Until I was fifteen years old I lived in the village of Morell, Prince Edward Island, population about 350. My Morell days were memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was that Morell had to have more nicknames per capita than any other place in the world. Following are some of the ones that stuck.
Brian “Onion” McGuire acquired his nickname one winter’s day when his father observed the multiple layers of clothing that Brian was shedding after arriving home from school. His brother, Kevin “Scrubby” McGuire, insists I put this moniker on him back in grade school. I don’t remember doing so, but he’s still called “Scrubby” by many people. Another brother, Gary “Muffler” McGuire, acquired his nickname when Dougie “Flash” MacEwen observed at recess one day that Gary was so loud he needed a muffler. Dougie was named “Flash” because of his running and skating speed.
In the Geldart family, Haldane, an albino, was “Snowball.” His brother Clare was “Airedale” because of his wiry, tightly-curled hair. Another brother, Keith, was called “Casey” and a sister, Donalda, was “Delly.” Another sister, Beulah, who didn’t like her given name, was always called “Bob.”
Next door to the Gelderts was a Murphy family. Harold, the grandfather, was “Spike,” Carl, the son, was “Tack,” and Carl’s son became “Rivet.”
Another Murphy family included Emmett, still known as “Hooker,” a name he acquired as a teenager who couldn’t roll a bowling ball straight to save his soul. His brother Maurice was “Pip,” and another brother, Ernie, was “Jasper.”
“Boogie Bob” Stewart loved music. His brother Arthur was “Wimple,” for a reason which I never learned.
Cecil McCarthy was “Wagon Wheels” because he used to come courting his future wife, Rita MacAdam, in a horse and wagon.
Arthur and Joseph Eldershaw were, respectively, “Spic” and “Span,” named after a popular detergent of the day. Their sister Diane was, for some unknown reason, “Cram.” A similar nickname, “Crumb,” was pinned on Marion Kelly. Keith Eldershaw was “Beaver;” and yes, his early front teeth had something to do with it.
Genevieve Rossiter is still known as “Toddy,” although her last name is now Ryan. There were a few other Rossiter family monikers: Alfred was “Paddy,” Leo was “Beecher” and their father, Ernest, was “Nooden-nooden-neddy,” a nonsense phrase that he quietly sang while tending to his duties in his grocery store.
There were four people named Joe MacInnis in Morell when I was a kid, so nicknames were essential. My father was a section foreman on the railroad so he was “Joe Section.” My brother, Joey, was “Joey-Joe-Section.” My cousin Joe MacInnis was the son of the railway stationmaster, Jack MacInnis, so he was, of course, “Joe Station.” The fourth Joe MacInnis, who wasn’t related to us, was distinguished as “Joe Ford” because he could exactly duplicate the sound of a Ford Model A’s engine.
Merlin Villard was “Rory” because of his propensity to greet people by roaring their names at the top of his voice. Francis “Tumult” Barry acquired his nickname one day in grade school when he had trouble coming up with the meaning of the word.
Milton “Butch” MacDonald had a resemblance to the kid actor Butch Jenkins. Joseph MacDonald, no relation to Butch, was named “Bomber” because he was a huge fan of boxer Joe Louis, who was known as the Brown Bomber. Bomber’s brother Walter was “Ching,” and I have no idea why.
Owen Connolly was “The Eyes,” not because of any physical attribute but because he thought the singer Burl Ives’ name was Burly Eyes. His brother Gerald was, for some reason, “Jit.”
Lawson Baker was “Red” for the obvious reason: flaming red hair. His brother Sterling was “Squirrel” because, as a kid, he loved to climb and sit in trees. Another brother, David, is “Jonesy.”
Eric Aylward became “Urk,” not just because it could be a variation on his given name, but because one evening, as Eric walked into the Village Diner in Morell, the aforementioned Dougie “Flash” MacEwen exclaimed, “Eek, it’s Urk!” The name stuck from that day on.
David Cox was “Dates” and his brother Donald was “Dudley.” I don’t know why.
A tall, very slim teenage girl was “Dipstick.” Another young lady, who liked to use a lot of perfume, was “Florient.” Still another, an inveterate gossip, was “Gazette.” Their real names have been withheld for obvious reasons. Two young McGrath girls were “Spook” and “Squeak.” Happily, they outgrew those names.
Walter MacAdam, as the youngest boy in his family, was “Babe” throughout his entire life. His brother Bertram was “Buddy.” Another brother, Carl, who ran the local diner, was “Mike.” Still another brother, Francis, had two nicknames: “Web” and “Bimmie,” both of which were widely used.
But my long-time friend Donald MacDonald holds the record for nicknames given to one person. At various times he’s been “Neckie,” “Oil Drum,” “Scotchman,” “Boo” (which I still call him), “Gumper,” and “Domie.”
Fred Blaxland was “Maynard,” his brother Seymour was “Sark” and his cousin Garth was “Laloo.” I don’t know the origin of the first two, but “Laloo” was the name of a boxing kangaroo that performed one year at Old Home Week in Charlottetown.
P.J. Sinnott was “Gabby” and Ray MacDonald was “Sheepie;” the former because he never shut up and the latter because he used to accompany his mother as she collected used wool to be recycled as blankets.
Alden MacKenzie, another carrot top, was, of course, “Red.” His brother Robert was “Kawliga,” after the wooden Indian in Hank Williams’ hit song; which reminds me that Francis MacInnis was dubbed “Hank” and his brother Emmett “Seamite.” Gerard MacInnis was always “Toots.”
Eddie Hawbolt was “Hackie,” after a radio show character called “Eddie the Hack” His brother Bert’s favourite exclamation was “yikes,” so he became “Yiker.”
Preston Coffin was “Peppy,” and Walter Coffin, no relation, was “Fingers.”
Arly Keefe was “Noodle” and his brother Cliff was “Smoosher.” Kenny Dunn is still “Trixie” to his contemporaries.
She’s not from Morell (she’s from the nearby community of Peakes), but my wife’s cousin, Mary MacDonald, deserves special mention. “Mary MacDonald” is probably the most common name on PEI, so much so that the many Marys have their father’s and grandfather’s names tacked on to distinguish them from the others. Anne’s cousin goes one better. Her nickname is “Mary-Earl-Ronnie-Dan.”
Another person, although not from Morell, who deserves special mention is Kilmer Palmer. Kilmer is from St. Peter’s Bay (six miles east of Morell) but started his fine banking career in Morell, married a Morell girl, Mary MacAdam, and has a summer home at Lakeside, near Morell. Why does he deserve mention? Well, his name isn’t Kilmer. His real name is Louis. “Kilmer” is a nickname pinned on him as an infant and by which most people know him.
What about me? Oh yes, I had one, and it was given to me by “Beaver” Eldershaw. It was “Wart,” after a comic strip character called the Worry Wart. I was still worried about German bombers a good two years after the war ended. I’m happy to say that when I reached my teen years my friends took pity on me and shortened it to “W,” which I’m still occasionally called.
I mentioned that Morell nicknames tend to stick. Another good friend, Lou “Chubb” Barry, acquired his nickname many decades ago when he was overweight. He shed his excess weight years ago and has kept it off, but he can’t seem to shed the nickname. While having lunch with me and some other old acquaintances last summer he asked, “What do I have to lose to get rid of the name Chubb?” “Your friends,” I told him.