Who’s Hugh?

Hugh Ogilvy Carson
Feb 24, 1950 – Nov 23, 1999

This page is dedicated to the memory of Hugh  Carson.

Hugh was a lover of music, life and good friends. For many years he and his brother Richard talked about starting a folk club in Toronto. “Where can Connie Kaldor play in Toronto?!” was Hugh’s lament. In the late 1990s Hugh and Richard started to get a little more serious about the possibilty of starting a room in Toronto. Unfortunately, Hugh was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 1999 and passed away just 4 weeks later. His brother, Richard persevered and opened a club in April 2001. He named the club Hugh’s Room, after his brother.

Below is an excerpt from The Old Chestnuts Song Circle newsletter, by Kieth Toby ….

In late November, we at the Mill Race Folk Society in Cambridge mourned the loss of one of our favourite visitors to our monthly sing- around. Hugh Ogilvy Carson passed away at the age of 49.

It’s seven years ago now that we held our first Folk Club Singaround in “The Pit” at Ernies Roadhouse in Hespeler. We organizers were a little anxious and had no idea what to expect. Happily it was a good turnout and things were going well, when John Campbell and I announced that we should now sing Stan Roger’s “Barrett’s Privateers”, and would anyone like to take the lead? Instantly from over in the corner a voice belted out “Oh the year was seventeen-seventy-eight…” Someone shuffled the words down to the singer, which apparently was unnecessary, the roof was raised and we all applauded ourselves heartily. This for most of us was our first introduction to the man who took the lead, Mr. Hugh Carson.

Turns out Hugh, who was a folkie from his youth, was a regular at Ernies and couldn’t believe his good fortune when he heard that a folk-club meeting would be convening in his favourite pub. In the subsequent months and years he became a beloved regular and introduced us to many funny and poignant songs, most of which became legendary to us all. He seemed like a bit of a jester at first but as time went on we came to realize that this generous, friendly man with the big smile had an Honours B.A. in Anthropology from the U of T and was somewhat of a scholar of ’60’s folk-music. Also, he was a board-member and promoter of the Eaglewood Festival, which was the baby of his life-long friend Tim Harrison whom he of course introduced us to.

Our Hugh was there only for the joy and love of music and I’m sure that we never heard him say a negative thing about anyone, but was always lavish with his praise of other musicians. After a couple of years his lovely wife Mallory and two beautiful young daughters would often accompany him to the folk club, doing the occasional tune themselves. It was all very sweet.

In the last couple of years Hugh found himself working often on Saturday nights and we didn’t see him enough. This past fall he was notably ‘not there’ and it came as a great shock to us all when we finally heard that he was in a losing battle with cancer.

We shall forget-him-not but release him from our lives, as we must, but he will stand as an inspiration to us all: that music is love; that folk music is for folks; that decency and kindness do not go unheeded; that we should live life to it’s fullest for who knows what awaits us.

Farewell you Mudpuddle Sailor. Thanks for the music and thanks for touching us with your joy of living.