Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead

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Writing & Yoga Workshop

A Sunday Afternoon in Late May at Macphail Homestead

Spend an afternoon at the Macphail Homestead, writing in the Great Room in the house, doing yoga in the Nature Centre in the barn, taking a meditative walk along the stream. Tune into the natural world and the homestead world so loved by Sir Andrew Macphail’s mother, Catherine.

In his semi-autobiographical memoir, The Master’s Wife, Sir Andrew Macphail writes about his mother, Catherine Moore Smith McPhail, who was the schoolmaster’s wife. Catherine had a strong influence—an indelible influence—on Sir Andrew and his many siblings, on her husband, and on the homestead itself.

“The Master’s wife had a love for every growing thing,” writes Macphail. “…From every journey she would bring home a slip, a flower, or a shrub. She planted them in any obscure place known only to herself, and a child had to move with care lest he did damage. Occasionally they grew, and a child would be set to weed away the thicket of grass that surrounded them.”

Catherine’s “solicitude for a plant was so great that she would not allow it to be pruned. Roses ran wild; shrubs sent up suckers that grew into ungainly trees. When in time the garden became a jungle, the utmost she would permit was that a branch be tied back with a piece of string; it must not be allowed to feel the pain of iron. …But to all objectors she had her answer on a summer day when she looked up into the sky and beheld the heavens filled with flowers, and heard the bees murmuring like surf on a distant shore. If on that day the humming-bird came to the honeysuckle she kept for this convenience, her triumph was complete.”

Rachel Leslie, Kundalini and Hatha yoga teacher, and Deirdre Kessler, author and current P.E.I. poet laureate, will hold an afternoon writing and yoga workshop at Macphail Homestead on Sunday, May 20, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Cost: $45 includes all writing materials & refreshment break. Yoga mats and other props provided, but bring your own mat if you wish. To register, contact Rachel Leslie  or tel: 902 215-0668.

Sir William & Sir Andrew

Sir William and Sir Andrew: The McGill Connection

Two distinguished Canadian doctors, both of whom graduated from and taught at McGill University, were knighted by the King in 1911 and 1918 respectively.  These were Sir William Osler, sometimes referred to as the “Father of Modern Medicine”, and Sir Andrew Macphail, an outstanding man of letters and author of the classic memoir The Master’s Wife.

One of the most famous physicians in the English-speaking world, Osler grew his reputation in Montreal from 1874-1884 as a professor at McGill.  Macphail was McGill’s first professor of the history of medicine, from 1907-1937.  Thus, their time spent at McGill did not overlap.  How well could they have known each other?

Pretty well, as it turns out. In an upcoming talk to be presented at the Macphail Homestead in Orwell, Dr James Moran will draw on a collection of correspondence between Macphail and Osler stretching between 1909 and 1919, examining the “McGill Connection” between two famous physicians who had more than just Montreal in common.

This is the annual Sir Andrew Macphail Memorial lecture, co-sponsored with the Prince Edward Island History of Medicine Society and held on Macphail’s birthday, Nov. 24. Start time is 7:00 p.m., preceded by a cash-bar reception at 6:30.  Admission is by free-will donation.

Image result for sir william osler

Dr Moran is a historian of medicine and mental hea

lth at UPEI. He is currently finishing a book called Madness on Trial: A Transatlantic History of English Civil Law and Lunacy. Like Sir Andrew Macphail, he loves Montreal but prefers to live on Prince Edward Island.

“Drive Dull Care Away”

The Homestead Players, the group that brought Sir Andrew Macphail’s classic The Master’s Wife to the stage a couple of years ago, will give a talk on their next project, on Sunday, September 24th, at the Macphail Homestead. Melissa Mullen, Rob MacLean and Harry Baglole will describe some of their plans for writing a script and staging “Drive Dull Care Away”, a memoir of Sandy Ives’ folksong collecting in Prince Edward Island. 

Ives (1925-2009) was one of North America’s pre-eminent folklorists. In the 1950s, while teaching at the University of Maine and singing at local gatherings, he became fascinated by the many references to P.E.I., and in particular the songs of one acid-tongued Islander, Larry Gorman. As a result, he spent several summers here criss-crossing the Island and gathering songs before they faded away. He wrote a book on Gorman, another on a second Island song-maker called Lawrence Doyle, and a third featuring a collection of Island folk songs. Image result for sandy ives

“Drive Dull Care Away” was written some years later and published by Island Studies Press in 1999. This humorous, superbly-written memoir recounts the adventures of a young man with very large recording equipment trying to document this music in electricity-challenged rural Prince Edward Island.

The talk will run 40-50 minutes. It will feature background on Sandy Ives, slides, a short television interview with him, comments on adapting his work for the stage and samples of the music he collected.

More information on Sandy Ives: Image result for sandy ives
“Dr. Edward D. “Sandy” Ives was one of the most respected folklorists in North America. Initially, Sandy Ives came to the Island following, in reverse, the trail of Larry Gorman, who had died in Maine and left a legacy of folksong there. Dr. Ives has written four Island-based books: Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs; Lawrence Doyle: The Farmer-Poet of Prince Edward Island; Twenty-One Folksongs From Prince Edward Island; and, most recently, Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs from Prince Edward Island (Institute of Island Studies, 1999). In 1986, he received an honorary doctorate from UPEI. And in 1998, he was awarded the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation’s Award of Honour for lifetime achievement in preserving Island heritage, the first non-Islander to be so recognized.” (The Buzz)



An Leabhar Liath or The Light Blue Book

500 Years of Gaelic love and transgressive verse‘.

We are delighted to welcome Iain MacPherson back to the Macphail Homestead! A lecturer in Irish and Celtic Studies at the University of Ulster and a Scottish Gaelic speaker with strong roots in Prince Edward Island.

Harry Baglole, Iain MacPherson & Dr. Tiber Falzett

Iain recently co-edited “The Light Blue Book” subtitled  ‘500 Years of Gaelic love and transgressive verse‘.  The book ‘offers poems that are erotic, rude, seditious and transgressive; that deal with love, sex, the body, politics and violent passion; and that are by turns humorous, disturbing, shocking and enlightening.’

Iain is an entertaining speaker and the topic promises to be interesting! The poems are in Gaelic but Iain will translate and explain so a knowledge of the Gaelic language is not necessary but will add to your enjoyment if you are.

“The Light Blue Book is ‘Exuberant, unapologetic… a triumph of scholarship and translation!'” David Wheatley of the London Times Literary Supplement (16 June 2017).

Iain MacPherson also a documentary film maker, having presented, produced, written and co-directed three hour-long Gaelic docs for BBC Scotland/BBC Alba; and, a published poet and translator in English, Gaelic and French.
Of his ‘island connections’ Iain says the following: My mum, Barbara Ann MacKinnon, was born and raised in the Murray Harbour train station. All my maternal side of the family are from PEI. My maternal grandmother was Grace Bell LeLacheur from Guernsey Cove who married my grandfather Ern MacKinnon from Hunter River. High Bank is where my parents have their house but we’ve no real High Bank connections. It’s all Guernsey Cove, Murray Harbour, Hunter River, Canoe Cove and Desable. Before PEI my mum’s side came from the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Mull and Guernsey.”
“I’ve scores of cousins all over our end of the Island, though all my great-aunts and great-uncles and indeed my beloved gramma MacKinnon are all now no longer with us.”
His Island roots certainly run deep although he was born and raised in Alberta.  So please join us on Friday evening August 18th at 7:30. The Veranda Cafe is open all day for meals. The lecture will commence at 7:30. Please make reservations for both.




Island-history Sunday-brunch Series

Deirdre Kessler, “Sir Andrew Macphail and L.M. Montgomery: The Emotional Textures of the Lives of Two Distinguished Islanders,” Deirdre, our Island’s current Poet Laureate will provide glimpses into the lives, poetry and the writings of Macphail and Montgomery. Both authors were of Scottish descent, and many parallels can be drawn from their upbringing, Montgomery by her strict Presbyterian grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill and Macphail by his schoolmaster father William and his mother Catherine Moore Smith McPhail.


Sunday, August 27th: Dr Ryan O’Connor will present, “The 1971 National Farmers Union Highway Demonstration.” 
On August 12, 1971, hundreds of PEI farmers boarded their tractors and proceeded to bring traffic to a halt on the province’s major roadways. Held during the peak of the tourism season, the demonstration continued for ten days. This talk examines the highway demonstration’s inspiration, context and consequences. Ryan’s PhD is in Canadian history, with expertise in the history of environmental activism in Canada and the United States.

We will start with a nutritious and delicious brunch (a  loaded Island Breakfast with ham and bacon from Taylor’s meats, home-made baked beans, eggs etc. We can accommodate dietary restrictions.) Serving will begin at 11 am. Once you have dined, the talk will commence. The meal will be served in the room that once hosted Steven Leacock, Earl Grey, Lucy Maud Montgomery and John McCrea at the same time, as guests of Sir Andrew Macphail.

The cost is $25.00 ($20 for members and residents of Orwell and Kings County).
Please call the Macphail Homestead at 902-651-2789 to make your reservation.