Guest Page No. 6

Home From Home - Ilkestonians Abroad
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. Lawrence River.

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 gingerbread elements.

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 Capital".

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 .....