Marie Jensen stops by

6 Sep

If buildings were sentient beings, the lovely stone church in Dunvegan must have been singing Happy Days are Here Again last Sunday. With the place packed to the rafters, it surely felt like it had back in the days when there was a Gaelic and English service each Sabbath and everyone and their uncle attended church.

As mentioned last week, the Memorial Day Service has evolved into a bit of a ‘homecoming weekend’ event. And one of the former residents it attracted this year was Inger Marie (née Jensen) Morris. Marie grew up east of Dunvegan and had attended the Fiske’s Corners school. She drove down with her daughter Karen, son-in-law Moe and grandson Grant to visit her parent’s graves. They also asked if they could stop by our place, because it was where she had grown up.

It was a delight to connect with someone who had lived in Dunvegan years ago; they’re getting scarcer than hens’ teeth. A voracious reader from the time she started school, Marie was a very bright young lady. In fact, she skipped two grades and finished high school well ahead of the pack. She is equally sharp today, with a memory most senior citizens only dream of.

One of the stories she told us was when her father, Mogens Jensen, emigrated from Denmark as a young man. After landing in Montreal, he and his fellow émigrés were lined up on the dock where farmers from Quebec and Ontario could inspect them and choose a new hired man, fresh off the boat. Marie explained that, while not a tall man, her father was solidly built and was snapped up by a farmer from Finch. Mogens spoke only one word of English: “rabbit.” A cousin of his told him if he could learn to say “rabbit,” he could learn to speak English.

To assess his new helper’s skills, the morning after Mogens arrived in Finch the farmer had him hitch up a team of horses and plough a patch of land. Despite the communication barriers, everything went fine… until Mogens took the reins in his hands. Not surprisingly, the horses didn’t speak Danish. Years later, he told his children that it would have been much more helpful if his cousin had taught him the English words “gee” and “haw,” the voice commands used to tell a draft horse to turn right or left.

Fallfest for families

Yeah! This coming Sunday is the Harvest Fall Festival at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum from 10 am to 4 pm. And, if you’ve never attended, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it… even if it’s raining.

Highlights include: the Harvest Sale tent with home baking, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit, vegetables, plants and more; demonstrations of pioneer skills such as blacksmithing, spinning, butter making, apple pressing and the like; vintage farm machinery brought back to life: a raft of local artisans showing their creations and answering questions; children’s crafts all day & relay games at 11 am & 2:30 pm; and much-loved Indigenous interpreter Archie Martin.

Even FallFest refreshments are something old-timers look forward to, be it slaking their thirst in the Star Inn with a cold one from Cassel Brewery or a glass of fine wine at the Stonehouse Vineyard’s tent… or grabbing a bite to eat and/or a slice of homemade pie from the Dunvegan Recreation’s food tent.

If musical entertainment is your thing, take heed that this activity has been moved to the Williams Pavilion (next to the Big Beaver schoolhouse). This year’s headline performers are the amazing Speuhler Family Swiss Horns and the Morris Family Singers. Other local performers in the all-day line-up include: Cole, Oakley & Dawson Williams on the piano and fiddle; Grace Graham; the Simply Singing Choir; Bluegrass: Doug MacPherson, Justin Theoret & Jamie Baker; and Grace (Morris) Armstrong on the harp.

Then there’s the Cow Pie 50/50 raffle where the winner could walk away with up to $1,125. Not too shabby for a $10 ‘investment’ (as the politicians love to say). And there are two draws… so two grand prizes… one at 12 noon and the second at 2:00 pm. Buy a ticket or two at the entrance gates, from the Cow Pie ticket booth near the schoolhouse or from Claire Wallace our mobile ticket sales person.

Kenyon history tour

If you were intrigued by last week’s mention of the upcoming “Glengarry Rambles” historical bus tour in October, the good news is that tickets will be going on sale at the Harvest Fall Festival this Sunday. The bad news is that there are only a limited number of seats, so I’d recommend grabbing yours as soon as you can. You have two dates from which to choose: from 1:00 to 3:30 pm on Saturday, October 14th or October 21st. Your guide will be Glengarry’s county archivist, Allan J. MacDonald, and he’s curated (as the ‘fashionistas’ say today) a fascinating tour of the hidden histories of Kenyon Township. A joint venture between the Glengarry County Archives and the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, tickets are also available by calling 613-527-5320 or visiting:

Scots’ Viking roots

We’ll close out today’s column with another tidbit from Marie (Jensen) Morris. Marie is proud of her heritage, both Danish and Canadian. She learned English at school and from her playmates and Danish from her parents, which she still speaks to this day. She told me that, as a young child, she was told, “Denmark peopled Scotland.” And, historically, she has a case.

From the 8th to the 15th centuries, Vikings and Norse settlers did colonize the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, the Hebrides and the islands of the Firth of Clyde. And there was an inevitable cultural exchange. One example Marlie gave was the Gaelic for church: kirk. Apparently, it’s derived from the Old Norse word ‘kirkja’.