Cliffton Britton

2011 Jun

Cliffton BrittonCliffton Britton was born and raised on a farm four miles north of Avonmore in a settlement called Lodi. His parents were James and Alberta Britton, both of whom played the violin.

Cliff started playing the banjo first. He would accompany his brother-in-law, Charles McElheran, an excellent fiddler, when they played at many house parties. Cliff decided to learn to play the violin and surprise Charles; he was successful.

Cliff spent the winter of 1935-36 in a lumber camp in Kapuskasing. When he returned, he began working in a garage in Moose Creek. He married Ruth Presley in 1939 and they moved to Lancaster where he worked in Bill Escott’s garage. During this time, Cliff had pretty well quit playing the violin, but after their move to Lancaster, Ruth encouraged him to start playing again. Cliff and Ruth had two children, Myrle and Doug; Myrle took piano lessons and became quite adept at chording for her dad.

Father MacPhail's Fiddle Group

Cliffton (3rd from left) with Father MacPhail’s fiddle group

In 1947 Cliff rented a building in Monkland and started his own garage business. He also became very busy playing the fiddle at concerts, house parties, dances and wherever a fiddle player was needed. Eventually he met Father McPhail, a fine fiddler and a great lover and booster of Scottish music. They became great friends and through Father, Cliff was introduced to other Glengarry musicians. At a lawn social Cliff met Angus Chisholm, an expatriate fiddling genius from Cape Breton; he was the guest of honour that night. Cliff was enthralled by Chisholm’s playing and it opened a whole new world of music to him. In 1959 he entered the fiddling contest at the Bonnie Glen. He won the contest three years in a row – 1959, ‘60 & ‘61. He received the Grant Trophy, presented by the Glengarry Historical Society. After the third year, he was allowed to keep it, but did not compete anymore.

For many years he entertained weekly at Dougal Dan’s in Cote de Lac, accompanied by John Burns Munro and at the Atlantic Hotel in Alexandria accompanied by Hugh Allen MacMillan.

Cliff was a founding member of the Glengarry Old Time Fiddlers, a member of the Glengarry Strathspey & Reel Society and played with the Evelyn Begg McRae band from Moose Creek. Cliff and Lucien Ranger were honoured by the GS&RS for all the years of music they has so gladly contributed for everyone’s listening enjoyment.

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