Posts Tagged With: Canada

There’ll be bluebirds over….

…the white cliffs of Dover.  This was the song that greeted Dad on the phone each time Jack MacArthy phoned him.  Check it out:

Jack and Dad, Flight Lieutenant William James Duff, went back a long way. I wish that I had payed more attention to details about him when Dad talked about him – as now I simply don’t have the answers.

What I do know is that when my son, Ben, and I introduced ourselves to Jack at the George Duff Memorial Legion in New Lowell today – Jack greeted us with a very wide smile.  “Oh, my.  I’m so glad that you spoke to me.  I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad.  He was a very good man.  And your Mom, Paula, she was very beautiful.  I ran into she and your Dad many times in Barrie when my wife Helen and Paula were having their blood work done. “, said Jack.

“My Dad remembered you always, Jack, so fondly.  I always knew when you had called because Dad was sure to tell me.  But, what I don’t know is what song it was that you used to sing to him.”

And Jack began to sing, “There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover”.

How wonderful it was to hear that song.  Jack’s chest was literally covered with medals of honour.  He is 93.  He looked great.  What a spirit.  What a voice.

Jack MacArthy, of New Lowell, introduced me to his family and he to mine.  It was clear that Ben, my son, was not of the “Duff” blood as he towers over all of us and Jack noted this difference.  “How proud he was of all of you.  He spoke so often of you and your family, Stacey, that I know all about them. ”  Jack commented.

It was an honour to be there in New Lowell today.  It was a necessary.  We were representing not only Dad, but his Dad – George Hunt Duff – after whom the New Lowell legion was named.  Their photos hung in prominent places both in the Legion and in our hearts.

To Dad and Grandpa – we salute you and thank-you for your contributions to family and country.  In peace may you rest, may we never forget.


Categories: Duff History, New Lowell | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lobster Air


When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked.  Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret.  Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind.  Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said.   Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters.  Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans!  (–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)

“Oh, my goodness, Dad.  This is funny!”  I replied.  I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel.  After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged.  Enjoy!

Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)

Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II!   Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.

We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines.  The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier.  But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance.  Although there had never been sightings in the Straits,  Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal.  I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting.  Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs.  (Funny how some of my best friends today are German.  Was sure is a strange thing!)

The Straits were well known for lobster.  Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate!  During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them.  Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.

Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water.  This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft.  This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the  lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.

Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate.  When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft.  Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings.  This wasn’t really too much of a problem.  The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.

The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection.  The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft.  I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water.  No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.

Finally, the story emerged.  The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”.  I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!

Categories: Duff History, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, World War II | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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