Remembering Bob Morrow: New film remembers Hamilton’s longest serving mayor

Remembering Bob Morrow: New film remembers Hamilton’s longest serving mayor

“You couldn’t go anywhere in our city without bumping into Bob Morrow.”

Hamilton has had dozens of mayors since the city was formed in 1846. But none of them served longer than the tall, deep-voiced piano man named Bob Morrow who held the top job from 1982 to 2000, through six election victories.

Now, six years after his death at the age of 71, a documentary film about him is set to be premiered at the Westdale Theatre on June 16.

“Golden Era: The Legacy of Bob Morrow” by Hamilton filmmaker Scott C. Newman of White Dwarf Pictures is a mostly affectionate look at his life. It leaves no doubt that “Mayor Bob” loved his city. If there was a ribbon to cut, some sod to turn or a community event to attend, he would be there.

As current Mayor Andrea Horwath says, “Bob Morrow was the man about town. You couldn’t go anywhere in our city without bumping into Bob Morrow.”

But the hour-and-a-half film also notes he is remembered for saving the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from folding. He helped usher in recreational and environmental improvements in the West Harbour, and he worked hard to lay the groundwork for the city’s transition to a more diverse economy from its industrial heritage.

An NHL franchise never landed for the newly opened Copps Coliseum, but it wasn’t from a lack of trying on his part.

The film features a wide range of newsreel footage from CHCH and other media of his days as mayor along with clips of him at the piano or church organ.

The Spectator’s Graeme MacKay adds to the story by talking about cartoons he drew of Morrow, many of which raised the mayor’s blood pressure. Political colleagues, friends and family share their memories.

Morrow’s son George recalls the long hours his father worked.

“Being mayor was a 24-hour-a-day job,” he says. ”My dad was always on call. Unfortunately, that was one of several reasons why my parents’ marriage didn’t work out because he was also married to Hamilton.”

His mother Guay would eventually remarry and move out west.

As a boy, Morrow was acknowledged as a wunderkind pianist, says his brother Al, a rowing coach, and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. “He could listen to any tune in any genre and immediately play it back.”

After finishing university, Morrow ran for Ward 1 alderman. He managed to win, but ended up being disqualified because his name wasn’t on the voters’ list.

Incredibly, his father George, a dentist, stepped forward and took the ward in a subsequent byelection.

That set the stage for Morrow to return two years later — with his name on the voters’ list — and he easily won.

From there, he was elected to the city’s board of control, an executive committee of council that was elected at large under the political system at the time. After a few terms of that, he focused his attention on the mayor’s chair and managed to unseat incumbent Bill Powell in 1982.

He became unbeatable at the polls until 2000, in the newly amalgamated city, when he lost to former Ancaster mayor Bob Wade. From there Morrow served as a citizenship court judge and pursued his passion for playing church organ, most notably at St. Patrick’s Church on King Street East. He briefly returned to politics to finish the term of Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli after he died in 2014.

In the film, Sheila Copps describes Morrow as likable and unpartisan.

“The thing with Bob is that even when he was being pushed on all sides with all kinds of pressure, he literally was always a gentleman. He was always kind, always in a good mood, always very positive,” she says.

“If worse came to worse he could always get everyone smiling by sitting down and playing the piano.”

But others recalled how Morrow could have a thin skin and display a fierce temper, especially when someone voiced disparaging words about the city.

“Whenever Bob saw anyone slagging Hamilton he took it personally. He would push back sometimes tempestuously,” says Fred Eisenberger, who served 12 years as mayor. “Bob could flare up. He had a temper. His temper would flare up on those moments when someone took a shot at Hamilton that he thought was unwarranted. It angered him to have his city slagged in any way by anyone and he would reach out and respond.”

The film recalls Morrow taking offence from a Milton Berle joke that said: “a tornado blew through Hamilton the other day. Nobody was hurt, but it caused a million dollars in improvements.”

And of course, there was the matter of the disappearing mayor’s chain of office, a 1950s gift to the city from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. It was something Morrow loved to wear. Then, in 1991, he claimed it had been stolen.

But Eisenberger, who was an alderman at the time, believes the mayor “was upset with the (chamber) leadership or the chamber of commerce as a whole … I believe Bob was upset enough to take the chain and chuck it in the harbour.”

Whatever happened, the chain never surfaced. Another one was made and Morrow refused to wear it.

A bigger controversy that lingers to this day was his refusal to proclaim Gay Pride Week. It led to a landmark Ontario Human Rights decision in 1995 that found he discriminated against the gay community, and he was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine to the complainant in the case.

Incredibly, the city stopped issuing proclamations for all special events, as a way to avoid the issue.

Former mayor Larry Di Ianni says, “I think he thought he was reflecting what the community wanted” but “I think if he had to redo it again, he would have handled it differently, would be my guess.”

Rosemary Baptista, a close friend who spearheaded and co-produced the film project with Newman, says “Bob was the real McCoy. There was no fakeness about him.”

“He treated everyone with love and respect regardless of their place in society. It was real. It was not to win votes. That is the way he was,” she says.

Baptista approached Newman about taking on the project. His company does feature film and television series work that has appeared on Cable 14 and CHCH, among other places.

She also organized a recent ceremony at city hall to celebrate the naming of the “Bob Morrow Forecourt” in front of city hall.

The premiere at the Westdale Theatre at 1 p.m. on June 16, will be hosted by Tony Agro, a school principal and son of Vince Agro, who was a longtime friend of Morrow and city politician who died in 2020.

The film will later be reformatted into a five-part series that will run on Cable 14 in July, Newman says.

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HAMILTON, ON, November 14th – If you make the trip to the Casbah Lounge at Queen Street and King on the 2nd Tuesday of each month this year, you’ll be treated to Vocalist and Guitar player Mary Simon performing original music backed by her band “Mississippi Bends”. And if you happen to be there on Tuesday November 14th you will also be treated to the premiere of the official Music Video for her latest single “Heart Sing”.

Mary, born in Burlington, ON, is back in town after spending 4 years touring the Caribbean and beyond on cruise ships. During her time sailing the seven seas Mary visited over 35 countries from the Mediterranean to Dubai to Thailand and from Newfoundland to the Caribbean to Panama Canal to Alaska. Performing 6 nights a week to cruisers from all around the world and making many friends and new fans in the process, Mary, who has a vast repertoire of music to draw on, even performed “Women Who Rock” tribute nights which turned into a crowd-pleasing staple for the many music fans aboard.

Now that Mary has returned to the Hamilton area, she has thrown herself back into the local music and recording scene and is now releasing her first professionally produced music video shot over the course of the summer by local production company White Dwarf Pictures headed by Hamilton filmmaker Scott C. Newman. The video was shot at Hamilton Film Studios and on the rooftop of a cement factory in Simcoe, ON. Featuring a freshly built “rockabilly apartment” set and a slate of funky Rock Star outfits (she has a real flair for fashion), Mary will be wowing audiences with her new solo video where she delivers an eye-popping performance which is nuanced, sexy, and intensely entertaining.

Filmmaker Scott Newman says of the video “I had just been to an Amanda Marshall concert at Hamilton Place, and I watched some of her videos afterwards. One of them was shot on a building rooftop. When I told Mary about how cool it looked she said she had access to the rooftop of her building in Simcoe …the rest is history”

The music video was shot for Mary’s newly released single titled “Heart Sing” which is a Rock and Roll love song that has all the punch, grit, and energy reminiscent of Joan Jet or the band Heart. This tune is a qualified hit with anyone who listens to it, and it is now streaming on Spotify and SoundCloud. “Gritty roots rock from Hamilton’s hidden treasure, Mary Simon. Have a listen. She’ll make your heart sing.” — Graham Rockingham, Hamilton Spectator

“Heart Sing” was written as part of a collaboration between Mary and Canadian rock and soul singer Laura Cole. During the COVID pandemic Mary and Laura collaborated on many songs with a group of Hamilton musicians who used the time away from performing in front of live audiences to sit outside around a campfire and write some new material. After their mutual stroke of inspiration for the lyrics and melody, internationally renowned guitar player Matty Simpson added a brilliant guitar riff and after a visit to Boxcar studios with bass player Justine Fischer and drummer Robin Pirson “Heart Sing” was born. Mary attributes the songs solid sound to music producer Matt Montour.

Mary helped produce the video herself “It was summer, and I was trying to get my band mates to come and be in the video, but everyone was booked doing festivals. Luckily the solo performance worked perfectly and allows the viewer to really get into the story of the song.”

About Mary Simon

Mary has been creating original music since she was a young teen, even appearing on the now defunct Mike Bullard Show in 2001, wowing television audiences along with her band with a more “pop music” version of herself that has evolved into her more traditional rock and roll mainstay of present day. Her music is everywhere; she has released six albums and has had songs on Television Networks ABC and Lifetime.

Comfortable performing solo or with a group Mary likes to mix things up. Who and where she performs with is as varied as the styles of Rock and Roll she is comfortable with. She has been a member of multiple bands including her main group “Mississippi Bends” – a nod to her evolving southern rock sensibilities. She was also in an all-girl rockabilly group aptly named the “Pistolette’s” for all the members’ spunky attitudes and gritty rock n’ roll song writing. Both of her bands have played shows and festivals all over Canada and were the house performers at the original Cat and Fiddle where they played to dozens of adoring fans every week.

Having made a big splash in the world of music from the start and received many accolades, Mary is not only an established core performer in the Hamilton and Haldimand music scene but also an up-and-coming song writer who is on track to becoming a female Canadian music Icon alongside trailer blazers like Alannah Myles and Sass Jordon.

Awards and TV Placements

“Lost We Are” in General Hospital, ABC October 2011. Nominated for Hamilton Music Awards Female Artist of the Year 2010. Nominated for Hamilton Music Awards Female Adult Alternative Recording of the Year 2010 for “Lost We Are”. ABC December 2009 “She Needs Faith” in the TV Movie “To Be Fat Like Me” on the Lifetime Network 2007. Nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year and Song of the Year, Vibe Awards 2002. Nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year, Hamilton Music Awards 2004. John Lennon Song writing Contest -Top 10 of Pop, 2002. Nominated for Canadian Music Week Indie Award 2002 Toronto’s 99.9 FM Song writing Contest 2nd Place, 2001 ASCAP Lilith Fair Song writing Contest -Top 10 2000.

You can visit her band website at or find her on insta @marysimonsings Learn more about Mary Simon at


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Sci-fi thriller by Hamilton filmmaker lands on Fantasy Network

Sci-fi thriller by Hamilton filmmaker lands on Fantasy Network

A Hamilton filmmaker who says he sort of stumbled into making a sci-fi thriller has had it picked up by an online network that would do J.R.R. Tolkien proud.

The Fantasy Network has picked up “Hell or Tide Water,” which was made by Scott Newman, a former CBC editor and Global TV documentary worker.

The Seattle-based network, launched in 2018, is a privately-owned independent film and TV distribution company for the fantasy genre. It has been called a global hub for independent fantasy films and series. The movie was made available Dec. 13.

“I was kind of looking at Crave or Netflix but this just seems to fit,” said Newman, 44. “It’s going to be big. They have a crowdfunding aspect to the site. They are looking at series, I think it’s perfect.”

He describes his independently-financed movie, which has no big stars but features local talent, as a cross between “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Under Siege” and “The Hunt for Red October.”

The plot is about a Norwegian energy company bringing oil through a British Columbia fjord in a giant submarine. There’s spies, action scenes, time travel and killer robots. The tag line on the movie poster says “Spirits Run Deep.”

The film was worked on by Amin Taghipour, a special effects technician from Iran who worked on such films as “Blade Runner 2049.”

“It was amazing,” said Newman. “I just bumped into him in Toronto. He was unemployed.”

Left to right: Actors Tony Bifano, Victor Bohm, Julia Kollek, Richard Newsome, and gaffer Jordan Heguy.

Left to right: Actors Tony Bifano, Victor Bohm, Julia Kollek, Richard Newsome, and gaffer Jordan Heguy.SCOTT NEWMAN

The film was shot over 20 days in the summer of 2019 and Newman said it took him six months to edit. He filmed it at a welding firm on Frid Street — owned by his business partner Victor Bohm, who has a role in the movie — as well as on the Burlington Bay, at the Binbrook Conservation Area and at Digital Canaries Film Studios, which has more than 50 film sets at its Burlington Street East location.

Newman was inspired to write and make the movie after a visit to Chedoke Hospital to see its soon-to-be demolished buildings, medical machines and boiler rooms. It made him think of submarines and some of his favourite movies like “Ice Station Zebra.”

“I didn’t intend to make a movie,” said Newman. “I intended to do something safer, but, obviously, art is dangerous.”

Actor Victor Bohm provided an electrifying performance.

Actor Victor Bohm provided an electrifying performance. SCOTT NEWMAN

His movie has been shown on CHCH-TV twice this year. There is a two-and-a-half hour version — which Newman calls his “director’s cut” — and a 90-minute version.

Newman attended Mountview Public School and Hill Park Secondary School. He took drama and English for one year at McMaster University and then graduated in 2001 from the media arts program at Sheridan College in Oakville.

He worked as a continuity editor on “The Red Green Show” and “Train 48” before he landed at the CBC and worked as an editor with such people as Peter Mansbridge and Wendy Mesley.

Newman is thinking about a sequel to “Hell or Tide Water.”

“The time travel at the end of the first film gives me lots of options,” he said. “I’m thinking of setting the next one 150 years in the future, so look out for more sci-fi, industrial espionage and, of course, killer robots.”