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Craig Hughes

Legal Advisor to the newly created Department of Communications

in the late 60s/early 70s

His daughter Deryn became a radio operator with DOT in the Arctic



Passed Away in 2012 - Scroll Down for Obituary  

Décès en 2012 - Avis de décès au bas de la page  



In the heady early days of DOC with Eric Kierans as Minister and Allan Gotlieb as DM, our legal advisor was Craig Hughes. He passed away on November 11 at age 95. He had a great interest in the North and was of great assistance to us in the early 70s when we were working on what was to become the Northern Communications policy. His daughter, Deryn, became a radio operator with DOT and served in the Arctic.

John Gilbert

2 December 2012







Obituary  -  Avis de décès

Craig Hughes

1917 - 2012


Published in The Ottawa Citizen on November 17, 2012

Craig Parry Hughes died peacefully at the Ottawa General Hospital on Remembrance Day, 2012. He was in his 96th year. He is survived by his daughter Deryn Elizabeth, his son Owen Craig Bragdon, and four grandchildren, Christopher Luke Erlam, James Matthew Erlam, Bryn Elise Morin and Sarah Cameron Hughes. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to support the Palliative Care team at Ottawa General or to a charity chosen by the donor. Friends and family will gather at a date not yet set, to celebrate his life.

Craig outlived his daughter Sara (1984) and beloved wife Nancy (Bragdon) who died in 1986. Until 2007, he remained in the family home at 1011 Pinewood Crescent, Ottawa, then moving to Stonehaven Manor in Kanata in time to celebrate his 90th birthday with family and friends, particularly fellow members of the Ottawa Welsh Society and the Twin Elm Rugby Park. He was a founding member of Twin Elm, and imbibed the inaugural pint in its bar.

Craig was born on June 24, 1917 to Maud Lamb and Owen Parry Hughes. He had two sisters, Gwen Parry Thomas and Dilys Parry Anderson, both of whom predeceased him. He grew up in the small Welsh market town of Dolgellau, which sits below the mountain of Cader Idris ("Chair of Idris," a giant and astronomer of Welsh mythology, whose rocky seat on the mountain's peak was said to bring death, madness or poetic inspiration to anyone who spent the night on it). It was his wish that his ashes be scattered on Cader so he could eternally survey the home of his childhood and heart.

Craig was a lawyer and his legal studies began in Wales at Aberystwyth but were interrupted by World War II when he joined the Royal Navy, seeing action in the Mediterranean theatre on HMS Griffin and other destroyers. In the Navy his right arm was permanently disabled but he learned to use his left hand to write (beautifully) and continue his wartime correspondence with Nan, whom he had met at King's Cross before the war. They married at St. Mary's Church in Dolgellau in 1946 and settled in Blackpool, UK but in 1949 emigrated to North America on the Queen Mary with their newborn daughter Deryn.

They settled in Toronto with Owen (born 1951) where Craig became senior legal counsel to Odeon Theatres Canada and their third child Sara was born in 1955. In 1962, Craig entered the Federal government, with his first position being that of Senior Legal Advisor to Commissioner Gordon Cameron and Registrar of Land Titles for the government of the Yukon Territory. From 1962 until 1967, Nan and Craig and their children truly celebrated and enjoyed life in Whitehorse, YT. Craig was instrumental in organizing the Territory's participation in the First Canadian Winter Games in 1967. For the Canadian Centennial in 1967, he helped to conceive and bring about the first ascent and naming of thirteen peaks in the St. Elias Range, one for each province and territory and one for the Centennial itself.

In 1967, the family migrated again, to Ottawa where Craig worked for the Department of Justice, serving such clients as the Canadian Mint, the Department of Communications, the Department of Supply and Services, and the Department of Agriculture. His good counsel and clear writing are lasting examples of integrity, professionalism and his love of language.

That love of language extended from etymology - his children often found themselves at dinnertime sent to fetch the Oxford English Dictionary to check a meaning or trace a root- to foreign languages, history, poetry and wordplay of all kinds. He could not be left alone in a bookstore, particularly near the bargain bins, and could often be found with a Teach-Yourself book on Swahili, Finnish, Persian or Urdu. As for Welsh, he was a master teacher and took an active role with the Ottawa Welsh Society.

Throughout his life he loved athletic endeavour and the outdoors, playing rugby and golf (the latter, even after his right arm was injured), running, swimming and snowshoeing, hunting and fishing. While in the Yukon he became sufficiently enthused about dog mushing to build a sled and recruit the family dog to pull it, with mixed results.

More than any other quality, it was Craig's enthusiasm for the world that marked his life. He spent many years of it without the use of his right arm; but he seized life with both hands, always. He will be greatly missed.



Obituary: Craig Parry Hughes, 1917-2012

A man of his words: Poetic inspiration and enthusiasm for the world filled his years

By Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen, December 1, 2012

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

At his 95th birthday in June 2012. Craig Hughes is flanked by his son Owen and Owen’s wife Nancy. Craig passed away on November 11, 2012.

Photo by Handout photo. Courtesy Owen Hughes

In the photo that accompanied his death notice in the paper, Craig Hughes hoists a mug of beer, an indication of his penchant for celebratory toasts.


And there were, over the years, many occasions to celebrate: a wedding, for one, and the births of three children, as well as a few career moves and new homes.


As one of the founder members of the Twin Elm Rugby Park in Nepean, his was the inaugural pint lifted at its bar. And sometimes of late, just the completion of an afternoon’s drive in the country with his daughter Deryn was cause enough to close out the day with a quick pint of Beau’s over dinner at the Ashton Pub, The Swan at Carp or The Cheshire Cat, his three favourite haunts.


And when a serious fall a handful of years ago brought about the discussion of moving out of his west-end home and into somewhere where he could receive closer care, he politely declined offers from his son Owen and Deryn to move in with them in Connecticut or North Carolina, respectively, citing among his reasons his disdain for American beer and that country’s apparently equal disdain for televised rugby.


Besides, Ottawa was his home, or had been, at least, since 1967, when he and Nan and two of their three children, Owen and Sara, moved here from Whitehorse, where for five years Craig served as senior legal adviser to Commissioner Gordon Cameron and registrar of land titles for the Yukon Territory. The eldest of their children, Deryn, just out of high school then and wholly taken by the northern frontier, chose to remain behind.


In the Yukon, Craig helped organize the Territory’s participation in the first Canadian Winter Games in 1967 and, for Canada’s Centennial celebrations that year, was also part of the effort to bring about the first ascent and naming of 13 peaks in the St. Elias mountain range; one for each of the 12 provinces and territories, and one for the centennial itself.


In Ottawa, he worked for the Department of Justice, serving various federal departments and Crown corporations.

Craig Parry Hughes was born in 1917 in Dolgellau, a northern Welsh market town of just over 2,000 inhabitants, below the mountain Cader Idris, or Chair of Idris, named for the mythological warrior giant and astronomer whose rock-hewn chair at the peak is said to bring death, madness or poetic inspiration to those who spend a night there.


It’s not known if Craig ever overnighted on that craggy summit, but he most surely would have at some point scaled the 900-metre hill. And he certainly suffered from poetic inspiration, as throughout his 95 years he filled journals and a hard drive, the latter sadly lost at some point to the caprice of technology, with poems, limericks, reminiscences, short stories, diary entries and the like.


“Anything involving words was fair game for him,” says Owen, who recalls as a child being sent numerous times from the family supper table to go look up definitions and etymologies in the Oxford English Dictionary.


Additionally, Craig was hard-pressed to pass untouched the bargain section of a bookstore, often returning home with how-to guides on such languages as Urdu, Persian, Farsi, Swahili or Finnish, the pages of which would soon be crowded with his annotations, underscores and exclamation marks. Later, he might amuse friends with foreign phrases and proverbs. “Oongt kis karwat baithta hai,” he would advise in Urdu. “Let us see which way the camel sits.”


On car drives, he and Nan, whom Deryn describes as “the quiet catalyst for, and partner in, my father’s more noticeable antics and adventures” (and who taught herself Russian, and, for fun, took courses in welding and taxidermy, the latter after Craig accidentally hit a mink while driving), would often playfully test each other’s verbal facility in Italian. And when the family moved in 1962 from Toronto’s Willowdale neighbourhood to Whitehorse, Craig brought along for the drive volumes of Robert Service poems, and paid the kids a quarter for each stanza they could memorize during the trip. And over their time in the Yukon, meanwhile, he insisted his children learn Latin, which had to be done through correspondence courses.


“He was a tough taskmaster,” Deryn recalls, “and we didn’t always appreciate it back then, but have more and more as the years have gone by.”


A member of the Ottawa Welsh Society, he loved music, too, and easily switched churches — and religious affiliations — depending on where others with Welsh roots were singing and worshipping.


Craig and Nan — Nancy Wayne Bragdon — met in London shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. She, from Larchmont, N.Y., and having just graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, had gone with a friend to the U.K. for a tour via bicycle. He, after attending Aberystwyth University in preparation for a career in law, was in London, working for the summer at a hostel near King’s Cross.


She was soon smitten by the handsome Welshman, and he by the free-spirited American, and after she returned to the U.S. and he joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Mediterranean aboard HMS Griffin (later, coincidentally, transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and rechristened HMCS Ottawa), the pair corresponded regularly. He went through officer training and, in a rugby match traditionally played by graduates, injured his right arm so severely — his entire brachial plexus of nerve fibres was destroyed — that he permanently lost the use of it and was forced to learn to live with only his left.


“He never let the injury stop him from anything he wanted to do,” remembers Deryn. “He did a lot of woodworking. He was an artist — he did sketches and watercolours, and tried his hand at calligraphy, too.”


He also hunted and fished, cross-country skied and snowshoed, and surprised the kids in the middle of the night with impromptu fire drills, during which they were expected to, from a dead sleep, wrap themselves in their blankets and roll down the stairs and out the door.


“I think I still have bruises from those days,” jokes Deryn, noting that a 3 a.m. wakeup call didn’t always point to a test of emergency preparedness; occasionally it marked the start of a camping trip, sometimes on the coldest and wettest winter nights.


“I would call my father an adventurous, erudite curmudgeon of the most interesting kind.”


Craig spent a year in the hospital as a result of his injury, and he and Nan, who had been working as personal assistant to author and playwright Lillian Hellman, married in Dolgellau in 1946, and settled in Blackpool, and then Wakefield, where Deryn was born in 1949. But Nan, the story goes, grew weary of the soot and tinned milk, and so the family booked passage on the Queen Mary a year later and emigrated to New York, where Owen was born.


Craig’s British legal training, however, didn’t transfer well to the U.S. system, and so they moved again, this time to Toronto, where he became senior counsel for Odeon Theatres, and where, in 1955, Sara was born.


(Deryn recalls that although her father could get his kids into any movies for free, they were rarely allowed to go, and only ever saw Disney movies with friends at birthday parties. And although he rarely spoke of his war experiences, the films he typically took them to were war ones such as The Guns of Navarone and The Bridge on the River Kwai.)


Craig fought vociferously for things he believed in. When Sara, while working in Gravenhurst in 1984 in the art department on the Nicolas Cage/Christopher Plummer/Cynthia Dale film The Boy in Blue, was struck and killed by a drunken boater, it was Craig’s efforts that brought about changes to the laws regarding watercraft operation.


“That’s the sort of feist he had,” says Deryn. “There was a lot to him, and I feel rather lucky to have been his child.


“He gave us the sense that we could do anything we want — or anything good that we wanted, and that we could somehow take care of ourselves.”


It was, Owen notes, his father’s enthusiasm for the world that marked his 95 years on it. “He spent many years of it without the use of his right arm, but he seized life with both hands, always.”


My father once told me about his grandfather on his mother’s side ... his Taid was pre-religious methodist revival ... smoked ... liked a pipe ... farming background ... came home and told my Nain to fetch his Sunday clay pipe and a tankard of beer ... emptied the beer ... finished his smoke ... said G’bye ... and died in the corner by the hearth. Somewhere in an Anglesey village graveyard there is a coffin with a tankard and a clay pipe.

Would my father lie to me? ... or I to you?

— Craig Parry Hughes, 2005.


The limbs are bare

just for today.

Soon ... lush finery

Will be repaired

From earthen closets everywhere.


And jewels of sun

Will grace the wrists

Of spring.



And let the dance begin.


— Deryn Hughes Blackmon. 2008.


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