Carnival turns 30… or so

4 Feb

I’ve spent the past hour or so going through my file drawers to see if I could find the crude flyer I sent around to promote the very first Dunvegan Winter Carnival. I wanted to confirm the date Dunvegan’s recreation association introduced this event. I thought that — with the 2015 Carnival Day scheduled for this coming weekend — it would be fun to check how long it had been around. Unfortunately, I have yet to locate my DRA Newsletter archive from the old cut and paste days. My best guess is that we’re getting close to the thirty-year mark. But if anyone can recall the precise year, I’d much appreciate it.

Over the past few years, a number of newcomers have moved to our community. And, as many of us know, when you’re “from away” it’s not always easy to fit in to a new community. Most of us are shy. Well, the DRA Winter Carnival (like all of the DRA events) is open to all. And they’d love to see YOU attend this year’s winter celebration. Old-timer and newcomer alike!

To kick things off, they’ll start with their world-renowned country-style Buffet Breakfast. The menu is a simple one: pancakes drenched in butter and syrup, fluffy scrambled eggs, succulent sausages, crispy bacon, home-made, melt-in-your-mouth muffins, steaming hot coffee and juice…. but it’s oh so good! The price is only $7.50 for adults and $3.00 for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Toddlers under the age of 3 are free. The flapjacks and eggs will start flying at 8:00 AM and won’t stop until 10:00 AM… or until they run out of food. Whichever comes first.

After strapping on the old feedbag, it’s time to move outdoors. Once again, the “winter” portion of their Carnival Day will be held at the home of James Joyce and Terry Sweitzer (1 mile east of the Dunvegan crossroads at 19314 County Road 24). Activities will include: old-fashioned sleigh rides through the forest, sliding and tobogganing, skating on the pond and a scavenger hunt challenge. This year’s theme is: “Tropical Madness.”

After enjoying a two-horse open sleigh ride or cavorting back at the pond, it’s hoped that folks will come in and warm their frozen fingers by the cook stove and enjoy a bowl of Terry’s homemade soup and fresh-from-the-oven rolls.

Everyone (whether you live in or around Dunvegan… or not) is invited to stop by and enjoy some down-home February fun at the DRA Winter Carnival. And remember, if you’re new to the area, this is the perfect opportunity to come out and meet your neighbours.

One path to acceptance

The plight of the newcomer is not something unique to those who have recently moved to Dunvegan. It is a hurdle that virtually anyone moving to a new community must overcome, if they wish to be accepted into the fold. However, I have never seen the process as well described as I did in a novel by John Connolly: The Burning Soul, the tale of a young girl who disappears from a small town in Maine. Connolly writes…

Yet there is a balance to be maintained in such locales, and there is strength in unity. New blood will be welcomed as long as it plays its part in the great extended scheme of daily life, finding its level, its part in the complex machinery that powers the town’s existence: giving enough at the start to show willing, but not so much as to appear ingratiating; listening more than speaking, and not disagreeing, for here to disagree may be construed as being disagreeable, and one has to earn the right to be disagreeable, and then only after long years of cautious, mundane, and well-chosen arguments; and understanding that the town is both a fixed entity and a fluid concept, a thing that must be open to small changes of birth and marriage, of mood and mortality, if it is ultimately to stay the same.

‘s math a rinn thu!

This Gaelic phrase is an exclamation of praise which, assuming the Glosbe On-line English-Scottish Gaelic Dictionary is accurate, can be loosely translated as “well done.” And it aptly applies to Museum volunteers Stuart and Barbara Robertson and their committee for the fundraising Kitchen Ceilidh they organized this past Friday at the DRA Hall in Dunvegan.

By all accounts, the stellar performances by Ashley MacLeod, Paddy Kelly and Gabrielle Campbell and Les Musiciens Celtiques made for a magical evening of Scottish, Irish and French music and song. The audience at the packed-hall event showed their appreciation by raising an impressive $1,400… monies that will help sponsor a Celtic Fair at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum this July to showcase Celtic culture from around the world.

Coulda, Shoulda

Back in December, I spent a good while talking with Sherrill Trottier’s older sister, Shelia (née Ferguson) Kippen, who now lives in Ottawa. It was a free-range discussion covering many aspects of her childhood as the daughter of a general merchant in the small hamlet of Dunvegan. As I have mentioned in earlier columns, Shelia and Sherrill’s father and mother owned M.C. Ferguson’s, a general store at the corner of Alice Street and Dunvegan Road. Martin Ferguson, her father, was a man of many talents. For example, as a hobby, started repairing violins. After 15 years of repairing the instruments, he bought a bought an instruction book on their construction, he taught himself to make them from scratch.

He also had a keen interest in local history. In fact, in 1962, Martin was one of the founding members of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, together with his sister Christena (the first curator) and ten others. Shelia recalls that her father was convinced that, from the outset, the Museum should preserve another key structure in the hamlet: the old Angus McIntosh General Store on the northeast corner of the Dunvegan crossroads, directly across from the Star Inn. A native of the Dalkeith area, Angus started his working life in 1851 as a teacher. However, the young man was a born entrepreneur, and three years later, he and a partner set up shop in Laggan. Just a few years later, in 1857, he moved to Dunvegan and went into business there. It’s believed that the first building that housed his general store was the log structure that later became the Star Inn. He then built the wood frame store across the road and proudly erected a sign on the roof of the porch that read simply “A. McIntosh.” There, for the next 39 years, his business flourished… right up to his death in January of 1897.

As far as I can determine, Duncan Kenneth MacLeod from the 8th of Kenyon purchased the store from Angus McIntosh’s estate, which he ran with great success for the next 41 years. It’s interesting to note that photos of both versions of the store appeared in the Kenyon Bicentennial Calendar. The only real difference between the two views was the shop’s name and the small sign outside the MacLeod store advertising the availability of a public telephone. In 1938, D.K. MacLeod retired and sold the business to Russell Craig of Summerstown.

I’m not sure how long Mr. Craig was in business in Dunvegan, but I believe that the store had closed its doors by the sometime in the 1960s. Martin Ferguson was convinced that the new museum should buy the building (which still had all its original retail shelving) and use it to depict life in a “General Store” circa 1875. Unfortunately, he was unable to convince enough of his fellow committee members and the opportunity was lost forever. The store was gutted and converted into a private home — although for a period in the late 1970s and 1980s, it did house Yvon Leblanc’s barbershop.

I was heartbroken when I heard this tale. Martin Ferguson’s vision would not only have preserved a unique period of history that is forever gone, it would also have given the Museum a crowd-generating attraction that would have rivaled Upper Canada Village’s.