Winchester Press – obit – Roma McMillan
On July 4, 2007 the Ottawa area lost a well-knownand renowned fiddle player with the death of Roma McMillan.
Born July 5, 1911 to Manx parents in Lachine, Que., she was thethird child of Roger Clarke and Ann Jane Creetch. She attendedschools in Lachine and NDG before moving with her parents to MontrealWest where, starting at an early age, she studied classical violinunder Professor Armand Leduc. After the death of her mother in1926 in a car accident in which she suffered a severe skull fracture,she learned to play Down East fiddle tunes from a nurse who attendedher. From 1929 to 1935 she played with the Dominion Bridge Orchestraand the Montreal Philharmonic Orchestra with which she made 15radio broadcasts.
On Sept., 21, 1935 she married Hugh A. McMillan and moved to afarm in Elma. They had four children, June (Rudy) Boulerice ofMorrisburg, Joye (James) Oswald of Vankleek Hill, Roger McMillan(2000) of Elma, and infant Douglas (1941). She has eleven grandchildrenand twenty great-grandchildren who adore their “Grandma Mac,”and also many nieces and nephews.
When the service men and women were leaving for overseas from1939 to 1945, she and her husband formed a band to send them off.It eventually became The Elma Serenaders with Joye Loucks on piano,Eric Barclay on sax, Bill Becksted on guitar, and husband Hughon drums. Over the years changes were made, Lorne Barkley on guitar,and daughter June or nephew John McMillan on piano.
Always community minded, she helped form the Elma Branch of theWomen’s Institute where she was secretary and president. In 1962she was president of the District and from 1967 to1970 she wasa Provincial Board Director. She also held secretarial and presidentialpositions at the area level between 1971 and 1977.
With Hugh she joined the Eastern Star, Morrisburg Chapter, in1947 where they eventually became Worthy Patron and Worthy Matron.She received the Rose Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1997,and for 40 years was their pianist.
After raising her family she worked at the Winchester and DistrictMemorial Hospital as office manager until the death of her husbandin October 1974. She moved to Ottawa and was National Secretaryof the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada until 1980. At thatpoint in time she began teaching violin at the Ottawa FolkloreCentre.
She loved teaching youthful students and formed a group of themin 1981 called Roma and Friends, and then a group of her olderstudents, Red Wing Fiddlers in 1982. In 1983 a junior group wasformed called Junior Bow Benders and in 1987 the Mostly Bows,a senior group who played several times a week for square dancing,benefit events, nursing homes, hospitals, the Good Companions,and many other seniors clubs around Ottawa and environs.
The recipient of many awards and over two hundred trophies, shenever lost her enthusiasm for competing and receiving the MostEntertaining Fiddler Award at Shelburne, Ont. in 1988 was a highlightin her career. She was inducted into the North American FiddlersHall of Fame in Osceola, NY, the first Canadian lady to receivethat honour. Her induction into the Ottawa Valley Country MusicHall of Fame in September 2003 was an awesome experience for herand her family and friends. She played on and produced six albumsof fiddle tunes and recently a CD Seaway Valley Fiddle Tunes thatincluded some of her own compositions namely “Lake St. LawrenceWaltz,” “Ault Island Clog,” and “Upper CanadaJig.” In 1983 and 1997 she published two books of fiddlemusic, Roma’s Favourite Valley Fiddle Waltzes and Roma McMillanand Mostly Bows Favourite Valley Fiddle Tunes.
In 197? when she had retired from the Institute, she organizedfiddle contests for the Winter Fair and in 1989 she was a co-founderof the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championships where sheremained a director for several years. In 1992 she received theiraward for her life-time support and promotion of old-time fiddlemusic.
Another highlight of her career came in 2001 when she played atAdrienne Clarkson’s Governor General’s Garden Party at RideauHall, but international fame came one night in 2003 when a profileof her in a local weekly made it to the Jay Leno Show. Jay startedby saying, “I love this woman. She’s a 90-year-old violinistfrom Ottawa who credits her good health and long life to havinga bowl of porridge every morning for breakfast and then fiddlingaround with younger men the rest of the day!”
On Sun., July 8 at Greely Community Hall a tribute to her lifewas held with 500 family and friends attending. Rev. Bruce Northofficiated, and during the service various local musicians performedincluding the Mostly Bows, Celtic Canuck, and Barry and BrandonMcMillan. Two solos were rendered by Ed Jessup, “How GreatThou Art” and “Who At My Door Is Standing.” Shewas eulogized by her granddaughter Cathy Bedore, great-granddaughtersBret Reynolds and Megan Boulerice, and her daughters June andJoye.
Following the service an open hour of fiddling took place withRoma’s friends participating.
Interment of cremated remains followed at South Gower Cemetery.The pallbearers were Sean Boulerice, Bobby Boulerice, Barry McMillan,and Vance Bedore.
Donations to the Winchester District Memorial Hospital would beappreciated by the family.
The funeral arrangements were entrusted to the Marsden and McLaughlinFuneral Home in Williamsburg.