Kelly, Allan

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                                       ALLAN KELLY
                                    By Susan Butler


Having worked in the field of gerontology for so many years, I have had the opportunity and privilege of meeting many seniors of all ages. There were a few times that we had some residents over the age of 100, but their faculties limited.

This past summer Allan Kelly took the stage just shy of 102. His flawless performance earned him a standing ovation here nights in a row. The first two nights he came on stage in a wheelchair but the final evening he walked on with little assistance.

On September 23, 1903, Allan Joseph Kelly was born in Pointe Sapin, the oldest of ten siblings. His youngest brother lives in Richibucto, but the rest of his brothers and sisters are now deceased.

When I decided to write this column about Allan, I called his daughter to see if I could come and visit. She was very pleased at my request and invited me for dinner. I came early so I could have a private visit with Allan. He is still able to get around with a cane and some help from a wonderful young man who serves as his caregiver. Allan was injured during a fishing expedition when he was very young that left him with only the heel of his right foot. But he never let it interfere with his working or providing for his family and for many years has worn a specially made boot that enable shim to get around. He raised 11 children and two grandchildren and has over 58 grandchildren, 39 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren.

Allan worked in the woods and on the seas. I told him the moose season started Sept. 22 and he remarked how he loved to go moose hunting. He told me with a twinkle in his eye the great joy of calling the moose and hearing them answer back. Many a time he and his friends had to climb a tree, especially when there was more than one moose.

“We never had much, but we also had food on the table,” he added. “Moose would supply meat for the winter and fishing would look after the rest of the year.”

I asked him if he felt his age and his reply was, “Heck no. I feel like I did years ago. I have no aches or pains. I get lots to eat.” But, he added he does miss his wife, who has been dead for several years. I remember the two of them attending mass at St. Mary’s for years. They were both devoted to their church.

I was curious to know what his response would be when I asked him for the secret of his longevity. “They don’t want me up there yet,” he said with a smile on his face, raising his eyes heavenward.

Allan’s music goes back to when he was very young and the neighbors used to get together for kitchen parties. Allan loved to sing and play the harmonica. He said he rarely smoked and had only the occasional drink. I told him that was why he had such breath control, especially when he played the harmonica.

Allan has a repertory of over 500 songs and has been sought after by many folklorist across this country and down into the states.

Ronald Le Belle, a folklorist from the University of Moncton, has written much on Allan, as has Marge Steiner from Bloomington, Indiana. Recently Tess LeBlanc in Moncton, who is working on a degree in folklore, wrote a paper about Allan Kelly’s repertory of folk songs.

One of Allan’s highlights in music was when he was asked to sing in Newfoundland at a folk festival back in the ‘60s. He said if he remembered correctly, he went over by boat and came back by plane.

He loved the Miramichi Folksong Festival, especially when the ladies laughed if he sang a jolly song and cried when he sang a sad one.

In the course of our conversation, Allan sang a few songs – some in French and some in English – and he never missed a word.

I felt I was in the presence of a very special individual who has made the Miramichi very proud.


Source: Miramichi Leader – September 27, 2005

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