Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Strong Genes and the scent of spring

A few weeks ago I wrote about my search for ancestors using the tools available on the web. I located a 1911 census record indicating that my father's mother's (Anna) father, (Mark Quinn), (pictured above in 1939 on his 90th birthday) was, on June 6th, 1911, living on Queen Street in Niagara Falls with his wife Eliza and his 5 of his 6 children. One of his sons, I think it was John, went on to marry a woman whom I came to know as Aunt Lizzie. I remember visiting Aunt Lizzie on her farm in Virgil, a town neighbouring Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake (I have memories of lots and lots of flies and lots and lots of kids). I believe Aunt Lizzie had 14 children, one of whom was Tom Quinn. My grandfather and namesake, James Corcoran, was a bootlegger, and Tom's cousin. According to Tom, my grandpa used to store boxes of prohibition liquor in Lizzie and John's barn. Tom and his wife Joanne came to the spa for a visit this past week where I had an opportunity to photograph him with my nephew Mark Abernethy (now an enterprising entrepreneur and the proprietor of Ste. Anne's Water to Wine in Oshawa). Can you see the resemblance between Mark and Tom and Mark? Strong Irish genes, I suppose. At 81 years of age, Tom is still recovering from open heart surgery. None-the-less, he is a great story teller, and quite a character. One of my favourite stories is how Tom, being a good son, would give his mother money to go out and buy a new set of teeth. Lizzie never did buy the teeth, instead she spent the money buying food for her kids. The other picture, on the right is a close up of a bamboo patch that I cut back this weekend. If you look closely you can see the new shoots starting to push their way up past last year's old dead shoots. (There is a connection here between this story and the family story above). Spring is such a wonderful time, as colour and life start to push their way back into our world after a long winter absence, just as the last few piles of dirty snow melt to provide the water and the nutrients for the life giving soil. My dad went back to his adopted home of northern Ireland this past week after spending a little time visiting his kin here in Canada. We had lots of good times together, celebrating my mom's 80th birthday, watching movies, walking and eating out. Last weekend my dad and I spent the weekend together as Nan was away for a sister's weekend and David was working a trade show. On Saturday morning we set out for breakfast to the "Under New Management" Scenery Drive Restaurant at Highway 45 and Centreton Road. This place has been serving up good old country fare for as long as I can remember - I just hope the new owners don't change things too much. As it turned out, the parking lot was packed with pick up trucks, so we continued north to Pitcher's Place in Gore's landing where we both ordered and enjoyed a delicious home made Eggs Benedict. After breakfast we walked down to Rice Lake where the ice was starting to melt and water was running everywhere. We discovered a charming little Anglican Church up on the hill over looking Rice Lake - St. George's. From there we went on to Linwood Acres where we picked up 120 7" trout to transplant into my pond at Ste. Anne's. This man made pond is now home to close to 3 or 4 hundred trout of various sizes. I think this year we're going to have to start fishing some of them out - they're getting pretty big. After our road trip, I made a mental note to return to St. George's church some Sunday to see whether the service would be as enchanting as the building. That opportunity came this past Sunday when we missed our 9:00 mass at St. Mary's in Grafton, after a visit with my sister Cindy in celebration of her birthday cut into our church time. David, mom and I headed back up to Pitcher's Place for breakfast. Unfortunately we were a few minutes too late, (and as a result too shy) to venture into St. George's, but we had a great breakfast all the same and agreed to come back another day. We took a road along the south shore of Rice Lake on our way home and came across yet another architecturally alluring church called Sacred Heart (R.C.), just as a small crowd was gathering for the 10:00 service. We pulled in, only to be greeted with hugs from Mike Butler, a chef who had worked at Ste. Anne's many moons ago - looking much better than when we'd last seen him. We followed Mike and others into the church only to find the heat was off, apparently because they had run out of oil. It didn't really matter though as the warmth of the congregation and Father Stan made this a joyous discovery, prayer and song filled hour. You just never know what you'll stumble upon when travelling the rolling countryside of Northumberland!

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