“The Curlers” -filmed in Perth

In 1955, a black & white film, “The Curlers”, was shot in Perth, Ontario. “The Curlers” is a story featuring many local actors, as well as members of the Perth Curling Club.

With a number of scenes shot on the main streets, Gore, and Drummond, as well as the area around the Curling Club, and some rural scenes, the film is a trip down memory lane, and a glimpse back into life in 1955.

The story unfolds as two members of the Perth Curling Club, who are also local farmers, have a dispute over a section of property where their farms intersect.

Early in the film we see scenes of Gore Streets, and Drummond Streets, and then we meet some of the town’s best curlers at the Perth Curling Club.

The Perth Curling Club, as it appeared in 1955.

Members of the club appear in the film, along with actors portraying the main characters.

Producers remarked that the local actors did a fine job in their roles.

With so many Perth residents having Scottish ancestors it’s not surprising that curling was such a popular pastime in the winter months.

The conflict between farmers Henderson and McNair begins when it’s determined that trees have been chopped down on a section of property that each believes is theirs.

Back in Perth, along the main street, both men decide to seek legal counsel over their dispute

Each of the parties discusses the matter with their lawyers to determine the best course of action.

Another scene featuring one of the lovely limestone buildings in Perth – the historic courthouse.

One of the scenes takes place inside the Perth Courthouse

A lunch meeting is held in a local hotel.

A scene inside the hotel.

The two lawyers representing each of the farmers discusses the lawsuit over lunch.

Lunch meeting with some of the town’s ‘movers and shakers’.

Turkey Fair Day – on Gore Street

Back at the Curling Club

The two farmers, still in conflict over the land dispute must play together against an opposing team…

What will be the outcome?

After the game…

At the local church on Sunday

Local actors…and members of the Perth Curling Club

“The Curlers”

Norman Klenman -Story and Screenplay

William Davidson – Director

Robert Humble – Photography

Clifford Griffin – Sound

Fergus McDonell – Editing

Nicholas Balla – Production

Watch the film in it’s entirety,

“The Curlers”

Click on the link below:


….and take a trip down memory lane

From the National Film Board of Canada:

“In this film we see how an ingenious small-town lawyer employs the team spirit to settle a rift between two neighbouring farmers, just in time for an all-important turkey bonspiel.”

photos: are from the film, “The Curlers”

For more local stories in and around Lanark County:

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


Groundhog Blues in Lanark County


January always seemed like the longest month on the calendar. It was still cold and dark when February arrived, and there were so many months ahead before we could ride our bikes to DeWitt’s Corners, or Christie Lake.

Each year, we  waited patiently for Groundhog Day.  Would he see his shadow? Would there be an early spring, or would there be another two months at least of these cold, grey days?

Punxsutawney Phil had predicted the onset of spring since 1890 in Pennsylvania, and his Canadian counterpart Wiarton Willie began his annual forecast in the 1950s. At our house we listened closely to both forecasts, hoping that at least one of these rodents would offer some hope of an early spring.

So, we had two possible groundhog predictions, and two different radio stations. There was CJET in Smiths Falls, and Mother would often tune in and listen to Hal Botham after we’d left for school, while she did her ironing. CFRA was her usual early morning station and we’d often hear Ken ‘General’ Grant shouting, “Forward Ho!” as we ate our puffed wheat, before walking down the lane to wait for the school bus.

I could tell that Mother was also growing weary of the long, cold days of winter and if the ‘General’ didn’t report the prediction she wanted to hear then she’d likely turn the dial to CJET hoping that Hal Botham would have another version of the groundhog’s forecast. If it was cloudy, and the groundhog didn’t see his shadow, we’d have an early spring. By the first week of February we didn’t want to hear any other forecast. Six more weeks of winter would be enough to bear, without the possibility of the season being any longer!

When I came downstairs for breakfast that Groundhog Day morning so long ago, Mother had already set up the old ironing board and was busy ironing a linen tea-towel. I asked her if she’d heard the groundhog’s prediction yet, and she didn’t look up, but continued to iron. “It’s just a myth, just folklore”, she said, and she folded the tea towel neatly, and started on the next one.


“So, he saw his shadow?” I asked. “Yes they both did.” she responded somberly, still not looking up from her work, and folded the next tea-towel.

I sat quietly at the old kitchen table, ate my bowl of puffed wheat, drank my orange juice, and took my cod liver oil capsule without even being asked. Six more weeks would mean spring starting sometime in the middle of March…….or would it be even longer?

I finished my breakfast, put my dishes in the old porcelain sink, pulled on my boots and coat, grabbed my wool hat, mitts and lunch pail, and headed out the door.


As I trudged down the long, snowy lane-way to the Third Line, I felt defeated. It was sad how a couple of groundhogs that we didn’t even know could make Mother and I feel so depressed. I didn’t even understand how they could have seen their shadows that morning, because it wasn’t sunny outside at all. I couldn’t see my own shadow, and that meant that our local groundhogs wouldn’t be able to see theirs either.


I didn’t really know where Wiarton was located in Ontario, and didn’t have a clue about Pennsylvania, but I was sure that none of the groundhogs in Lanark County saw their shadows on that cloudy, grey morning in February. Maybe the other groundhogs were wrong! Maybe there would be an early spring after all! Maybe the snow would be gone soon, and I could ride my bike up to Christie Lake again. I had to stay positive. I had to keep hoping. I had to…

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

(an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line
ISBN 978-0-9877026-3-0)

book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


Pakenham Five-Span Bridge


Five-Span Bridge

Original Bridge was Wooden

Like many other bridges in those days the original structure was built of wood, and the elements of heat and cold, freezing and thawing took their toll.  The old wooden bridge needed frequent and costly repairs and it was decided that it would be a good time to construct a more durable bridge. 

The Pakenham Township Counselors initially considered using iron which was popular at the time, but since the iron bridges were floored with wood they decided instead to build a stone bridge which would be longer lasting and more economical to repair.  Plans were drawn for a five arch bridge, and a call for tenders was issued.

O’Toole and Keating of Ottawa

O’Toole and Keating of Ottawa won the bid, with an agreement to construct the bridge for $13,000.  Ads were placed in local papers including the ‘Almonte Gazette’ and ‘The Perth Courier’ looking for bridge carpenters.  They were offered an hourly wage of between $2.25 and $2.50, depending on experience, and a foremen would be hired at $3.00 per hour.

Building the Bridge

The work began on August 23, 1901 and was completed on October 23rd, an impressive seven weeks ahead of their proposed time limit.  Seventy local men were employed.  A steam-drill was used in the local quarry and a total of four sixty-foot mast derricks were used. It is believed that the quarry was located nearby.

Limestone Quarry

The bridge was constructed from limestone rock. The largest limestone block in the bridge is about 9 feet long and about 2 and a half feet square, weighing over 5 tons. Limestone is an ideal material for this type of construction because it is resistant to heating and thawing, does not deteriorate when road salt is used, and is easier to mine than other similar types of rock.

Massive limestone blocks cut from the local quarry

In the early 1900s there were an abundance of stone-cutters and mason who were skilled in cutting and shaping the limestone required for the bridge.

Five 40-Ft Arches

The finished bridge was 268 feet long with five forty-foot arches and was said to be the only one of its kind on the continent.  James Connery, Township Clerk, John Smith – Reeve, John Shaw, Michael Connors, William Shaw and Adam Millar – Pakenham Township Councillors all played their part in the planning and execution of the new structure. 

Mr. Robert Surtees of Ottawa prepared the blueprints and was the Engineer in charge of construction. William McDowall was the Inspector of the work, and Joseph Murphy of Arnprior was the book-keeper in charge of the budget while the work was in progress.  George Quackenbush, local photographer, provided area newspapers with photos of the finished project. 

Postcard – 1910

Detail of the arch construction

A view of the historic Pakenham bridge – the only one of its kind in Canada

Details from the placque at the bridge site

“Anyone who’s been to Pakenham will tell you that the awesome sight of this mighty river swelling and surging under the historic five-span bridge will remain forever etched in your memory. “

photo: Lanark County Tourism

Restoration in 1984

“The Almonte Gazette”

July 25, 1984, “Almonte Gazette”

The bridge was restored in 1984. The stones were carefully removed and cataloged, before being reinstated into their original position. A bed of reinforced concrete was set underneath the stones for additional strength.

Oct. 31, 1984, “Almonte Gazette”

Nov. 21, 1984, p. 1 “Almonte Gazette”

Total Cost

The cost to build the bridge in 1901 was $15,400, including the construction of a temporary bridge for use during the project.

The 1984 restoration of the bridge cost $380,000. Of this, $150,000 was paid by the NCC (National Capital Commission, and $25,000 by the Ontario Heritage Foundation.

2007 Flag

Pakenham amalgamated with Almonte and Ramsay to form Mississippi Mills in 1998. The bridge was chosen as one of the principal symbols for their flag in 2007.

In the Movies

The 2020 Christmas movie, “Fatman”, (starring Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins and Marianne Jean-Baptiste) features a driving scene filmed on the Pakenham bridge.

Seven Wonders of Lanark County

Designated as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Lanark County’, the Pakenham Bridge will continue to delight visitors and residents alike, with its breathtaking vistas, and rich history.

The bridge is located at 4916 Kinburn Side Road.


For a story set in Pakenham and the nearby Five-Span bridge:

“Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time – featuring the story, “Perils in Pakenham” Story features many local family names.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


Mother’s Farmhouse Pancakes

Christmas had come and gone for another year, and by early January we were back in our classrooms at Glen Tay Public School. Frigid, gray mornings were spent shivering at the end of the long lane, waiting for the big orange school bus to come rattling up the Third Line.


Even though the winter solstice had passed, the days in Lanark County were still short and dark for the most part. The cold months that were still to come stretched out ahead of us like the long, heavy, trains that thundered and chugged down the tracks, back the side road, near the Fourth Line.

This way to the duck pond0001

Winter in the country sometimes looked barren and lifeless. The soft green grass and fragrant flowers were almost forgotten, as they lay dormant under the heavy blanket of snow. The massive, frozen, white shroud seemed to conceal every trace of life that had ever existed in our yard.


Evenings after school were spent shoveling, pushing, and lifting the snow, from one pile to another. Week after week more snow fell, and it blew and drifted back into the paths that we’d made.


I was always cold, always shivering, cold face, cold hands, cold feet on the floors of the old house. Even with layers of tattered, wool blankets on the bed, the icy drafts snuck into my room, and the windows were coated in a heavy layer of frost. The wood stove in the kitchen eventually died out over night, and my glass of water on the bed-side table was frozen like a miniature hockey rink by morning.


The turkey sandwiches, so delicious on Boxing Day, began to lose their luster, as the first few days of the new month found us eating the leftovers from the enormous Christmas bird. Turkey soup. Turkey pot pie. Turkey casserole. Would it ever end? Endless stacks of sliced turkey were stored in the old chest freezer for those daily turkey sandwiches, dressed with mustard, salt and pepper, staring up at me from my lunch pail at school.


One morning that same January, before heading off to work, at Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay, Dad requested, ever so politely, that we have eggs for supper that evening. Eggs were one of Dad’s favourite meals, any time of day. He liked them fried, over easy, boiled, scrambled, any way at all, and that was his request for supper. My fingers were crossed that Mother would comply and take a break from her relentless production of turkey leftovers.


What a treat it would be to have a nice, light supper after so many heavy meals, rich baked goods, and endless servings of turkey! After Dad left that morning, Mother decided that she would indeed make fried eggs and pancakes for supper, so she began to assemble her ingredients. Hopefully she had everything she needed, or one of us would be making a long, cold trek down to Cavanagh’s store in DeWitt’s Corners.


Mother began her preparations on the old kitchen table. I breathed a sigh of relief, welcoming a change from the endless turkey leftovers. On that cold winter’s evening, so long ago, when Dad returned from work, we had the very best cure for a January Turkey Hangover.



Audry Stafford’s  Farm-style Buttermilk Pancakes

3 cups all purpose flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of cinnamon

3 cups buttermilk

½ cup milk

3 eggs   (Mother always used large eggs)

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Our Mother, being a prize-winning baker at the Perth Fair, had a few good tricks for making her pancakes light and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

First, let your buttermilk, milk and eggs sit out for a full hour before making the pancakes. By allowing them to reach room temperature the pancakes will rise higher and fluffier.

Use real butter, don’t substitute with margarine, or the flavour will not be as good.

Make sure that your baking powder is fresh to give as much lift and height possible to the pancakes.

Use real buttermilk. If it’s not possible to use real buttermilk, you can sour some regular milk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to each cup of milk. The recipe will still work, but the flavour will not be nearly as rich as using real buttermilk. We always had a quart of buttermilk in the fridge because Dad liked to have a small glass at night before bedtime. Buttermilk is low in fat and very high in protein.

What is Buttermilk?

In case you don’t know, buttermilk is the fluid remaining when the fat is removed when cream is churned in to butter. When I was a kid, farmers separated the milk from the cream on the farm, and shipped cans of cream to cheese factories once or twice a week. The cream would be used to make cheese and butter. Today, cultured buttermilk is produced by adding lactic acid to pasteurized whole milk and adding a touch of salt.

Don’t forget – Mother always warned us not to stir the pancake batter too much. Over-stirring will cause the pancakes to be flat, not fluffy. Just stir ever so slightly, don’t worry about the lumps of flour, just combine the wet and dry ingredients together gently with a wooden spoon or spatula; don’t over-mix.


Use a large bowl and combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In another large bowl, combine your eggs, buttermilk, milk, melted butter and vanilla.

The wet and dry ingredients should be kept separate until you are ready to make the pancakes.

Next, heat a lightly oiled frying pan at medium-high heat. To test the temperature you can add a drop of water to the center of the pan, and it should bead up and sizzle.

When the pan is ready, you can mix the wet and dry ingredients. Remember, just mix very lightly, and don’t worry about the lumps. Never over-stir. This is very important.

Scoop up the batter with a ladle and use about half a cup for each pancake. When one side is golden, flip it over with a spatula and cook the other side. Add more oil to the pan as required.

This recipe will make a dozen 5-inch pancakes.

If you have any leftover pancakes, you can let them cool, place waxed paper between them and freeze.

Top the finished pancakes with salted butter and some Lanark County Maple syrup. For a fancy look you can sift a bit of icing sugar on top.

lanark-county-maple-syrup    maple-syrup

If you’re having eggs with your pancakes, like we did, fry them up in a little bacon grease for added flavour. Mother always poured her leftover bacon drippings into a small container and kept it in the fridge. Use it for frying eggs, onions, and home-fries, and make an old fashioned country-style meal.

So cure your January turkey hangover, enjoy some fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes!


Note:   To discover   “10 Things You May Not Know About Maple Syrup”, and for a listing of the top maple syrup producers in Lanark County:  10 Things You May Not Know About Maple Syrup


book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


You Might Be Scottish if…..

How Scottish

Scots in

Lanark County

In 1820 and 1821, a thousands of Scottish settlers arrived from the Glasgow area and settled in the Dalhousie, Lanark, North Sherbrooke, and Ramsay townships in Lanark County. They brought their traditions and customs with them from the old country, like the celebration of their famous poet, Robbie Burns.

January 25th

On January 25th our thoughts turn to all things Scottish as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Robbie Burns, perhaps one of the most famous poets born and bred in Scotland. Although Robbie died at the tender age of 37, he left a legacy of poetry unmatched, and has become one of Scotland’s most beloved characters.

Today, there are people of Scottish descent scattered all over the world, and though they may be far from the land of their ancestors, they still share the traits passed down from those who came before.

Do you have any Scottish blood flowing through your veins?

Here are the top 20 ways to tell if you are Scottish:

You might be Scottish if……

1. You could swear before you could count.

2. You’ll wait at a store counter for a nickel of change.

3. You still enjoy watching ‘Braveheart’ even though it’s more Hollywood than historical.

4. You prefer to measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons.

5. Your eyes are a lovely shade of blue or green or a light hazel-brown

6. Even though you know what haggis is made with…you still eat it.

7. Your eyes tear up at the sound of bagpipes playing ‘Amazing Grace’.

8. Your speech becomes more colourful after a wee nip or two

9. If someone insults those dear to you, they’ve may have a fight on their hands

10. You’ve got lovely skin, and pleasant facial features

11. You’re a hard worker, and always make sure that every job is done well

12. You’ve likely remained loyal to the same sports team for years, even if they always lose

13. You’re strong willed, with a steely determination.

14. You have a stubborn streak and have been known to hold a grudge

15. You would dive into the street to retrieve a penny during a parade and risk death and injury.

16. You re-use your plastic bags and keep them in a drawer.

17. You’ve got a wonderful sense of humour and enjoy a joke or two

18. You stop talking and listen when bagpipes are playing.

19. You are fiercely loyal to family and friends and extremely proud of your heritage

20. Above all, you possess a strong sense of honour, and always keep your word.


Can you name

these famous Scots?

(answers at the bottom of the page)

annie-lennox  sean-connery  isla-fisher

ewan-mcgregor  sheena-easton   gerard-butler

Robbie Burns Day

Do you know who wrote the Scottish song ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

‘Auld Lang Syne’, was written by the iconic Scottish poet Robbie Burns, and on January 25th each year Scots all over the world celebrate the day he was born in 1759. Many Scottish folk attend what is known as ‘Burns Night’ where they will feast on a traditional meal of the infamous ‘haggis’.

Robbie Burns

In honour of Robbie Burns here is a traditional Scottish recipe for Haggis:



1 set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by a butcher)
One beef bung (intestine)
3 c finely chopped suet
1 c medium ground oatmeal
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 c beef stock
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp mace

Trim off fat and sinew from the sheep’s intestine and, discard the windpipe.
Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to a boil
Reduce heat, simmer for 1 hour until tender and cool
Chop the meat into fine pieces and combine in a large bowl with the suet, oatmeal, finely onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace
Mix well.
Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef ‘bung’ which should be over half full, then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string
Leave room to expand or it may burst while cooking
Place in a pot and cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours.
Serve hot with “champit tatties and bashit neeps” (mashed/creamed potato and turnip).
For added flavour, you can add some nutmeg to the potatoes and allspice to the turnip. Some people like to pour a little whisky over their haggis – Drambuie may be used as well.


Whether you are planning to attend a ‘Burns Night’ celebration this January 25th, or just having a small gathering at your home, don’t forget to recite the traditional Selkirk Grace before enjoying your haggis along with a wee dram of your favourite Scotch! Happy Robbie Burns Day! Och Aye!

Selkirk Grace

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it,
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit.”


Answers – Scottish Celebrities :  1. Annie Lennox,  2.  Sean Connery, 3. Isla Fisher, 4. Ewan McGregor, 5. Sheena Easton, 6. Gerard Butler


Many of the pioneer settlers in Lanark County, Ontario, Canada came from Scotland.

For more information on researching your Scottish ancestors who settled in Eastern Ontario:

Lanark County Genealogical Society


Scottish Genealogical Society, Edinburgh, Scotland


Scotland – Births & Baptisms 1564-1950


National Library of Scotland – Genealogical Research


National Records of Scotland


(This post is dedicated to the memory of James ‘Jim’ Gebbie, my husband Kevin’s uncle, who passed away in 2013 in his native Scotland. Jim was a kind soul, and a fine gentleman, and I had the privilege of spending some time with him on his visit to Canada in the summer of 2011. He shared many of his stories with us, of life as a boy growing up in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. We hope that wherever Jim is now, they will be serving up his wee glass of scotch that he enjoyed so much before dinner each evening. Rest in peace Jim.)


book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


January Feast at Mother’s Birdfeeder

Blue Jay

There was nothing fancy about the rickety old wooden bird feeder in the orchard behind the house. Our father was not going to win any awards for his design, that’s for sure. The bird feeder was constructed of five short pieces of wood, cut from an old weathered plank, and consisted of a floor, a roof, and three side walls. The pieces were nailed together, and mounted on a two by four, hammered into the ground, about twenty feet from the back kitchen window.

It was Mother who requested that the feeder be built one winter. It had been a brutally cold January, and snowy too. The winds from the north seemed particularly harsh that year, and it had been weeks since I’d ventured up the Third Line to visit my friends at DeWitt’s Corners. I’d been outside a few times helping with the shoveling, and even slid down our neighbour Chris Perkins’ hill on my toboggan a couple of times, but it was just too cold to stay outside for very long.

Because of the heavy snow and frigid temperatures, Mother had been very concerned that the birds wouldn’t be able to find food and would perish. Once Dad had finished putting up the bird feeder, Mother went to straight to work preparing something she thought would be hearty and filling for her feathered friends.

She brought out the heavy, well-worn, cast iron frying pan from under the sink, went straight to the old refrigerator, and picked up her bowl of bacon drippings. Every time Mother cooked bacon she poured the leftover drippings into a melamine bowl, and stored it in the fridge. She used the drippings to add flavour whenever she fried eggs, and for frying onions to have as a side dish with supper.


While the bacon drippings were heating up in the pan, Mother brought out a heavy plastic bag where she stored old crusts of bread, and she began to break them into crumbs. She rubbed them against the palm of her hand over a mixing bowl, until they were in fine pieces, like the crumbs for Christmas stuffing. Next, she brought the bowl of crumbs over to the frying pan and poured them in, a bit at a time, and stirred them with a wooden spoon, until they were coated in bacon drippings.


She scraped the crumbs back into the mixing bowl, and set it on the kitchen table to cool, while she put on her boots and coat. She grabbed the bowl and headed out the door into the back porch, and out to the new feeder in the orchard. Dad might not have built a fancy-looking feeder, but he had placed it at just the right height so that Mother could easily lay her bacon-coated crumbs inside.

Mother came back in the kitchen, took off her coat and boots, and we waited patiently by the window. I pushed back the curtain, and pulled up a couple of kitchen chairs so we could watch. By this time Dad had put away his tools, had come in from the garage, and was making himself a cup of coffee. He warned me not to make any sudden movements in front of the window, or I would scare the birds away, so I sat there quietly and we waited.

Less than fifteen minutes passed when we saw our first ‘customer’. We were all excited, and even Dad, who hadn’t seemed particularly interested at first, was over by the window to watch the show. The first bird at the feeder was a blue jay. He had a little blue ‘hat’ and wings, and a big round white belly. There was a blue and white pattern on his back and he had a lovely, long tail with many different shades of blue all the way to the tip. His eyes and his beak were shiny and black, and he pecked away eagerly at the crumbs in the feeder for several minutes.

blue-jay-1 blue-jay-2

He continued to peck at the crumbs, looked around nervously, pecked again and then looked straight at us with his big black eyes as if to say ‘thank-you’, then he flew away through the orchard and over the back field, heading toward the train tracks.


The bird feeder was a success! Dad was smiling, knowing that his efforts had been worthwhile. Mother was pleased that her very first ‘customer’ had enjoyed his meal, and hopefully would bring his friends back to dine as well, and keep in good health during the cold spell.

snowstorm bluejays

Mother’s birdfeeder would remain in the old orchard for many decades. The construction was basic, the feed was always the same – bacon grease and breadcrumbs, and over the years thousands of birds would dine at the feeder while we watched from the kitchen window. Blue Jays were always her favourites, although I saw a few handsome red Cardinals and many Black-Capped Chickadees over the years as well.

chickadee   winter-bird-cardinal

On these harsh, frigid, January days, when the winds are relentless, and the snow piles up around us, I think of our small feathered friends back on the Third Line. I wonder if the old feeder is still standing in the orchard, and if anyone thinks to put out a few crumbs and some drippings for our beautiful, hungry, winter birds. In the stark, white landscape they provided a welcome splash of colour, and their songs gave us hope through the long, silent winter.


book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com



“January Feast at Mother’s Bird Feeder”

is an excerpt from  “Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”

(available at The Book Nook, 60 Gore St. E., Perth, Ontario, Spark Books & Curios 76 Foster Street, Perth, Ontario, Mill Street Books 52 Mill Street, Almonte, Ontario, and online at http://www.staffordwilson.com)



More books by author Arlene Stafford-Wilson:

8 books Arlene Stafford-Wilson

2021 release: “Lanark County Comfort”

2022 release: “Lanark County Christmas”


Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

potato pancakes

Drummond Pioneer Irish Boxty

Many of the early settlers in Lanark County, arrived in 1816, like our pioneer ancestor, Tobias Stafford.  He came from County Wexford, married the lovely Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McGarry, from County Westmeath, and after a year spent living on Stafford Island, built a home on lot 10, 11th concession of Drummond Township.

One of the recipes brought from their native southern Ireland, was for Irish Boxty.  It was a simple dish, made with ingredients on hand. In those days, it was a very long trip by horse and buggy to Perth, for supplies.  Many of the early recipes relied on staples, ingredients available in the cupboard, at home.

As some may already know, the Irish love their limericks, and poems, and there is a little rhyme about Boxty, that was often recited with a wink and a smile.  Although it is not very politically-correct in these times, it gives us a glimpse into the things of the past, that were popular in the early days:

“Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty,
You’ll never get your man”


Recipe for Boxty/ Irish Potato Cakes

2 c mashed potatoes

1 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp grated onion

1 egg, beaten


Mix all ingredients together, shape into patties, and fry in a greased pan, until golden brown.  (salt and pepper to taste)  Serve with eggs, breakfast meats, and hot buttered toast.

boxty breakfast


(enjoy with a cup of hot Irish breakfast tea, or hot black tea, as our parents did)

irish breakfast tea

This old recipe, in its simplicity, may not be diverse enough for the modern palate, and some may wish to add spices or vegetables into the mix.

Mother and Dad enjoyed plain food that wouldn’t upset their stomachs, and this certainly fits the bill.

and…never to be forgotten, the ritual that always came before any meal at the Stafford home, was the grace:

“Heavenly Father,

Bless this food to our use,

and us, for thy service”


Irish shamrock


For more information on the early Irish settlers of Drummond Township, and St. Patrick’s church:

St. Patrick’s Church, Drummond Township

book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com
This recipe is from “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”  ISBN: 9780987-7026-09



Allan House & Cecil Hotel Perth

Dining staff at the Allan House Hotel – Second from the right -Anne Trainor (Kerr), her sister is in the middle. Lizzie Trainor (Menagh), daughters of Michael Trainor and Mary Laughney, c. 1900, Photo: courtesy of Shirley (Kerr) Scott

Allan House

The building was erected in 1845 by John McCallum. In its glory days, Allan House was the largest hotel in Perth, with fifty well-appointed rooms. Owner and operator, Andrew Robinson, was known for his hospitality and he offered free buggy rides to the train and stages.

photo: Middleville Museum, c. 1900

William McEwen operated the horse-drawn taxi which departed from the Allan House every day except Sunday. The fare was thirty-five cents to Balderson and sixty-five cents to Lanark.

Dodds Grocery Store

Dodds Grocery Store was located in the same block as the Allan House Hotel.

Photo: shows Matilda Dodds, age 23, in 1905, the year she married Norman Dodds. Matilda ‘Tillie’, was the daughter of Edward Donnelly and Mary Ann Palmer. The photo was taken he year she was married to Norman, born on the Scotch Line, son of Thomas Dodds and Margaret Munro. Norman and Tillie had one child, Dorothy, born a year after their marriage.

Hotel Sold

The popular Allan House Hotel was sold in the fall of 1911 to Mr. Fitzgerald of Almonte, and the name was officially changed on November 1, 1911 to the ‘Hotel Cecil’

Hotel Cecil

Death in the

Laundry Room

Just a few days before Christmas – one month after the Fitzgerald brothers took over the hotel, tragedy struck, when Rose O’Neil collapsed suddenly, while working in the laundry room of the hotel, and died. She was a daughter of Francis O’Neil of Burgess Township.

Dec. 22, 1911, p. 1, “The Perth Courier”

There were several fires in the building over the years – in 1920, in 1924, and in 1972.

1972 Fire

Residents Escape

In Night Attire

“It was a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured in the $250,000 fire which swept through the stone building on Gore Street E., near the Town Hall, early Monday morning.

The business and apartment block, owned by Leslie Campbell of Ottawa, was purchased by him just twelve months ago.

The two-storey apartment building, along with a penthouse, was occupied by elderly people, who came to near-panic when the alarm sounded and they found the stairs and halls were filled with smoke.

One lady was carried down from a verandah on the back of a fireman, while another was rescued from a second-storey window. The remainder were led through the smoke by police and firemen and lost all their furniture and private possessions.

Gerald Dean, who was driving south on Gore Street at 3:30 a.m. noticed smoke drifting across the street. He turned on Market to the rear of the premises and saw that the tinsmith’s shop was a mass of flames.

He immediately ran over to the police station and notified Constable Dulmage, who was on duty at the time.

The Constable handed Dean the fire extinguisher while he sounded the fire alarm.

On returning to the scene of the fire, he found the windows of the tinsmiths’s shop were broken, probably due to the intense heat. At that time, he said the blaze seemed to be confined to that one area.

The fire department was on the scene very quickly and Mr. Dean decided to go home to bed, as he thought it was only a small fire.

When he woke at 7 a.m. he was amazed to see the whole building gutted.

In an interview, he said he saw nothing that would indicate how the fire had started.

Firemen from Smiths Falls, Almonte, and Lanark, along with the rural township firemen, helped to quell the blaze.

Four businesses, Thomas Hardware, Avco Finance, a coin laundry and a recently-renovated Eaton’s order office were gutted by the fire. All the contents and records were completely destroyed.

Constable Dulmage went to the Gore Street entrance of the building to arouse the residents on the second floor along with Robert Scobbie of Perth, who had heard the fire alarm and came to help.

The Constable said, “I could see the doors of the apartments when we climbed the stairs and entered the corridor. We banged on the doors and the elderly residents, unaware of the fire, came out in their night attire.

“We led them down the stairs and the smoke was so thick we had to feel our way to safety.”

The residents were then directed to the Town Hall where their relatives were notified and came to give them shelter in their homes.

“To make sure no one was left in the buildings, Scobbie raced back into the smoke-filled apartments for a final check.”

As conditions grew worse, he (Scobbie) found himself stranded and had to make his way out of the building by smashing a window on the second floor.

The brave young man was rescued by Constable Dulmage who heard the crash of glass and placed a ladder up to the window.

The Salvation Army officers were at the scene very quickly to serve hot drinks and sandwiches to the firemen. Nelson King, a local merchant, also served hot coffee during the early hours of the morning.

Firemen Injured

Two firemen, Deputy-Chief David Bell and Ron Jenkins, were taken to hospital for treatment after being cut by flying glass when an explosion took place at approximately 5:45 a.m., in the Avco offices. This is believed to have been caused by combustion building up in the offices, which ran the width of the buildings.

Fire Chief, Jack Andison said, “We were very fortunate to stop the fire from spreading to the attached apartment building. We had problems in fighting the fire due to some old wooden buildings being adjacent to the destroyed portion.”, he said.

The Chief said that the Perth Utilities bucket truck had played an important part in keeping the fire under control, as it was used to lift firemen and hoses to the roof of the building so water could be poured down from an overhead position.

Later, the Almonte Fire Department came to their assistance with an aerial ladder.

At about 6 a.m., the Chief explained, flames were shooting from the second and third storey windows, and the fire spread through the attic and into the tar and gravel roof of the building.

According to a report, the tinsmiths’s shop, owned by Roy Kilpatrick, was securely locked

by Clyde Emerson as he left the building at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. He was believed to have been the last person in the tinsmith’s shop.



The fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical ‘short’.

The staff of the Ottawa Gas Co. was called to the scene and turned off the feeder line to the Coin Wash at 6:30 a.m. All pipes were found to be undamaged and intact.

In an interview with Mr. Campbell, the owner of the building, he said he was called to the fire early in the morning and the gutting of the building was a complete shock to him.

“At the present time,”, he said, “I cannot make any decision with regard to re-building. But I will definitely clean everything up as soon as possible.” The building is believed to be insured for $100,000.

Perth Town Council will be sending letters of citation to Constable Richard Dulmage and local resident, Robert Scobbie for the parts they played in rescuing the apartment tenants.

Letters of citation will also be sent to the local police department, Public Utilities Commission, fire department, and the three other fire departments which responded to the emergency.

Considerable smoke and water damage was done to the adjoining building, which houses DiCola Fuels, New Style Shoppe, and Haggis Candy Store.

All these stores are closed at present for clean-up operations.”

Thursday, November 30, 1972, “The Perth Courier”


Plagued by fires in 1920, 1924, and 1972, there are still some who will recall the most recent blaze that completely gutted the building, and caused damage to the nearby stores.

Although the 1972 fire was tragic, it was also a night of heroes and bravery, and people who acted with courage, going above and beyond, and this story is dedicated to them.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


January 6th – Irish Women’s Little Christmas


Little Christmas

Nollaig na mBan (pronunciation Null-ug na Mon) is ‘Women’s Little Christmas’ or the Feast of the Epiphany as it is more commonly known—marking the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, a Christian feast day celebrating the the visit of the Three Kings or Wise Men to the baby Jesus in his manger in Bethlehem, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Taking Down

the Decorations

Women’s Little Christmas Eve is the day when some will add the wise men to their nativity displays. This would be the final decoration added in the home, done on January 5th, and at the end of the day on January 6th, these, and all of the other decorations would be taken down. Some Roman Catholic families chose to keep their tree up until February 2nd, according to the traditions of Candlemas, which marks the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

The Burning

of the Holly

In ancient times, in more modest Irish homes, holly was the only decoration used, and so it was taken down from the mantle, and burned on January 6th for good luck. It was symbolic to leave the holly up until Women’s Little Christmas.

Holly was thought to have important spiritual attributes, and the Druids believed it could guard against dark witchcraft and evil spirits. The Irish believed that its spikes could capture evil spirits and prevent them from entering a house. Holly placed around the home was thought to be a safe haven for the little people, who traditionally guarded the house from more sinister forces.

It was a tradition if holly was the first evergreen plant to be brought into the house at Christmastime, then the man would have the upper hand and rule the roost for the coming year. For that reason, women usually instructed that the ivy be collected first, then the holly. The timing of taking down the holly was very important. Once brought inside it must not be discarded or taken down until after 6th of January. Throwing out a symbol of good fortune too soon could mean that you were looking for trouble.

Visiting with Friends

and Neighbours

Women’s Little Christmas, on January 6th each year, was the day that women rested and relaxed after a busy season of cooking and festivities. In rural and small-town Catholic Ireland, women gathered in each other’s homes, or down at the local pub, for a few hours of fun, while men looked after the home and the children. As all were seated, a pact was made, to leave the worries and cares of the old year, outside the door. 

Some women stayed in their neighbourhood, and did rounds of visiting in the afternoon. Fruit loaf and tea, or a shot of something stronger, served at someone’s house, and was the day that women did something for themselves, and had a rest after all of their Christmas work.

….And what would a Women’s Little Christmas be without a nice warm Irish Toddy to finish the day?

Irish Toddy Recipe

Irish Toddy

1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar

Boiling water

1 measure of Irish Whiskey (Bushmills or Jameson)

3 cloves

1 slice or wedge of lemon

You may use any whiskey you desire, or for an authentic Irish toddy, use Bushmills or Jameson Irish Whiskey

Add sugar, and dissolve in a splash of the hot water.

Add the whiskey, cloves (if desired) a slice of lemon, and fill up with boiling water.

It is customary to give a New Year’s toast on Women’s Little Christmas, with an Irish blessing:

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


Lanark County Ice Storm 1998

5 Days of Freezing Rain…

On January 4, 1998, the freezing rain began, lasting five days, and Eastern Ontario and Southern Quebec were hit with over 100 millimetres of ice pellets. This storm became one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history.

The heavy layers of ice coated tree branches which fell on hydro-electric lines, and soon almost 4 million people were without power, some for days, and many for several weeks.

Maple syrup bushes, some that had been part of family enterprises for generations suffered devastating damage as young trees toppled from the weight of the ice, and branches on older established trees snapped and fell to the ground.

Over half a million people, including seniors in long-term care, were forced from their homes into make-shift local shelters operating on emergency power backup. In some remote areas of Eastern Ontario, the O.P.P. went door to door, providing transportation to shelters making sure that none of the elderly were left to fend for themselves in the cold and the dark.

A state of emergency was declared in Ontario and Quebec, calling on the Canadian Armed Forces to assist in clearing the roads of tree branches and debris, aid in moving stuck vehicles, helping stranded families and assisting in the restoration of power and providing basic necessities. 

Power Outages

“I can’t really believe what all that ice did to our trees”, said Mrs. Conboy, “Our whole property looks like one big brush pile....”

“Many people living outside of Perth were not able to return to their homes, and are staying at the Civitan Hall”

People Flocked to Shelters

Layers of ice coated the power lines

“Days?, Weeks? How Long? Even the Chairman of Ontario Hydro didn’t know.”

“Lanark reeve, Larry McDermott closed the village liquor store, saying it’s too dangerous a time to let people drink.”

Jan. 14, 1998, p. 2 “The Ottawa Citizen”

“Harold Jordan of the Lanark County Fire Service said firefighters have found at least two people ‘semi-delirious’…”

“…severe ice storm that has left millions of Canadians without electrical power.”

Branches snapped and trees fell

“Mrs. Congreves lives on a remote country road in Lanark Highlands Township with her husband and three young children.”

(story continued below)

“Their home was warmed by a wood stove, which also served to heat their food and boil water.”

Jan. 16, 1998, p. 41 “The Ottawa Citizen”

“The main roads were clear but some back roads were still closed due to fallen branches.”

“About 90% of Eastern Ontario’s maple trees have been damaged…”

“Many trees were bent like candy-canes.”

“Last night was the first night I got more than four hours’ sleep.”

“Fire Chief, Dave Smith, performed these same tasks in the Tatlock, French Line and County Road 511 area.”

“This courageous group of young men and women deserves our gratitude for the excellent job done.”

…And then came the floods

in the spring of 1998

April 3 1998 p. 40, “The Ottawa Citizen”

“On Wednesday it was running under the bridge in the village of Lanark, but by the next morning the bridge was flooded.”

April 3, 1998 p. 40, “The Ottawa Citizen”
April 3, 1998, p. 41, “The Ottawa Citizen”

“Flower Station, Joe’s Lake, The French Line, Dateman’s Bridge and Bow Lake have been cut off by the water flowing over the bridges.”

April 3, 1998, p. 41, “The Ottawa Citizen”

“She got out on Wednesday, before the water rose around the walls of her house.”

“For three days, raging flood waters turned the residents of Flower Station into stranded castaways.”

April 5, 1998, p. 18, “The Ottawa Citizen”

“Rugs were floating, a rocking chair bobbed and the refrigerator heaved as the main floor of the two-storey house became part of the Mississippi.”

Flood Map April 5 1998

April 5, 1998, p. 18, “The Ottawa Citizen”

“Dave Willoughby paddles a boat over his front yard…”

Barb and John Baker

The Dean Family

Joe Paul

Shawn and Preston Laming

Debbie Caldwell


Recovery was slow but steady, and gradually the damages caused from the ice storm and the floods that followed later that spring were restored. Many years passed before Lanark County’s maple trees fully recovered and operations in sugar bush businesses eventually returned to normal levels of production.

Stories of the ice storm have been told and re-told, and many of us have vivid memories of those days when ice coated everything outdoors, when our power was out, and in the coldest month of the year there was no heat nor light.

Many of us will also remember the special moments during those darkest times, when neighbours helped neighbours, and strangers became friends.

The days and nights of the ice storm and the spring floods of 1998 were some of the worst times that any of us had ever experienced, but we could also say that these challenges of a lifetime brought out the best in us all.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com