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Hearken back to Farking Blarkirgle
Tongue-in-cheek campaign turns 40 next year
By Hunter Cresswell
Farking Blarkirgle is more than just a mouthful to say and difficult name to read, but to longtime Gatineau Hills residents and Low Down junkies it is a magical place and a reminder of a more mirthful time long past.
Farking Blarkirgle was the sort of saga one would expect to read in The Onion or Beaverton, but back in the early '80s when locals didn't take themselves so seriously, it ran in the pages of the very paper you, dear reader, hold in your hands.
In the early 1980s, a referendum to rename West Hull - now Chelsea - began. The options were Municipalité du Canton de Hull - Partie Ouest, the Algonquin name for the Gatineau River Tenakatin, or Castenchel - a name combining CAScades, TENaga and CHELsea. The remnants of that last name option live on today through the Castenchel Choir.
Well, some West Hull residents living outside of Cascades, Tenaga and Chelsea feigned outrage and took that mock anger to the precursor to social media: the local newspaper's letters pages.
"Castenchel is alright, but those of us from Farking Blarkirgle feel slighted. FARm point-KINGsmere-Burnett-LARrimac-KIRks ferry-GLEneagle," wrote Burnett resident Alan Hopkins.
This letter lit the fuse for a chain of events likely not anticipated by the author and architect who helped design the Wakefield General Store, Café Pot-Au-Feu and Cascades Squash Club. It inspired a chain of letters and classified ads poking fun at the renaming referendum, it saw "Farking Blarkirgle Libre" bumper stickers appear on the back windows of cars throughout the Gatineau Hills, it got Hopkins nominated for Presmay - PRESident and MAYor - of Farking Blarkirgle and it saw "Ste. Farking Blarkirgle" signs nailed to trees along Hwy 105.
For context, Hopkins was the mad lad who designed his octagonal Burnett home - dubbed Chrisalis after his son and daughter Chris and Lisa - and turned an old logging barge into the Gatineau River mainstay: the Chrisalis II paddlewheeler; the double-decker party on water was scrapped in late-2018, may it rest in peace. He was no ordinary, straight-laced Chelseaite; he was a Farking Blarkirgler.
Hopkins compiled the complete saga of Farking Blarkirgle into a book that turns 40 next year, "A brief and incomplete history of Farking Blarkirgle (part one)."
He died Nov. 2, 2009 at the age of 70, and in his obituary, Low Down founder and former publisher Art Mantell called Hopkins a "pillar of the community."
"Oh god. I never knew how he came up with any of his ideas," Alan's widow Melanie said during a Oct. 30 phone interview.
Alan lovingly dedicated the Farking Blarkirgle book to her, "... to my wife Melanie who wishes to remain anonymous."
The Ladies Auxiliary of the Terrorist Wing of the Front pour la Libération de Farking Blarkirgle formed and advertised a tea and rummage sale in The Low Down. The Front later wrote in saying that it raised $1.63 at its inaugural pickle and preserve sale.
"I'll take full responsibility for that," Chelsea resident Richard Hofer said during an Oct. 30 phone interview.
Hofer didn't remember writing those letters as the leader of the Front until this reporter read the full name of it to him. After that, it was hard to get solid quotes from the usually lucid and eloquent man through his bursts of laughter.
The campaign even caught the attention of Ottawa Valley music legend Wayne Rostad, who wrote a song about it and played it for the first time to a crowd in Wakefield at the Chateau Pearson on April 18, 1981. An excerpt of the song is included in Alan's book, and similar to Hofer's reaction, when this reporter read it to him over the phone on Nov. 2, Rostad unleashed an explosive belly laugh.
"Alan was the father of Farking Blarkirgle, I was a disciple and I spread the gospel," he said.
Rostad said all that's left of Farking Blarkirgle now is the memory of the fun had.
"If the memory is of a time of mirth and saying, 'Stop taking yourself so damn seriously,' It was worth it," he said.
All this fun was being had amongst the doomy and gloomy news of the first Quebec separation referendum, the attempt to Frenchify the name of West Hull, which was historically English, Hwy 5's planning and the Meech Creek Valley expropriation fallout. If only we had a Farking Blarkirgle to add some much needed levity to the news today.
Vive Farking Blarkirgle Libre!