Bad news. Good news.

1 Mar

The bad news is that René Trottier, a long-time Dunvegan resident, suffered a stroke or a TIA (Trans Ischemic Attack) last week. While unconfirmed, Robert Campbell heard that René was dining out with a friend in Alexandria when it happened. It’s said his friend noted the warning signs and an ambulance was called.

The good news is that René is doing well. Neighbour and friend Steve Kaluta had a call from René’s daughter Traci last weekend, and she told him the doctors expect a full recovery. “René’s speech and sense of humour have returned,” Steve told me in an email. “He should be in the hospital for at least a week and there seems to be a good list of volunteers to help with anything that comes up to make things easier on him.”

I think I speak for René’s extensive network of friends and acquaintances when I wish him… bon rétablissement!

A sack o’ harmonicas

Zac Bowland, a fairly recent newcomer to our fair land, kindly texted me a brief account of last Saturday’s Dunvegan Jam at the DRA Hall. The event was organized by Denis Lavigneand saw a respectable assemblage of amateur musicians show up… including Jim McRae of Music & Mayhem fame. Zac pegged the number at seven and Steve ‘Spider’ Merritt told me nine… plus a number of folks who had tagged along to hear them play.

I asked Zac which piece of music the group most enjoyed playing. “Hard to pick a favourite piece,” he texted back, “but several of us were starting to work on Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage, with plans to do that one together next.” If you’re not familiar with the song, it is one of Rogers’ best-known songs. I’ve frequently enjoyed recordings of Rogers singing the moving historical ballad ‘a cappella’, with him doing the the verses solo and guest vocalists joining in at the chorus. It should be interesting to see how the group transposes the song for guitars and Steve’s banjo and bag of harmonicas.

This suggests that the informal musical gathering will meet again and Zac concurred. “All agree we should do this every other month or so,” So, when Denis et al have another Jam in the works, I’ll let you know.

Spring forget-me-nots

Rev. Jim asked that I remind members of Kenyon and St. Columba Presbyterian Churches that this coming Sunday, March 5th, is this winter’s last combined worship service. It will be hosted by Kenyon Church in Dunvegan. Worship will be at 11:00 am and the Sacrament of Holy Communion will be celebrated. Following worship, there will be a light luncheon served, after which Kenyon Church’s Annual General Meeting will get under way at 1:00 pm.

So don’t forget, beginning next week on Sunday, March 12th, both congregations will resume worship services in their respective churches. Worship at Kenyon Church will be at 9:30 am, and 11:00 am for St. Columba Church.

Breasting the tape

Today’s email brought a message from long-time reader Ken McEwen, one of my most favourite ways to start ‘column day.’ Ken, who is inching up to 91.5 years old, grew up in in the 7th Concession Kenyon in the 1930s and 40s. He wondered if I had ever seen the work of Walt Kelly, best known for Pogo, a syndicated comic strip. While aware of the strip (which debuted the year I was born), it was never one of my ‘must reads’. I was one generation too young for Kelly’s social and political satire.

What Pogo was for Ken, Doonesbury, Far Side and Dilbert was for me. Kelly’s astute observations on the human condition struck a chord with Ken. As an example, Ken included the following passage penned by Kelly in 1954: “Too soon we breast the tape and too late we realize the fun lay in the running. We deny that the end justifies the means without ever stopping to consider that for practical purposes the End and the Means are one and the same thing. If there is to be any satisfaction in life it must come in transit, for who can tell when he will be struck down in mid-method”. A still valid philosophy for life that Ken tells me tempered his activities as a he “ambled through the past half century or so.”

Got credit where due

Curiosity may not kill this cat, but it certainly takes me down some strange rabbit holes. One question that’s niggled me is the names of the Dunvegan columnists before me. Of course I know the more recent individuals: Marion Lowen, Betty Kennedy and PeggI Calder. But what of the trailblazers who came before?

I quickly determined that for the first 82 years, ‘community’ columns in the Glengarry News were anonymous. The first crack in the cone of silence appeared in January 17, 1974 when the Martintown column was given a brand-like title: “Martintown Rumor Mill.” No columnist’s name. No phone number. No illustration. About four months later, in the May 23rd, 1974 paper, the News finally acknowledged the person who did the work and added the writer’s name: Art Buckland. The rest of the little crooks and crannies of Glengarry were grouped under the “Maxville & District” or the “News from Here and There” banners.

But the cat was out of the bag. Mrs. Alex Lalonde of South Glengarry was next. In November of 1975, her column was dubbed “Lancaster News” and given a subhead: The Cairn Village. The masthead even included her name and phone number.

And that’s where I must stop for today. I’ve hit the official 900-word allotment… and a bit more. With any luck, by next week, I’ll have tracked down the first Dunvegan columnist who appeared in the News by name.