The Dalkeith History Society, a not for profit organization, is still alive and thriving, despite, or in spite, of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, March 21, equipped with plastic gloves and sanitizer spray, treasurer Frances Fraser took a chance and opened the doors of the only the Robertson Clark building, the only public heritage building open in the Glengarry area.
“No matter what’s going on in the world, we’re going to try and meet the needs of our citizens, particularly those who are isolated,” Fraser expresses while accepting donations from one of seven guests who visited the museum that was once the general store and then Catholic church in the small hamlet of Dalkeith.
As the founding member of one of only two publicly funded services in Dalkeith, a town that once had a gas station, restaurant, hair dresser, butcher shop, pub, feed store, school, custom wood working shop, church, and most importantly, to Fraser, a town that appears to appreciate her latest movement called “Honoring Our Own, Including Women”.
She explains why she’s determined to make the Dalkeith museum unique in the area.
“Dunvegan has their pioneer venue, the new Archives in Alexandria are concentrating on documents, Williamstown is doing their thing. We have to be different. We want to honor particularly the men who fought and the women of Glengarry who supported them, the ones who worked with the Red Cross and those that towed the line while men were away.”
Stories abound about women who stitched, knit, cooked and even some who went to the field to plant and harvest. One story explains that women in some areas were hitched to carts and wagons when livestock was not available.
Fraser has reason for her passion of Glen Robertson, Dalkeith and war time women of the past.
“One of my first ancestors was John Fraser of the John Fraser’s Company. He made a big difference during the war because he climbed the wall that others would not. I know nothing about battle, but I appreciate everything our soldiers and women did.”
Fraser gives credit to the late Jean MacLennan who had a huge interest in the Dalkeith/ Laggan area and a love of history. Along with late husband Ken, Jean helped run the Dalkeith sawmill, wrote for the Glengarry News and drove school bus for many years. Her son Ian who still lives on the family property in Dalkeith gave Fraser a copy of a book about women who helped out with the Red Cross during the war.
“That prompted me to want to commemorate the people in our area, our soldiers, the women of war, and of course my ancestors.”
Fraser explains that the garage sale on Saturday would be the last event for a while and the money donated would go directly to the Dalkeith History society.
“Our next event was to be a barn dance here and that will take place in October if all goes well.”
A number of local residents interested in not just purchasing garage sale items, but just getting out of their house during this forced lock down, spent more time visiting and discussing world events, as they did, shopping.
“We didn’t make a lot of money, maybe $30, but I like to think we provided some relief and maybe some entertainment to people cooped up in their homes,” expresses Fraser, a retired physical education teacher from Montreal who lives next door to the museum with 90-year-old husband Louis Loczy.
The society also offers exhibits, festivals, river paddles, house and garden tours, passports to the past, memorable garden projects throughout the year and has plans to create a women’s corner section of the garden that will boast a fountain and heritage plants.
“We’re so happy that after ten years, our goals and dreams are being realized. We can’t thank the people of the area enough. We wish everybody the best during this time of isolation and look forward to passing on our local memories.”
The Dalkeith Historical Society hosts its events from 1841 County Road 23 in Dalkeith (next door to Dalkeith Plus, the former municipal library). You can email [email protected]
Individual memberships cost $20 per year, $30 per year for a family and $500 for a life membership.