Honouring the past

3 Jun

This coming Sunday, June 7th at 11 AM, the Kenyon Presbyterian Church takes its show on the road as it holds its annual service at the Pioneer Cemetery on Skye Road. For the last four years, the congregation has honoured the memory of the earliest Dunvegan settlers at the site where they worshipped long, long ago in the open air, under the shade of a large maple tree. This was back in the mid 1800s, before Dunvegan’s original log church, and the stone edifice that replaced it, were built.

When the settlers finally had a permanent place of worship, they moved all the earthly remains that had been interred in the Skye Road cemetery, save one, to the graveyard next to their new church. For some reason, Ranald Campbell’s remains were left at the Syke Road site. Perhaps, Ranald was related to John Campbell (the gentleman who first settled the property in 1844) and his final wish was to be buried on the home farm.

To experience a small sliver of life back in pioneer times, you’re invited to come and worship in the open air, weather permitting. Unfortunately, I can’t hide the overhead hydro transmission lines or quiet the incessant whoosh of traffic on the 417. So you’ll just have to bring your imagination.

If you’ve never been there before, just travel north from the Dunvegan crossroads, over the four-lane highway and turn right at the first road after the overpass. This is Skye Road and the cemetery is about a quarter-mile to the east along this road. There’s a sign that was erected a few years ago by the Kenyon Women’s Association marking the spot.

It’s strongly recommended you bring a lawn chair and, if the mosquitoes are still with us, a small supply of DEET. Following the service, you’re invited back to the Church Hall for refreshments and children’s activities. In case of rain, the service will be held in the church.

Calling all bikers!

I thought it only fair to give residents a heads up that the normal influx of motorcyclists on Dunvegan road that occurs each summer will swell to unknown proportions two Sundays from now, on June 14th. That’s the date of the Kenyon Presbyterian Church’s first ever “Blessing of the Bikes” service.

As I understand it, the thinking behind these unusual types of services is to be “more inclusive” and introduce the church to folks who might not normally attend. A perfect example is the work of the late Canon Horace Baugh, an Anglican priest who, in 1951, introduced an annual service atop Mount Royal in Montreal where he invited one and all to bring their pets to be blessed. And he did so year in and year out for 56 years, until his death in 2007. Asked how many pets he had blessed over the decades, Canon Baugh estimated over 60,000… including everything from dogs and cats to horses and snakes. Fittingly, Canon Baugh helped founded St. Francis of the Birds, the skier’s chapel in St. Sauveur, Quebec.

As an aside, Canon Baugh followed in the footsteps of his father, Rev. Cyrus Baugh, who served the Laurentian region for 65 years until his death in 1976. For years and years, Rev. Baugh presided over Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Lakefield, Quebec. This is an area of the Laurentians where I spent much of my youth. I can still recall Reverend Baugh dropping by each summer… in his horse and buggy… in search of a donation for one cause or another.

But back to the “Blessing of the Bikes” service in Dunvegan. I’m told one of the members of the local congregation is passionate about motorcycles and had heard about these types of services at other churches. He spearheaded the initiative for the Kenyon Presbyterian Church to hold one.

The service will get underway at 10 AM, when the congregation will meet and greet the bikers and refreshments will be served. At 11 AM, Rev. Julia Apps-Douglas will bless the bikes and their riders… and, no doubt, wish them safe journeys and safe returns. Everyone with a bike (motorized or not) is welcome to participate, including children with their bicycles or tricycles.

After the service, big bikers are invited to join the run down to the Blue Anchor Bar & Grill in Glen Walter, by the shores of the St. Lawrence, where the group will enjoy a hearty lunch.

How many bikes and their owners will turn up on June 14th? It’s hard to say. One account I came across about a similar service held a few years ago at the Norway Evangelical Lutheran Church in rural Wisconsin, saw 371 motorcycles roll into the church parking lot to be blessed. It should be an interesting day in downtown Dunvegan.

Heigh ho… heigh ho…

If you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend you sign up for the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s 9th annual Historical Driving Tour as soon as you can. Space is limited. The tour — which takes place on Saturday, June 13th — will start at the Glengarry, Nor’westers, and Loyalist Museum in Williamstown with a tour of their WWI display. Next, Robin Flockton will relate the history of the Peanut Line, a key railway connection that was opened in 1914. Then it’s over the McGillivray Bridge and a stop to see St. Mary’s Catholic Church, followed by lunch at the Celtic Music Hall of Fame.

After the break, the convoy will travel the Loyalist Road to South Lancaster where the group will take in some of the highlights of this small village, including St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

From Lancaster, the tour moves on to Glengarry Fine Cheese to learn about cheese making… the original Presbyterian Church in Alexandria… and the one-time home of the McDougald family on the 4th of Kenyon. The McDougalds were a prominent Glengarry family, which included a senator and confidante of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, and a Bay Street business tycoon, reputedly the Canadian business establishment’s most powerful member.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to visit these historic sights of Glengarry and learn about their rich history. To pre-register please email the museum at info@glengarrypioneermuseum.ca or call 613-527-5230. The cost is $25 for members and $30 for non-members… and this includes lunch and all entrance fees. I’ve already signed up and I hope to see you when we go on tour.

Bonnie plays around… again

As many of you no doubt know, Dunvegan East is home to the renowned author and playwright Bonnie Laing. Bonnie’s first play Peggy & Grace was the box office hit of the 2013 Hudson Village Theatre’s program. And I’ve just learned that her latest production will be premiered in Hudson on June 5th and 6th as part of Hudson’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Phoebe, a light comedy based on the life of Phoebe Nobbs MacKellar Hyde, is being presented at the Hudson Village Theatre by Theatre Panache, supported by the English Language Arts Network (ELAN) and Arts Alive Quebec.

Bonnie tells me that Phoebe Hyde was a local legend in the Hudson area. A wonderfully eccentric character, she trained as professional actor in London, England, married a sea captain who became captain of the Queen Mary and did historical re-enactments and monologues across Canada and England. As well, she was notoriously thrifty, a world traveller and her second husband was 32 years older than she was. Sounds like a fun character.

Tickets for the two June performances (8 PM on Friday, June 5th and 2 PM on Saturday June 6th) are $15 each and can be reserved at theatrepanache.ca/artsfestival/ or purchased at the door of the theatre. (Cash only, please.) If you can’t make either of these dates, Bonnie’s new play will return for a week-long run at the Hudson Village Theatre in November as part of Storyfest 2015.

Thank you, Renée!

Last Saturday afternoon, friends, volunteers and staff gathered at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum to say goodbye — and thank you — to Renée Homiak. For the past year, Renée has been the Museum’s interim curator while Jennifer Black was on leave. I worked closely with Renée on numerous campaigns to promote upcoming Museum events and was very impressed with her “can do” spirit.

Regrettably, I was unable to attend on Saturday. But I am expecting first hand accounts of the festivities from my stringers and hope to have more details in next week’s column.

In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you with an excerpt from an article Renée wrote for the spring issue of Timelines, the Museum’s newsletter for members (one more good reason to become a one):

“The greatest impression left on me by the museum is the community. Time and time again, event after event, the people involved with the museum have shown their commitment and dedication not only to their museum, but to their community as well. I remember my first panicked day some volunteers were supposed to be coming to do a nasty, dirty job of digging a hole for our new forge. All of a sudden one of the volunteers was having a baby and couldn’t be there. At that early point I had only met a few of the volunteers and couldn’t remember their names and didn’t know whom to call. I got in touch with one person I remembered and within an hour a whole crew had been arranged and were ready to go… As an outsider coming into this wonderful gem I am so amazed. I have never worked with so many wonderful people in so great a place. Thank you for making this one of the most memorable and amazing experiences for me.”