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This poem was written by David Boyd who recently moved to Jones Falls. Since living there he has taken a special interest in Peter Sweeney, much inspired by his diary and the 'folklore' generated by the interprative staff at the defensible lockmaster's house.

Sweeney served "loyally" from 1832 until his retirement in 1871. Over the years he kept a personal diary, reflecting on the weather, the harvest, daily operations of the Canal, and the difficulties he and his wife, Catherine, faced with drinking. Sweeney would write a simple coded note in his journal, C.D.H.A.Q., it meant, Catherine Drunk Had A Quarrel. It is known that members of the local militia were garrisoned at Jones Falls Lock during the Upper Canad Rebellion. The verse fits into 'some' of the known facts.

David wrote this poem on October 4, 2000, based on notes from Sweeney's diary and the folklore that is preserved and related at the stone Lockmaster’s House above Jones Falls, by Parks Canada staff.


MacKenzie called rebellion, o’er Canada’s garden gate!
"Throw off Colonial masters, to arms, it’s getting late."
Across this gentle country the people lived in fear,
As rebels fought with soldiers, and cannons thundered near.

Along the swampy Rideau, away from Kingston’s Fort,
Militia posts were garrisoned and troopers had their sport.
In shanty sheds, troops made their beds surrounding Jones Falls Locks,
And there they slept on hard, cold planks, as cold as granite rocks.

Peter Sweeney, the Lockmaster, was known to like his drink
It might have blurred his vision, but still we have to think,
That Sweeney kept his papers and a diary on the shelf,
Where he wrote about his neighbours, his family and himself.

As days slipped by the ink would dry and leave a spidery trail,
Of boats that pass, the weather-glass and cargo under sail.
And long runs into Brockville, in his cutter through the snow,
For when Sweeney’s out of whiskey then it’s buying he must go.

Arriving home at mid-night, Old Sweeney he was tight.
His missus she was waiting, and ready for a fight.
The master he was staggering’, unsteady on his feet,
Through the door he wobbled, a frying’ pan to meet.

The pots and pans were flying, they made an awful crash.
The crockery was next m’dear, to shatter and to smash,
For Catherine she’d hid a jar, and she was drunk as him.
Between them both they cleared the shelves while risking life and limb.

The militia, at the ready near the commissary shack,
Rose up with swords and rifles to press the rebels back.
O'er snow-drifts high they scampered, following the din,
The lockmaster’s house surrounded, they kicked the oak door in.

Sweeney and his missus were fightin' on the floor,
The sergeant and a corporal were standing by the door,
A hogshead full of whiskey was tilted near the wall,
Before the bump the troopers jumped to halt a spilling fall.

"By thunder!" roared the sergeant, "My boys are mighty brave!"
"Charging the battling Sweeney’s, the whiskey for to save!"
"I’d sooner face the rebels, MacKenzie and his knife,"
"Then face Battling Paddy Sweeney, and Catherine, his wife!"

The sun rose cold on Jones Falls Locks, the Sweeney’s they were ill.
Catherine glared at Peter, and Peter had his fill.
In cryptic hand, he scratched his notes, so pious and so moral,
"Catherine Drunk" two letters said, and then, "Had A Quarrel"


- David Boyd

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson