“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


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


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


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


Lanark County Scottish New Year – Hogmanay

Among the earliest settlers to Lanark County were Scots who came from Glasgow and Lanarkshire, after the Napoleonic war. These immigrants settled mostly in the townships of Dalhousie, Lanark, North Sherborooke and Ramsay. In 1820, approximately 400 families arrived in Lanark County, bringing their skills in cotton weaving, carpentry, blacksmithing and shoe-making. Many of these Scots also brought their traditions from the old country, and one of their most beloved was their New Year’s known as Hogmanay.

Many of these Hogmanay traditions were brought to Scotland by the Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries. In some parts of Scotland, like Shetland, the Viking influence remains strong, and New Year is still called ‘Yules’, derived from the Scandinavian word for the midwinter festival of Yule.

Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and was banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. This was because of the Protestant Reformation movement, when it was believed that Christmas was a Catholic feast, and should be banned.

Hogmanay Traditions

It was customary to clean the house, and take out the ashes from the fire. It was also a requirement to clear all your debts before “the bells” sound midnight, the underlying belief was to clear out the remains of the old year, and have a clean slate to welcome in a young New Year.

First Footing

First Footing refers to the first person to cross your threshold after midnight on New Year’s Eve. They must be dark-haired, which is an ancient tradition going back to the days of the Viking invasions, when a fair-haired person could mean trouble for your household.

They must be bearing gifts, and specifically – a half-bottle of scotch whisky, a generous piece of black bun, a few pieces of coal. The whisky and black bun is to ensure that the home has food and drink in the coming year, and the coal is symbolic that the home will be warm in the year ahead.

Once the first footer crosses the threshold (and they can be turned away if they are light-haired), they are led through the entire home. When the tour is finished they place the coal on the fire, offer whiskey to the family, and the black bun is sliced and shared. Next, they kiss every female in the home, and wish them all the best in the new year.

The first-footer should be dark complexioned,

and their name begins with straight, not curvy letters.

First Footing Rules   

The first footer brings all the luck, good or bad, for the year ahead.

They should be male and dark-haired.

They may not be doctors, members of the clergy or grave-diggers, and must not have eyebrows that meet in the middle.

They should bring whiskey, coal, and black bun.

A first footer may claim a kiss from every woman present.

If your First Footer doesn’t meet all the requirements, then the household is heading for an unlucky year.

A toast is made by the First-Footer before he leaves – ” A good new year to all and many may you see”

Torchlight Parade

Fire also plays a special role in Hogmanay customs, and originates in the pagan traditions of the pre-Christian Celts. In modern times, the annual Torchlight Procession in Edinburgh continues with thousands marching through the city center carrying blazing torches.

Scottish Black Bun

Black Bun recipe:

Pastry Case

3 c flour  

1/2 tsp baking powder

6 Tbsp lard

6 Tbsp butter

1 pinch salt

Cold water


2 ¾ c seedless raisins  

2 Tbsp brandy

1 Tbsp milk

2 ¾ c  currants  

1/3 c chopped almonds

1 pinch black pepper  

¼ c mixed peel

1 ½ c flour  

1/3 c brown sugar  

1 tsp allspice  

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 large egg beaten


Grease an 8-inch loaf tin. Blend the lard and butter into the flour and salt and mix in cold water to make a stiff dough. This will be used to line the tin. Roll out the pastry and slice into six pieces to fit the bottom, top and all four sides of the tin. Press into the tin, pressing the overlapped sections to seal.

Mix the raisins, currants, almonds, peel and sugar together. Sift in the flour, add the spices and baking powder, then mix together with the brandy and most of the egg. Add enough milk to moisten.

Place the filling into the lined tin and top with the pastry lid, sealing the edges. Lightly score the surface with a fork.

Brush the top with milk to create a glaze.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 325F 2-3 hours. Test with a skewer which should come out clean; if not, continue baking.

Cool in the tin and then on a wire rack. 

A First-Footer kisses every woman in the household

Auld Lang Syne

Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns‘ “Auld Lang Syne”. Burns published his version of this traditional New Year’s song in 1788, although it is said the original was written 80 years before that.

To sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ the traditional Scottish way, a circle is formed and hands are joined with the person on either side of you. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their chest, so the right hand reaches out to the neighbour. When the song ends, everyone rushes to the middle, still holding hands.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

New Year’s Morning

Saining the House

There is a Scottish highland custom of saining (blessing) the house and and the livestock, and is still practised today, mostly in rural areas. The ritual involves the drinking of water believed to be magic which must be sourced from a river ford that’s said to be crossed by both the living and the dead. Next is the burning of juniper branches, enough to fill the house with smoke, and is believed to cleanse the house and drive away evil spirits.

After these two rituals are completed, the windows and doors are opened to let in fresh, New Year air, and a wee nip of whisky is taken before indulging in a hearty Scottish breakfast.

“Out with the Old, and in with the New!”

Scottish New Year’s Blessing

Happy New Year!

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


Perth’s New Year’s Babies 1947-1987


No birth has been as widely documented, or made as public through the media, than the first birth in a new year.  It’s not clear when the tradition of announcing the arrival of a town or city’s first baby began across Lanark County.

In the early 1940s, “The Perth Courier” began to mention the ‘New Year’s baby’ in their listings of social and community events, but it was not until January 1947 that this venerable newspaper started to showcase  the area’s newest resident with a feature story, and often a photograph of baby and mother.

In the January 2nd 1947 edition of “The Perth Courier” for the very first time, there was a long list of prizes to be supplied by local merchants, and instructions to new parents, on how to claim the title of “Perth’s First Baby of 1947”:

“All the parents need to do to secure all these good things for Perth’s first baby of 1947 is to give the Courier a statement of the time and date of the arrival, signed by the doctor or attending nurse.  The Courier will then provide a statement to the parents, which will enable them to pick up the merchandise.  News of the arrival must reach the Courier by Monday, January 6th to qualify.”

In honour of those special New Year’s babies born in Perth, four decades of announcements follow, from “The Perth Courier”, beginning in 1947 through to 1987:


1947 – Ronald Gilchrist  –  Snow Road


1948 – Audrey McCurdy  –  Lanark, Ontario


1949 – Robert Frank –

Canonto, North Frontenac


1950 – Diane Egge  –  Perth, Ontario


1951 – baby ‘Dustin’,  Perth, Ontario1951-baby


1952 – baby ‘Foley’  – Balderson, Ontario


1953 – baby ‘Thomas’, Balderson, Ontario


1954 –  baby ‘Mooney’,  R.R. 1,  Perth, ON


1955 –  baby  ‘Bell’,   Perth, Ontario


1956 –  baby  ‘Dickson’ , Perth, Ontario


1957 –  baby ‘Young’  R.R. 2, Maberly, ON


1958 – baby ‘St. Pierre’,  Sharbot Lake, ON


1959 –  baby ‘Fielding’,  Perth, ON


1960 – baby ‘Kerr’,  Perth, ON


1961 – baby ‘Cordick’,  Perth, ON


1962 –  baby ‘Daoust’,  Perth, ON


1963 –  Heather Pratt, Clarendon, ON


1964 –  baby ‘King’  R.R. 5, Perth, ON


1965 –  Sheldon Barr,  R.R. 1,  Perth, Ontario


1966 –  Heather Paul,  Perth, ON


1967 –  baby ‘Murphy’ , Perth, ON


1968 – Diane Haughian, Perth, ON


1969 –  baby ‘Cameron’   R.R.5, Perth, ON


1970 – Eric Brousseau,  Perth, ON


1971 – Tammie Adam, McDonald’s Corners


1972 – Peter Alexander,  R.R. 5, Perth, ON


1973 –  Matthew Lowery,  Parham, ON


1974 – baby ‘Blackburn’, R.R. 1  Maberly


1975 –  Gregory Young, R.R. 4, Perth, ON


1976 –  Erica Labelle, R.R. 2  Lanark, ON


1977 – Duncan Campbell, R.R. 1, Lanark, ON


1978 – baby ‘Gardiner’ , R.R. 5, Perth, ON


1979 – Christa Rintoul, Clayton, ON


1980 – Trevor Tysick,  Lanark Road


1981 –  Nicole Moore, R.R. 4, Perth, ON


1982 – Liam Ryan, Elgin  ON


1983 – Natalie Lowery,  Perth  ON


1984 – Jennifer Campbell, R.R. 4  Perth, ON


1985 – Wayne Drysdale, R.R. 4, Perth


1986 – Victoria McMunn, Perth, ON


1987 – Jennifer Roy ,  Perth, ON



These babies, began their lives as tiny celebrities in the community, lavished with many gifts from local merchants, some would say had a lucky start to life.

I wonder where these New Year’s babies are today, and if lady luck has followed them throughout their lives?

As they used to say in the 1960s, “You’ve come a long way baby!”


Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member – Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member – Lanark County Genealogical Society

for books: The Book Nook in Perth, Ontario, Spark Books Perth, Ontario, Mill Street Books in Almonte, Ontario

or: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com


Irish Winter Solstice

The Irish who came to Lanark County brought their religious beliefs, some Protestant, but many were Roman Catholic, coming to the new world to escape the English oppression, so widespread at that time in Ireland.

Along with their reverence for God, and their deeply held religious beliefs, they also brought traditions known as ‘the old ways’, customs that had been practiced by the Celts for thousands of years, and passed down in their families.

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st, and is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

Oak King v.s. Holly King

According to Celtic legends, the solstice marks a great battle each year between the Oak King, who represented the light and summer, and the Holly King who represented the dark and winter. Each year on December 21st, the Oak King would finish victorious at the winter solstice, and daylight would slowly return to the island until it was time to do battle again on June 21st, at the summer solstice.

Dark vs Light

The winter solstice marked the battle between darkness and light, life and death, beginnings and endings. In some Celtic legends the seasonal darkness of the winter solstice was known as ‘the Dream-time’, when Nature invites us to dream, reflect, and feel peace in the darkness, and hope for the rebirth of the earth as the days grow longer. The Celts believed that all beginnings take place in the dark. Like the seeds sown in autumn, they germinate underground through winter before appearing as new green shoots in spring.

Evergreen, Yule Log,

Mistletoe, Red & Green

Many of our Christmas traditions, have Celtic origins. The Celts brought evergreen boughs inside their homes to remind themselves of life, in the cold dark winter. Springs of Holly and Ivy were brought inside to decorate the house in the darkest days, a symbol of hope, as these plants remained green throughout the darkness, just as the people would once again be bright and hopeful as the days grew longer.

Mistletoe was brought into the home as a symbol of fertility, and was brought as a gift to young couples in hopes that their union would be fruitful, and that the family would continue through the generations to come.

The old Celts decorated the evergreens with candles and reflective objects. This was their call to Nature to amplify and increase the natural energy and light of the living green boughs. These were the beginnings of what would become today’s reflective balls placed on the tree, along with tinsel and silver and gold decorations.

Today’s red and green decorations have their roots in Celtic traditions. The red of the holly berries symbolized the bright strength of blood and life, and the green was life everlasting.

The Longest Night

In ancient times the Celts sat outside on the longest night of the year, wrapped in blankets and animal skins, huddled around a bonfire, waiting for the light to appear. Old familiar stories were told, again and again, each year around the fire – some of bravery, and some told of traditions past down through the ages.

Many hours later, a glow was seen along the horizon, as the first shaft of light breaks through the dark – winter has broken, and the summer shall return.

Music begins, and old songs are sung, and the feast is prepared. Men go into the woods and bring back a large oak ‘Yule’ log, in honour of the Oak King, who is victorious, and will bring back the light and the summer to their lands.

Winter Solstice Today

Today, many Irish mark the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, a pre-historic monument in County Meath, Ireland, five miles west of Drogheda. It is a large tomb constructed c. 3200 B.C., and is older than Stonehenge.

Newgrange, photo: Irish Central

Once a year, as the sun rises at the Winter Solstice, it shines directly along the long passageway, and lights the inner chamber and the carvings inside, lasting approximately 17 minutes.

Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland

Triple spiral carving, illuminated once a year at Newgrange

A lottery is held each year to determine the sixty people who will be allowed to witness the phenomenon on the morning of the Winter Solstice from inside Newgrange. Winners are permitted to bring a single guest. 

People gather outside Newgrange each year to witness the Winter Solstice sunrise

Winter Solstice 2022

Winter Solstice is on Tuesday, December 21, 2022 at 4:47 p.m., in Eastern Ontario.

Take a moment to pause and remember some of the Celtic traditions practiced by your fore-bearers.

For all those with Irish blood flowing through their veins the Winter Solstice marks the victory of light over darkness, and signals a new start, a fresh beginning, as our days grow longer, brighter, and warmer.

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


Perth’s Millionaire Bachelor – Who Inherited His Fortune?

The story of John McLaren, Perth, Ontario’s whiskey baron, and eligible bachelor millionaire, is one of the town’s most intriguing tales. Inventor of the ‘Mickey’, McLaren amassed a fortune during his lifetime, and when he died, unmarried and childless, there was a great deal of interest in who would inherit his money.

Read about the McLaren fortune, the scandalous court case, and the people who tried to claim a share of his millions. The story, “Perth’s Millionaire Bachelor” is one of a collection of short stories in the new book, “Lanark County Comfort”:

Who would inherit his millions?

Minnie, his special girl?

His half-sister Barbara?

His half-brother Hugh?

His half-sister Eliza?

His business manager, Frank?

His nephew, Jack?

His niece, Janet?

McLaren Will case

John McLaren – Inventor of the Mickey

First to manufacture ‘the Mickey’ – liquor in a 12 ounce bottle, Perth native John McLaren made his fortune distilling alcohol.

A Mickey is actually one of a series of uniquely Canadian alcohol measurements. “Two four” (a case of 24 beers), “twenty-sixer” (a 750 ml bottle of  liquor) and “forty-pounder” (a 1.14 liter bottle of liquor) are all virtually unknown outside of Canada.

The very first ‘Mickey‘ was John McLaren’s  “Old Perth Malt Whiskey”, a bottle could be had for .80 cents, and was hailed as being “equal to the best ever brewed in Scotland”. Most whiskies in those days were aged very briefly, usually four days or less, and McLaren aged his for a full month before it was distributed to the local bars and liquor stores around Lanark County.

“McLaren’s Whiskey – Aged for a full month!”

McLaren's mickey

“.90 cents for a mickey,  –  .80 cents if you bring your bottle back for a refill…”

Robert McLaren, an enterprising young man from Scotland, founded the McLaren Distillery in Perth, in 1841, on a section of land known today as Stewart Park. He died before his son John, came of age, and the business was placed in a trust with Robert’s wife, John’s step-mother. John took over the distillery around 1866 when he was in his mid-thirties.


Some say it was the combination of the clear waters of the Tay River and the secrets learned from the Scots that led John to become the local ‘Whiskey King’ or ‘Baron of Booze’.

Henry Kehoe sitting in front of Spalding and Stewart

photo: Henry Kehoe sitting in front of Spalding and Stewart Distillery in Perth.

McLaren John photo

McLaren distillery.jpg

McLaren's whiskey bottles

“McLaren’s whiskey, produced with water from the Tay River in Perth, cures flat feet and the common cold!”

A favourite among whiskey judges, Old Perth Malt Whiskey enjoyed a unique reputation and even some doctors of the time regarded it as “non-injurious”. It became a household staple, said to cure everything from flat feet to the common cold. The popularity of McLaren’s whiskey grew in leaps and bounds, and in its heyday was sold from coast to coast, all across Canada.

McLaren whiskey bottles 1

photo:  from Perth Remembered

McLaren whiskey ad

John laboured day and night, expanding his operations, and became the town’s wealthiest businessman. Some say he was secretive, reserved, and was not one to discuss his personal or business matters.

McLaren Distillery from Perth Remembered

McLaren whiskey bottle 2.jpg
Photo above:  J.A. McLaren Distillery – located behind the town hall in present-day Stewart Park.

Wooden Whiskey case Spalding and Stewart

photo:  ‘Perth Remembered’

John McLaren, Perth Whiskey King

Found Dead !!!!!


Eligible Perth Bachelor John McLaren

dies without a will!

He never married, had no children, and for the most part lived a quiet life and kept to himself. When John McLaren passed away at the turn of the century, many in the town of Perth began to speculate – who would be the heir or heirs to his fortune?


By 1902 the town of Perth was “never more absorbed in one topic of conversation” as they were during the trial held in the local courtroom to settle the case of John McLaren’s Will.

Frank Walker, long-time employee swore that John McLaren had confided in him about his childhood and they shared a special relationship.


Walker told the court that John promised he would be taken care of from the proceeds of John’s estate”

“If I die tonight, you are provided for.”


John A. Stewart, McLaren’s nephew, well-known Perth lawyer, and respected member of parliament, claimed that he drafted a will for Mr. McLaren in 1897, witnessed his signature on the document, and that his uncle had left everything to him.

John A Stewart

photo: John A. Stewart, McLaren’s nephew

Lizzie McIntyre said

she had John McLaren’s will

stuffed down the front of her dress !!!


“Why in Hell should I have a will?”

Frank Buffam swore that John McLaren

didn’t even have a will:


Lizzie McIntyre accused George Rogers of stealing McLaren’s will from his house at midnight:


Many people in Perth thought John McLaren left his millions to Minnie Hamilton.  The lovely Minnie was known as his ‘favourite’.  She was McLaren’s live-in ‘housekeeper’ in their hideaway home outside of Lanark:

“Everyone knew that Minnie was his special girl!”



Many local businesses carried spirits manufactured

by McLaren’s Distillery in 1903:

Smiths Falls: 9 hotels and 1 store

Carleton Place: 8 hotels

Perth: 7 hotels and 2 stores

Franktown: 2 hotels

Ferguson’s Falls: 1 hotel

Innisville: 1 hotel

Maberly: 1 hotel

McLaren's whiskey bottle

Early Hotels of Perth

– from an article “The Perth Courier” –  1964

“The year 1896 was a good period for the hotel industry in Perth.  Five recorded hotels flourished within the town boasting a grand total of 165 rooms, and five bars.

According to 19th century observers, Perth had a high caliber of service, and had an excellent reputation as a fine hotel town.  One such observer was the old Perth Expositor which noted how strangers “always judge a town by its hotels” and then carried the impression of hospitality and service to the far reaches of the land.

The hotel business of 1898 was a vast improvement over the rude taverns and inns of early days.  Several of the hotels survived the turn of the century and can be readily seen in today’s busy commercial trade.  The only hotel still bearing the same name and remaining in the same location is the Revere House at Wilson and Foster.

The hotels of Perth began just prior to the Boer War, and were five:  Barrie’s Hotel, Hicks House, Allen House, Revere House and Queen’s Hotel. They were all located in the business section of down town Perth and catered to a through trade from road, stage and traveling salesmen.  Since 1900 the road trade has shifted west to Highway 7 where an assortment of motels enjoy a lucrative business from an almost entirely auto trade.

In 1896 the oldest hotel was Barrie’s operated by Thomas Barrie.  It had thirty rooms and a well stocked bar.  A resort of the surrounding farming community, the hotel enjoyed a heavy seasonal business.  Mr. Barrie was hailed as a “jolly good natured fellow” with a “pleasant greeting” for all.

The Hicks House, now the Perth Hotel, was hailed as the “leading commercial hotel” in eastern Ontario, sporting a bar, billiard room, free bus rides and a variety of fare on the table.  The proprietor was John Wilson, noted for his catering and disciplining of the “hotel attaches”.

The Queen’s occupied thirty rooms, a bar, a billiard room and stables across from what is now Girdwoods Store on Foster Street.  Owned by Frank A. Lambert, father of Edward Lambert, present day proprietor of the Imperial Hotel on Wilson, the Queen’s closed its quarters in 1918 after purchasing Barrie’s from James P. Hogan who succeeded Mr. Barrie as operator.  Queen’s and Barrie’s are thus the modern day Imperial Hotel operated by Ed Lambert who took over from his father in 1934.

In 1896 Revere House was a 25 room establishment run by W.J. Flett who is described as one of the best hotel men in the valley.  He enjoyed a popular local trace.

Largest hotel in Perth, now closed to business, was a fifty room spread called the Allan House, situated to the west of the town hall in a block now occupied by Chaplin and Code and the Coin Wash. Andrew Robinson the proprietor, was famous for his “uniform courtesy and kindness” and the free bus rides to the train and stages.  Mr. Robinson purchased the Allan House from I.C. Grant after ten years as an employee of the Hicks House.  

Needless to say, the hotels of Perth had close connections with Crystal Sprine Brewery and McLaren’s Distillery, two enterprises which made Perth famous from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.”

(article published in “The Perth Courier” 1964)

McLaren whiskey jug.jpg


Did one of these Business Owners in Perth inherit McLaren’s money?

Someone in  Perth got McLaren’s millions!

*images of John McLaren, his whiskey, and ads for the Perth Distillery, and transcripts of the McLaren will case – from – “The Perth Courier”
photo – Henry Kehoe in front of Spalding and Stewart Distillery – “The Perth Courier”
photo – McLaren’s amber glass whisky bottle from ‘Collectable Treasures’
photos – malt whiskey bottle, whiskey jug, old distillery photos – Perth Remembered

“So, who inherited John McLaren’s vast fortune?”

Did his ‘girl’, Minnie Hamilton inherit McLaren’s millions?

Was it his nephew, George Rogers?

Did lawyer John Stewart get the money?

Was it his half-sister, Lizzie McIntyre?

Did he leave the money to business manager,Frank Walker?

Who inherited the money from the Whiskey King?

To discover more about the curious case of John McLaren’s will, and the trial that had the whole town of Perth talking, read the story “Perth’s Millionaire Bachelor”, from the book “Lanark County Comfort”.
At The Book Nook, 60 Gore Street E., Perth, Ontario. o order, or to reserve a copy: 613-267-2350.
Available :lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com or at The Book Nook,  Spark Books  https://www.sparkperth.ca/ in Perth, and  Mill Street Books  https://millstreetbooks.com/, in Almonte.



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


Roclyn Mansion, Smiths Falls

Roclyn Mansion

On a Sunday drive through the town of Smiths Falls, this elegant mansion is difficult to miss. Situated at the intersection of Brockville Street and Lombard Street, we might guess that the original owners, Ogle and Isabella Carss, intentionally built their lavish home in this location for maximum visibility. It appears like a grand and glorious castle, a stately haven of tranquility rising tall and proud amidst the hustle and bustle of passing traffic, honking horns, and the curious stares of passerbys.

Roclyn Mansion is an example of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style, as seen in the multiple sloped roofs, the cast-iron railings, the tower, and the long elegant verandah. Today, we can only wonder what went on behind those tall red brick walls in the early days? Who sat on that spacious sweeping verandah, sipping cool drinks, sheltered from the hot sun, living a life that few could only dream of?

It’s been said that the lady of the house, Isabella, designed the home, working alongside the architects, overseeing many of the particulars of the room dimensions, function of the living spaces, and directing the interior design and decoration. The end result was spacious, elegant, and fit for a prominent wealthy family like theirs. Isabella’s husband, Ogle, was a captain of industry in the town, owner of the Canada Clothing Company, he also operated the steamship, “Olive”, that sailed up and down the Rideau River. He was a respected member of the Smiths Falls Board of Trade, served as Mayor in 1890-91, held the rank of Grand Registrar with the Masonic Order, Town Councillor, local land developer, and was a generous contributer to the funds raised to build the Smiths Falls Hospital.

Ogle Carss

Ogle (1846-1925) was born in Phillipsville, a small hamlet south east of Smiths Falls, the son of James Carss, who came from County Wexford, Ireland, and his wife, Alice Wilson, also from Ireland. At the age of 26, Ogle married Isabella Niblock, age 25, (1847-1937), daughter of James Niblock of Belfast, Ireland, and Sarah Ann Foster, of Rosscommon, Ireland. They had four children: Lila, (1873-1968), James, (1875-1934), Ethel (1877-1881), and Henry (1879-1882). Of the four children only Lila and James survived to adulthood. In a diptheria outbreak the two youngest children, Ethel, age 4, passed away two days before Christmas, December 23, 1881, and their youngest, Henry, died three weeks later, on January 13, 1882. At that time there was no treatment nor cure for diptheria.

Lila and George Carss

Lila, like her mother, was gifted musically, and, following in her mother’s footsteps, she became a music teacher.

Lila, age 47, moved to Toronto in 1920 with her parents, when Ogle retired from public life at age 74. James, age 45, was already established in a law practice there. Both children remained in Toronto and chose to live out their years there.

“Mr. and Mrs. Ogle Carss and daughter, Miss Lila, left on Thursday for Toronto, where they will in future reside.  Mr. and Mrs. Carss were among the oldest and best known residents of Smiths Falls and their removal from town will be regretted by a large circle of friends.  They had lived here for more than 40 years, and in all those years Mr. Carss had taken a prominent part in the life of the town.  He had served in the coucil, and had been Mayor, and during his residence of two score years was actively interested in many enterprises.”

July 17, 1920, “Ottawa Journal”

Lila and James, 1882

Lila Carss, during her days as a music teacher

Lila continued her career as a music teacher, and after her father’s death, she and her mother, Isabella, lived in a lovely home in the Forest Hill community. On Sunday, November 28, 1937, at her home, 393 Tweedsmuir Avenue, Toronto, Isabella Carss, died in her 91st year. Lila passed away in 1968, at the age of 94.

“Ogle Carss is head of the Canada Clothing Company, one of the long established mercantile concerns of the town.  He is one of the town’s substantial citizens, and has been a resident for many years.  He has served as Councillor and Mayor, and has been long connected with the Board of Trade.”

Feb. 8, 1913, p. 26, “The Ottawa Citizen”

Their son, James Carss

James studied law and became well known in the Toronto legal circles of his time. In 1921, at age 46, one year after his parents and Lila moved to Toronto, he married Mabel Kilner, age 25, daughter of William Kilner and Jemima Carroll.

James Ogle Carss

Mabel (Kilner) Carss, on her wedding day, June 1921

James and Mable had three children: Thomas Ogle Carss (1922-2015), Marjorie Kilner Carss (1924-2006), and Carol Isobel Carss (1929-2022)

Building the Mansion

Although some sources say that Ogle and Isabella Carss built their home in 1895, there is an article in the “Almonte Gazette” from August of 1878, which mentions a severe thunderstorm in Smiths Falls, which causes some damage to Ogle’s ‘new house’:

Roclyn Mansion

in the Old Days

Ogle and Isabella Carss’ mansion, Roclyn, in the early days

Roclyn Mansion

in Modern Times

In the fall of 1992, well-known local artist, Ben Babelowsky, (1932-2019) captured the splendour of the grand old Roclyn House in Smiths Falls. At that time, it had been converted to a restaurant and was known as the ‘Roclyn Roast Beef House’.

Oct. 18, 1992, p. 33, “The Ottawa Citizen”

Kilt and Castle

Another restaurant opened in Roclyn House, called the “Kilt and Castle”, and after it closed, the building was purchased in 2017 by Lisa McLean, with the intention of converting the property to a bed and breakfast.

In an article on Roclyn House, published in the Smiths Falls Record News, “Inside Ottawa Valley”, April 11, 2018:

“According to a town report presented to council’s committee April 9, 2018 the property is in a state of disrepair, and currently unusable.

The new owners are in the midst of repairs and renovations that they hope will be completed by August 2018.“

(The owners were applying to the town of Smiths Falls for a reduced tax rate while the building wasn’t fit for habitation, with the understanding that the property taxes would be reinstated after the house was deemed safe for occupancy.)


Will the Roclyn Mansion ever be restored to her former glory? Will another family enjoy cool drinks and a warm summer breeze on the verandah like socialite Isabella Carss and her lovely daughter, Lila? Will the house once again be filled with the sounds of music as it was in the early days when Lila taught music to her eager students, while Isabella looked on with pride?

We can only imagine the glory days of Roclyn House, when this prominent Smiths Falls family graced the rooms and hallways, entertained prominent members of the local political and social community, and gazed out from their lofty perch on the top floor, of this very special architectural gem.


sources: news clippings – various – “Almonte Gazette”, “Ottawa Journal”, Ottawa Citizen”, “Inside Ottawa Valley”, Carss family photos: Ancestry.com. Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents, other photos: Library & Archives Canada – public domain.

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


Haggis Candy – Goodies on Gore Street!

It was her father, James Haggis, who started the candy business in Perth, back in 1926, but it will likely be Sophia, who will always be remembered fondly, as the ‘Candy Lady’.

Sophia 1

Sophia used the original equipment, passed down to her, from her father, like the big copper pots for melting rich, velvety, chocolate, and buttery peanut brittle.

copper pots

melting chocolate

Each year at Easter, Sophia made delicious chocolate bunnies and eggs, and would offer to personalize them with any name.  She used a stiff white icing, and piped on the names by hand, as her eager audiences waited for their special egg to be completed.

Haggis Easter candy Apr. 8 1982

Haggis easter candy

“The Ottawa Citizen”, April 8, 1982

Easter egg

Haggis Candy was located on the main street of Perth, at 60 Gore St. E.

Sophia 2

A very special time of year for Haggis Candy was Christmas, and Sophia decorated her store windows with her giant candy-canes, some of them almost six feet tall!

candy canes

One of Sophia’s specialties was her Horehound candy.  It had a very distinctive flavour, and some said that it was a good remedy for sore throats, and congestion.  Most of her customers just liked its unique taste.  People came from miles around to buy her Horehound.

horehound candy

Sophia made her candy from the Horehound Plant.  The plants are picked, dried, and steeped with boiling water.  The liquid is strained, sugar is added and brought to a boil, then cooled on a marble slab.  The finished candies are cut into squares, and rolled in powdered sugar.

horehound plant

Another customer favourite was Haggis’ taffy.   Sophia used the original steel hooks to pull her taffy, to just the right consistency.

taffy hook

…..and the finished taffy, ready to enjoy!

taffy candy

She used the marble slabs, passed down from her father, to cool her fudge quickly, so that it could be cut into squares.

marble slabs


Sophia had a quick smile, and a warm personality.  She loved following in the traditions of her father, and most of all loved to see the smiles on her customer’s faces when they tasted her delicious treats.

Sophia 3

Haggis’ Candy store was where you’d often find my friends and I, after leaving Perth High School in the late afternoon.  My personal favourites were Sophia’s milk chocolate peanut clusters, made with real Spanish peanuts!  Sophia would place a few in a small, brown-paper bag, weigh them, and hand them to me with a smile.  Sometimes I would bring them outside, walk down Gore Street, sit on the bridge, and watch the world go by, as I savoured my chocolate treats!

peanut clusters

On hot, muggy, summer days, Sophia made the most delicious banana splits, and often tourists and locals alike, would stop by her store to sample some of her rich, creamy, creations.

banana split

In 1988, at the age of 77, Sophia retired from the candy business.  She kept active in her later years, and continued to play the piano, as she had often done, at various events in Perth, over the years.

Sophia playing the piano

Sophia eventually left Perth, and moved to Kingston.  She lived a long life, and there were many very happy birthdays over the years!

Sophia 4

Sophia had a wonderful milestone birthday, when she celebrated her 100th!  She still had her kind smile, and bright eyes.

Sophia 5

After a long, happy, life, Sophia passed away at Providence Manor in Kingston, on Sunday, November 4th, 2012, at the age of 101.

She may be gone, but never forgotten, and many of us will treasure the memories of our childhood visits to Haggis’ Candy store.

She will always be fondly remembered as the ‘Candy Lady of Perth’.


Read the fascinating story of Sophia Haggis Nee in “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”.  Learn about Sophia’s childhood in Peterborough, her grandfather the Lockmaster on the Trent Canal, her grandmother Sarah, the published Poet, and find out about her great uncle Samuel Lowry and his scandalous court case.  Read about her days as a teenager at the Perth High School, and her chance meeting with the influential Mrs. Jack Stewart. Learn about Sophia’s most unusual trail-blazing career in Kingston, Ontario, before moving back to Perth to take over her ailing father’s business.  Read memories of the happy days at the candy store, the customers, the ‘regulars’, and some surprising things about this much-loved lady and well-respected woman entrepreneur in the town of Perth, Ontario.

Book Launch poster 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