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Stompin’ Tom Connors celebrated in Ballinafad with memorial plaque

Memorial plaque - Members of the Ballinafad community gathered on Sept. 4 to remember Stompin’ Tom Connors and unveil a memorial plaque in his honour. From left are: Ward 2 Halton Hills councillor Ted Brown, Erin Mayor Allan Alls, Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott, Tom Connors Jr. and his son Thomas, Lena Connors and Karen Smith.   Photo by Mike Robinson

Stompin’ Tom Connors celebrated in Ballinafad with memorial plaque

by Mike Robinson

BALLINAFAD - It was a day of music and memories on Sept. 4 as the community celebrated the life and music of one of their own: Stompin’ Tom Connors.

The musician settled in Erin Township just north of Ballinafad in 1975 and resided there with his wife Lena until he passed away from natural causes, at the age of 77, in March 2013.

A community group led by Karen Smith helped unveil a  plaque at the Ballinafad Community Centre in memory of Connors, who Smith called “Ballinafad’s Canadian icon who travelled from town to town across Canada.”

Smith said, “in deciding a Canada 150 project, we decided what better way to celebrate than to recognize a Canadian icon who lived in our area.”

In seeing the hundreds gathered at the plaque unveiling, Smith said, “I’m just so blown away by this, I could just cry.”

Numerous local musicians provided entertainment prior to the unveiling.

“Stompin’ Tom wrote about towns and the special people in these towns. Ballinafad was one of these lucky towns,” said Smith, noting  The Ballinafad Ball was included on the album Believe in Your Country.”

“Tom as you know, really believed in his country,” Smith said.

She said Tom and his wife Lena lived just north of Ballinafad, where raised their son Tom Jr. “... and now Tom Jr. and Jess are raising their son Thomas here.”

Smith paid tribute to “a number of local people - also very fine musicians I must say - who have played, jammed, recorded, loved him and his music and even  travelled on the road with Stompin’ Tom.”

She noted, “Some of these musicians are present here today to celebrate a man who was so proud of his country Canada that he didn’t go south, as did many of our other great Canadian musicians.

“We will enjoy his music for hundreds of years to come.”

Smith explained Stompin’ Tom started his life in St. John, New Brunswick on Feb. 9, 1936 and at age four was placed in an orphanage.

He was adopted and as a child spent time at Skinners Pond with his foster parents. She noted this is the location of the new Stompin’ Tom Centre that opened July 1.

As a young lad Connors travelled by many means across Canada, said Smith.

“He loved the people and the people loved him,” she said, noting Stompin’ Tom and his mother are buried in the Erin Union Cemetery on the 9th Line.

Smith offered a very special thank you to Lena, Tom Jr. and their family. She also thanked Artcast of Georgetown, which will be making the bronze plaque.

A model was presented on Sept. 4 and the actual plaque will be installed later in the year. Smith also thanked Jim and Glen Sanderson for the stone on which it will be affixed.

Smith added a huge thank you to those who contributed to make the Canada 150 project a reality.

She noted the Wellington County Historical Society , as  the first group to contribute to the project, “ gave me the inspiration to keep going.”

Tom Connors Jr. told the crowd at the Sept. 4 event that “there would not be Stompin’ Tom without all of you ... he sang about the people of Canada ... so give yourselves a hand.”

He added, “You can learn a lot about the country” by listening to his father’s songs.

Tom Jr. thanked Smith for helping to pay tribute to Stompin’ Tom.

“You don’t meet too many people like her. She climbed through rock quarries ... and we almost lost her ... to find the beautiful rock we are going to see,” he said.

“I just call her a big ball of git’ er done.”

Tom Jr. also expressed appreciation for the donations that made the plaque a reality and for all those in attendance.

“It was great seeing some old faces I remember coming to the house from time to time - you’re looking good,” he said.

He then quipped “... mind you, you weren’t looking to good after drinking with the old man for a few hours.”

Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott said Stompin’ Tom Connors could have lived anywhere in Canada.

“Certainly, in his long career as a performer, he’d seen and stayed in every region of the country. But he chose our community as his home,” said Arnott.

“Many Canadian towns and cities claim him as one of their own, but Stompin’ Tom Connors was one of us.”

He described Connors as “a neighbour, a friend, someone you might run into by happenstance, as I did at Judy’s Restaurant in Brisbane the last time I saw him.”

Arnott said calling Connors a Canadian icon has become cliché.

“He was more than that. He was one of Canada’s biggest boosters, and through his lyrics, his music and his principled stands in favour of promoting a distinct Canadian culture, he made us all very proud of who we are as citizens of this magnificent land,” said Arnott.

He described Connors’ songs as timeless.

“ ... and because so many of them tell a compelling story of a Canadian community in our time, they will be listened to with interest in the decades to come.”

Arnott said his favourite Stompin’ Tom songs include  Bud the Spud and The Hockey Song.

He concluded that “on this 150th anniversary of Confederation, we know that yes, this world definitely needs more Canada.”

He also read a message from Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong.

“It is fitting that as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation this year - we are today honouring a man who shaped Canada’s musical landscape, and whose music has continued to live on through generations,” Chong wrote.

Town of Erin Mayor Allan Alls offered congratulations to the organizing committee and to Connors’ family.

“I met Tom once at the bakery in Erin and I’m sure he was on at least one of my flights,” said Alls, a former pilot.

“He was a Canadian icon and it is very fitting during our 150th that we recognize him with this plaque.”

Halton Hills Ward 2 councillor Ted Brown was at the event representing Mayor Rick Bonnette.

He offered his own anecdote from his time with the Independent Free Press, when he did a story on Connors for the Sideroads magazine.

Brown said he wasn’t certain Connors would be willing to be interviewed, but a 30-minute interview turned into three hours.

“I treasured that. Tom opened his heart as he told me stories about being on the road, growing up, and all the things which were part of him,” said Brown.

“I am very touched I was allowed to have that interview.”

September 8, 2017


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