by Harry Hinchley
(photo of Johnnie Moran with the famous Fraser River boot)
For many years, March 17th was not St. Patrick’s Day in Renfrew without an elderly citizen, clad from head to foot in Paddy Green, and carrying an Irishman’s shillelagh, making his way up Raglan Street. He would stop and shake hands with almost every man he met and it was plain to see that he was well known and respected.
When he came to Fraser’s Clothes Shop, he would go for a talk with proprietor, Leslie J. Then it was over to Phil Bolger’s Barber Shop for a chat with Phil and his customers. From there, he would go across to Woolworth’s Lunch Counter for a cup of tea and a visit with the young ladies behind the counter. After that, it was up to the Mercury office for a few words with the reporters in the news room. Often they snapped a photograph which would appear in next week’s Mercury.
The man was Johnnie Moran, long time resident of Renfrew; farmer, dairyman, councillor and a former Mayor of Renfrew. He often stated that he had walked up town more times than any man in Renfrew. This claim was never disputed.
Johnnie had been born on a farm on the outskirts of Renfrew and there he grew up and spent his days. He would speak with familiarity of the builders of Renfrew – Xavier Plaunt, Sir Francis Hincks and Tanner Jack Smith. He may not have known all these men, but he did know men who had.
One such was ]ohnnie’s father, who had been owner of the timber slide that carried the logs around the rapids down by the McDougall Mill. It was while working on the slide that his father had met his death when struck by a falling timber. One of ]ohnnie‘s childhood recollections was of his father being carried home from the river on a stretcher.
Johnnie worked the farm for many years. At one time, he had a dairy and delivered milk around town. It was on this farm that Groves Park Lodge was built. One of the terms of the sale was that the building should be named after Johnnie’s mother, whose maiden name had been Groves.
At a later date, a portion of the farm was acquired for the building of Quail Creek Retirement Centre. The land on which the building now stands, for many years had been one of the fields of Johnnie’s farm.
It seems sad that Quail Creek had not been built during Johnnie’s lifetime. He spent most of his final years in the old house, heated with a wood stove, and doing his own cooking. How much happier he might have been had he been able to move into a place like Quail Creek, to spend his retirement days in comfort.
Outside of a framed photograph in the Town Hall, there seems to be no memorial in town for Johnnie Moran. It has been suggested that a room in Quail Creek might be named in his honour. There is one room that might be suitable for such a purpose. It overlooks the fields which Johnnie cultivated for most of his lifetime and where he plowed with oxen. It is now called the Main Sunroom and it has been suggested that, in memory of Johnnie, it be officially designated the Johnnie Moran Sunroom.