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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Norris Whitney's Sheep

It's funny how place names lose their association with the individuals for whom they were originally named - usually with great fanfare, if it's a politician dignifying a bit of geography - in the day to day business of getting from A to B.

the defunct causeway to the old swing-bridge

To Quinte area folks, the name Whitney rolls off the tongue often as they go about their business: Sir James Whitney School, Norris Whitney Bridge. This fine span replacing the swing bridge which used to delay progress between Rossmore and Belleville is not 'the Bay Bridge' so much as 'The Norris Whitney Bridge', dedicated in 1982 to honour the MLA of the same name.
Norris Whitney also got his name on the road leading to Al and Eurithe Purdy's A-frame, though I wonder if the literary connection was ever made. Norris Whitney, Al suggests somewhere, acquired lots of marginal farmland in Ameliasburgh. Ran sheep, as they say. Just south of Al's street, Gibson Road, itself named after the farmer who sold Eurithe and Al their property, lies open farmland where once Norris Whitney's barn stood.

this is not Norris Whitney's barnyard, but it's close

turn left off Whitney onto Gibson Rd.

In the poem 'Place of Fire', Al discloses the source of the building materials for the massive stone fireplace at the A-frame. On the list, "anonymous stone from Norris Whitney's barnyard."

In the Prelude Poem in 'North of Summer' , written after his return from the enormously influential trip to Baffin Island,  Purdy creates this wonderful image:

On the country road these spring days
odd things happen
brown men in mukluks climb the snake fences
with Norris Whitney's sheep near Ameliasburg"

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