Hammering hot steel

31 May

Dunvegan’s first “Smith-In” at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum took place in 2016. Seven years later, the celebration of this once vital trade is still going strong. Back in the day, the blacksmith’s shop was one of the four pillars of social life in rural Ontario communities:church, general store, school and smithy. It was a social hub where farmers shared gossip, ideas and political views. Evidence of the blacksmiths’ importance can be seen in their former numbers. Like today’s Tim Horton’s franchises, you couldn’t go all that far before coming across one. For example, Fiske’s Corners had it’s own blacksmith shop (still standing), and was only three miles, or about five kilometers, from it’s Dunvegan competitor.

The original Smith-In blacksmith festival was a one-day affair. However, this year’s event will be two — Saturday, June 17th and Sunday, June 18th, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Blacksmiths from across Ontario, Quebec and even the US of A will gather at Dunvegan’s little museum and fire up their forges. Demonstrations will include: a replica of mobile horse-drawn forges used by the military in the early 19th century; the making of wagon and buggy wheels; the forging of musket barrels; and much more. In addition, there will be activities for children, a food and refreshment tent run by the Dunvegan Recreation Association and, on Saturday only, a one-day crafters’ marketplace. Daily admission is $10 for adults and $25 for families… or $5 / $15 for members of the GPM. One more reason to consider joining the Glengarry Pioneer Museum.

Kenyon Church curious?

Rev. Jim has asked me to extend an invitation to readers of all stripes… and a reminder for the congregation. This coming Sunday, June 4th at 11:00 am, Kenyon Presbyterian Church in Dunvegan will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In his note to me, Rev. Jim pointed out that the opening words of this Sacrament “invite members of any branch of His Church… to join with us in this holy fellowship.” When I asked if this invite was as all-inclusive as it sounded, he replied, “(The communion service) is open to all denominations to attend, and that means all denominations.”

Old trappers never die

If the beavers, raccoons, coyotes and muskrats of Kenyon were hoping that Ken MacLeod (formerly of Dunvegan and latterly of Greenfield) would hang up his Havahart traps once he hit retirement, they’re in for a big disappointment. Ken turned 65 last Monday and, unless something changed radically since we last spoke, trapping is still his life. Happy belated birthday Trapper Ken.

Riding a reguller

Last week, I mentioned a farming practice that reader Ken McEwen remembers from growing up on the 7th of Kenyon during the 1930s. His father called it ‘regullying’. After ploughing, disking and harrowing, the regullying rig was used to restore the natural gullies that existed in a field, in order to promote surface drainage. Remember, these were the days before laser-guided Cats and huge computer-laid spools of plastic piping. The short drainage tiles were made of fired clay and laid in hand-dug trenches. Ken’s dad was a progressive farmer and had tile drained some of his land. But, understandably, he used surface drainage wherever he could.

The ‘reguller’ rig consisted of a main spar, the front of which I suspect curved upward like a ski so as not to dig into the earth. It also had a pair of four- or five-foot angled wings attached close the front of this main beam, somewhat like two single mouldboard ploughs back to back. “No doubt,” Ken wrote in an email, “the wings were braced, holding them apart. My Dad rode it standing up on the main spar while he drove the team pulling it.” Interestingly, when I mentioned regullying to Jack Fraser, he remembers regullers being used in the 1950s and 60s, both in Kenyon and in Le Nation to the north. When he grew up, though, tractors pulled them instead of horses.

As for the term ‘regullying’, I have no idea of its origin. I have yet to find a dictionary that recognizes it as a word. My best guess is that it comes from the French verb “réguler”… to regulate, i.e., to control. René Trottier told me he’d never heard of  ‘regullying’, but did say he’d heard ‘faire une regule à la terre.’ He wasn’t sure of the spelling, but believes the phrase meant ‘making a shallow channel in the ground for seed planting.’ Another possibility comes from Glengarry’s Scottish ties. As a lark, I looked up the Gaelic word for ‘gully’ and it’s ‘gul.’ So the term regullying may have a Gaelic root. If anyone out there can shed more light on this almost forgotten practice, I’d love to hear from you.

History of Sabbath schools

When laying out this week’s column I also stumbled across a small Cerlox-bound booklet written in 1967 as a centennial project by the then resident of the Dunvegan manse, Rev. H. Russell Ferguson. Entitled Historical Sketch of Kenyon Presbyterian Church Sunday Schools and Young People’s Society, the 24-page document contains some fascinating, and heart-warming, insights into our community’s past.

Reading this booklet gave me a whole new take on Sunday schools. I emphasized the word ‘schools’ because, in the Dunvegan region, that’s how they were organized. Instead of just one class held in or near the church, the Kenyon Presbyterian Church founded and conducted up to eight simultaneous Sabbath Schools held in the local one-room schoolhouses… buildings that, on Sunday, stood idle.

I’m out of space, but we’ll continue this trip down memory lane next week.