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posted November 30th, 2015
Meaford music scene and business environment add to retirement advantages

Billy and Ann Marie Fairley had found the perfect retirement location in Meaford – a beautiful, charming Ontario small town on Georgian Bay. But the couple weren’t retired yet, and beyond its location and charm, Meaford offered other advantages.

Meaford also proved to be a welcoming environment for a small business, which met another criterion. Billy operates his tailoring business, The Sewing House, from the basement in their new home at 96 Margaret Street, where he tailors and repairs all kinds of clothing – dresses, jeans, jackets and more – including replacing zippers, which is a hard-to-find service. He quickly found customers knocking on his door, and his clientele continues to grow.

To top it all off, Meaford’s musical community was a truly welcoming surprise for the accomplished rock drummer. “Music is becoming more than a sideline,” he says. “I’m busier here musically than I was down in Alliston.” From the foxtrots of Pitlochry to Meaford’s music scene, Billy “The Kid” Fairley has led an interesting and varied musical life. After three years in the hotel gig, he started a group called Just Us with Andy Roberts on guitar and Dougie Thompson on bass. (Dougie later joined Supertramp, and Andy played with a number of major artists on tour and in the studio, including a stint in the “Surrogate Band” during Pink Floyd’s 1981 The Wall tour.) Then he teamed up with an erstwhile folk trio gone folk-rock, becoming the drummer for String Driven Thing. 1973’s “The Machine that Cried”, the band’s first album recorded with the rock line-up, is “now regarded as a forgotten classic”, according to Wikipedia.

When Billy maried Canadian Ann Marie and moved with her to Canada, he initially thought he’d left his musical life behind. “I lost all my musical buddies, and I lost a lot of chances.” He returned to the UK to play a few times, “But Canada’s a place to bring up your kids, definitely,” he says.

And now his musical horizons are expanding in Meaford. He’s teamed with a number of professional and amateur musicians and songwriters and hopes to be in the studio recording soon. He also has plans to stage a revival of his musical, “Freedom”, a rock opera treatment of the Braveheart story brought to life in the movie starring Mel Gibson. “This is the true story, though”, Billy emphasizes.

Meaford’s proving to be the perfect place to retire. “It’s safe here to ride bikes, it’s safe to go on walks. You can go down to the harbour any time in five minutes. The tailoring business is getting busy. And I’m busy musically,” says Billy, who’s packed a lot into the first few months of his Meaford life. “You have to,” he says. “I’ve lost a lot of close friends in the last few years, and it’s made me think, I ain’t here for a long time. Let’s go out with a bang.”

Hear and watch a couple of Billy’s performances:

posted November 27th, 2015
Retiring in small town Ontario – Meaford proves perfect for this couple

Not too long ago, an aborted trip to Tobermory found Billy and Ann Marie Fairley on the road through Meaford – where they discovered a retirement location that checked off all the boxes on their lists.

After getting off-course on a trip from Alliston and up the Bruce Peninsula in the summer of 2014, the couple arrived in Meaford from the west. They were immediately captured by views of the blue sweep of Georgian Bay and the charm of Meaford’s historical main street. “I thought, this reminds me Pitlochry,” Billy says. Back when he was 16, he’d spent years in the Perthshire, Scotland village, playing drums at the popular Atholl Palace Hotel. “It was my haunt for three years, playing quicksteps and foxtrots.” He chuckles. “Not my type of music, but it was the best time of my life.” Set amidst beautiful rural scenery, Pitlochry is close in size to Meaford and the main street is lined with shops housed in older architecture.

“We came through Meaford, and I said to my wife, ‘You know what, let’s move here. This is gorgeous. The massive water and just the quaintness of the town. She said, ‘Yep!'”

A year later, they’d made the move.

Billy’s sewing and tailoring business could be reasonably easily transferred to a new location, as long as he could build up a new clientele. And while she’d initially planned on commuting, his wife was fortunate in being able to arrange a transfer from the Catholic school in Alliston to one in Collingwood. “It was funny how it all came about,” says Billy. “It was meant to be.”

Box One, checked. They’d found the perfect destination for their retirement years. And they’d settled in before they were even fully retired.

But Meaford proved to have much more in store for Billy “The Kid” Fairley. More next time.