and has been sorely missed by all who knew him.
I was happy to hear that Sandy McIntyre and his band, Steeped in Tradition, would be playing at the event. Sandy grew up in Inverness and now performs and conducts fiddling workshops throughout Canada, the U.S. and overseas.
I used to be a fairly frequent visitor to the Sunday afternoon “Cape Breton Madness” parties where Sandy and his band played at the now-closed Bow & Arrow pub on Yonge Street. The Celtic ceilidh has since moved to Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub on St. Clair Avenue. I was a bit sad to see that the “Bow” had closed down, given that I had enjoyed many a pint there, and even had a surprise 30th birthday party thrown for me in their upstairs party room. Oh, to be 30 again! (sigh)
Needless to say we had a great time at the ceilidh. The event was a memorial for Fr. Leo, but I can assure you there was nothing sombre about it. If you knew Fr. Leo, you know this is just the way he would have wanted it. Stepped in Tradition played some rollicking good fiddle tunes, there was some amazing step dancing, and some great stories told about the man himself. Dennis mentioned the importance of getting “a dose of Cape Breton” every once in a while to get you through the long stretches. I wholeheartedly agree!
Plus, it was great to see folks I hadn’t seen in eons and meet some new ones. I was especially shocked to see Johnna Campbell, niece of Fr. Leo who I hadn’t laid eyes on since she was a kid and I was probably a teenager. It was lovely to chat with her, and we both agreed that our street was an awesome one, but the recent addition of the word “Crescent” to the end of Ocean View was completely unnecessary and hard to remember when addressing letters home.
Our meeting after so many years reminded me of how quickly time flies, or rather, as Henry Austin Dobson said in his meaningful quote, “ Time goes, you say? Ah no! Alas, Time stays, we go.”
At the end of the night, everyone joined hands to sing, “ We are an island, a rock in the stream…” I left with a smile in my heart, having thoroughly enjoyed a fitting tribute to a great man, and a lovely dose of Cape Breton.