Amherst Island has Canada’s best collection of dry stone walls.
The Island celebrated its heritage with the Irish-Canadian International Dry Stone Festival in September 2015 sponsored by Dry Stone Canada and organized by Islander Andrea Cross. Wallers and Stone Carvers from England, Ireland, Scotland, the United States and across Canada constructed the legacy wall shown above and an Irish sampler wall. Eloise and Dayle Gowan generously allowed the walls to be constructed on their property and supported the Festival in many ways. A children’s “spud walling” workshop, exhibits, and musicians added to the festivities.
Special guests included His Excellency Dr. Ray Bassett, Irish Ambassador to Canada; the Honourable Michael Couteau, Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sport; MPP Sophie Kiwala; Loyalist Township Mayor Bill Lowry; author Jane Urquhart; Women’s Institute President Joyce Haines; and their families. Dr. Bassett installed a time capsule; Jane Urquhart laid a stone “REMEMBER THEM” to commemorate the Irish connection; Joyce Haines laid a stone “Ards” carried by a waller from Ireland from the Women’s Institute in the Ards peninsula; and a stone carved “Crowe” honoured those who constructed dry stone walls on Amherst Island. The legacy walls are located on Front Road opposite the Island school just west of the intersection in Stella.
Wallers created a legacy ocular structure embedded with a Celtic cross. The cross has an opening that aligns with the setting sun on the fall solstice and illuminates a Claddagh carved by Tracey Mahaffey. It was a magical moment on the last day of the Festival when wallers and the public together sang “Here Comes The Sun” and the the sun broke through dark clouds to shine on the Claddagh.
Participants in the wallers course under the guidance of Norm Haddow, the Queen’s Own Waller from Balmoral Castle Scotland, created a Feidin or Irish Sampler Wall.
Rick Mercer captured the essence of the Festival in this amazing clip broadcast on Rick Mercer Live:
Andrea Cross and Dry Stone Canada were honoured to receive the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Heritage Excellence in Conservation to mark the success of the Festival and the preservation of dry stone walls on the Island.
Take time to explore the Island’s dry stone walls in a driving tour. Museum staff will be happy to provide a brochure and additional information.