Boulevardiers & Fools…

by The Boulevardiers



Canadian Boulevardiers


There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket
His daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man—
And, as for the bucket, Nantucket


Newfoundland Geologic Map 1842,


Yahoo Canada! reports: Earth’s magnetic field long overdue for a reversal that could end our current way of life. Doom and destruction types have been around forever. You know….”The world will end at Midnight (half an hour later in Newfoundland).

 From the Cape Breton Post, 2.2.2013:

Glace Bay-born Pat MacAdam has been a fly on the wall in national politics for half a century. This is an updated piece previously printed in MacAdam’s 2006 book “Big Cy and Other Characters: Pat MacAdam’s Cape Breton…”

Every small town has its fools and, on the other side of the coin, its Boulevardiers.

Newfoundlanders called fools “queer sticks,” and said they were “touched by the hand of God.”

St. John’s had William Murphy, best known as “Silly Willie,” who managed to be the chief mourner at funerals of important citizens. He was often captured in newsreel shots and newspaper photos.

St. John’s also had “Peter from Heaven,” “Trotters” McCarthy, “Tommy Toe” and the husband and wife combination of Caroline Bowden and “Flipper” Smith, immortalized in the Newfoundland song “Kelligrew’s Soiree.”

“Doctor” Neal appeared at all funerals wearing a fireman’s hat, carrying a cane fashioned from an umbrella. Local historians believed he might have been an illegitimate son of the Prince of Wales.


Boulevardier, Prince of Wales, in Newfoundland,


Fools could be found at funerals and parades. Their only crime was throwing the drum major out of step. They were accepted for what they were, and treated with kindness and great sensitivity.

One local wit in Cape Breton said that his hometown was so small they couldn’t afford a town fool, so they had to take turns.

The Boulevardiers were another kettle of fish. They dressed like tweedy British toffs, complete with tattersall shirts, wore freshly cut flowers in their lapels, and carried highly polished, gold-topped malacca canes.

We had several Boulevardiers who stood out like sore thumbs in a coal-mining town.

Vincent MacDonald was a dapper insurance agent. Hardly anyone knew him by his Christian name. He was universally known as “City Mouse.”

If you looked at him and closed your eyes, you could conjure up a mental image of one of Beatrix Potter’s cute little mice.

He was so perfect, one local wag suggested he bought himself at Birks.


Boulevardier Street fashion, Newfoundland,


Larry Shanahan was the last of the grand Boulevardiers. He didn’t walk down Glace Bay’s Main Street, he strutted.

It took him forever to walk downtown because so many people stopped him to chat.

He smoked Cuban cigars and cracked off-colour jokes to nuns, priests, spinsters and widows. They loved him.


Boulevardier Cocktail, Canadian style


Without a doubt, he was one of the best-dressed men in town, always impeccable in a double-breasted glen check suit, brilliantly starched white shirt, hand-tied bow tie, waxed moustache, and a full head of wavy hair with never a strand out of place.

Shanahan was always ready with a joke. He gave every woman he met a kiss — even the good Sisters of Charity. Only Shanahan escaped a slap in the face when he cracked a risqué joke.

The late Robert S. (Bob) MacLellan — former Tory MP for Inverness-Richmond, told me the outrageous story of Shanahan’s boyhood in South Bar.

Shanahan’s father was a “dour, stern old bugger” who presided over breakfast porridge and forbade children to speak.

After breakfast, Shanahan picked up his books, held together by a leather strap, and walked to school. One morning, a clipper ship put a longboat over the side and came ashore for fresh water.


Boulevardiers, Newfoundland style,


Shanahan approached a ship’s officer and asked if they needed a cabin boy. He was told he was in luck and to get aboard. Shanahan threw his school books in a cave and went off to sea.

“For seven years, I sailed the seven seas, but I missed my family and it was time to go home. The next time we anchored off South Bar, I asked the captain to put me ashore.

“Just for devilment, I decided to look in the cave where I had throwed me books. Sure enough, they were still there — all green with mould. So, I slung them over me shoulder and skipped home.

“I went in the kitchen through the back door. There was me old father, lording over breakfast, ladling out hot porridge.

“He didn’t even look up.

“All he said was: ‘Larry, were you kept after school?’”

Shanahan had no technical training, but he was Glace Bay’s town surveyor. The locals joked that “lawyers gave Larry his surveyor’s papers and made a fortune from his imprecise measurements.”

His “more or less” measurements resulted in court cases and many neighbours “falling out” because of an error of “a foot or two.”

Raymond Goldman remembers holding a measuring tape for Shanahan.

“He took such crude measures,” said Goldman. “Even at my young age I knew he was wrong.”

Shanahan’s exuberant personality over-rode his shortcomings. Everyone loved to see him coming. He could light up even a rainy day.


Malacca Canes


Glace Bay-born Pat MacAdam has been a fly on the wall in national politics for half a century. He served as a spear carrier for prime ministers John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney, and as press officer at Canada’s High Commission in London. He’s in Ottawa (Bytown) now and can be reached at This is an updated piece previously printed in MacAdam’s 2006 book “Big Cy and Other Characters: Pat MacAdam’s Cape Breton.”

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