Heather Chitty found a special way to honor the memory of her late father, this Father’s Day, by dedicating River Reminiscing: An Anthology of Thousand Islands Stories to him. William (Bill) Chitty, who died in 2008, was one of the founders of the Arthur Child Heritage Museum in Gananoque.
What started out as a way to capture the history, and lore, of the Islands, has been turned into an impressive anthology written by local authors and islanders – some still contributing and others who have left the River.
One story, “A Rainy Day in the Islands” was written in the 1890s by John A. Haddock and printed in his popular The Picturesque St. Lawrence River. Also among contributors are John Keates, (Of Time and an Island) and Robert Russell (The Island). Fortunately, Russell, who died this past April, had given permission to Heather last fall, to reprint, “Pike Fishing by Bell”.
Many Gananoqueans will remember, with delight, the weekly columns in The Gananoque Reporter by Ina Scott. The Scott family gave permission to publish one of the best, “The Legend of the Thousand Islands.”
Kim Lunman, author and publisher of Island Life Magazine, submitted “Holy Waters Half Moon Bay”. John Nalon, long-time President of the Gananoque Historical Society, presents, “Gananoque, Built on Two Rivers” and Damaris Davis presents a short biography of “Agnes M. Machar and Gananoque” - one of the Town’s most celebrated 19th century Canadian poets. They all add up to a total of 17 River-Reminiscing stories.
Heather grew up in Gananoque. “Our family grew up next to Bluff Park and the property that Agnes Machar owned. I played there as a child, and was always very interested in her story and many others about the Islands and their people. My mother has collected these stories over the years, and because so many people enjoy learning about the history of the area, I thought it would be fun to put the stories from "river authors" into an anthology. I've written some children's books and plan to write stories for children about the River.” Her book was funded by a Chitty-family donation and support from the Museum. Heather, a freelance editor, works as a reading therapist, in Kingston, teaching children with dyslexia.
Layne Larsen, current president of the Museum Board, relates, “Although many people played a role in the planning, design and construction of the Historic 1000 Islands Village, it was Bill Chitty who had the particular vision as to what the museum could, and should be. Although he occasionally had to put his ideas "on hold" because of financial realities, that vision never wavered as the project came to fruition, His leadership as the first chairman of the Board of Directors was inspiring. Unfortunately, he did not live to see his vision realized in the museum as it exists today."
Linda Mainse, the Executive Director of the Museum says, “I have worked at the Arthur Child Heritage Museum for the past 15 years and over that time have grown to deeply respect the Chitty family. Bill was actively involved in the beginnings of this facility and together with Marg, their support has been invaluable. This latest effort on Heather's part to assist the Museum is a gift to the Museum and to the community of River People, whose families have left a living legacy of stories and memories that enrich all of us.”
I was honoured to be asked to contribute to River Reminiscing. My story, “The Diary of Elizabeth Simcoe”, was originally published in the September 2009 issue of TI Life. However this new version makes me extremely proud to have my work included with some of the most well known, past and present, authors of the region.
There are only 200 copies for sale. All proceeds will go to the Museum. To learn more about the publication or to order a copy please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Arthur Child Heritage Museum.
By Susan W. Smith, Editor, www.thousandislandslife.com
Below are sample pages of River Reminiscing: An Anthology of Thousand Islands Stories