Driscoll, Simon

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                                       SIMON DRISCOLL
                                Retired Teacher Feeds Pigeons Daily
                                     By Dawn Desrosiers


Twice a day on Water Street in Chatham, you'll see Simon Driscoll doing just that. For five years now, the pigeons have kept a lookout who flies around watching for him. She signals the rest.

"Birds have their language," Simon said, and they gather to eat the bread he throws them. I asked him where he gets the bread. "I buy a loaf a day at Duplessis."

“But how can you afford that?"

"Self-sacrifice," was the answer.

"Why not sell bags of it like they do in London or Venice?"

"People are such penny pinchers they wouldn't buy them. They'd skin a louse and sell the hide for tallow," he laughingly told me.

Simon boards at 32 Pleasant Street in Chatham with the family of Mrs. R. Reynolds. He has lived there for seven years. As I rang the bell, I saw a pigeon in the porch with a hurt wing. Simon told me they had one once with frozen feet. They brought it in and put it in his bed. When the bird's feet got better, it ate out of his hand.

                                     His 80th Year

Simon was born in Douglastown July 25, 1894 at 4:00 a.m., the seventh of ten children. His brother Raymond, who lives in Nordin, and his sister Mrs. Gratton, from Douglastown, are the only surviving members of the family besides himself.

Simon went to school in Douglastown, "In those days a superior school," from 1900 to 1912. "In 1908 our good teacher left, and we got a know-nothing, so I quit. I started over again the next year and finished grade 11, which was then the highest grade.

                                     Greek and Latin

On September 17, 1912, I started at Caraquet College. In the mornings, I had private tutors in Greek, Latin and the classics. In the afternoons, I taught English and Math. I worked my way through college by teaching at the same time. My parents never had to put out five cents for my education. All the other teachers were nobility, born in France (Counts and no-accounts, he called them); except three. The school was all French, but algebra and geometry were taught in English, so the pupils would be bilingual."

Simon went on, "I got my arts course and stayed there and taught until the college was destroyed by fire on New Year's Eve 1915. The Caraquet High School stands on the old college grounds now. In September 1916, we opened up the Bathurst College, and burned out again in March 1917. It was totally destroyed, and we never reopened until 1921.

"In the meantime I taught school in Millbank and Nordin. Then I worked in a mill as checkerman for the big wage of $4.50 a day. I was offered $25 a month to go back and teach at college, plus room and board, which wasn't much, but I loved the culture there and the things money can't buy.

                                       Teachers Are Born

"Teachers are born, not made. Although my mother had not much education, she was a born teacher. She always told me, ‘Growing boys become men, if you hurt them when they're little they remember it.’ I quit teaching in 1926, and came back to Douglastown."

Professor Driscoll is also gifted musically. He made his debut as a tenor in the fall of 1916. Monsignor Hickey first heard him sing there and likened his singing to, 'A little bit of heaven.' There was another priest in the audience who told him, "It is not pride to use the gifts and talents God has given us, it is our duty."

                                       Self Taught

Simon accompanied himself on the piano, which he plays well. He never took a lesson in his life, and lives up to one of his favorite sayings, "He can who thinks he can!" At the age of twelve he taught himself to play the organ, and he played in Church for many years. "Who taught Mozart?" he asked.

At seventy-nine years, his mind is clear and sound. He still loves to play the piano, and plays many of his own compositions. He also recites long poems from memory. He is well read, but doesn't like modern literature. Enjoys The Classics. "I don't read pornography. I wouldn't debase myself to the standards they have fallen to now. I like to read the classics."

Simon speaks French and a little Gaelic. He has spent his whole life in New Brunswick on the Miramichi. I asked him if he had never wanted to travel. "I had aspirations, but they were squelched."

"Why do you feed the birds?" I asked. "Noah fed them in the ark. They were in the temple when Jesus was presented there. They're Biblical birds. We are self-sufficient and don't think of the Providence of God.”

So twice a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, he walks down town. “I was always a great walker. It's the cheapest exercise for old people, besides, riding in cars makes your brain musty."

'Come feed the little birds, show them you care, and you'll be glad if you do; their young ones are hungry, their nests are so bare; all it takes is tuppence from you.'


Source: North Shore Leader – November 28, 1973

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