The Village of Rosebank

The Winter Solstice has afforded not only the welcome prospect of longer days but also today at least spring-like weather, cool and dry and no new snow. On my return this afternoon from my customary flight in the Aviator to Renfrew County (after having dutifully washed the car and bought as requested some goat’s milk cheese at Grace in the Kitchen for this evening’s meal) the slanting sunshine in the azure sky beckoned.  It was a suitable – and an athletically useful – opportunity for a walk in the park at the Village of Blakeney.

The quaint Village of Blakeney was formerly known as Norway Pine Falls and subsequently as Snedden’s Mills. But my favourite name – as much as I admire the many local descendants of the Snedden family – was the Village of Rosebank which lasted until 1874. It was years after my arrival in Almonte in 1976 before I had much to do with the Village of Rosebank even though it is located just 8 Kms down the Mississippi River. My predecessor Raymond Algernon Jamieson QC (a man who was consumed by local folklore) tipped me off about the historic name “Village of Rosebank”. He too patently liked it. It marked one of many occasions on which we proved to have a commonality. For example, he strummed the guitar; I played the piano. We both drank liquor and we both smoked cigarettes. He attended Hart House at the University of Toronto; I was a Don at Devonshire House just across the street. We were both called to the Bar at Osgoode Hall, he in 1921, I in 1975.

Early in my career I was invited to an afternoon cocktail party in the Village of Rosebank. It was unusual to be invited to a party of any description  – much less a cocktail party – in the Village of Rosebank. The concept itself somehow clashed with the village nature. The woman who invited me was not a client but rather someone whom I had met at another social event or gathering. She was considerably older than I. My instinct told me that she was singular  – something which corresponded to the unique character of the Village. In the past forty-four years the only other times I’ve visited people in their home in the Village was to sign legal documents. The Village continues to this day to enjoy a reputation for novelty.

When I first discovered the park in the Village where we went today was much afterwards. Though I can’t now recall exactly when, I do however remember my astonishment at seeing the spectacular rapids there in the Mississippi River.

Our most recent acquaintance with the Village was about two years ago after the old B&O railway line that skirts the Village was changed to the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail and we began bicycling there and back from Almonte. The route is magical yet all the more charming because of its revival of more than periodic interest in the Village. Additionally the Trail highlighted portions of the adjoining farms about which I had only read but never seen (such as a nearby private cemetery which was not unheard of over 150 years ago before provincial legislation prohibited it).

Contributing to the rustic image of the Village is Bennie’s Corners at the north end of the Village. I still have no idea of the significance of Bennie’s Corners apart from the obvious but the mere proximity of it to the Village contributes to their shared poetry.

I can’t imagine that the total population of the Village of Rosebank exceeds 75 people and perhaps an even fewer number of separate land owners.  It is to this day one of the few villages in which it is not uncommon to see sheep, goats, geese and other farm animals grazing in the yard surrounding a small home.

Jean Steele and her partner Dawn Leduc were two of the first members of the community whom I met.  Jean was an avid supporter of matters of local history.  As her family name suggests she was a hard number to contradict in the event of disagreement. Yet she was always cooperative in the end.