John Grant… a man of principle

18 Jan

One of the stories I started off the New Year with was the ‘Big Snow’ of 1869. Ken McEwen alerted me to the memorable event, which he learned of from his father. The primary reference for this item was a 1967 article from the Ottawa Journal, the focus of which was the Capital Region. Hoping for an account that was a bit closer to home, I’ve found mention of the historic storm in the Glengarry News of June 24, 1927. The article was reprinted from the Ottawa Citizen, and featured James Ferguson of Maxville, inventor of a game-changing threshing mill.

Ferguson witnessed the month-long snowstorm first hand and spoke of how it (like the Ice Storm of 1998) brought out the worst, and the best, in people. Here’s an example from Ferguson’s account… “Feed became scarce and hay was at a premium. A considerable amount of profiteering resulted as a consequence, which benefited the more prosperous farmers. But there was one farmer living in Laggan, Glengarry County, who refused to take more than what he considered to be a fair price for his store of hay. As a matter of principle he never permitted his fee for a ton of the commodity to exceed the previously current price, although he was careful to whom it was sold and never parted with more than the purchaser required for his personal use. The name of the man in question was John Grant.”

Looking for “Baby Edition”

Almost 75 years after the snows of 1896 savaged our region, an ice storm struck Glengarry toppling hydro, telegraph and telephone poles, snapping tree limbs and blocking roads and railways. For the first two weeks of January (longer in Maxville), the county returned to the age of oil lamps and wood stoves. Obviously, no electricity meant no linotype machine orhigh-speed press. But that didn’t stop the Glengarry News. Using hand-set type and an old letterpress machine, the News managed to publish what they called a “Baby Edition.” Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a copy (digital or otherwise) of this makeshift paper. It doesn’t appear to be part of the Archive’s collection or the online Glengarry News database. So, if you know of one I could borrow, please contact me.

As an aside, the linotype machine and vintage letterpress mentioned above ended up inDunvegan when Garry Geddes, our neighbour down the road in the early 1980s, bought them from the News with dreams of setting up a local publishing house. He and his wife Jan did end up opening Cormorant Books from their Dunvegan farm, but it was desktop publishing operation. The reality of hot lead typography and a finicky manual press was just a touch too hands-on.

What power outage?

An amusing anecdote I heard from the 1998 Ice Storm came from Canadian Forces who were deployed here in Dunvegan at the height of the emergency. It arose from their farm-to-farm survey to assess what assistance residents required. One retired farmer they called upon seemed to be doing just fine, thank you very much. When asked how long his power had been out, he proudly said “fifty-five years.” Turns out he’d never had it reconnected after the storm of ’43.

When garry’s not Garry

Donaldson MacLeod from McCrimmon called Sunday to comment on last Wednesday’s tip on how to sound like an authentic “Man from Glengarry” (or woman or non-binary human). In his experience, both the Scottish and the Irish pronounce the word Gaelic as GAA-lik. Only the English say it as GAY-lik. He also kindly pointed out another faux pas that we of the ‘from away’ persuasion commit. Next time you encounter a ‘pure laine’ Glengarrian, listen carefully to how he or she says the word “Glengarry.” Apparently, B&B citizens (Born & Bred, not Bed & Breakfast) say: GLEN-geary. Those of us on the other side of the great divide say: glen-GARRY. It’s subtle, but even blindfolded on a moonless night, Donaldson can tell old stock from new. It grates. Just like when people call the hamlet down the road: dun-VEEGAN. Sounds like we’re a community of diehard vegetarians. Shortly after ending the call, I wondered about the name of Alexandria’s former movie house: the Garry Theatre. So I called Donaldson back and was told that “garry” without the “glen’ is just like the name Garry. The same is true of the river that runs between Loch Garry and Middle Lake.

Saturday @ the movies

Speaking of movie houses, don’t forget that this Saturday at 7:00 pm is Motion Picture Night at the Dunvegan Recreation hall. This month’s flick will be A League of Their Own, an engaging comedy/drama produced and directed by Penny Marshall. The admission and thehot-buttered popcorn are free. However, a $5 donation to help support the DRA’s good works is suggested. PS: I strongly recommend you bring a comfy cushion or even your own chair… as well as your favourite refreshment. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

Why’s winter a blur?

It would appear that most automotive engineers have never driven in the winter. Snow, rain and salt-laden slush are mere abstractions. Take the back-up camera, for example. Great idea, especially for aging drivers. And they work like a damn in fair weather. But at the first sign of wet pavement, they’re just one big blur. Why aren’t they inside, pointing out the rear window? When the rear wiper clears the back window, it would also clear the camera’s field of view. The blind spot behind the bumper? A perpetually dirty camera lens is no safer.