Published: July 4th 2012June 27th 2012
I hope my Montreal piece got published, please let me know! Here's what happened next:
I've been well taken care of by kind relatives in both outer Montreal and Peterborough, Ontario. Our grandfathers were brothers, those intrepid travellers who first set out for Canada in 1906, aged 18 & 20. They did logging and later moved to Saskatchewan where folks were offered land if they managed to "break" it, sounds awful, and incredibly hard work. Still they both settled there, married and had kids. Old photos show the houses they built from logs, plus horses, pigs, dogs etc, and deep snow in winter, hot sun in summer. They were later joined by the rest of the family including their parents, who were completely unused to the harsh conditions, My granny became really ill so she and my grandpa and my mum returned to England in 1925, most of the others stayed for life.
I came out to Canada on this trip mainly to investigate more of the families who stayed here, and firstly spent a few days with my second cousin, Catherine, and her husband David. We poured over family trees I'd brought over, and photos each of us
had, sharing all the information we had between us.
They took me on several tours of nearby interest, including a visit to a local Indian Reservation where Mohawks live. We discovered 2 shops selling wonderful furs, animal skins, and paraphanalia, and spent ages browsing and choosing what to buy.
We also looked at the Lachine Canal Fur Trade Museum; wonderful to see how the Voyageurs paddled their canoes for hundreds of miles to find folk selling fur of various animals, and taking it back to Montreal for trading; often furs were taken to England for treatment and made into hats, coats etc. The quote "mad as a hatter" comes from these times, when awful chemicals such as mercury were used to process the beaver fur to make top hats, sending the hatters crazy!
Next I travelled by train to Peterborough, Ontario, to stay with another cousin Martha, and her husband Nicol, from where I've been cycling down to visit my aunt Letitia who now lives in a Residential Home nearby. It's been a pleasure to spend time with my aunt, especially hearing stories about her family who remained in Canada, though they moved to Ontario.
and I have been cycling round this very leafy open town, seeing the historic LiftLock, partway along the Trent-Severn Canal. the old Quaker Oats factory (sadly now taken over by Pepsico), General Electric remains an employer and General Motors used to be here too. Industry is gradually being replaced by a town full of elderly people. Lakes and rivers abound, Ontario seems full of water, such a joy. Their pool has been a blessing in the intense heat too. We've swum in rivers and lakes too, gorgeous.
The highlight of our sightseeing has been a visit to the Petroglyphs, a sacred site still, where hundreds of carvings in the rock depict various animals, shaman, woman; the area has been roofed over to protect it from further erosion, but still it is a wonder to see all the creatures from hundreds of years ago including snakes, deer, rabbit, turtle, canoe. I also took a peek at the canoe museum here in town, where one can see how the old birchbark canoes were made. Their bark looks a lot tougher and thicker than ours, I wonder if their harsh winters make the difference.
I'm sad to leave my aunt, but
after a week it is time to move on to explore a bit further north. I'll take a bus to Algonquin Provincial Park tomorrow.