Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: November 5, 2017 at 11:27:17 AM EST
To: Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@rogers.com>


alan skeoch
Nov. 3, 2017

“Long ago I hung a little sign in the old pantry of our farm house….before we gutted and rebuilt everything.  It said, “My Days Are in The Yellow Leaf”
It is  a  quote from Lord Byron which he may have borrowed and changed from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, “My  way of life is  fallen into the  sere and  yellow leaf.”
Both quotes  are depressing…expressions of dread…

“I Don’t get the Meaning?”, you say…”Thought you were about to describe  farm sale, not a love poem or a Shakespeare play ? What does the expression mean?”

“Years ago I was saddened  that my Grandparents farm was decaying…collapsing…Meaning the days  of the farm were numbered.  The hand-hewn frame barn had  collapsed  and those wonderful beams chain sawed into kindling blocks.  The hand woven wire and sapling  fence around the garden was aslant and doomed.  Wire worms infested  the carrots. The cattle and chickens were gone leaving Laddie the dog as the only non-human resident.  And  he was accidently shot by Angus Mcechern while worrying sheep.  “Meant to scare him.”  In the house The plastered walls  were cracked  and great slabs fell regularly.  The 
cedar shingle roof was  leaking.  The floors were worn down by heavy work boots…The knots  resisted so the effect was wavy.  The dirt floor cellar was filled
with water come spring time.  The field stone foundation was wonderful…for snakes that is.  And my grandmother and grandfather were just holding on by the skin of their teeth.  Grandma shook so hard with Parkinson’s disease that the coal oil lamp in her hand  cast shaky shadow devils on the walls.   And  granddad needed help to get
to the back house.  Out beside a huge walnut tree bounced baseball sized walnuts off the house roof.  The sound was chilling.  Red squirrels tunnelled their way into the
walls and piled the gaps with those walnuts as if  they were insulation.  Hence my feeling that   “Their days were in the yellow leaf.”

“And all that came to mind today?”

“That was  how I felt at the Farmer Moore auction today, November 3, 2017, as tractors, tools and scrap iron things changed hands assisted  by Jim McCartney, auctioneer..  I do not know what really happened here 15 years ago.  Something bad for sure.  The farm has been padlocked  and untouched for the last 15 years. “He was put in the home,.” said farm neighbours.
His tractors, trucks, Wheelbarrows, tools, furniture, even sexy pin-upgirls have  all been gatheirng dust and vermin footprints  for all these years.”

“What Happened?”

“I have no idea. The hand built ramp at the  farm house means Farmer Moore had difficulty walking, perhaps  wheelchair bound before he “put in the Home”.

“Forgotten. Padlocked gate…laneway leading up a gentle slope to a  place  of mystery dominated by a huge  derelict bank barn whose grim future you can judge in  the pictures.”

“Everything here was new at one time.  Brand new.”,  said auctioneer McCartney.  “Today things are sold to the highest bidder.  I make  no guarantees.  These machines….tractors, trucks, combine…have been safely undercover for the last 15 years.  Be aware of that.  None of them will be started today. “ In other words Buyer beware.

Farm Auction Sale

For Cimino Family (Farmer Moore Farm)

Friday, November 3rd at 12:00 noon
(Preview from 11:00 a.m.)

Located at 866 Safari Rd (7th Concession), Flamborough, ON. 1 1⁄2 miles West of Hwy 6, 4 miles North of Clappison’s Corners (Watch for signs). Tractors – Midsize Farm Equipment – Trucks – VW Beatle – 2004 -21’ Housetrailer (etc) Most items have been stored inside and have not been in use for over 15 years. (Everything sells as is)

Partial List Only: ‒ Case 730 Diesel with Allied Loader – Cab, John Deere 40 – 3 P.T.H. + P.T.O., A.C. – CA with remotes, Belarus 420 4 x 4, Ford 630 S.P. Combine (motor seized), 4 row 36” corn head, 12’ grain head
– 2004 Coachman 22’ model 248 T.B.C. house trailer with roof air – fully loaded (This unit has had very little use)
– 1971 Dodge Fargo 300 (29,050 mi) with 9’ x 7’6” dump box & 4’ racks
– 1979 Dodge S.E. – 300 Adventurer 70,000 kms with 8’ box & duals
– 12’ slide in camper – older Volkswagon Beatle 39,850 miles (rough)
– John Deere 210 riding mower 42” deck, 16 h.p. Master Craft, John Deere 1240 – 4 x 36 corn planter, 12’ 3 P.T.H. cultivator, J.D. 15 run Van Brunt Drill, 10’ Cultipacker, N.H. 351 Mix Mill with Loading Auger, N.H. 269 sq baler, 7’ Brady Flail chopper, 3 gravity boxes and wagons, 3 P.T.H. fert spreader, 3 P.T.H. Haban Corn Sheller, N.I 2 row 30” cor picker model 325 with 327 picker unit, Case 4 x 14” 3 P.T.H. plow, 3 x 12” Oliver drag plow, 7’ 3 P.T.H. single auger snow blower, 11 run McCornmick drill on steel, box trailer, J. D. 300 bale & grain elevator 32’, H. D. Front Mount truck blades 9’-10’-12’,
– (Older Ford 8000 single axle dump truck & other pieces for scrap)
– Antique hand operated forage, walking plow, bag cart, Welder, misc lumber, fanning mill, old hossier cupboard and others, misc farm related items

Terms: Cash – Cheque ‒ Interac® ‒ VISA® day of sale Lunch Booth on Grounds

Jim McCartney Auction Service Ltd.

“And  here we are, in the  stable, empty. Ghostly”

There is beauty here…sunshine and a light breeze do wonders.

So let the story begin.  Part fact and  part speculation.   It is  November, 2017 and some trees are still  clothed but today, Nov. 3, it is cold and the wind 
is up.  Soon the maple  will be skeletal.

“I think there were at least two farmers here in the deep past.  Farmer Moore for sure and perhaps his wife, or Farmer Moore and his brother.
The condition of the  farm house with its ripped  and worn linoleum…wallpaper in some rooms but not all…would seem
to indicate a lone male resided here for a number of years.  Just speculation.  A woman would  never let the house be so neglected.
Men often are less concerned.  No furnace…heat provided by a cast iron stove….Naoleon style”

The farm house was sheathed in white siding within the last 20years.  Before that it was perhaps  insulbrick.

Linoleum floor covering  scuffed and  worn out by boots and neglect.

Hand made ramps for wheelchair access to the house.  Much more to the story that will never be known.

A few clippings pinned to the walls…with dates that stop abruptly around  2002 or so.

Now here is a visual story.  Farmer Moore seems to have been heterosexual.  Some ancient pin-ups and one modern.  Dates seem to have ended
around 2002.   Something happened.  Farmer Moore was taken a retirement home.  It would be tough to leave his ladies  behind.

OK.  Tell me what was kept in these crocks?    Something edible…look at the plastic lids.

“Small forge with hand operated lever for blower…sold for $280

Old Hoosier Kitchen cupboard in  workshop with faded  pin-up girls sold  for around $30 or less

Super organized  shelves full of nuts and bolts and tings unseen sold  for $85

Speckled sunshine of a forgotten mow of old hay.  Holes in the roof made walking on the wonky threshing floor problematic.

Looking out from the warm brown granary to the open threshing floor

Farmer Moore  once long ago had a thriving poultry business.  12,000 laying hens snuggled  up to these straw lined nesting cubbyholes.   Eggs  collected  by 
the Moore’s were sold in Millgrove and  perhaps as far south as Hamilton.   I wish it was possible to save a rack of these nesting cubbys   Why in tarsnation did 
I say that?  There  is no place for such.

The great cathedral roof has been ripped  open.  Rain water on piled hay and straw does  not take long to rot the threshing floor…see below.

Stable door.  A kind of invitation to explore..

One was of the fieldstone stable has already collpsed.  Likely to be repeated by others as  no-one cares.

Lots of outbuildings on the Moore farm, all overgrown with shrubs and trees.  A  Tangled Garden.  And dangerous for beneath
every step seemed to be the rusty remains of some long forgotten machine of agriculture.

Acres  of scrap so old that large walnut trees  have wrapped  themselves around rusty iron treasures…whole field of scrap[ machines sold for …I forget.  Make a bid.

This  is the auctioneer Jim McCartney making his way through  one of the hidden scrap pile.  How do I know this was once a horse driven mowing  machine?  Look  dead centre.

One  of the largest outdoor corn cribs  I have ever seen.  Tenty ortirty yearsagoit was filled with yellow corn cobs and teased upon why birds  and lots of rats until
used to feed  the 12,000 chickens that Farmer Moore raised. Empty now..  No longer needed since corn taken off the field below is shelled  and blown
into tractor trailers driven right up to the combine on under tiled fields and hauled to huge drying silos.  Modern corporate agriculture.  This crib is an object of
art … doomed of course.

An abandoned  Belarus tractor (Russian export from Soviet Union) … a green carpet of moss thriving where once Farmer Moore sat.

None of the machines worked…had not been operational for nearly two decades.  This little John Deere sold for $2,200.  Buyer must be a collector.  Lots of bidders.

People are in search of specific treasures such as this tractor tire or…OR?

And  here is the jewel of the auction sale in my opinion.   Wisner Wilcox fanning mill made in Brantford when Ontario was called  Canada West (C.W. stencilled)…made between 1840 and 1867 by skilled  craftsmen who even gussied it up a bit with blue  striping.   This was  the reason I went to  Farmer Moore’s  auction…prepared
to be disappointed  but instead  found the machine in impeccable shape.  Got it on first bid for  $25.  Expected to lose it for I noticed  a guy buy a fanning mill screen
in the  workshop.  Kept my eye on him.  But he was gone.  Guess he could not wait. This  was the last ting sold at the auction.

“It’s all over… pay  up today…you  have only tomorrow to get things out  of here…then the padlock goes  on .”

Next day, Andrew and  Marjorie came with me to load the mill.  By then the farm had been stripped clean.    We were alone.

Want moe?  Just scroll down.

At some time  in the distant past a horses hitched  here.

(Imagine this…not real comments)

“And you  sir are now the owner of the back end of a half ton truck…rust and all.”

“How do I move it?”

“Should have thought of that before you raised  your hand.”

“I was  just scratching my nose.”

“Some bidders just wink or nod their head  so the quick movement to get a bug out of your nose is considered a sound bid…you own
this now.  If you back your truck up, some of the fellows will tip it up and on.”

“I don’t have a truck…just a small car.”

“Well, you could attach a chain  and drag the old truck  bed  down the road.”

“But  I live in Hamilton.”

“Best haul  it  down  there at night then…less police  around….might be a shower of sparks slip an old door under it.”

“What will my wife say?”

“Now that, sir, is a good  question.  Good  luck!”

Wild cucmber vines festoon the place like  neglected  Chinese  Lanterns.

“This Ford combine may be a little  worse for wear but it would make the front lawn of your city home remarkable…and  I mean REMARKable.
Like  everything elsewhere, it was once  new…could be a kind of Gazebo in the back yard…with an elevated glassed  in  
reading room.”   Sold for $200


(Borrowed  from Lord Byron and William Shakespeare by Alan Skeoch…on this  November day, in the year 2017)

alan skeoch
November 3,2017
Farmer Moore auction sale
Auctioneer Jim McCartney
Cashier  Kate McCartney

Fwd: Music has faded Auction Nov. 22, 2017

Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: Music has faded Auction Nov. 22, 2017
Date: November 24, 2017 at 11:16:53 AM EST
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Kate McCartney <katemccartney4@gmail.com>

Mary…This  is  what I am working on to send to our kids and  grandkids…rough , unfinished…but you might like it.  if you do not like it just press Delete.
Iff I had  help I wold have bid  on the big cutting box in the barn…I am an historian and  that machine is  fantastic.  But too hard for me to load and
a  bit too far for my sone to come with  his truck.  I hope you find a proper home for it.  I did  an  MA thesis long ago on machine design in 19th century…yours
was  part of the thesis  (300 pages).

Sorry  about your husbands injury…farming is  a  tricky business…no need to list the injuries for there are many.

the dolly?  No way I could have known it was not part of the purchase, sorry about that.  you will get it back.


Kate and  Jim,
I  just assumed  the dolly was part of the sale…under the  organ…it will be  returned  somehow.


alan skeoch
nov. 22, 2017
McCartney auction at Ayr

“Alan, tell me why you went to that auction today…cold, November day like this…cold, cold, cold.”

“Pushed  on by a force greater than myself…power of change in our society…to be  a ‘witness to history’ as has been said by persons far
more observant than myself.

“But Let me try to answer…”

“There are forces  in out lives…events, people, places,  songs…that get lodged in our brains  and  are so deeply imprinted that they cannot escape.
Some woul call these memories.   But to me they are greater than that…forces.  They just cannot be repressed.

Today this  ancient pump organ forced up the memories of a farmhouse deep  in water…January, february…long long ago in
the late 1940’s when Grandma and Grandpa were still alive living on their tiny hardscrabble  farm on the fifth line of  Erin Township, a farm
lodged on the southern tip of  Wellington County, Ontario.

They had retreated into the small front room of the house…the only place where there was a big wood stove so hot to the touch that it could make a fine pile of toast on the bent wire toasting grill.   Crammed into that room often, so often that those winter evenings  all blend together into one evening…a  forceful memory that just burst forth 
at the farm auction today…November 22,2017.  Grandma cold  play  the pump organ as could my mom.  Look at the worn foot treadles above…and then the  ivory   keys

Who was  in that room?  First there was the big dog Laddie.  He had a fine vice  and  loved to sing as soon as Grandma opened  the organ and
began pumping the treadles to get wind into the hidden reeds.  Laddie howled.  Now I realize he hated the organ. Wanted to protect us from its unholy moaning.  Love and  hate are sometimes confused as you probably know.

Laddie  was not the only animal in the room.  There  were mice lured from hiding to get their necks broken on the Victor snap trap guillotines.  And below the
floor in the field stone foundation there were snakes  hibernating.  And  perhaps  bigger things  being the plaster walls…raccoons for instance.  All made alert
by the moaning organ and the human voices…Grandpa, mom,  Eric, myself and occasionally Dad  if the harness horses were not running at Differin track.
Grandad would get out his Stradivarius violin, the treasure of his life other than Grandma who he called Lou.  And soon Grandad  played the  Devil’s Dream accompanied by Laddie howling.

Not much room for us all.  Big Victorian sideboard jammed with dishes and  food, a  day bed long the south wall tucked safely behind the wood stove which 
dominated the  room.  Grandma treated the wood stove with caution for two reasons  First, she had severe parkinson’s disease which meant her hands shook all the time. Lighting the stove with the paper tubes she made was  done cautiously.  The second  reason was the memory of the log cabin they lost at Krugerdorf in Northern Ontario.
They only had time to rescue a few  valuable things.  One of  which was  the pump organ, similar to the one above only less fancy.  That organ stood beside the hall  door, always ready for use.  Then there was  the  kitchen table and assorted chairs and a small cupboard.  All this in a room that was about 10’ x 15’.  To say we were a close family would be an understatement.

So when I  bought this pump organ at the Gillespie farm sale in 2017, memories popped  up.

This  story will be a bit unusual.  Interspersed  among the tools  of agriculture…ancient and modern…will be  the lyrics  of songs
that came to mind..songs of  the First World War and  songs of  the post war years between 1945 and 1949.  In particular Roses  of Picardy which grandma 
played on her organ many times…and sang until her voice got shaky, All part of my childhood  and
the  reason these farm sales, sad though they be, are important to me.  

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b2/Roses_of_picardy_sheet_music_01.jpg/500px-Roses_of_picardy_sheet_music_01.jpg 2x” data-file-width=”1596″ data-file-height=”2126″>Verse 1:

She is watching by the poplars, Colinette with the sea-blue eyes,
She is watching and longing and waiting Where the long white roadway lies.
And a song stirs in the silence, As the wind in the boughs above,
She listens and starts and trembles, ‘Tis the first little song of love:
Roses are shining in Picardy, in the hush of the silver dew,
Roses are flowering in Picardy, but there’s never a rose like you!
And the roses will die with the summertime, and our roads may be far apart,
But there’s one rose that dies not in Picardy!
’tis the rose that I keep in my heart!

You asked why I go. So now you have your answer.  Complicated  spider web is it not?

All of  the Gillespies family horses and cattle  were gone.  You know where.  To a place few farmers want to mention.  Instead they use the expression “They have been shipped.”  Farmers , most of them , come to love their animals so the whole business of raising livestock has  an unpleasant ending.  One farmer I knew  lived on peanut butter rather than beefsteak  and  bacon.

The last living animal was their dog, an Alsatian with signs of hip displasia.  He endlessly circled  the  crowd wondering no doubt ‘what the hell is  going on?”
The snap of  my  camera startled  him but instead  of attacking he dragged  his back legs in a hasty retreat.

On-Site Farm Auction Sale
For John Gillespie & Mary O’Connor
(519) 501-1668
(Jomar Cattle Feeders Inc.)
Wednesday, November 22nd at 10:30 a.m.
(Preview Tuesday 12 – 4 p.m. )
Located at 869 Brant, Waterloo Rd, (Ayr). From Hwy 401 take Exit 268. Go West on Cedar Creek Rd. (Hwy 97) approx. 2 miles then South on Northumberland (Reg. Rd #58) for approx. 3 miles to Ayr, then South on Swan St. (Reg. Rd. #58) for 1 mile to Brant-Waterloo Rd. (Watch for signs).
Consisting of Tractors – Tillage – Planting – Haying – Livestock Barn & Equipment – Conestoga Wagon
Tractors: ‒ John Deere 4050 Cab & Air 4 x 4 – 20.8 x 38 rears – front fenders – IH 3288 Cab with 2350 Loader – IH 966 – Cab, Case 630 with hyd Loader (gas), 6’ Loader Stone Pork
Equipment: – John Deere 1750 Maxemerge XP 6 x 30” planter with liquid, J.D. 7000 6 x 30 planter (dry), IH 4800 – 24’ Cultivator Vibra Shank with Walking Tandem, J.D. 24’ – 1010 cultivator, John Deere 235 – 24 hyd fold disc, A.C. 19’ 3300 wheel disc, IH – 720 s.m. 4 x18” plow, Kewanee 22’ hyd fold packer, Brillion 3 P.T.H. 6 row corn cultivator, Case IH 5100 soybean special 21 run drill with press wheels and markers (grain only), IH 6500 conser-till 9 shank 10’, Brady 5’ flail chopper, 2 row N.I. Picker sheller (314), 6-gravity boxes (3 with 963 J.D. Gear) and wagons, Fertilizer hopper tender & Auger, Precision Tandem 500 gal 60’ hyd boom sprayer, A.C. (Model 6-30) 6 row 30” corn head
New Holland: – 489 Haybine, bale elevator 30’ steel frame Tandem Round Bale wagon, 4 bar ground drive hay rake, IH 580 Tandem manurer spreader, J.D. 12’ wheel disc, 6” x 32’ transport Auger 6’ 3 P.T.H. B.N.E. flail mower, Flat deck wagons
Cattle Barn & Access: – Approx 120’ x 60’ post & trust open sides to be dismantled, approx. 40-9’ x 4’ H.D. gates – Petitions 2” x 2” tubing, Approx 20 concrete J.Fedders with steel headrail, Approx 140 10’ x 4’ concrete slat flooring, Misc 1” tubular gates, Husky Manure pump & pipes, Butler (Oswalt) 2840 single axle feeder wagon, Farm Hand grinder & blower, new Digi-Starz EZ 2100 scale head.
Good Selection of Rough cut pine lumber mostly 2” various widths & lengths, 3-30” logs up to 20’, misc hand hewn barn beams (varying sizes)
Misc: Conestoga Covered Wagon, Honda TRX 200 4 wheeler, (as is), Watson’s Antique cutting box on steel, 44” x 48” Feedmill scale, old 3 wheel Watson bag cart, 12’ chain harrows, 8’ 3 P.T.H. blade, old 2 wheel 6’ pull type road grader, Acre meter, Barn Scales, 10’ tandem boat trailer, J.D. fast hitch, shair saw, roller chain, shop and related smalls, J.D. Lawnmower LX, digital electronic scale head, Perry grain blower
– Antique Bell Pump organ & stool, old cupboards, Pine Boxes, misc. primative tools, Walking plow, 2 row turnip planter, misc. household items Many more miscellaneous farm related items
Terms: Cash – Cheque ‒ Interac® ‒ VISA® day of sale
Lunch Booth on Grounds
Jim McCartney Auction Service Ltd.


Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: December 12, 2017 at 10:54:37 AM EST


alan skeoch
oct. nov. 2017
So the 125th is over.  Return of the Native has happened.   Lots to think about…old friends, older teachers, still older hallowed halls of the old school.   Mistakes made.
Achievements that surpassed me.  Probably a few grads who considered me a fool.  And a few good friends who liked me in spite flaws.  That is how you know colleagues are more than just fellow travellers.  Friends forgive.  Friends like each other in spite of differences.   All these thoughts tumbled through my mind as I sat alone
in the HJumverside quadrangle.   Escaping from the pushing and shoving…the rubbernecking…the fondling…of those who came to the reunion.  
What am I doing here?  Why did I come back?  What should I expect after a half century absence?  “I wandered lonely as a cloud..” came to mind.   
And then I remembered.  I came back to see the mural…the Arthur Lismer extravaganza…the largest piece of Canadian art I had ever seen short of a Yukon sunset wile standing on the edge of a hanging mountain valley.   
Marjorie did not want to come to the reunion.  “Who would I know?”  Then she commented on the possibility that my old girlfriends would
be there.  Flattering but unlikely.  I always liked  girls.   None showed up.    But one ex-girlfriend  was there.  I never knew her name…never spoke to her…never held her hand…never walked her home from school…never danced with her..
But I liked her.  Looked at her often.  And there she was in the Humberside auditorium now called  the Lismer Hall.  She had not aged a bit.  Looked as young
and attractive as ever.  Semi-clothed as well.   She  was on the wall…a dominating feature of the magnificent Arthur Lismer mural that the staff and students commissioned
in1929.  It took Lismer four years to finish the mural.  I spent more years than that mesmerized by this image of a young aboriginal girl.
Hard to forget that  first dance at Humberside.  It was the fall  of 1953, early October and there was a bit of  frost in the air.  The auditorium seats had been-usher  back to expose thence floor.  I was a bit  nervous, a Grade Niner.  Fifteen years,old with lottos testosterone but clumsy on the dance floor.  The big guys in the upper grades
were both intimidating and role  models.   I expected them to be stand offish…ignoring the presence of the new kids but some were supe social.  From the side  door
exit severe gallon stone crocks were delivered…surreptitious hands looped the crocks to slurping mouths.  Not too accurately  for some  sloshed down their cheeks.  First the seniors sucked back  a good slug of whatever those crocks contained.  Then the crocks moved from hand to hand … from boy to boy until  it was my turn.  Hard cider.  Rough cider.  Alcohol from rotting  apples and sugar.
“That will put hair on our chest, kid, take another drag.”
There  must  have been teacher chaperones although I don’t remember them.  Maybe they spent their time the staff room with 
coffee cups.  No one stopped the crocks anyway.  Seems there were three or four circulating but  imagination exaggerates  things.  Maybe only one crock.
Certainly one.  
We  danced.  One of my dance partners was Elizabeth Kilty who I knew from our church.  She was very short.  I was tallish and lanky infused with the
extra energy  of the hard cider.  The opening dances were square dances.   Lots of swinging.  With hard  cider energy I whirled  Elizabeth around…and up.
Not a good idea.  Should never have lifted  her.  She went up.  I released her and down she came…flat on her bum…legs in the air…underwear exposed.
Some thought her landing was funny.  Both Liz and I  were mortified.
As the  evening wore on the revelry  changed.  a fight broke out  among couple of senior boys.  Their names are lurking in my long term memory but just won’t spill forward right now. The fight was serious business.  It began near the Exit door and then spilled out into  the darkness of that autumn evening.  Some followed.  Most
continued  dancing.
Why should  you be interested?
Because that cute semi-clothed  Mohawk girl was looking down at us…just above our heads  on the wall.  Watching. Perhaps disapproving of the hell raising, the dress flipping, the cider
slugging, the cursing, the fist fighting, the romancing…all done by people  who had taken her land and did not seem to give a sweet goddamn about  her  and the Mohawk
brave who sat along side her with his tomahawk flat to the ground…flat grounded  in defeat. A people soon to be  forgotten.
And that was the way the Lismer Mural became part of my life.   Not some grand lecture of the art of the Group of Seven.  Not some art historian pointing out
how Arthur Lismer had combined oil paints wit pastels to make this grand masterpiece.  My experience was as earthy as those  cider apples  sitting bruised and perhaps wormy in the orchards not far from the Humberside  auditorium.
There have  been many  books  and crtiques written about the Lismr mural.  Educated stuff.  Intelligent.  Critical. Today there  are people who are offended by the murals.
With good reason.
Let me talk to myself for awhile.
“Alan, how come the Lismer mural is so much a part of you?  You don’t have much knowledge of art.”
“You  got that right.I ama doodler…not an artist.”
“Then why so interested?
“Get real!  it’s that girl.”
“What girl?”
“The brown skinned girl sitting  beneath the big image of Sir Isaac Brock.”
“Do you mean the girl  with exposed breasts.”
“Oh?  I hadn’t noticed.”
“You must be kidding.”
“She is only  half clothed. “
“I wonder why Lismer did that….painted her half nude?”
“Maybe because  he knew 15 year old  males like you would be fascinated. Painted in the 1930’s…I saw it in 1953…to me that was really risqué.  Had  to look at
her surreptitiously as did most of my classmates it seems.”
“It’s a  timeworn trick…”
“Using sex to fan the flames of imagination.”
“Meaning, maybe Lismer thought  you would  begin to appreciate the  full meaning of the mural…the big  picture.”
“Well, it did not work until now in 2017…that’s 64 years later.  
“Slow learner?”
“Reckon so.   Now that I see the big picture,  I am not too sure I like it.”
“Seems sort of sad…she seems sad…”
“The Mohawk girl.  Look at her posture.  Posture of defeat… resignation… accepting  that her world
of innocence and the splendour of living in harmony with  nature are gone forever. And soon she will be gone.  Forgotten.  Perhaps assimilated.  Perhaps moved to some godforsaken corner of Canada and forgotten.
“Something a little odd here.  The other Mohawk (maybe Mohawk) image  is  so much larger…strange.  Does size of the people in this mural have significance.”
“You might be on to something here, Alan.”
“She is so small…”
“Look at the  other…odd posture of resignation also.  But bigger.  Sitting on a bearskin.  Maybe that represents  something.  The wilderness life…dependence on the natural world which is under threat maybe.  The  bear is dead.”
“Maybe we should look at this mural the way Lismer intended.”
“How is that?”
“The mural tells a story.  Best to start at the beginning.”
“The first panel?”
“Right, there are four panels…apparently there were five originally.”
Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) was commissioned by the Humberside Collegiate Literary Society to produce a  mural for the school auditorium. The mural
was intended to  ‘raise national consciousness’ so Lismer decided to represent Canadian history in five parts.  Four of these have
been restored an placed  in the new  auditorium thanks to Mel Greif and his Centennial Committee who raised $100,000 to retrieve and repair the mural after 
the  old auditorium was  demolished and  the mural rolled up and  almost forgotten.
“So this is the first panel, seems to be dominated by the  Union Jack flag held by Wolfe  after he defeated  Montcalm on the Plains of
Abraham. Motcalm sits there defeated.”
“I  doubt that this mural would be  popular in a Quebec High  School.”
“You got that correct.   But suitable for Toronto in the 1930’s…a largely anglo pro British city.”
“Who is the other guy…in blue cape with his arms  crossed.”
“That’s Sir Isaac Brock who defeated the Americans in the War of 1812”
“Seems to me Tecumseh and his warriors had big role in that defeat. 
“They did…see him standing behind Brock.”
 But I am not sure if that is Tecumseh.  Maybe just a symbolic native person…see how his war axe is
cast down…symbolic of acceptance that the original people are now secondary.”
“Not exactly  a prominent position but at least he is given recognition.”
“Better than Montcalm…head bowed and  perhaps weeping into the French flag.”
“Weeping? Not bloody likely, he was dead…as  was Brock.”
Panel 2: Lismer Mural
Dominating the second panel are well dressed European explorers and ‘discoverers’ standing on a high hill and marvelling at their
new possessions.   The First Nations people, a man and a woman, are secondary and seem submissive.
“My  favourite panel…makes me think of my shocked surprise in 1953…”
“How come she is only partly dressed…naked almost?”
“Never though much about a reason.”
“Would a white woman have been treated this way?”
“Do  we have to see sexism in everything we say and do?”
“Wish it were not so but that seems to be a fact of life these days.  Don’t think Lismer gave it a second thought but were he alive today he would 
have changed  his mural I think.”
“First off would be the native woman. She would be clothed and given a role.  As it stands she seems to have nothing to do  but stare wistfully
at those European explorers.”
“Explorers?  They called themselves discoverers.  And to prove ownership of their discoveries  they planted their flags…both French and English up here and
elsewhere in the Americas were the Dutch, Portuguese  and Spanish.   All planting flags as if the lands were empty.  In truth, there were  millions of people
already here.”
“Why did they allow Europeans to take over?”
“They tried  to fight back but failed.  Diseases got hundreds of thousands  of them…measles, smallpox…and  then there  was malnutrition after the wonton slaughter of the buffalo in the  west.  European explorers found whole  villages dead because smallpox moved faster than the  European adventurers.”
“Someone said Lismer’s mural is Eurocentric, what does that mean?”
“Europeans, and  that includes  the English and the Scots, believed they were superior people with the God given right to dominate  the world. It was natural for hem to
write  history books that took European domination for granted.   And in art,  like the Lismer mural, the conquest of North America is interpreted through  European eyes.”
“Take a close look  at the first  two  panels.  Proves the point.”
Panel 3: Lismer Mural
Each  of the people  portrayed  stand  for worthy values.
…Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Courage and Motherhood.
This panels  dominates all the others as the eyes of observers
are drawn to the high peak…the worthiness these values are  to be emulated.
“I have trouble with this panel.”
“Because  the people portrayed are wearing what looks like Greek or Roman togas. Canadians do noter these things.”
“Lismer made this is dominant panel for a reason.”
“And  the reason?”
“I am not sure but I  think the purpose of education is touring out the best in students.”
“What has that got todo with wearing a bedsheets?”
“Sort of  emphasis on purity…maybe innocence.”
“Yes, something  like that…not sure though.:
“Truth, Wisdom and Courage are ideals we  value are they  not?”
“And  Beauty?”
“Makes  me think of that Mohawk girl in Panel Two.”
“Beauty  is  broader than that.  How about a sunset or the pattern of a snowflake or a Monarch butterfly?
“Or a newborn child…Motherhood..”
Panel 4:  Lismer Mural     What  is the result of people who value Truth, Wisdom, Courage, Beauty and Motherhood?
Canadians trump over the natural world…Canada.  There is a boy reading a book, a mother with a child, and 
sturdy pioneers  shaping the land with axes and scythes…tools poised for action.  Victory over  the land by Europeans.
With the help of the original people who carry the packsacks for white adventurers.
“Now this  panel makes  sense,  People doing things.  Men clearing away the forests with axes and logging hooks.”
“Who is that guy carrying the pack sack?”
“Brown skin…must be  a native.”
“How  would you interpret his role in this panel.”
“Pretty damn obvious…he is working  for he  white men…carrying their loads.:
“Who is the dominant figure?”
“The guy in the blue shirt.”
‘Who is he supposed to  be?”
“A farmer.”
“breaking up land after the trees have felled  and hauled away by the second  largest figure…the logger.”
“Triumph ,right?”
“Carving  up the land into blocks of 100  acres…crushing the wilderness.”
“What do you  think the person with the packsack is  thinking.?”
Panel 5:  Lismer Mural
No loner extant. But it was installed in 1932 . Thispanel featured representatives of Canadian young people standing in front of  
images of 20th century such as sky scraping office buildings, vast ploughed fields and aviation symbols.
Arthur Lismer’s paintings are strkingly different from his  Humberside  Mural.  Perhaps he undertook the job just as he  undertook
other  commercial art projects…for the money.  Six members of the Group of Seven supported themselves by commercialart projects. Designing
packages, sales signs,   Maybe the Humberside  Mural was just a job.  I doubt it.   But the mural does stand in sharp contrast to his
wilderness paintings of twisted pine trees in agony from  water storm winds or lashing turbulent waves of Georgian Bay.
“So, why is the mural famous?
“Painted by Arthur Lismer…”
“Lismer…LISMER…helped found Group of Seven.”
“Group of  whom?”
“Come on…don’t kid around.  You are just playing with me.   The Group of  Seven was crested in 1920 by a bunch of artists who believed Canadian landscapes were astounding…Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris,  A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnson, J.E.H. MacDonald, F.H Varley and Arthur Lismer…”
“You forgot Tom Thompson…”
“No…Thompson mysteriously drowned in1917 in Algonquin Park.  If he had lived they would have called themselves the Group of  Eight…does not sound so romantic.
“I thought those guys painted  bashed up mountains and ragged jack pines with waves and  wind  lashing them?”
“That’s what most Canadians think…obviously not true…look at the mural here…mostly people…a history of Canada  in huge panels…perhaps the largest
mural of its time.”
“How long did it take to do.”
“Four years, maybe longer.”
“And  isn’t it odd for a man like Lismer to spent his time painting the wall of a high School auditorium?
“You said ‘a man like Lismer’…what did you mean by that?”
“He was rich, wasn’t he?  I read somewhere  that a painting of his sold for nearly a million dollars.”
“Your  thinking of ‘Spring on the Sackville River’ which sold for $855,500.”
“Rich man, right?”
“That was sold in 2016…Arthur Lismer died in 1969.  He never got rich..few painters ever do until long after
they die.”
Spring on the Sackville River, Nova Scotia, sold for $855,500 in 2016
Record Arthur Lismer sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell artRecord Arthur Lismer sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell artRecord Arthur Lismer sale - Heffel Gallery - Buy and Sell art
Values of Lismer paintings   1) Dark Pine,  Georgian Bay, $241,500 in 2007
2) Reflections, Georgian Bay, $140,400 in 2010   3)  Pines,  Georgian Bay,  $152,100,  in 2010
“These paintings are so different when compared to the Humberside mural. ..could  have been done by a different painter…”
“Agree…may be possible because I see  the word  ‘collaboration’ mentioned…seems others  may have been involved but  Lismer is  dominant…and  
different.  Of course  he was  different…grew up in a tough place.  Sheffield, Yorkshire  as a kid  sketching.  Just fooling around as kids do. Some of his work involved cartoons later…like the cartoons on the  editorial pages  of newspapers.  He was versatile…even humorous.”
“Educated guy I bet.”
“Parents were not wealthy…his  dad was a textile salesman.”
“Poor, then?”
“Let’s just say his family was getting by but they were certainly not toffs…gentry.”
“Born in Sheffield…good silverware came from Sheffield. England…sold all over the world…must be nice place.”
“Are you joking?  It was a grubby industriAL city when Lismer was a kid.  Working  class.  Low  wages, dirty jobs…even 
dangerous jobs.  Early deaths for workers.”
“How can manufacturing knives and forks and spoons and silver plated tea pots be dangerous.?”
“Grinding metal without face masks…put tiny pieces metal in the air…then into lungs…silicosis must have been result for many just like the coal miners in Newcastle which was not that far  away. Frederick Engels described Sheffield in 1844 this way:”
     In Sheffield… certain branches of work are to be noticed here, because of their extraordinarily injurious influence upon health. Certain operations require the constant pressure of tools against the chest, and engender consumption in many cases; others, file-cutting among them, retard the general development of the body and produce digestive disorders; bone-cutting for knife handles brings with it headache, biliousness, and among girls, of whom many are employed, anæmia. By far the most unwholesome work is the grinding of knife-blades and forks, which, especially when done with a dry stone, entails certain early death. The unwholesomeness of this work lies in part in the bent posture, in which chest and stomach are cramped; but especially in the quantity of sharp-edged metal dust particles freed in the cutting, which fill the atmosphere, and are necessarily inhaled. The dry grinders’ average life is hardly thirty-five years, the wet grinders’ rarely exceeds forty-five.[73]
“Now that was  more than 50 years  earlier but the city does not seem to have change much. On the streets of Sheffield Little Arthur Lismer had difficulty finding natural; beauty that he seems to have craved. indeed,  Even the footpaths seem to be  barren. 
“Sterile is a better word…that footpath below doesn’t even have weeds.”
“Grim.  Yes.  But not far away were the hills  and dales of rural Yorkshire.  Sheep, stone barns, cattle, cheese factories, grist mills and miles and miles  of green grass  field hemmed in by stone fences.  Arthur saw these fields at some point.  Maybe not often but any visit to rural Yorkshire is remembered  forever.  I’ve been there.”
 “Quite a contrast.”
“Contrast aids thought.  Lismer’s upbringing was in sharp contrast to the overwhelming beauty he found in the Canadian wilderness.   He seems to have been particularly  overwhelmed by the way wild winds twisted and contorted the Jack Pines of Georgian Bay.  Just imagine the impact by looking at the footpath (below) and then his “Pines on Georgian Bay (above)”
Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900
Sheffield circa 1900.  Not a tree in sight.

Dirty Old Town

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Spring’s a girl from the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I heard a siren from the docks
Saw a train set the night on fire
I smelled the spring on the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I’m going to make me a good sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I’ll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
“You may find these lyrics too much to handle.  Stick with me.  I have always loved Dirty Old Town (sung by many including The Pogues) because it adds music and poetry to  the visual impact of industrial England.  Little wonder that so many migrated to  Canada in those years before World War One.”
Sheffield factory circa 1900
Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900
Sheffield street scene circa 1900.  Canadian officials had much success  encouraging
young men fro Sheffield to migrate to Can appears similar to Arthur Lismer, even holding what could be a sketch pad.
Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900
As boy, Arthur Lismer would go on long walks at night which worried his mother for the city streets were dangerous.  Lismer loved the natural world of trees and country lanes.  Such were  hard to find in Sheffield around 1900.  The countryside outside Sheffield  was beautiful and  is currently one of the largest heritage regions of Britain…YorkshireHills and dales.   Did  Lismer ever get that far?  Doubtful.
Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900Image result for pictures of sheffield in 1900
Sheffield craftsmen  adwomen produced some of the finest metalware in the world.  But there was a cost.
Image result for lismer cartoons
“That’s Arthur Lismer with the prominent forehead, second from the right.”
“In 1920 Carmicael, Harris, Jackson, Johnston, Lismer, Macdonald and Varley got together … formed theGroup of Seven…lasted until  1921…another guy joined them in
1926 called A.J.Casson.’  
“They were an odd  lot.  Landscape painters…loved our northern wilderness. Toured our empty lands.   ”
“Like the north shore of Lake Superior…brutal place, images of a  harsh and stark land.”
“Where did  they get  that name?”
“Having a  coffee or a beer, the seven of them were trying to  think of a name that would give them character…a name they could use to market 
their paintings.  Critics and friends , later, would call their work “hot mush”, a slur more than a name.”
“Then one of them, perhaps Lismer, said ‘Why not call ourselves the Group of Seven’?”
“Funny name but let’s run with it…and  now the name is known by most Canadians and their paintings sell for millions of dollar.”
Must have been rich men to be able to wander around so much.”
“Only Lawren Harris was  wealthy. Inheritted  money from the Massey Harris Company, manufacturers  of farm machinery made in Ontario  but sent
around the world in the earl 20th century.  Harris bankrolled some things. The rest of the fellows worked as commercisl artists doing advertising broasdsheets and such.”
“Very odd that Lismer became famous…cards  stacked  against him.”
“That’s  for sure. Luckily he got a scholarship to a Sheffield art school.  Night courses for seven years. Then more years doing commercial art in England… came to realize prospects  for work in Sheffield were close to nil.  Associates and friends had  already buggered off to Canada.  Lismer decided to do the same and  migrated to Toronto.  Best move  heever made.”
“Explain this term ‘Hot Mush’
“Let me try.  Get a canvas and lots of bright coloured oil paint, thick brushes.  Now drive  to Georgian Bay or some God forsaken lake in Algonquin Park.  Pick a distressed Jack Pine maybe and then start to paint…FAST.  A trunk twisted and contorted, a dark green blob for living matter, some red and gold for underbrush, perhaps a dark grey
slash across  the top for stormy sky and steel blue water with white  foam, rocky red granite outcrop ground smooth long ago by the age of ice…  Hot Mush. Canadian wilderness.”
“Get off it, the Group of Seven did  lots of different things.”
“Just trying to simplify…Hot Mush…do an impression with gusto and  colour…and do it with energy. How’s that?”
“OK, but keep your day job.”
“I am just trying to give a short version. You want the big picture?”
“Then go to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg…just a stone’s throw north of Toronto…you’ll find 6,000 pieces of their work and the
graves of  six of the fellows.”
quote An understanding of psychology, a touch for the maternal, and a capacity for looking at the world through the eyes of a child – these are the marks 
of good guides and teachers.  quote
Lismer was a social person.  He thought art should be shared and encouraged  by all classes of people.  So  he gathered young people together
and  prompted them to press themselves.  He likely noticed that children love art when they are very young and their imaginative representations
are exciting.  Somehow, as  they grow older, their artistic endeavours end  for most young people.  Why?  Criticism maybe.  Lismer wanted
art … doing art … to become part of daily life for as many people as possible. 
Image result for lismer group of seven sketches
Lismer believed artistic expression was in all of us, particularly young children.
Image result for lismer sketches
One of Arthur Lismer’s sponsored Children’s art classes 
Image result for lismer cartoons
Artistic expression … having fun with art …A Lismer comment of the JazzAge.
The original Group of Seven included Franklin CarmichaelLawren HarrisA.Y. JacksonFranz JohnstonArthur LismerJ.E.H. MacDonaldand F.H. Varley. They befriended each other in Toronto between 1911 and 1913.
Just because Sheffield was  ugly…streets without greenery, houses built row on row,  smoke with sharp edges enclosed, long hours of work  with little reward….just because of all  this and more Does not mean Sheffield was a backwater.   Quite the opposite.  Engels quote in 1844 associates Sheffield with social thought of the day…Karl Marx in particular.  Remember the opening of the Communist Manifesto?  Here’s  a reminder, “The  history of all hitherto existing people is the history of class struggle.” Marx argued that violence  was inevitable since the rich would never give up their wealth voluntarily.  Through the 1860’s Sheffield had  confrontation  between workers and capitalists that cumulated in the ‘Sheffield Outrages’…bombings and murders  by union extremists.  In1866 the Sheffield Trades Council formed the United Kingdom Alliance of Organized Trades which would ultimately become the Trades Union Congress.   
Where  did  Lismer fit?  Did he nuzzle up to the owners of capital, traditionally funders of art, or was he sympathetic  to the earthy and confrontation prone labour  movement?
Lismer only became an artist after years of studying  art at night  school.  But his mind was in harmony with the labouring classes.  “In Sheffield,  he came to  believe that art was the right of the many, not a  privilege of the few.’   
Arthur Lismer’s family were  Unitarians and this liberal approach to religion was another factor that affected his approach to art.  The free expression the Group of Seven when they broke away from the European art strait jacket could be expected for the Unitarians had broken away from the concept of the Three in One…i.e. the  Father, Son and Holy Ghost basis of much Christian thought.  Lismer’s parents and their unitarian fellow travellers admired  Jesus Christ but considered  him a normal human being
whose ideas…ideals…were worthy of emulating.
Sheffield was quite a city for a young boy to mature from child to adult.  It is  worth noting that five of Lismer’s fiends in the Group of Seven also had to work in commercial
art in order to support their adventures as interpreters of the Canadian wilderness.
They had their detractors…lots of  them…who rejected their work describing it as  ‘hot mush’…just splashing of colour on a canvas…waste of good paint and stretched canvas.  Being born and raised in Sheffield  gave Lismer the guts to go against the tide.
When I looked at the Lismer  Mural  at Humberside Collegiate in October 2017, a  lotto questions came to mind.
1) I noted  the huge panels were  described as the result of Lismer’s collaborative approach  to  are.  Collabrative?  Does that mean a bunch of unrecognized artists also contributed  to the massive work?   Likely.  No about  someone can answer that question.
2) The Mural was a gift of 
the staff  and students of Humberside to their high school.  And it was a gift stretching over many years from 1927 to1933.  Did it take 6 years to
finish the painting.  What prompted staff and students to commission such a piece  of work?  How much did  the pay Lismer?  Who led?  There must have been a person
who came up with the idea of the mural.  Who was he…she?  There must have been a  powerful argument presented by someone.  Was it Lismer?
3) The Great Depression was triggered by the stock market collapse of 1929.  This happened  in the middle of the years  when the mural was being painted.
Did the Depression have any effect on the project?
4) The Mural is not typical of the work being done in those years by the Group Seven.  No Hot Mush.  Human beings dominate the panels.   Hints  of the Canadian wilderness are present but definitely background hints.  Would it be safety say that the Humberside  Mural is not typical of Group of Seven.  Maybe but other members
were also doing urban paintings…villages in Southern Ontario for instance.
“All this began for me on that October night in1953…first dance. I was just a lowly and frightened Grade Nine kid suddenly 
immersed in something far bigger than myself.  So big it was mystifying.   Turning Liz Kilty, ma dane partner upside down  was only part of it.  
The senior boys  passing around those hard cider crocks. (Was it several  or just one crock?).  God awful taste that made me  feel  adulthood
would not be all sweeties and  light.  Then a fist fight occurred and bled out the auditorium door into the shadowy  movements of a moonstruck night.
So exciting.  Especially when the whole affair was being politely watched  by that beautiful young Mohawk girl painted larger than life on the  west wall, a mural
painting so large that my neck had to twist upward.  
She was so sad. I wondered why.. Only now do I realize she was watching her culture disappear, watching her people  be moved to the  periphery of
Canadian life.  Watching us.  And not too sure we were worthy inheritors of the land.
alan skeoch
Nov. 2017
(thoughts  after 125th reunion of Humberside Collegiate)
1) Canadian Historical Murals, 1895-1939 – Material Progress, Morality and the disappearance  of Native People,  by Marilyn McKay , Nova Scotia College  of
Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
2)Lismer in Sheffied, by Anita  Grant, Montreal
3)  Arthur Lismer’s drawings for the Humberside mural; development of  a grand patriotic theme,  Hodkinson, Ian,  1935- , 1992, book, 48 pages, Toronto Public Library, 751.73074 L39 H57 reference only






Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: January 14, 2018 at 11:07:16 AM EST
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@rogers.com>


alan skeoch
Jan. 2018

“Fix your goddamn road…hear me….FIX YOUR ROAD!!”

‘Red!  Red!  Be careful, you’re weaving all over the road.”

“have to miss the pot holes…could break a spring.  If that son of a  bitch would  fix  his road, I wouldn’t have
play  Dodge ‘Em all the way to the farm.  FIX YOUR ROAD!!”

“Red! You Fathead!*  You’re off the road…Yiiiiii…we’re going to tUrn over in the swamp.”

“Get out ..  everybody out.”

“Elsie…get out my door….not yours”

“I can’t…I  cannot move.”

“Why not?”

“High heels have gone through the floorboards….pinned me here.”

“Take off your shoes…crawl out…not that way…boys can see top of your nylons…girdle clips…be more graceful can’t you?”

{*Calling Dad a Fathead  was the  closest Mom every got to swearing.  Dad made up for this lack  of obscenities however.}

“Slip up the road  and  get Frank or Ted to come down  to haul us out.”

That little adventure was just taken for granted  when driving with Dad on the Fifth Line.  For some perverse reasons he held
farmers accountable for the roads  in front of their farms.  As  if we were still living in pioneer times.  And he loved to
yell  obscenities  at them. Most of them knew him and probably let the words  slides of them like  water off a duck’s back.
In this caee  we had to get cousin Ted  Freeman to bring the tractor down with a chain to get us out of the ditch.

turned  out to be a good chance to laugh at Dad’s expense.

Dad was never easy to control.  Impossible really.  

We bought the 1953 Meteor for $400 in 1958.  None of us  could drive…neither Dad, mom, Eric nor myself.  By 1958 every one we knew seemed
to have a car so  Eric  and  I sleuthed  out the Meteor from a used  car dealer on Bloor. We believed his sales pitch. 

 “Great car…the owner
developed  gangrene in his right leg and cold no loner drive.  This car just came on the lot today but won’t be here long.”
Eric and I believed  his  sales pitch.

“Mom, we should  buy this car.  Can you find  $400?”    

Mom was the stable part of our family.  She made her money as  a seamstress in
various garment factories and sweatshops in west Toronto.  And  she saved what she could.  Dad had a good job…high paying tire 
builder at Dunlop Tire Corpoation…skilled..but he never saved a cent.  Plowed his money and  any he  could  beg, borrow or steal down the throats
of race horses across Ontario and even into New York State’s  Batavia Downs.  I thought the word Garnishee was just a  normal deduction from 
wages.   Later we came to understand  that Finance Companies had long arms that could reach right into the accountants office at Dunlop’s.
Dad treated debt just like he  treated the farmers on gravel roads.  People that had money should be willing to lend a  bit to him.  Non refundable loans.
To Eric and  I, this was normal.  Adventures with finance companies need a whole chapter.  “Bastards have more money than  they know what to do with…”  
Should make you laugh or cry. We never could  understand  why people would  say  “those poor boys”  because we never felt poor.  Dad  loved  us although he
never said so.  Love was a word used by sissies. But we knew…as did Mom.  We
felt we were part of a  great adventure…new surprise every  day.

The car gave Dad  more freedom.  Which  unleashed even more  weird behaviour.

Ten few  years later when Marjorie and I were married we were at the farm and entrusted Dad with the kids
while we went shopping .  When we returned a couple  of hours  later.  There they were…all three of
them chomping and puffing on White Owl  Invicible cigars.

Not a bad thing really for neither Kevin nor Andy became  smokers….except of course for the odd cigar now and then.

alan skeoch
Jan. 2018


Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: January 11, 2018 at 10:48:08 AM EST
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>



alan skeoch
Jan. 2018

   One fine spring day around 1970, I brought this heavy  corn cutting machine  to the farm.   Dad helped me  unload.  
He had a whole  string of four letter words when he  saw  the thing.  That meant he liked it even  though he said it
was  no goddamn good and  the former owner had  no right to exploit my stupidity.  

So  this story is  really about Dad and less about the machine. 

“:Dad,  give me a hand with this big corn cutting box…runs off tractor belt or stationary engine in barn.”

“Now what the hell did you buy that thing for…should be in the scrap yard.”
Are you out of your GODDAMN MIND…daft…brainless.  Take the son of a bitch back to the smart ass who sold it to you.””

“Neat, isn’t it.  Circular blade … sort of like a revolving guillotine. Did you ever use one on the Skeoch farm outside  Fergus? ”

“No.  I headed west when I was 14, told you that a long time ago.  Are you both deaf and dumb?”

“ Harvest Excursion? wasn’t it?”

“No, I got in a  bit of trouble when I was 14…had to hotfoot it west to Keeler…


“Saskatchewan…spent couple of winters cooped up with 16 horses. Slept in 
an empty stall.  No farm house.  Horses kept the barn warm.  No corn feed…lots of hay and some oats.  No tractor so 
why the hell would we want a corn cutter?  So cold around Riverhurst in those winters that a fellow could die fast in the open
Freeze balls  of a brass  monkey  as they say.”

“Just you alone with 16 horses.”

“That’s right, better company than my two sons that’s for sure.”

“Get paid?  “

“Just enough to get me back East with a new pair of boots.  Then some bastards stole the boots  when I fell asleep and I had to hotfoot it
along Queen Street in Toronto to that old hotel at Roncesvales..  Came back with nothing. “

“Why not go home?”

” Sure as hell wasn’t going back to the Fergus farm.
No room for me up there anyway.  Too many kids…too little money.”

“Couldn’t you  go back  to school?  Grade nine?

“Jesus, don’t you ever listen to me.  Fergus High School was the reason Iwent west in the first place.  i old you about the wood flap at the back of
the girls  outhouse.  My schooling ended suddenly when Kelly and I hurled snowballs up that flap in the  girls outhouse.  We thought it was funny.
Hit a girl on the ass.  She  ran into the school screaming.  Dizzy.  We just stood there.  The principal was not amused, “Arnold, you go home right now and get your father over here.”

“What did your Dad do?”

“Never told him.  Never even went home.  Hid out in the swamp for a while, siept in neighbours place.  My sisters…Elizabeth and Greta looked after me…brought me food.
Couldn’t;t stay there so I lit out for Saskatchewan where brother John had  just got himself married  and fixed up on a section … 640 acres…nearly seven times the size of our Fergus farm.”

“Who put up the money for the fare?”    

“Maybe mother or big sister Elizabeth…don’t rightly know.  Think John had something to do with it”  He wanted us all to  move west”

”  My brothers Art and Archie each
bought farms near Keillor but they  never lived on them.  Had crop put in then buggered off  back to Ontario.  Let big brother John do Threshing in fall…did it on shares.”
Archie made money beating up  French Canadians  one summer.  You know how  skinny Archie  is even to this day.  Skinny as a tent pole.   that fooled lots of people.

“Is this the boxing story,  Dad?”

“God that was great when I Heard about it.  Word  was spread  around from Keeler to Riverhurst that  A fist fight was going to happen over near Riverhurst.  French Canadian against an Ontario  Scot.  Skinny Scottish bastard…going
to get the shit kicked out of him.  Put your money on the Frenchy.  Wrng!  Wrong!  Archie could really fight.   Knocked  the Frenchy down fast and  the boys  picked  up a bundle.   Archie became famous for a while.

“How come you were not involved?”

“Never wanted to go back west.  Try sleeping winters with 16 horses…alone.  that will knock any romantic notions out of your head.”


“More scared of my dad than the idea of travelling to the West.”
Enough bull  shit.  I Bet dollars  to do-nuts you don’t even know what this son of  a bitch is supposed to do.”

“Chops up field corn.”

“For what reason?”

“Maybe cut it up green and blow chunks into the silo to make ensilage for winter feed.”

“How did a dimwit like you figure that out?”

“Farmer I bought it from told me…he was short a thumb and finger…maybe cut off by this machine.”

“How much did you pay for it?”

“Thirty dollars.What is it really worth?”

“He sure saw  a sucker coming when you arrived. Not worth a goddamn cent…junk…”

“I thought you would like it, dad.  Flattered .”

“Where do  you plan to put it now your barn has collapsed?” (Story to come)

“That, Dad, is the big question…I do not know. where to put it.”

Wait until your Uncle Norman sees this machine.   Shows what a damn fool you are.  Why in hell he named
you as executor of  his will defeats me.

alan  skeoch
Ja. 2018

Stories to come   1) The Barn that a Jackas  built
                             2) Dad  teaching andrew and  Kevin how to smoke White Owl  Invicible  cigars when they were 6 and 8 years old.


ASIDE:  Mr. and Mrs. James Skeoch operated a 100 acre farm on outskirts of Fergus (SW)  and, like many farmers they had a big family.  Greta, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lena, John, James, Archie, Arthur, Arnold, Norman.   The oldest, James  Skeoch was killed by artillery shells on one of the lat days of World War One,  sarah died of
the Flu epidemic that followed the war.  The rest thrived.  John bought land near Keeler, Saskatchewan and both Archie and Arthur also bought
some western land although they never moved  west.  Had their families in Ontario. Uncle John looked after things in the west.  Arnold (‘Red”)  and Artur became tire builders in Toronto.  They became city boys.   Norman, the youngest took over the home farm in Fergus and cared for his mother and father unto their death.
When Norman died, his will stipulated that each of his brothers and sisters should get an equal portion of the estate.  This meant that the farm 
had to be sold and the machinery put up for public auction.  My cousin John (long John) Skeoch and  I were named  as executors.  Nasty job.
Never met my grandfather Skeoch.  By all accounts he was a tough man.  Grandmother Skeoch lived on the Fergus farm util she died.  She became
an oil painter and made sure that all her kith and kin were given one of her paintings before her death.  There were so many relatives  that I never
really got to know her. Which is too bad.  The first Skeoch boys, James and  John, migrated to Canada in 1846 with their grandfather Mr. Watt. and an aunt who was terrified the boys would fall overboard as  they spent a lot of time running along the deck of the sailing ship.  Why were the little boys brought out while their
father was not?  I think he came later but there was a little mystery about the migration. I have never been able  to convincingly join the dots.  Trouble  with
the family tree is the  repeated use of James and  John…from  generation to generation. 

 If you have read this far you might be  comforted to know there 
was  only one Arnold in the family, my Dad, but henever went by that name.   To everyone he was  just “Red” because  he was born with red hair. No sign
off red hair when Eric and I were born but the name Red stuck.  He was Red to everyone  including my mother.  She  had another name for him when he
got in trouble which was often.  Then she  said, “Oh, Red, you Fathead!   Her name was Elsie  but he never called  her that.  His name for his wife was “Methooz”, 
a shortened form of Methusalum.  Why?  Because Methusala was  the oldest person in the bible and  Mom was  a  year older than Dad.  No I did not misspell 
Methusala.   Dad  added the “um” because it sounded  better.  It was a love affair that defied reason.  I think most real  and deep  love affairs are like that.

Some people we knew well as boys felt sorry for us.  They thought we lived  in a dysfunctional family. Are you kidding?  We lived inside a  cyclone with fasc[nating things whizzing by every day…and  remarks that were hard  to decipher.  What?  Meaning what?  Indecipherable remarks?  Sorry, maybe only Mom, Eric and I would  understand. For instance, Dad never used  our real  names, Alan and Eric.  Instead he always said, I  have two sons one is a gutsy bugger and the other is as stupid as  Joe’s dog/“  He never said who these  terms of endearment applied to.  Do I sound  like a gutsy bugger or stupid as Joe’s  dog?” Your call.

He had a disparaging label for everyone.  Catholics were fish-eaters.  English people were  sparrows or cheapers or broncos. Snobs, smooth talkers and creditor were ,’meally mouthed sons  of bitches.’  Dad turned a lot of people  off.  But he  also made a  lot of friends for he had  a twisted kind of charisma.  As proven, I suppose,
by the  fact he  remains vivid in my mind decades after is death.

Dad … caught him in a  pensive mood.  Rare. Shows a side of  him he  did not want the  world to see.   Much preferred the  tough guy pose.  Or the  cigar smoking arrogant man of the  streets and racetracks.  Under all that was the real  man.  Red was strong as  an ox from his AIaly labour making tires for big trucks. Slapping HEAVY slabs of rubber onto spinning wheel day in and  day out. “Careful of that roller boys, saw a guy  go through that, came  out as  flat a Gumby.”  he told  Eric and  I when we  visited Dunlop Tire  Company week before he retired.  Dad was proud of his work…he made things
with his two hands that our society takes for granted…huge rubber tires.  Deep down dad probably wished he  had gone  to high school…wished  he had
not thrown those  snowballs at the ass of that poor girl in the back house.  Mistakes in life can do damage. If he  became  an  educated son of a  bitch he
would have been a  different man.   Eric and I loved  him the way he was even when he pilfered our wallets for a few bucks to take  to the track.  Or forged  a  check that emptied  my bank account just when  needed  for first year university fees.  Or emptied that prize bottle of  Henessy’s cognac brough back from the job in Ireland. Mom felt the
same  way  even though she  slept on the couch  in our three room house  using her purse as  a  pillow. Would you lend Dad twenty bucks if he came around
to see you.  Most of  my friends had been  hit for a few  bucks now  and then.  They  seemed to like  dad in spite of himself.
Dad did not take pictures.  This shot of his must show the horses  he cared
for in the winter in that lonely barn. The west was won by horses…thousands of them.  Dad  kept 16 alive in a frigid Saskatchewan barn when he  was a kid.  Alone.   Alone!The west was won by horses…thousands of them.  Dad  kept 16 alive in a frigid Saskatchewan barn when he  was a kid.  Alone.   Alone!
This is  one of the few pictures he ever had.  Hardly glorious.
  Hardly glorious.


In 1846, our wayward branch of the Skeoch ‘clan’ left Scotland under mysterious circumstances  that I have never properly understood.  Just two little boys, James  and John  Skeoch, with their mom and her father, Mr. Watt.   The grandfather was the prime mover…wanted out of the Scottish Lowlands near  the west coast… not too far away from the place
where Robert Burns had his love  affairs and wrote his  poems.  1846 was a bad year al across  Europe and Britain.  Potato crop had  failed  and starvation stalked humanity like  the fabled gym reaper.   Starvation, however, was not the push factor.  Old Mr. Watt was an economic migrant.  He had money.  I am  not too sure he felt his daughter had married wisely.  Hart to understand why his son-in-law, Skeoch, was left in Scotland  when the children and wife shipped out for Canada. 

 My Skeoch grandfather, James  Slkeoch, was the son of James Skeoch, one  of  the little boys on board that 1846 ship.  

This story is not a documented  family tree…instead  it provides a  little flesh and  blood to the family history.

By the end  of the 19th century James, son of James, was building an immense  field stone house  and  an equally giant barn on their Fergus farm.  He  also seems
to have been  quite busy in the marital bed when darkness fell. 
  Mr. and Mrs. James Skeoch operated a 100 acre farm on outskirts of Fergus (SW)  and, like many farmers they had a big family.  Greta, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lena, John, James, Archie, Arthur, Arnold, Norman.   The oldest, James  Skeoch was killed by artillery shells on one of the last days of World War One,  sarah died of
the Flu epidemic that followed the war.  The rest thrived.  John bought land near keillor, Saskatchewan and both Archie and Arthur also bought
some wester land although they never moved  west.  Uncle John looked after things in the west.  Arnold (‘Red”)  and Artur became tire builders in
Toronto.  They became city boys.   Norman, the youngest took over the home farm in Fergus and cared for his mother and father unto their death.
When Norman died, his will stipulated that each of his brothers and sinners hold get an equal portion of the estate.  This meant that the farm 
had to be sold and the machinery put up for public auction.  If you think that was pleasant, then you have a brick for a brain.

Never met my grandfather Skeoch.  By all accounts he was a tough man.  Grandmother Skeoch lived on the Fergus farm util she died.  She became
an oil painter and made sure that all her kith and kin were given one of he paintings before her death.  There were so many relatives  that I never
really got to know her. Which is too bad.  The Skeoch boys, James and  John, migrated to Canada in 1846 with their grandfather Mr. Watt. and an aunt who was terrified the 
boys would fall overboard as  they spent a lot of time running along the deck of the sailing ship.  Why were the little boys brought out wile their
father was not?  I think he came later but there was a little mystery about the migration.


I had  a  lot of girlfriends.   Platonic  girlfriends  that would  never understand  Dad.  Many  would bolt in fear.  So I never brought a girl friend home to meet dad  with one exception.  Marjorie was  different. They got along like a house
on fire.  He loved her almost immediately.  Both loved horses so  they had  common bond.  One of my graphic memories is Dad  and Marjorie glued to the rail that surrounded  the Fort Erie racetrack.  Racing form in hand.  Assessing the flanks of race contenders. And she  understood him even when he  was at his worst. She found him amusing.  Warm.  And he dropped in at our apartment and eventual  house so often that Marjorie had to give up trying to breast feed the  kids because Dad  kept popping up at the most inconvenient times.

We  miss  him.

alan skeoch
Jan. 2018

The TEST:  Who called  me a “gutsy bugger?”
Must stop here…more will come…


Begin forwarded message:

From: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: March 6, 2018 at 10:51:20 PM EST
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>

Note:  Only sending this to a few friends…sounds too self-obsessed…too much about me…too silly…but true hence the pictures.  I cannot believe

      that Barney and I took such risks  but we did.  Sense of immortality reserved for risk taking males when they are 22years old.  Article is too long

for casual reading so I know some of you will press delete.  Good.  Do it.  Why did I write this?  Because my former boss, Dr. Paterson  is writing a book about 
geophysical prospecting in the 1950’s and  he wanted  some material that gives a little twist on the job.  I sent him one short article.  Then I wrote this whopper.


alan skeoch
March  2018

     Science says there are no ghosts.   So would you believe folK stories told with no evidence?  Ireland… IN the summer of 1960  a lot of stories were told.

    “Protestants?  We bricked them up in that old church.”
    “The pigs got a Nun…tangled up in her habit… all that was found was her shoes with feet inside.”
   “IRA men hid out in these old mine adits…lived here.”
   “Some think little people live in the old  mine.”
  “A cow wandered  into the mine, so the entrance was  filled with rubble.”
  “We’re having a  wake for him, he’ll be standing there.”
  “An IRA killer lives being that locked door in Kerwin’s pub, been there since Time of the Trouble.”
 “German bomber ditched in that field, the captain came back to see us last summer.”

These  are just some of the folk tales told to me in that summer of 1960.  They are the stories I remember.  There were a  lot more that
I forgot.  Read them again.  How many would you believe?  None?  Well, one story turned  out to be true and linked directly to our
geophysical exploration of the ancient Knockmahon Mine.


The Knockmahon Mine closed in 1879. It was not  a nice place to work…dangerous.  Miners had to climb down a series of wooden ladders in the dark to

reach the stopes far below..stopes that eventually extended out beneath the ocean.  Even so, by 1840 the mine was said to be in ‘the most important mining district in the British Empire.”  The cliffs of Knockmahon drew miners as far back at the 18th century and even deeper in the past.  Lead, silver and especially copper drew mining

entrepreneurs big time in 1824, and by 1834 profits rolled in for a decade. Mining costs got higher and higher the deeper they went until the Knockmaon mine
was  abandoned.   Where did  all the miners go?  They moved, all of them to North America.  Were they Irish?  No, Cornish families from abandoned Cornwall mines.
What remains?  This chimney and the ruins of the power house.  Both stand as  stone ghosts above the tiny Irish village of Bunmaon, County Warterford.
What did they leave behind?  Our company in 1960 hoped they left lots of residual copper.  The local Irish hoped the mine would reopen and the region
become prosperous once again but that was not to be.  There were anomalies…blips on our Turam receiving console.  But the whole area is so badly faulted that no mining
company  had any prospect of profit.  So the ghost remains.

  PICTURE:  Yes, parts of Ireland looks  like this.  Small whitewashed cottages  and ancient graveyards with stones askew.

   What story was  true?   THE COW IN THE MINE:   

PICTURE:  Some of our crew on the Irish job.  John Hogan (left) and  Dr. Joh Stam (far right), Barney Dwan (4th from left)

  We hired several others not in picture.  One handicapped teen ager just guarded the motor generator all day, not worried  about thieves but very worried about cows.

PICTURE:  Payday … includes pack  of cigarettes for each man

PICTURE:  John Hogan and i sharing a glass or Guinness in Kirwin’s pub.

The Irish job was unusual.  We were subcontracted by Dennison Mining Corporation to see if
the ancient Knockmahon copper mine had  any  residual copper.  The mine  closed  in 1879,had not been profitable

      since the 1850’s but Knockmaon,in the 1840’s,  had been one of the great mines of the British Empire.  We arrived 

more than a century later.   We?  Three of  us, John Hogan, a geologist employed by Dennison Mines, Dr.  John Stam, a Dutch/Canadian
geophysicist, and me, a University of Toronto student whose  job was  to climb through the brier, push aside
the semi wild hogs  with those lethal  jaws, climb the stone fences,.. Avoid the ticks that covered the cows noses…and  GET THE NUMBERS.

For many  moments  I felt like John Wayne, as in ” The Quiet Man “ which was running  forever in a Dublin movie theatre. That movie was my introduction to old Ireland.  Could the County Waterford
be anything like that?  No!  Impossible!   Wrong.  It was exactly like the Quiet Man including the Catholic priest’s concern for his  flock and  red headed colleens living
in turf covered cottages  up the boreens.  

Community life was centred  around  Kerwin’s pub during the week and the local Catholic church on Sundays.  We got to know both places but spent more

time in Kerwin’s than at Mass.  Plenty of black beer with brown foam spilling down the pint glasses.  Guinness stout was new to me then but I got to know it well.  Liked it.

It was  in Kerwin’s one night that I first heard  about the lost cow and  the hidden mine entrance.

“Did you lads get that machine to give you lots of pings up above Bunmahon?”
“We call them anomalies…odd readings…I guess  pings  says it all.”
“Anything happen…anything go bump or whatever that tin box does?”
“We got something up there, yes “ Was I betraying some kind of  secrecy by saying that?
“I  know there’s  something there…all of us know.”
We had  12 or more employees and paid  them less than
 $2 a  day  plus  a pack of Wild  Woobine Cigarettes as a bit of a bonus.   Later I added chocolate bars.
Big man.  Egomaniac.   My boss back in Toronto, Dr. Norman Paterson, wondered  why  I needed so  many men.   I had  an answer but it was  not quite  true.

      We really waned  to give some employment to the community.

“Dr. Paterson, I need  four men to cut our lines, 2 men to guard  the grounding rods from cattle and  pigs, particularly the pigs, 1 man  with the front coil,
1 record  keeper, 1  watching the motor generator, 2 men  patrolling the base line to keep the dairy cows  from eating the copper cable, 2 or 3 men to dig

trenches where Dr. Stam thinks bedrock might be interesting, and  1 man

to lift me over the stone fences  and through the thorny briar parches.  Pay all of them a total of around $ 24 a  day plus bonus…cheaper than  cost of  one man in  Canada.”
“Did you say  bonus?”  
“Yes, every  pay day…every week…I give each man a  pack of Wild Woodbine cigarettes  or a chocolate bar..”

      “Is this  a joke?”

“Why do  you need
a man to lift you  over the fences?”
 “Tiny fields here in  Ireland…stone  walled  fences  surrounded with dense brier hedges…impossible to get through without help…and keeps the

     cattle at a distance…ticks are ugly.”

     “Are ticks really a problem?”
      “Cattle have their noses full of ticks…strip every night and check my body for ticks.”

PICTURE:  DR. Stam autorized a crew to dig several deep trenches down to bed rock when a promising anomaly was found by our survey equipment.

      That attracted pigs as can be seen here.  Free running pigs could be dangerous if a bore was present.

“And Dr. Paterson, sometimes  I  buy a round of beer for the lads in the evening.”
“are you running some kind  of popularity contest, Alan?”

     “Suppose so…influenced by John Wayne..”

“Have you seen  the movie The Quiet Man?  Great movie. Has had an effect on me.  And it is very important to be on good terms
with the community…public relaitons.”

I  am not sure I said  all this to Dr. Paterson but I was ready to do  so.  Years  later when he asked  me to tell his  men’s club about
the Irish  job he described  me  as being   “precocious” whatever that means.

Getting the trust of the community paid  several dividends. One such was the ‘legend of  the lost cow and the mine’

PICTURE:  This may be the boreen where the mystery adit was located.

PICTURES:  Adits  to the old mine are located many place along this cliff face.
John Hogan and Jon Stam went along with our adventures.  See them above.
Those hole are ADITS…horizontal mine ecavations used for air or as entrances
SHAFTS … are vertical excavations … to get deeper.  We used the old adits and one venture into a shaft which we regretted.

Barney Dwan was my  Irish sidekick on the job.  We were about the same age and had  a  similar devil may care love of life.  At his suggestion we
spent many evenings crawling in the old  mine adits  from the copper stained  cliff faces that hung over the ocean.  Dangerous beond  belief really
for sometimes we were flat on stomachs wedging our bodies (then thin) across  a four collapse  or leaping over a narrow  shaft filled  with crystal  clear water 
that had inched  up from the ocean filled workings far below.  The Knockmahon mine had been worked  under the ocean some time between 1833 and the closing in 1870.
Men had  climbed  down  these shafts  on long wooden ladders in the dark. In 1960 mine exploration any deeper than the adits would require scuba gear.
Was there any justification for our risk taking?  Not much.  Although the walls  of the adits  were bright blue and green with copper staining and occasionally pink
with what I thought might be cobalt.  One of these water filled shafts even had  an old  ladder spanning its mouth.  Was the ladder 90years old or was  it left here
by Barney and  his  palls?   I preferred the  latter but crawled across  it anyway.  At the time I thought The worst that could  happen was a  cold swim.  No danger of falling  down hundreds feet or so to the old mine working below.  Why?  Because about 20 or so feet down was water.  The old mine had been reclaimed by the sea.  So if the ladder broke, I would fall a short distance and have a cold swim.  My second thought was not so optimistic.  How could I climb back up to the adit?  Barney would have
 to get a rope.  And if we both fell?  I put that thought aside.  We were across the chasm..  Now and then we would stop and light a  candle just to be sure  there was  enough oxygen to continue.  

PICTURE:A simple decision needed here.  Should we cross this shaft on the ladder provided?  Second question.  How old is the ladder?  Third question. How deep is the shaft…the old
mine working are supposed to be a hundred or more feet down.  Fifth question.  Do I see water about 20 feet down…think so.  Then the mind must be filled with water.
Sixth question.  If the ladder is rotten and I fall down there, how long will it take Barney to get a rope and haul me out?  Seventh question.  Suppose we both fall down
into that water, who knows we are in here and who would launch a rescue?   These questions seemed important at the time.

On another of these explorations  we got
ourselves in serious trouble.  We were slowly crossing a large open space with piles of football sized rubble.  The space was  angled  down at about 30 degrees 
and may have been a  deliberate slope that ore and rubble were sorted by hand by the miners  wives and children.  Our flashlight, however, did reveal  some kind
of  iron contraption below where the cpen cavern like room narrowed down.  We entered  the slope from the adit about the mid point and were crossing it carefully to the  other side where
the adit continued.  Big  mistake!  We loosened  the boulder  strewn incline and  the whole face started  to slowly slide to the hole below.  We froze.  Thoughts of
death intruded.  Should  we make a  broken field run for the  adit?  Should  we wait and  hope the sliding talus  slope would  hang up on
some intrusion.  Panic.  Turn around?  No time for that.  We were riding  a stony sea.  Then the movement stopped  and  we got across to the other side.  That even
shook Barney who seemed to have spent his teen age years crawling in and out of these old mine adits. “No wonder the IRA felt safe hiding in here.”   Was Barney
putting me on again or was he speaking the truth?  Got so I never really knew.

PIICTURE:  Not exactly stable 

“In  the  Time  of the Trouble, people  hid  out in here,” Barney said
“Time of the Trouble?”
“1920’s when  the Black  and  Tans were around.”
“‘Black  and  Tans?”
“The British.”

The dark politics of  Irish history took  on a  life of  its own suddenly.  The Time of the Trouble were years of killing by both sides. Irish  nationalists  versus British  imperialists to oversimplify.   When Barney spoke of those years he always had a  lopsided  grin…knowing with that grin that I was likely on the other side of the Union question.

“See  that old bricked  up church?”
“Filled with Protestants in the Time of the Trouble.  They’re still in there.”  And  Barney grinned. 

Sick Humour between two  22  year olds  who were not
part of those years of death and hate.  My  wise  decision to attend  weekly mass  bridged that  ideological chasm. fortunately.  Everyone  relaxed and  told
funny stories about those past years.  Like the story about Kirwin’s pub.  There was the main  bar room …a low ceilinged tiny space filled  with tankards and
long  black beer pulls.  Then  there was the locked room.  “What’s behind the door, Barney?”  “Don’t go  there.”  “I saw shadows moving  across the gap below the door..”
“One of the killers lives there…old man now…touched  in the head.”   Killer?  Barney inferred  that a  hatchet man for the IRA was  firmly closeted  behind  that door.
Was this  true?  I have no  idea.  Likely not for Barney had that  lob side grin when he spoke.  The village  of  Bunhahon was rife with stories like  that.   Twentieth century legends.  Perhaps  containing a  kernel of truth.   I know readers will have a hard time accepting these potentially hate filled stories.  But they are part of the folk traditions.

Which gets to the points of this article. 

Barney seemed serious one day…trying not to grin. 

 “Master Skeoch” he called me that for some strange reason, “remember that story about the boreen we worked across today.”
“Something about little green men, Barney”
“No, although those stories are told as well.”
‘Is that why few people crawl into the old mine adits?”
“Suppose so.  But I have a different story today…a real story…not that those other stories are not real.”
“What story, Barney.?”
“A long time ago…long before I was born…maybe back before the Time of the Trouble…after the mine had closed down …”
“After 1870?”
“Sometime after.”
“the story about the farmer that lost a cow in one of the mine openings…It happened  here in this boreen,” (this valley)
“No openings here now.”
“The farmer filled in the opening with piles of wild and rocks…still here.”
“But where?”
“right here beneath this patch of brier…story has been told again and again.”
“Do you think we could open it up?”
“We could…maybe find out if the pings in the tin box mean something.”
“Good idea, if Dr. Stam agrees, we’ll hire one of the men to dig here for a couple of days…give him a pick and shovel
and just let him work at it alone…worth a try.”

So we put a man on the job and continued marching along our grid pattern checking for anomalies.  Might have been two or 
three days later that we got word about the hole.  Our pick and shovel man hit the old mine entrance dead on target.  The 
adit … mine entrance… had filled up with water over the past century…tons and tons of water.  At some point his pick or
his shovel released the pressure and a wall of muddy water exploded forth.  Scared the shit out of him.  As it would anyone working alone
and sceptical.  He ran.  

By the next day the adit had drained enough for us to enter.  This was not a small ventilation adit like those on the cliff face. It was a major opening.    Perhaps seven or eight  feet high and four or more feet wide.  Once the draining got down to a trickle all of us walked in with 
flashlights and candles.  The walls were slick with dirty brown chemical staining.  No bright blues or greens or pinks.  Perhaps under the slime
there were traces of copper but I don’t remember any.  Of  course our attention was riveted on something else.  She was there…in place…exactly as the legend said.  About 100 feet into the opening there was the cow.
Her body was wedged into a narrow point.  Hips must have got caught and she died there.  Her skull was facing into the mine, her arse facing out.  Just bones.of course.

Sceptics on our crew said that she was dumped here long ago.  She died in a field or stable and then was buried here.  Possible.  But doubtful.  The skeletons of
animals along with broken furniture and piles of old bottles were dumped in the mine shafts not in the adits.  Easier to do that.  The main shaft where the old
buildings still stood had a wide shaft totally plugged with garbage and dead animals.  This was different.  It had the cow exactlhyin place.

John Hogan checked the geology and did not notice anything remarkable.   I too ka few pictures of the brown slime walls the bones of the cow and a perfect
collection of crystal stalactites that must have taken 90 years to form in the stillness and utter blackness  of this place.


Begin forwarded message:

From: SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: October 2, 2018 at 8:49:07 PM EDT
To: Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>

JUST in case one of  you wonders how  I spent the Saturday afternoon before my birthday party….take a look below.

Marjorie was busy  cooking and  packing for my 890th birthday  party on Sunday Oct. 1, 2018…I did not know that. She
seemed  glad  to get me  out of  the house.  Strange.  She usually comes  along.
Boring?  Not to me.  Riveting  in my opinion.  You  might wonder what I bought

-rope bed
-corn cutting box, primitive
-draughting table
-pot bellied stove
-crocks and  bottles
-folk art horse and driver
-12’ solid oak distressed plank

“Damn fool,” my Dad would have said… yet he would  have  joined me loading  the junk in the truck with joy.  
On one occasion he loaded my junk and saw  there was room for more so began stuffing other people’s things
in the truck.  “Hey there, that is  mine…”   “What the hell do you want that junk for…I was doing you a  favour…only
a  damn fool  would buy this crap.”  Dad, was always  good  for some tension everywhere  he went.

At this sale I had
two loaders  with the same blood line.  See if you can  find them.  (Andry and  Jack)

alan skeoch
Sept. 30, 2018

the Buckland Farm (century farm)

Saturday September 29th at 10:00am

5833  7th Line, Guelph/Eramosa, ON    Come East from Guelph or West from Erin on Wellington Cty Rd 124 to Wellington Cty Rd 26 (Bellwood Rd). Then North 7.6kms to Wellington 22. Turn west and go 1.4 kms to 7th Line. Then south on 7th Line 1.1km to sale on east side of road. OR   From Orangeville go west on Dufferin Cty Rd 3 (Orangeville Fergus Rd) 19.5km to Wellington Cty Rd 26. Then south 7.4 kms to Wellington 22. Turn west and go 1.4 kms to 7th Line. Then south on 7th Line 1.1km to sale on east side of road.  
 **PARKING ON ROAD**     (A)Antique

Tractors/Combine:  AC 6070, cab, 4164hrs, dual hydr; MF 265, 594 Allied loader, quick tach bucket, dual hydr; Leyland 253 – not running; MF 410 combine – not running

Equip/Farm Rel: NH 469 haybine, 9′ cut; Lucknow 8′ snowblower, 1 auger; MF 124 sq baler with chute; MF 33 seed drill, 17 run, grain, fert, grass; NI 3pth fert spreader; Watveare 10ft 3pth cultiv; MH stack cutter(A); MF 3furr x12, 3pth plow; Kverneland 3furr x 16 3pth plow; NI manure spreader-parts; Grain-o-Vator wagon-1  axle; mineral feeder; feed cart; homemade squeeze; wagon undercarriage; seed drill(A); manure spreader(A); dump trailer(A); 11ft steel wheel cultiv(A); IH manure spreader; side rake(A); (5)wood gates 10.5′; (2)wire gates 10.5′; 20’x4″ grain auger; 670L fuel tank-new, never used; dump trailer-wood top, hand crank; lots to see here!

Shop, Misc: Tool chest; floor jack; (2)steel parts bins; cement mixer; barn beams; qty license plates(1923 & newer); garden tools; golf clubs; logging chains; hand tools; jack-all; pasture pump(nose waterer); Jonserd 625 chainsaw; car ramps; MTD T430 rototiller; push mower; antique tools(A); oil lamps(A); wood pulleys(A); buck saws(A); cross cut saws(A); wood tool boxes from binders(A); barn beam drills(A); wrenches; MH steel seat(A); hay saw(A); forge tools(A); (2)hand water pumps(A); hay hook(A); tractor seats(A); buggy seat(A); antique parts(A); walking plows (McCormick Deering #407, Flurey #21)(A); steel wheels(A); (2)bag carts(A); fanning mill(A); cutter sleigh(A); bag scales(A); 32″x80″ white screen door-brand new; and much much more! 

Lumber: 12″x12″x13.5′; 11″x11″x14′; 7″x7.5″x19.5′; ash/pine/hemlock/basswood-var widths & lengths; pine 12″-16″w & var lengths; cherry/beech/cedar lumber – var lengths & widths. 17 bush cord of seasoned hardwood;

Antiques (V)Vintage, Household:  (2)lg laundry drying racks; (6)wood chairs; gramophone; dining room table; china cabinet; wood trunk; bottles; carnival glass; oil lamp; hanging oil lamp; quilt stand; quilting frame; buffet; dresser with mirror; wash stand; magazine rack; fold down desk; moustache cup; shaving cup; radios(RCA, Stewart-Warner, GE, Electrohome); clocks; East Lake style washstand; doctor’s bag; wash basin & pitcher(Ironstone); NHL Pro Hockey table top game(V); Power play table top hockey(V); hockey & baseball cards; china cabinet/sideboard combo; everyday household items, some glass & china, Potbelly woodstove(D.Moore); something for everyone!

Lunch Booth                                                                                      Washroom Available

Note:  Property has been sold. First auction on this farm in 100yrs. 
           Preview Fri Sept 28 1-6pm
Order of Sale: Smalls/tools, household, shop, tractors(start at 1pm) & equipment

Terms & Conditions: Cash or Cheque with proper I.D. on day of sale. Owner and/or Auctioneer will not be held responsible for accident or loss on day of sale. All items are sold “As Is”. All verbal announcements on day of sale take precedence over written ads.

Auctioneers:     Kevin McArthur (519) 942-0264          Scott Bessey  (519) 843-5083

Fwd: High Flying adventure on a grey windy evening at North Beech

Begin forwarded message:

From: SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: High Flying adventure on a grey windy evening at North Beech
Date: October 12, 2018 at 9:43:05 PM EDT

(Note to any reader:  All dialogue is  alan talking to himself.  Silly at times, he knows  that…but alan thinks
the dialogue makes  the pictures  come to life.   Sometimes it may seem  that Marjorie is speaking but
that is  fake news.  Of course some people never read the dialogue anyway
so alan  inserts a little test.  In this case the test is  simple, where is  NORTH BEECH?)


alan skeoch
Oct. 11, 2018

THE gate to North Beach,  Prince Edward County, sported  a huge padlock.   Closed  for the season…abandoned  save for the two cars parked half in the ditch  and  half out.
At the end  of a Dead  End  road.  Eerie.  Solitary.  
This  was  not tourist  time.  The sky  was  grey…the wind  was  ferocious…the weather was getting colder by  the second…and the sun  was setting.   Perfect setting
for adventure.

“Woody needs  a walk, Alan…I doubt anyone would care if we slipped  under the padlock.  No one here…”
“Wind is  blowing fiercely…first time this year in winter coats.”
“What is that funny blue thing way up in the sky…looks like  a balloon…half a  balloon”
“Holy Cow, we are not alone…”
“Two people way  out in the surf … racing with the wind …”
“With a couple of miles of surf foaming its way to the beech.”
“Faster than a speeding bullet as was said in the  comic books”
“Well, not quite but fast enough to lift those guys into the sky at times.”
“Wonder who  they are?”
“Woody will find out…there he goes racing the wind to greet those guys.”
“Might be afraid of dogs.”
“Any persons  who attach themselves  to a billowing kite in lashing wind will not be afraid  of a dog like Woody.”

“Hi fellows, where  you from?”
“Long way from home, how  come?”
“The surf here is  breathtaking…seems  to be end  of that Hurricane called Michael”

(On the left is  Benoit Dargis…missed out on his friend’s name)

“Seems a bit dangerous Benoit?”
“Not really…we stay away from those big boulders on the south end.”
“Did  Woody bother you when you benched?”
“No…does he bite?”
“licks a lot…wags tail a  lot…presses his  warm and tender  body against us a lot…but does  not know the meaning of the word bite.”

“Would  you boys like butter tarts?”  
“See Alan in the car with furrowed brow…we’ll leave him one tart, OK?”
“OK…and here’s  a jar of honey from Quebec…from our own bee hives.”

And  so the little bit of adventure ended.

Post Scrip Below”

“Well, Woody, what say we buy one of those rigs?”
“I like my four legs on the ground, Alan.”
“You don’t have to fly, Woody, your job  would be to pull a beech  cart with all the stuff.”
“Forget it, alan, another lamebrain  idea of yours that will never see the light of day.”
“Sometimes Woody you break my heart.”
“Get over it….”


Begin forwarded message:

From: SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Date: October 16, 2018 at 2:18:32 PM EDT


alan skeoch
Oct. 15, 2018

“It happened  in the twinkling of an  eye.”
“What happened?”
“I slipped…upended…feet n the air…crashed while curling”  (High Park Curling Rink)
“Maybe a little too overconfident…maybe too aggressive…throwing a rocket rock…take out.”
“Smart aleck!”
“Maybe, certainly my fault for sure.”
“Anyone see the fall?”
“Too many saw  it.  Best way to  describe  it was  a failed attempt at a back flip in Olympic diving…only there was  no
pool just a solid sheet of ice backed by concrete.”
“Couldn’t you stop yourself?”
“Anyone who has fallen knows that it happens in the twinkling of an eye…in a fraction of a second…no chance to
regain footing.”

“Let’s  skip the melodrama, were you hurt?”
“Not nearly as badly hurt as  I could  have been.”
“Because I was wearing a helmet.  Spared me from a  major concussion.”
“So, this story is in praise of Helmets.”
“You  betcha…just the second game I wore a helmet after 40 years of curling.  Managed to buy the helmet 
at an auction sale.  Thought it seemed a good idea  since I turned 80 on October 16, 2018…day after my fall”
“Hit hard?”
“Hit the ice so hard , I cracked the helmet according to Shaymus, our lead who also wears a helmet.”
“Many others wear helmets?”
“Just three of  us out of 40 curlers.”
“Maybe the others are better on their feet.”
“That’s what they think, I’m sure because that is the way  I thought before the fall.”
“So  you are pushing for all curlers to wear helmets.”
“Yes, I most certainly am…now…especially after the hospital treatment”
“You went to the hospital?”
“Had to do so…911 medics insisted on it…anyone who bashes his or her head needs to be  checked out.”

“What happened in the hospital?”
“Triage  nurse asked  a trick question.”
“Like…’What year is  this?’   I couldn’t give a  fast answer…as a joke, sort of, I said  1979.  Immediately she put
a red  star on my admission bracelet.”
“Brain concussion?”
“Suppose it was possible…my wife and I spend the next 8 hours in the Emergency Ward…checking mu heart, 
my chest, my back,  even my feet.  “
“Doctor could  find noting wrong but ‘Let’s  take a  couple of X Rays to be sure’”
“Dead  of night by then…3 a.m…got XRays  of lots of my body…even my big  mouth.”
“Any problem?”
“Not finished.   Then I was sent for a Catscan in a big special room with a giant donut in the centre.  The Do nut 
big enough to fit my whole body.  “Lie down  there,” said the scanner.”
“Then what happened?”
“I don’t know because I closed  my eyes fearing I might do some claustrophobic  whimpering .”
“And what was the final result of the hospital experience?”

“We can find nothing wrong with you, Mr. Skeoch,”
“Can I go home.”
“Yes, you were a very lucky man.”
“Because you wore that helmet.”
“Helmets are that important, are they?”
“Obvious.  They save you from a brain concussion.”
“I expect to be stiff and sore for a while…”
“Maybe…maybe not.”
“As  things turned out I am not even very stiff and  sore.”

alan skeoch
Oct. 16, 2018
My 80th birthday

Note:  I am writing this story about 20 hours after the fall at High Park Curling Rink.   I am not even
as stiff and  sore as I expected.  I am fine… my 80th birthday.  I am a very lucky man.

Tom Buckland’s last look at his barn Oct. 2018


alan skeoch
Oc.t 23, 2018
I wish we could stop and  take a breath.  The pace of change is  just too  fast for me…and for lots  of others.  Fortunately I  had
that chance to pause the other day when I caught Tom Buckland, alone on his seventh line farm which was   about to be turned
over to a new owner.  And that new owner may not know what to do with the huge Buckland  barn because it needs  some rescue
work on the stone foundation.    If other barns are any guide i expect the Buckland barnwill soon be gone…a  pile of splintered  beams
and twisted roofing.  Not glorious any more.
“Tom can we take a look at your barn from the threshing floor?”
“Closed  it up for the farm sale…worried  someone would get hurt…”
“Two of us are unlikely to have trouble…”
“Sure  we can take a  look.”
What was left unsaid?   You figure that out below.