With Ryan holding his collector guitar, Russell Historical Society president Harry Baker introduces the Gallaghers Sunday at the Russell Youth Centre. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – It turns out Debbie Gallagher had a very valid reason for calling the concert that she and family members presented Sunday at the Russell Youth Centre, “A Country Christmas”…the band debuted a song at the show with the same title.

After performing the catchy tune with husband Alan and children Caileigh, Ryan, and Colin (Riannah was absent) Debbie said she has started a personal fund in the hope of creating a CD featuring “A Country Christmas” and a few other originals.

In describing the composition, she said it was written after a family brainstorming session to determine the advantages of celebrating Christmas on the farm and in the country. Personally, she feels much closer to the animals in the famous birth in a manger story having been among them all of her life on the Acres sheep farm.

Hosted by the Russell & District Historical Society, the Gallaghers filled two hours with seasonal music and are confirmed to return to Russell again next Christmas. The family has already launched a successful St. Patrick’s Day tradition at the Keith Boyd Community Museum and the society hopes to do the same at Christmas, said president Harry Baker. 

The family blended voices and instruments – all are proficient on several – in a wide selection of recognizable tunes, often urging the packed house to sing along. The star of the show – at least when it came to instruments – was a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Jr. guitar deftly wielded by Ryan. He was given the guitar by his grandfather Dwayne Acres, a well-known Osgoode sheep baron. Debbie’s sister Colleen and family now run the family farm, and Debbie and family live close by.

Back in the 1950s, Dwayne bought the Gibson in an Ottawa store for about $100. At lunchtime, he would meet buddies in the Osgoode High School boiler room for band practice. When it comes to Eastern Ontario, that guitar – said to be worth about $3,500 today – got around and has the nicks and scratches to prove it. It’s now over to Ryan for the next leg of the journey.

Ryan said he gets a little nervous when his grandfather is in the front rows watching carefully – as he was Sunday. But Dwayne declared the young lad has nothing to worry about: “There’s better music coming out of that guitar now than when I played it.”

Dwayne fronted the Acres Family Singers which Debbie grew up in. After she married Alan, the group gradually morphed into the Gallagher Family, playing churches, fairs and community events.