Book Reviews

Carol Bennett McCuaig reviews – “Lanark County Classics”

Lanark County Classics: At Treasury of Tales from Another Time.

“Autumn brings its own delights to Lanark County, and along with the falling leaves and the glorious colours we have come to expect a new literary contribution from local author Arlene Stafford-Wilson.

This year her offering is entitled Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time. This is the sixth book in her Lanark County
series and it does not disappoint. As with her earlier books, Arlene’s readers may enjoy Lanark County Classics from varying viewpoints: this is more than just a charming memoir providing information about the past. It will stir up memories of the reader’s own Lanark County days, or remind them of bygone people they have known.

‘Multitudes in Middleville’ recalls Middleville’s Pioneer Days in 1970 when the people of the village celebrated Lanark Township’s sesquicentennial. Were you there? I was, and If I have forgotten any aspects of the event I have only to refer to this book to have my memory jogged! The author has also included brief notes on Middleville’s pioneers which will interest those looking for their roots, I was pleased to see mention of my mother-in-law’s ancestors, Robert Affleck and William Borrowman.

The author also focuses on a number of tragedies that have rocked the county within living memory. Never to be forgotten is the great fire that destroyed much of Lanark Village in 1959. Arlene pays tribute to the heroism of local firefighters, as well as that of individual citizens, such as Mrs Eleanor Murphy who managed to carry a bedridden woman out of her home to safety.

Dip into this book to learn of other tragedies, including the drowning of people you may have known; the mysterious disappearance of Adrien McNaughton, a small boy from Arnprior; and the stillbirth of a young couple’s first child.

A chapter describing the history of a popular weekly newspaper, “The Lanark Era”, recalls the importance of such publications in the life of the community in bygone years, Social columnist Winnifred Closs is one of the contributors remembered here. We are told that the lady also excelled at needlecrafts… and some years produced over 150 pairs of socks. Whew! That’s about three pairs per week!

Truth is stranger than fiction, and you won’t want to miss the author’s accounts of a haunting in Burgess Township, and of the many UFOs and eerie lights that were reported in the 1960s and 1970s, appearing in the night sky within a certain radius of Smiths Falls. The mystery of the haunted house was eventually solved, but the UFOs have never been explained to anyone’s satisfaction.

In keeping with her previous books, Arlene’s latest work is a carefully crafted mixture of events in Lanark County’s recent history and an account of many of the people who participated in those events. In writing of Winnie Closs she observes that the lady will be remembered as an avid historian and dedicated chronicler of her time.

The same might be said of the author of Lanark County Classics and it is to be hoped that new books in the series keep coming.”  

Carol McCuaig.

Carol Bennett McCuaig   1938-2018
Carol Bennett-McCuaig (1938-2018) was a weekly newspaper Editor who became a prolific and respected author. Educated in history and religious studies at the University of Waterloo, she authored sixty three books, including regional histories, commissioned works, books on Lanark and Renfrew County (Ontario) roots, and a long list of historical novels. One of her histories, “In Search of the Red Dragon: The Welsh in Canada”, received the Ninnau award for its contribution to North American Welsh culture. In 1997 she received an Achievement Award from the Ontario Heritage Foundation, for her body of work in recording regional history. She was a life member of Heritage Renfrew, and a past president of the North Lanark Historical Society.