O Canada DaySurveying the LandMrs By and Col ByBytown Flotilla 3Ghosts

Bye Bye Bytown – A Musical Ghost Story

A Musical by Timothy Piper & Laura Ewing Piper

On New Year’s Day 1855, a town at the convergence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau rivers changed its name from Bytown to Ottawa in a bid to distance itself from its infamous past and convince the Queen of England to name it the capital city of Canada.

Bye Bye Bytown is the story of Lt. Col. John By, the canal men who built his Rideau Canal and the men and women of Bytown who rallied together to prove that they could be more than just a rough-and-tumble frontier town; they could be the capital of a nation.


Bye Bye Bytown was premiered in 2005 at the Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa.  It enjoyed a six-show run.  In 2007, the show was performed again at the Ottawa Little Theatre for a six-show run.  Both shows were directed by the show’s librettist Laura Piper and Joshua McMillan, a local theatre professional.  Musical direction on both shows was taken on by the show’s composer, Timothy Piper.Laura Piper w Rory Piper

Both productions featured local Ottawa actors and musicians, and were very much a creation of love by all involved.



 Librettist Laura Piper and 4-month old Rory in rehearsal


Act 1
O Canada Day – (Play Song > O Canada Day)

Canada Day in Ottawa is a spectacular and truly special event.  Our story begins in the bustle of the Byward Market.

“O Canada Day, goin’ downtown.  Meet the boys outside the Mercury lounge.  Eat gelato while the sun is high.  Celebrate the first day of July.”

Bytown Museum

The kids take a tour of the museum and while fooling around, they disturb the ghost of Col. John By – the original superintendent of the Rideau Canal.

 Summer in the City – (Play Song > Summer in the City)

A tour of Ottawa in all its glory.

“Summer in the city here, is the best time of the year.  Girls in tank tops loitering, low rise pants and belly rings…”

Ghosts – (Play Song > Ghosts)

Angered by the kids’ lack of respect and understanding of their heritage, Col. By sweeps us into the past to meet the ghosts of Bytown.

“It’s time you learned a little respect for the men who built this with their blood and sweat.  I’ll tell you of lives lived and lives lost in this town.  But beware! For lives lost, are not always found!”

Surveying the Land – (Play Song > Surveying the Land)

Based on John Mactaggart’s account of the survey of 1826, when he and his crew took the level of the land to determine where the canal’s path would run.  It was so cold that the men spooned by the camp fire to keep warm.  When the men on the ends got cold they would yell “spoon” and everyone would change direction.

“We’re living large on toasted pork and a tot or two of grog…While we try to warm our aching bones by the blazing cedar logs…The kettle boils valiantly  – one tin mug, eleven men…So we pass the tea, and pass the tea, and pass the tea again…”

The Party – (Play Song > The Party Song)

Col. By throws a party in Lord Dalhousie’s honour.  Lord Dalhousie speaks of his and By’s dreams for Bytown.

Malaria Aria – (Play Song > The Malaria Aria Part One) and (Play Song > Malaria Aria Part Two)

*please note – Malaria Aria was too big a file to load as a complete song…Sorry!!

Gina looks for D’Arcy and is confronted with the people of Bytown who have malaria or who have been injured working on the canal.

“D’Arcy, I had the strangest dream…I felt like Alice in Wonderland, standing at Elgin and Queen…”

McGinty’s Pub – (Play Song > McGinty’s Pub)

Mother McGinty had a pub in Corkstown where the men could go at the end of a day working on the canal. She couldn’t read or write, so she kept a tally of what people owed by carving hieroglyphics on the wall.

“Ho! Boys, it’s a jolly day when yer work is done and you’ve got your pay…a quart of beer for the boys all ‘round and half-pints o’ whiskey to chase her down…”

Act 2
The Politics of Politics – (Play Song > The Politics of Politics)

The lords in England debate the charges that are being brought against Col. By by Henry Burgess – a Bytowner who Col. By had dismissed for violent and drunken behaviour.

“We’re politically politicking politicians’ politics.  We publish public policy to publicize its polity.  We propagate polemic pointillistic points of view.  We pontificate on problems then propel them onto you.”

We’ve Finished Then – (Play Song > We’ve Finished Then)

Col. By reacts to the initial hearing in the British Parliament with disgust.

“What a bloody waste of time. The days and months that have been spent to let a drunkard call the shots for the mighty English parliament.”

The Rideau Canal – (Play Song >The Rideau Canal)

Col. By opens the canal.  The canal was primarily a military project. England had feared that if there was a war, the Americans would take the St. Lawrence, effectively cutting off the colony’s only supply route.  Col. By’s assignment was to create a secondary supply route from Kingston to Montreal – the Rideau Canal.

“And this great work shall stand a testament to all that I have served my land and king, I’ve heard my country’s call.”

The Politics of Politics Reprise

The English Parliament decides to recall Col. By even though he has already been proven innocent, in order to appease complaints about the amount of money being spent on the colony.

Bye, Bye Bytown – (Play Song > Bye Bye Bytown)

Col. By hands over command and returns to England to answer charges of overspending.

“And after all if I recall, they told me “Go ahead. spend what you will with reason, still, be sure to finish it.”  So I’m off to face the fire mates, but I’m sure it won’t be bad.  And when sweet England’s knighted me, I’ll be a happy man.”

Gina and Darcy’s Love Duet – (Play Song > Love Duet)

If I have to be here in this mystery place with nothing I know and so far from my home with people and noises that don’t make no sense and the feeling of horrible scary suspense and the thought that perhaps I might never get back to the ones that I love…

Puppets – (Play Song > Puppets)

By gets ready to show the kids why he feels disillusioned.

“I did all my best work in Bytown, gave men jobs, and built them a nice town, sailed back home and found myself betrayed!”  …  “New industry emerging, all the fates converging, the logging trade was born, but the Irish they were scorned”

The Irish came to Canada – (Play Song > The Irish Came to Canada)

“The Irish came to Canada to find a better life, I gave them jobs and they found hope with axe and dynamite.”

The Streets of Bytown – (Play Song > The Streets of Bytown)

We see a glimpse of what Bytown became after By left…Peter Aylen was king of the Shiners…a gang of Irish men who were being locked out of the logging trade so they turned to crime and contributed to the town’s terrible reputation as a dirty and dangerous place.

“Drunks run amock in every street, potato whisky sauced, witches of yore no hell broth poured that saw more mayhem wrought…”

They Pitched me Out – (Play Song > They Pitched me Out)

“And in the end, the final smear, even my name they would not hear.  They pitched me out, and set about to change the name for good.  And thus was Bytown laid to rest, and all was done for naught.”

That’s Why You’re Sad – (Play Song > That’s why you’re sad?)

“So they changed the name, that’s what progress means.”

Finale Reprise – (Play Song > Finale) and (Play Song > Finale Part Two)

*please note – Finale Reprise was too big a file to load as a complete song…Sorry!!

“We lived your story, heard your tale, we traveled through the years, we met the men who built this town with their blood, sweat, lives, and tears…But in the end they lifted her, those men of long ago…This frontier town once so maligned became the Capital…Bytown goes on, it’s still our song, we think that you should know…It always will be so.”

Peace Tower