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The remaining four presentations in our eclectic lineup for a virtual speakers series in 2021 at a friendly price of $40

  • Wild Places‘ with Nancy Scott and Franco Mariotti, 7th September
  • John George Howard (1801-90)‘ with Richard Fiennes-Clinton, 5th October
  • Double Threat‘ with Ellin Bessner, 2nd November, and
  • Grand Dames‘ with your host Barry Penhale and Jane Pitfield, 7th December

A Page Turner

Tuesday, 4th May 2021 at 2 p.m.

The by subscription series gets underway officially on Tuesday, May 4 at 2:00 pm, with an affectionate account of the highly successful Lakefield Literary Festival. This remarkable annual celebration of Canadian books and authors began in 1995, due in part to the combined efforts of two well-known Canadian women, Shelley Ambrose, (Walrus magazine publisher) and the very popular CBC radio personality, Shelagh Rogers.

Assuming the role of program narrator is Stephanie Forrester, who will introduce us to a roll call of literary heavyweights and share with us anecdotes that only an insider possesses. This virtual presentation is enhanced throughout by Jim Forrester’s video recorded history of an annual festival that is widely regarded by Canada’s best-selling authors, as their personal favourite. This is a program for all and we suggest circling May 4 on your calendar. Do join us for the first presentation in our series and discover what actually does lie between the covers.

The Devil’s Trick – How Canadians Fought The Vietnam War

Tuesday, 1st June 2021 at 2 p.m.

On June 1 it will be Barry’s distinct pleasure to introduce John Boyko, a much-admired author, educator and historian. Boyko may be familiar to TVO viewers as a result of guest appearances on The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paiken. Hopefully by now you have read at least one of his many highly praised books. The Globe and Mail has labelled this brilliant nationally-known writer: “A distinguished scholar of Canadian political history.” More than a skillful writer the much-lauded historian has a wide range of interests. Among our Barry’s personal collection of books, he notes Boyko’s always engrossing approach to vastly different subjects.

Citing as examples his biography on Sir John A. Macdonald and his national bestseller Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation. A marvellous communicator, John Boyko’s very inclusive presentation will introduce us to a hot-off-the-press new book.

Canadian History with a Royal Touch

Tuesday, 6th July 2021 at 2 p.m.

Our July 6 presentation will introduce another of both Barry and Jane’s favourite individuals, Nathan Tidridge of Waterdown, Ontario. Few communities can claim one person quite so effective as a teacher and motivator than Tidridge, a highly dedicated ‘thinking outside the box’ champion of Canada’s history. A hero to his students at Waterdown District High School, Nathan’s broad reach as the successful creator of unique heritage-based projects and authoritative books, have impacted positively across the entire country. His many admirers are in accord that this still young man has much to teach us about Canada and Canadian relationships, both at home and abroad.

One of Nathan’s noteworthy accomplishments has resulted in a fifty-five acre educational and cultural space — a veritable outdoor classroom — with an innovative approach to teaching that involves Indigenous partners. It is for this and other Tidridge initiatives that he was honoured earlier this year, with the prestigious Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching. We welcome Nathan Tidridge on July 6th with an informative / illustrated presentation centred on the rich history of the Chapel Royal, created by Her Majesty the Queen and located at Toronto’s Massey College. Watch for additional details concerning our July program in an upcoming newsletter.

Wild Places

Tuesday, 7th September 2021 at 2 p.m.

Following a month of August recess our virtual series continues on September 7 with guest, Nancy Scott. Yes, another treasured friend. Now retired after 25 enjoyable and productive years as an Ontario park planner, Nancy is a highly experienced canoeist and kayaker who annually transports her outdoor interests to a more than century-year-old island cottage reeking in family history. Scott’s past work has provided her with an intimate knowledge of many of the threatened wilderness places associated with Northern Ontario. In addition to field work and the preparation of management plans for a host of northern parks, including the extremely popular Killarney Provincial Park, Nancy has long been fascinated by Lake Nipigon in the heart of Northwestern Ontario. Her professional background combined with many years of diligent research on her own time, resulted in an important book titled Lake Nipigon: Where the Great Lakes Begin.

This comprehensive historical account of a remarkable body of water and the largely unspoiled area it occupies, both informs and entertains the reader. In Scott’s virtual presentation we are introduced to an exceptional lake, its colourful past and present-day wonders. Here too we almost come face to face with Woodland Caribou, Aboriginal rock art, bald eagles and yes, pelicans. Through the author we are introduced virtually to those few remaining outfitters still offering charter boat services on an always challenging and unpredictable lake.

Joining Nancy on September 6th is her friend, Franco Mariotti, a member of the original team that developed Northern Ontario’s foremost tourist attraction – Science North. Mariotti’s entire career has found him interpreting the natural world and natural sciences to people of all ages. His contribution to the program, ‘WILD PLACES’ is not to be missed.

John George Howard (1801–90)

Tuesday, 5th October 2021 at 2 p.m.

John George Howard is mostly remembered as the generous benefactor who lived at Colborne Lodge and for deeding his 165-acre country property, stretching from Lakeshore Road to Bloor Street, to the City of Toronto in 1873 – today’s High Park – in return for a permanent pension. 

The busiest architect in the city at the time, one of his projects was the Provincial Lunatic Asylum built on Queen Street West. The complex structure, which opened in 1850, was demolished in 1976. But, as always, there is more to the story. 

Richard Fiennes Clinton’s presentation will explore the varied career of John Howard – city surveyor, architect, watercolour artist, and engineer. An innovative man, he was enthusiastic about several different ventures, including the creation of park space and indoor plumbing. But there are even more layers to the story, including secrets regarding Howard’s true identity and family life.

Double Threat

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021 at 2 p.m.

A presentation suited to the Remembrance Day period will be the second to last program in our virtual series. On Tuesday afternoon, November 2, author and journalist Ellin Bessner will be presenting a richly illustrated program based on her book Double Threat: Canadian Jews, The Military, and World War Two. Bessner conducted hundreds of interviews and extensive archival research to paint a complex picture of the 17,000 Canadian Jews – about 10 per cent of the Jewish population in wartime Canada – who chose to enlist.

These Canadian troops faced a ‘double threat’ because of their religion: not only if they should be captured by the Nazis but (as the author clearly points out), because of the widespread antisemitism they encountered at home in Canada, in the barracks and on the battlefield. This is an important chapter in Canadian history, as told by a Toronto-based professor of journalism, and highly regarded by no less than author/broadcaster, Ted Barris. Ted is on record as having said: “My friend Ellin Bessner’s presentations are in the same league as my own.” Wow! That’s saying something!

Grand Dames

Tuesday, 7th December 2021 at 2 p.m.

Under the title Great Dames, we will wind up our 2021 series on Tuesday, December 7at 2:00 p.m, with a special presentation best described as a “Double Bill”, to borrow an old cinematic term. Host Barry couldn’t be happier to announce to one and all a virtual tribute to two notable women – both Leaside favourites – Agnes Campbell Macphail (1890 -1954) and Jane Pitfield – still very much with us and then some! The program begins with a reminder that it was on December 6th 1921, when Miss Macphail polled a record vote and was elected Canada’s first woman MP. Host Barry will recognize the fine work of the East York Agnes Macphail Recognition Committee, in a presentation that not only focuses on the life of a political icon, but provides a timely update on the various ways in which “The Lady from Grey” is being honoured in this the 100th Anniversary Year since she was first elected.

As an effective reformer in the House of Commons, whose achievements continue to have a positive impact on Canadians today, Macphail was the only sitting female MP for the first 15 years of the 19 years she served federally. Not bad for an Ontario farm girl! One cannot be more pumped than Barry, in confirming the virtual participation in the second portion of our concluding program of yet another highly recognizable political figure and popular former Leasider: Ms Jane Pitfield. Now the Warden of Pontiac in that historically rich region of Quebec.

Jane looks forward to acquainting old friends with her present very active and exciting life, a portion of which centres on a unique family home property and honouring the ancestors whose prominence in the timber trade found them playing a key role in the growth of a young nation called Canada. Discover what Jane has been up to as new fulfilling chapters unfold in a life that thrives on one project and adventure after another. There will be more said in further newsletters. To be sure, Jane will be welcomed back with open arms, when she joins us virtually on Tuesday, December 7.

Page Turner Reading

Several authors and their writings came in for special attention during the Discover Your Heritage series opening program A Page Turner. It was obvious that host Barry Penhale and narrator Stephanie Forrester were in sync as they expressed high praise for (among others) the Canadian writers Mark Abley, Richard Wagamese, and Alison Wearing. As a follow-up to the recent virtual presentation, we are pleased to provide brief biographical notes on each writer and display some of the covers of books they have authored. We recommend discovering these truly outstanding writers for yourself.

Abley, Mark

A Rhodes Scholar, Guggenheim Fellow, a winner of Canada’s National Newspaper Award, and the first winner of the Liber Press Prize for international writers, Mark Abley lives in Point Claire, Quebec. His impressive body of work includes six books of non-fiction, four collections of poetry, and two children’s books. Highly recommended are the Abley-authored titles Conversations with a Dead Man, and a family memoir, The Organist. Mark’s most recent book of poems is The Tongues of Earth: New and Selected Poems (2015). This was his fourth collection of poetry, his largest, and his first in a decade.

Wagamese, Richard

An Objibway from northwestern Ontario, Wagamese in his all too short lifetime had written seventeen best-selling books, several of which were considered literary masterpieces. He was a courageous and highly spiritual person who learned well the hard lessons resulting from encounters with racism during his early years. A master storyteller and regarded by his peers as a major literary talent, Richard Wagamese is well worth discovering. Barry suggests beginning with Indian Horse (2012) and Medicine Walk (2014).


Wearing, Alison

Photography by Mark Raynes Roberts

This resident of Stratford is a Canadian treasure and one cannot but wonder if she had been showered with fairy dust at birth. More than an exceptionally gifted award-winning author, Wearing is also prominently identified with the world of dance, music, and theatre. Her one-woman original show Confessions of A Fairy’s Daughter (based on the book of the same name) is absolutely spellbinding. Both book and stage production should not be missed. Alison’s loyal legion of fans are delighted to know the new book, Moments of Glad Grace: A Memoir, is now available.