In 1980 Paul Louis Lacombe, Stanley Robinson and I, Jean Marie Lacombe, all from Glen Robertson, Ontario met together regularly to play violin music. At this time we would drive down to Bob’s Hotel in Dalhousie Station, Quebec to hear Viola MacCuaig, well known pianist accompanying Little Jack MacDonald, renowned violinist of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. For over 25 years they entertained music loving listeners, from the area and far away. When Mr. MacDonald passed away, we decided to invite Mrs. MacCuaig to join our small group as our piano player. She accepted our offer with great joy.
After a few sessions, Viola expressed her desire to play the violin. When we required someone to replace her, she suggested Lloyd MacCuaig, from Vanleek Hill, who was pleased to join the group as was Bill Connors, violinist from East Hawkesbury Ontario, who was also invited. These members formed the original Lochiel Strings in 1983. The name, suggested by Jean Marie Lacombe was instantly approved.
Viola MacCuaig arranged for us to meet at her home in the Dalhousie area and later other members opened their homes to welcome everyone. Sometimes space was limited, but we always managed to have a great time learning new pieces and practicing old ones. The evenings terminated with a light lunch, a cup of tea and a fun loving social hour. Each member’s birthday was celebrated as well at this time.
The first additional fiddlers to join our group were Alphonse Bourbonnais, Donald Joseph MacPhee, a well known violin teacher at the Glengarry District High School Night Classes from Alexandria, Duncan MacDonald, a former fiddler of the Skye Orchestra, the MacCrimmon Orchestra and The MacDonald Dougie Orchestra, and Gerald MacGillis from Alexandria, Ontario – a fiddler from a very young age. With these new additions we formed a very promising group. We all enjoyed the learning and practice sessions and the social aspect of our weekly gatherings.
Jean Duval, a neighbor and friend of Viola MacCuaig was invited and introduced to the group. As well as playing the violin, he introduced a new sound to our music – the flute. Jean accompanied by Linda Docker, his neighbor, played for many years in the bars and pubs of Montreal, Quebec. Their music repertoire included the Scottish and Irish music.
Jean Duval composed music for special occasions- laments for the passing of Lochiel Strings members. At Paul Lacombe’s passing (March 4th, 1989) he composed “Paul’s Last Return To The Glen.” After Alphonse Bourbonnais’ death (April 6th 1990), he composed “Hommage a Alphonse Bourbonnais.” At Viola MacCuaig’s passing (Feb. 5th 1994) he composed “Farewell to Viola.” These three laments were played by the Lochiel Strings at their respective funerals. At Gerald McGillis’ death (July 23rd, 2002), he composed “Tribute to Gerald McGillis” – played by himself on the flute accompanied by Linda Docker, organist. The Lochiel Strings Members played as well at his service of remembrance.
During a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, Paul Lacombe met Pat Hauser, a pianist and violinist, and later the violin group with whom she played. While there, a great music exchange between the two musicians flourished. After Paul passed away suddenly in 1989, Mrs. Hauser phoned Jean Marie Lacombe and expressed a desire to meet the group about which Paul had spoken, and whose music Paul had shared with her.
In the Autumn of 1989, she moved to Alexandria, Ontario, and became a Lochiel Strings member. Unfortunately, Pat returned to the West in 1993. New members who joined later included Allan Munro, Rod MacPhee, Isobel MacDonald, and Evelyn MacDonald.
Since the formation of the Lochiel Strings, we have been asked to participate in a variety of events. In 1985, we were honoured to perform with other musicians in a presentation at National Arts Center in Ottawa. We all felt very privileged to be part of this prestigious event. From dances to fund raisers, to church ceremonies and weddings, to nursing homes and hospitals, as well as other memorable occasions including the funeral services of our other fellow Lochiel Strings members. We were all very determined to stand proud, and have people enjoy the sweet comforting sounds of our Scottish/Irish heritage. We are also honoured that we are a part of the entertainment at the Glengarry Highland Games each year in Maxville, Ontario.
The most recent members to pass away are Allan Munro, on June 30th 2002; and Gerald McGillis, on June 23rd, 2002- two loyal members and a great loss to our group.
Although we have lost some of our members along the years, their memory will always live on in our music. The group has grown and persevered throughout the years, and I believe that we all share a common bond – our love of music.