You could tell 100 stories about Willie Joe, but I am going to tell you one of his favourites. At least I think it was one of his favourites, for he told it to me at least 25 times.
It was the summer of 1971, a hot afternoon in August when Willie Joe decided to visit my mother over on Hillcrest Street. When he knocked on the door and entered who should be there before him but my aunt Kay, John A. from Glenville, Margaret, John Lauchie MacIsaac from Strathlorne, Rankin MacDonald’s mother, Mary Florence MacDonald and his sister Catherine Ryan.
They discussed the weather for a while, then someone suggested that they should all chip in and buy a big bottle of rum. All agreed, so they all chipped in and sent Willie Joe down to the Government Store to buy the big bottle of rum. Willie Joe came back, sat down on the chesterfield in the parlour and was just about to snap the cork off the bottle, when there was a knock at the front door. Someone shouted out that it was Martha’s brother, Father Malcolm, visiting from Antigonish. Willie Joe quickly stashed the bottle down behind the chesterfield. Father Malcolm came in and said hello to everyone and then said, “This is grand, we’ll have a high Mass. Willie Joe and Catherine can do the singing and the rest can say the prayers.” After they had a lovely high Mass, Father Malcolm thanked them for their participation and turning to Willie Joe said, “Okay Willie Joe, produce the quart.”
My mother died in 1991. My brother, Jackie, after the funeral service invited all to come back to Hillcrest Street for a few refreshments. There were actually two parties that day. Inside the house catered by my sister, Isabel, and her cousin, Joan Mac Farlane, there was my uncle, Fr. Malcolm, and his good friend from Antigonish, James Deagle. There was also the Bishop and a professor from St.F.X. as well as the local parish priest, and to round it out, Alan J. Mac Eachen. Outside in the back yard was my brother Jackie and his wife, Ann, myself and my wife, Sheila, Lauchie and his wife, Sherry and Joe Page. I remember talking to Hughie Beaton and his son Frederick who were down from Halifax. There were a lot more people in the gathering and after a while Carmella MacIsaac joined us, as she had a vested interest in the proceedings inside, as Father Malcolm and the Bishop were sitting in her chairs. It was getting close to 3:00 when someone cried out, “Where is Willie Joe at?” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than we saw Willie Joe walking between Duncan Alex MacIsaac’s place and Alex Joe MacDonald’s. As he came down the driveway, since we were sitting in our backyard, my aunt Kay, John A., and Margaret John Lauchie hollered out together since they were having a few jillicks: “Willie Joe sing us the Virgin Song.”
Do you know where Willie Joe is at now? Well I am going to tell you where Willie Joe is at. Willie Joe is up in Heaven and Clara is by his side. And the angels are all gathered around…And they are listening…they are listening very intently…for Willie Joe is singing, and he is singing Ava Maria.