Dunaber MusicDunrovin Farm, North Hatley, Quebec

September 7, 2015 on 7:08 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Photographs, Stories | Comments Off on Dunrovin Farm, North Hatley, Quebec

This past Saturday I found my way back to the homeland, Quebec’s Eastern Townships, for a flying visit: there and back the same day. By far the shortest visit I’ve made to this place, about 750 kilometres from where I live today. Fleeting? Yes. But sweetly memorable. The occasion, sadly, was a funeral. Though the service, on this day in the small 19th century country church, was for a man who lived a good long life, a life lived well and one with a legacy of seriously fine people – and a lot of stories. Stories galore. Gordon Stuart was a big man who lived large. And so this day, marked a fine send-off and a quiet celebration marking goodness and a good life. Surely this is at the core of why we have funerals.

Gordie Stuart – or, “Mr Stuart”, as I will forever know him – was my Father’s best friend. Both joined “The Bell” (think Bell Canada, British Telecom, AT&T) when still teenagers and became life-long friends beyond the whole of their working lives at The Bell. In turn, their wives, my Mum, Joan, and Gord’s Frankie, became the best of friends, too. We – my siblings, Jane, Robert and Patty – and the Stuart kids: Sandy, Wendy, Kim, Karen and Scott, spent our childhoods together. And it struck me, after I was gifted a short visit with them on this day, so many years since our last meeting, that we share an awful lot of common pre-adult touchstones. I refer to experiences of close family life that almost goes beyond the describable – our families were tight. Certainly from time to time (to time) our fathers were tight. We laugh now. In those days it was all “hamburgs for the kids and steaks for the adults”. Rightly so. And If the stars were aligned there’d be a barrel of KFC chicken for one and all – most always at the behest of Mr Bill Grey.
gordon and frankie stuart_1967 Massawippi
Both Mr Stuart and my Dad were serious dyed-in-the-wool Townshippers. They knew the place, and the people, and they knew where to fish. They used to take my brother and I and Mr Stuart’s, Scott, brook fishing. For those that aren’t familiar, you’d walk lazily along the country stream, the “burn”, and cast a hook with a worm into a rock pool and hope to hell you’d snag a brown or rainbow trout. There’s more to it than that but as a kid that was pretty much it – you’d hope for a bite.

On the summer’s day I remember we were at the go-to place, the stream that passed by Gould. For anyone who knows The Megantic Outlaw story, this river runs through it. There were five of us and we were all meters, if not more apart, along the densely wooded stream – which is only right when fishing. Now, I call the water a “stream” but it had deep pools and spots of rough white water. It was no Lachine Rapids but no harmless trickle. This day I recall loud shouts from upstream, a lot of anxious commotion and a heroic Mr Stuart. My brother had slipped off one of the lichened rocks and found his way into one of the largest rock pools possible. White water boiling all around, Mr Stuart, the closest of the group to the scene, threw rod, gear and heavy boots aside and dove into the ten foot or so pool. And rescued Robert.

That was Gordon D. Stuart.

Anyway – or “anyways”, as I believe I would say if I was talking to you – once in a long while I’ll reflect and have an “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment. You know the story: angel comes to help a man in desperate need to show what the world would be like had he never been born. If I stop and think to apply an IAWL moment I can say hand-on-heart: had Gordon Stuart never been born I’d have never played the pipes. The pipes have made my life, in a real way and it was Mr Stuart’s second daughter, Wendy, who played the pipes. It was she who inspired me to take them up. Bless her heart – and bless Mr Stuart.

While Gordon Stuart raised a large family he also worked hard at a full-time “Bell” job and ran a farm. I guess we’d call it a hobby farm today but with horses, cattle, fields of hay and massive “gardens” the enterprise – “Dunrovin Farm” – must have been some energy-grabber – for the whole family of seven. Still, countless happy times were spent at Dunvovin Farm, North Hatley, Quebec. The very best of memories I hold close today.

When I was 17 years old I built a jig that I still play. And others, it seems, play it, too. Which makes the tune all the sweeter: “Dunrovin Farm, North Hatley” – the original title. I attach the score here, written in a crazy teenage anal retentive sort of rulered script. And look at that precious signature. One surely practiced and preened over countless hours.

Dunrovin Farm is The Stuart Family: confident, rambunctious, self-reliant and loving.
Dunrovin Farm_Michael Grey_1980
I always think of them when I play it or hear it played.


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