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1970 The Andrew Huggett Family Ottawa

January - Children still at school, Margaret reading everything related to early music. Leslie is taking seriously the part of manager.

May - Family together and separately perform in the Ottawa Kiwanis Music Festival. Ian wins the grand prize in the recorder category.

May - Family is awarded $10,000 (about 70K in 2022 dollars) Canada Council grant to study early music in the U.K.

September - National Arts Centre Studio, Ottawa.  5 performances.

October - Tour of Saskatchewan. 

November - New York to Rijeka on a Yugoslavian freighter.

December - Venice to London.  

December - Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London..


Playing "Bonnie Sweet Robin" on the tenor recorder at the 1970s Kiwanis Music Festival, Ian overcomes a bungling festival-supplied accompanist who took three runs at the piece's intro. Unfazed by the other's nerves, Ian executed the piece flawlessly and was awarded an exemplary 96, the year's highest overall score in the recorder category, by adjudicator Mario Duschenes.

Ottawa The Andrew Huggett Family Ian Bass Recorder

Ian scores a 96!



A. & L. Huggett


In 1970 the Huggetts took a Yugoslavian freighter to Europe. It carried 60 passengers of diverse ages and backgrounds, and the 45-day sailing allowed plenty of time for all to get acquainted. Leslie, who had a facile gift for words, was inspired to write several observational poems, which Andrew turned into songs he later arranged for the family to play. 

Miami Beach is one such collaboration. On this recording produced by George Martin, the family is joined by drummer Kenny Clare who was also drummer to Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, and Cleo Lane.

Leslie - lead vocal
Margaret - back-up vocals, bass krumhorn
Andrew - guitars
Jennifer - cello
Ian - harmonica
Fiona - percussion
Kenny Clare - drums



The last four months of 1970 saw many long-term changes in the Huggett's lifestyle. Parents Leslie and Margaret quit their day jobs as community music teachers and decided to homeschool their children to free up more time for family music.


Leslie spent much of the year's first eight months in manager mode, and on September 20th, after a week of shows at the NAC in Ottawa, the Huggetts flew to Saskatchewan for a month's tour under the sponsorship of Barbara Cass-Beggs and The Saskatchewan Junior Concert Society. 


On the day the family was to leave for Saskatchewan, the Huggetts were eating lunch on the back picnic table when they received a call from Air Canada saying that their flight would leave two hours earlier than scheduled. A mad dash to the airport ensued. Upon arrival, the Huggetts were informed they'd missed the plane, which was already taxiing for take-off. After a brief discussion with the check-in crew, during which Leslie may have raised his voice, the plane was ordered to return to the terminal, and the Huggetts and their 25 pieces of luggage and instruments were boarded.

When the Huggetts got off the plane in Regina, they were met by Concert organizers. Margaret remembers them looking skeptically at the group, the youngest of whom was eight, dressed in scruffy hippie attire with their instruments wrapped in cardboard and packing tape. The Huggetts wondered if  they were having second thoughts about employing this young family of six for a 49-concert tour. 

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The SJC hosted the Huggetts for lunch the next day at one of Regina's better restaurants. Seeking to put the kids at ease, Barbara assured them that, should they wish, it was perfectly fine to order a hot dog from the 25-cent kid's menu. One can only imagine the bemused thoughts that must have crossed her mind when 11-year-old Ian, in a clear, confident voice, politely responded with, "No, thank you. I'll have lobster, seven bucks!"

However, any preliminary doubts were soon dispelled the next day when the Huggett Family performed two school shows and an evening concert to a delighted and sold-out audience.

This was the Huggett Family's first concert tour, and it became the blueprint for all future tours. The schedule involved reaching a town in time to do one or two afternoon school concerts and an 8:00 PM adult show at the local theatre, town hall, or community center. Then to bed and up the following day, early enough to drive to the next town and do the same.

The Huggetts rented a Winnebago for the tour and overnighted at local campgrounds, the occasional schoolyard, or the occasional organizer's driveway. In 1970 The Partridge Family TV Show was all the rage, and though not a school bus like in the show, the Winnebago always commanded a certain respect from the younger members of the audience. Unfortunately, Winnebago technology was still in its early stages. Several warm days saw food thaw in the malfunctioning icebox, and the Huggetts had to reach for extra blankets when the propane heater failed to keep up with the cool November nights. In Neepawa, the Winnebago's sewage tank froze. 

In Cabri, the entire town and people from surrounding farms turned out for the show. In Prince Albert, Margaret returned from the supermarket with the most delicious steak, not bettered to this day, which she fried up on the Winnebago propane stove. Lost on their way to Prelate during a snowstorm, the Huggetts were rescued by the hitch-hiking and well-lubricated Mr. Peterson, who sat in the door-well of the Winnebago, and with a gift for seamless repetition, brought them up to speed on all things local. In Kamsack, the Huggett Family were treated to a breakfast of potato latkes and sour cream by their Ukrainian hosts.

The people of Saskatchewan warmly and graciously received the Huggetts. One could not have asked for a more positive first of many concert tours.​

The Winnebago. Technology was still in its early stages.

Video Scot Dunlop

The Huggetts assisted by friends, the Dunlops, at Ottawa Airport in 1970.       

A last-minute dash for the train or plane was to become a regular occurrence in the lives of the Huggetts, though this was the only time a plane was turned back for them.

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Top left, clockwise. Ian, Andrew, Fiona & Jennifer Sask. 1970

1970 Ottawa, Saskatchewan, and London concert tour



Following Saskatchewan, the Huggetts flew to New York and took berths on a Yugoslav freighter bound for Europe. In these less litigious times and before insurance costs skyrocketed, it was common for commercial freighters to augment their service by carrying a few passengers. On October 21st, The Huggett Family, with their 25 pieces of baggage and Jens cello (now having survived two flights in its cardboard box), boarded the Jugolinia Line's S.S. Tuhobic in New York. Accommodation and food were generous, and after spending the previous month in a Winnebago, life on the Tuhobic felt quite luxurious! In this time, before container ships, you could spend up to a week, more if workers were on strike, in a single port which allowed time for serious sightseeing. The adult fare was under $400. Children were half-price. The trip took 39 to 45 days, and called at Philadelphia, Norfolk, Savannah, Lisbon, Tangier, Gibraltar, Malaga, Cagliari, Naples (where Ian's violin playing was coached by two Italian dock workers), Messina, Venice, and Rijeka. A bargain even by 1970 prices!

For Leslie, this trip became an unexpected time for personal reflection, prompting a once-in-his-lifetime outpouring of poems, both personal and observational. These, which Andrew turned into the songs, became one of the critical factors leading to a recording contract with George Martin a couple of years later.

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The Yugoslav Tuhobic. Home for 45 days and backdrop for Andrew and Leslie's first son writing efforts.

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Loading logs in Savana, Georgia.

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The cello traveled in a cardboard box.

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Working out a new song, apparently a bit of a sleeper.

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Very good food and service.

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Leslie Huggett, lyricist.

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Ian watches as the tugboats corral a fellow freighter.

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Ashore in Venice.

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Jennifer Huggett. Day one of the voyage.

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Jennifer passing time at sea.

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Naples dock workers do a little music coaching.

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Taller than Dad?

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Definitely taller than Mom!

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Andrew's outfit purchased in Tangiers.

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Jennifer, day 44.  "Are we there yet?"

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En route for Rijeka. Boats were a lot smaller in 1970.

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Ian, Jennifer and Fiona. San Marco Square, Venice.

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More music in the ships lounge.

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More hard work in Savana, Georgia.

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Nice big cabins!

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Fiona. Early December in Venice.

Upon reaching Rijeka, the Huggetts hired a van and driver to take them to Venice, where they caught the Orient Express to London. Border officials at Trieste insisted on inspecting all 25 pieces of luggage and checked inside every instrument looking for contraband. The Huggetts arrived in Venice late, with no time to spare. Nonetheless, naturally frugal, Leslie did not favour using the porters who expected to be tipped. Consequently, the Huggetts had developed a relay system for getting their baggage from one place to another. In this case, Fiona was left to "guard" the bags at the van drop-off while the others, except for Leslie, ran them over the Grand Canal bridge, into and through the station, through the gate, and along the platform. Upon reaching rail-car 34, they handed them up to Leslie, who was hanging out of the train window, ready to pull them inside. As the steam train slowly started shunting forward, young Fiona was only just able to jump on board with the assistance of her mother. This steam train was not of the Agatha Christie, Hollywood variety. Counter to popular belief, the Orient Express is not an actual train but several routes connecting various points in Europe with Istanbul.

At London's Victoria Station, the family was met by Margaret's brother Bill in a canary yellow VW bus purchased by mail from Canada.

Ottawa The Andrew Huggett Family VW Bus

The Huggetts Beatle Bus.

Ottawa The Andrew Huggett Family Jennifer sketch

Jennifer Huggett


Leslie had hired ahead, a London publicity firm to promote the Huggett's Royal Festival Hall concert. When the family arrived in London, interviews had been arranged with many of the major newspapers. On December 17th, the Huggett Family played to a sold-out crowd at the Purcell Room of The Royal Festival Hall located on London's prestigious South Bank.

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The London Evening Standard


December 11, 1970

Guardian Angels of the happy family
Ottawa The Andrew Huggett Family Evening Standard

Photograph: Chris DJOCANOVIC

by  Fiona MacCarthy

NOT MANY golden-headed little girls of 9 can play A baroque instrument. Fiona Huggett can play several. Her sister and two brothers, and mother and father, are taking part in an extraordinary program of Baroque, Renaissance and folk music, and poetry in the Purcell Room at the Festival Hall tomorrow night. The Huggett family players are phenomenal. They come from Canada, where they are very famous. Among other things, they play the spinet, the Baroque oboe, the Renaissance recorder, the Baroque bassoon, the rankett, and the krumhorn. The Oxford Dictionary, sounding baffled, calls the krumhorn "an obsolete wind instrument of curved form." They gave their first family concert in New York four years ago at the suggestion of an eccentric stockbroker with a Greek Amphitheater standing vacant. This is the sort of thing that happens to the Huggetts. The Ensemble was an astonishing success. Leslie and Margaret Huggett, both of whom in fact are English, worked as professional musicians in

London before they emigrated to Canada in 1954, and trained the children on their own. It takes time to play the krumhorn. The children began music lessons at the age of 6. The Huggetts are a very happy, self-sufficient family. They need to be, for often, they get up and go on travels to study and compose. They spent a year in Greece, and for the last five weeks, they have been traveling to England on a Yugoslav Freighter. Very slow and picturesque. Their resourcefulness rivals the Swiss Family Robinson's. As well as making their own music, they are busy composing their own poetry and baking their own bread. Margaret makes the robes and tunics they wear for their concerts in good rich Baroque colours. The Huggett Family are successful as musicians and also successful just because they are a family. In the fragmentation of modern society, they see themselves as Guardians, even symbols, of the family. They tentatively say that their way of life may demonstrate to others undreamed of possibilities in family living. Indeed it does. 

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