Dominic D’Arcy, the ‘singing policeman’

by Sean Costello

Dominic DArcy

Dominic D’Arcy, well known as Ottawa’s singing policeman, has published a memoir, Stop, or I’ll Sing!
Photo: Sean Costello

Have you ever heard strumming, humming or even a full-fledged song wafting through the air as you meandered along Fifth Avenue on a mid-summer’s eve? You may have been catching the musical creations of long-time Glebe resident, retired Ottawa police sergeant Dominic D’Arcy, otherwise known as the “Singing Policeman.” I enjoyed the privilege of sitting down with D’Arcy a few times this spring to learn more about his storied past.

D’Arcy was raised in Sheenboro, Quebec, the eight of fourteen children. The area located in the Pontiac, just across the Ottawa River from Petawawa, provided a strong grounding in the practical sensibilities of country living and was the backdrop for many of D’Arcy’s early memories. He was raised with a healthy respect for family, a great love of his Irish heritage and was always surrounded by the joy of music. “I don’t remember a time that music wasn’t in my life,” said D’Arcy. His eyes lit up as he recalled early memories of his grandparents and father playing their fiddles and other instruments at the ceilidh that were frequently held in the family home.

Dominic DArcy BookThe young D’Arcy worked as an automotive parts deliveryman for Myers Motors where he acquired a fair amount of driving experience through the growing city, but not all of it was enjoyable. On just his second day working, a well-known local businessman struck his vehicle so aggressively that parts were sent flying through the rear and front windows of the truck cab, missing D’Arcy’s head by just inches – but the driver was not prosecuted. He emerged  from the incident with a deeper appreciation for defensive driving. This hadn’t been D’Arcy’s first encounter with unsafe drivers.

He was involved in a horrific crash with an oncoming vehicle, operated by an impaired driver, on a Sunday drive with his brother Cecil when he was just 18. The other driver’s son died at the scene, while D’Arcy and others spent days in hospital. Cecil was also thought to have died at the scene but was brought to hospital where doctors detected vital signs but noted that it was unlikely that his brother would survive. He did, and Cecil remains with us to this day.

Noelle D’Arcy, an active volunteer (Abbotsford House, among others) and cherished member of our community, became a part of D’Arcy’s life in the early 1960s when they were both working at Myers Motors. D’Arcy joined the Ottawa police service in 1963. The couple was married in 1964 and this year they will celebrate their 53rd year of love and support for each other. With a smile in his voice, D’Arcy recalled moving into an apartment near Bank and Powell, later moving onto the third floor of 95 Powell (“what a view, we could see everything!”). Pride of ownership is evident to all who visit the current D’Arcy home on Fifth Avenue near Chrysler, which was listed in the first edition of the City Directory in 1891.

That is where D’Arcy’s love of music and performing brought him to great heights of community involvement and outreach, including years of performing in schools as the “Singing Policeman” as well as contributing to feature-length films and special projects (a song to promote Crime Stoppers, for instance).

His primary duty as a policeman always came first – even when he was performing in a school or community. Support from headquarters for his community outreach was mixed at times, but he recalls that he had a clear supporter in Chief Flanagan, Ottawa Police Chief between 1989 and 1993. Flanagan provided D’Arcy with a modest budget and motorhome to support his unique style of community involvement and very effective approach to youth encouragement and crime deterrence.

On his off-duty hours, D’Arcy was active in developing and coaching young, emerging local talent. His workspace is adorned with signed photographs and thank-you notes from many now-professional performers who grew into their own under his wing and tutelage, which continues to this day, in recognition of his many accomplishments as host of multiple musical television shows within the Ottawa Valley, his organizing of talent shows and his love of international travel and multicultural performances. He retired from his policing career after nearly 36 years on the force.

D’Arcy’s writing of original music was at times influenced by tragedy, such as the loss of 84 souls in the 1982 sinking of the offshore oil-drilling platform, the Ocean Ranger, off the coast of Newfoundland. The result was a recorded song named after the lost vessel. Another song, “Do You Care,” captured the angst and emotional aftermath of a difficult and deadly local police operation 40 years ago that resulted in the death of 22-year-old rookie David Kirkwood.

Drawing on these and so many other memories of his rich and generous life, D’Arcy has recently captured his story on paper, publishing a fun and easy-reading book entitled Stop, or I’ll Sing! The book is available ($20) by emailing D’Arcy at dominic@dominicdarcy.com.

Never willing to stop caring for the safety and welfare of those around him, his parting words cut clearly through the cold winter air: “Wear your seatbelt!”

Sean Costello is a Glebe photographer and writer.

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