Guest Page No. 6
Home From Home - Ilkestonians
6 - Vankleek Hill, Canada
Margaret Smith (née Pounder) was born in Ilkeston
and has two brothers, John and Roy who still live locally. Margaret's
early life was spent on Eleanor Avenue, off Middleton Road and
she attended Hallam Fields School which at that time was situated
next to Cavendish School, before later moving on to Hallcroft.
She left England for Canada in 1964 initially for one year to
work with her lifelong passion horses, but enjoyed the life and
wonderful riding so much that she stayed. Another reason was
that Margaret met Alfred who was soon to become her husband.
At the time of writing (August 2005) they had recently celebrated
their 40th wedding anniversary.
After living in Quebec for twenty eight years, they moved just
over the border into Ontario to a 100 acre farm, where they grew
corn (maize) and soybean. For twelve years they had five horses
and twenty five hounds for company but then retired to Vankleek
Hill, where they have been for eighteen months. In that time
they have visited England three times, where they have admired
as Margaret puts it "the beautiful old architecture of the
Town Square and the art deco of The Ritz." Margaret also
recalls how she also used to spend all her sixpences on Saturday
afternoons at "The Tanner Rush". But times change and
Margaret now regards home as Vankleek Hill and with her we can
now enjoy some views from that part of the world.
Vankleek Hill is situated near the Ottawa River between Montreal
and Ottawa. It has its share of old buildings and dates back
to 1797, when it was founded by Simeon Van Kleeck, a Union Empire
Loyalist of Dutch descent. He built an Inn which served travellers
going to and from the Ottawa River to southern ports on the St.
This first pictures shows Main Road, Vankleek Hill. It is twice
the size of Ilkeston's Bath Street. The Review Newspaper office
can be seen, with the white trim and further down is an apartment
building with an iron spiral staircase with the National Bank
with the large red 'N' beyond.
Like Ilkeston, it seems Vankleek Hill also has its share of eccentrics.
Michel Martel's Floridian style home has a bench made from a
solid block of teak on the lawn and yes, that is an alligator
behind. Mr Martel also has an artificial bear and cub, turtle,
camel and giraffe on his property or in his house.
Far more common than Mr. Martel's house are a number of Victorian
houses enhanced with gingerbread trim, decorative woodwork that
adds the architectural detail to the buildings' exteriors. Porches,
windows, gables and roof lines of over 250 houses contain these
The backdrop for the gingerbread trim is red brick which was
kilned locally in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The decorative features certainly gives an air of elegance to
the town, which was named in 2003 as "Ontario's Gingerbread
Early in July, Phil Arber, a local Antiques Dealer, invites local
horse people to attend his Horse and Buggy Parade, which in 2005
attracted over 50 participants. Phil and his partner Sammi own
MacAlpine Equestrian Centre and Phil also has an Art Gallery
in which he displays and sells work by local artists.The white
buggy above, is going past a seventy foot long mural, one of
five such murals painted by local artists. The windows and doors
of the building have been incorporated into the mural.
Another interesting mural is a quilt painting that celebrates
activities, landscapes and buildings of this agricultural community.
The military truck is in tribute to the military aid received
during the 1998 ice storm, during which the town was without
electricity for twenty one days. Linemen from Detroit, eventually
erected poles and lines in terrible weather conditions and the
townspeople showed their gratitude by feeding them three hot
meals a day. The farmers used their generators to power the stoves.
Knowing of Margaret's passion for horses, it is no surprise to
see her muffled up against the weather with these two sleigh
horses whilst on a March 2nd outing this year (2005) to The Sucrerie
de la Montagne, Rigaud, Quebec. An old pioneer cabin stands in
the background at The Sucrerie which is only about a mile from
where the infamous Charles Wilson of England's Great Train Robbery
fame lived before he was captured in the 1970s.
The Sucrerie is a restaurant where Quebecois food, beans, bacon,
soufflé, potatoes and home made pickles are served. Dessert
is always pancakes with maple syrup. Only Ontario, Quebec and
Vermont USA have maple trees and at The Sucrerie maple syrup
is made from the sap of the trees by boiling it in a huge vat
until it turns to syrup. The hot syrup is poured onto cold snow
and the ladies seen above were waiting to twist it around sticks
to eat as it cooled. Yummy.
"Yummy" was Margaret's word and I can only
echo it as talk of all this scrumptious food has set my taste
buds working overtime. So it's thanks to Margaret for all the
photos which she captured with a Sony Cybershot P73 and also
for the information on this page to go with them. And Margaret,
the next time you visit Ilkeston, make sure you bring a good
supply of that maple syrup with you. Let me know when you're
coming and I'll give you my address .....