on the homefront

September 11, 2012

family sagas

Time for a new book! This has been a summer for family matters. We went on a road trip in August to visit the area of Ontario where my father's progenitor arrived from Ireland around 1850. I had made prior arrangements to meet a stranger at the Wellington County Museum and Archives in Fergus, Ontario. She and I may be strangers, but we may have the same great great great grandfather. That makes us fourth cousins, if anyone is counting.

When I arrived, Brenda was already ensconced at a study table with her laptop running and an old registration ledger open beside her. She'd just discovered that one of our relatives had ended her life in the House of Industry, the local poor house, listed as a Scotch 'imbecile.' We guessed she probably had dementia and had outlived her family support network.

And then Brenda pointed out the window to the older wing of the building we were sitting in. "That's the House of Industry," she said. "Robena died right there."

Wellington County Museum
Wellington County Museum and Archives

There's something strange and moving about these fragments of lives lived. I'm not sure what they mean or if they represent anything more than the beginning of a narrative that is more fiction than fact. We can't help it, we're always making up new stories.

At the moment I'm still clinging to the tale my father told about his great grandfather. He was an adolescent from somewhere near the Meeting of the Waters in County Wicklow, Ireland, and he had a powerful need to leave his home. I think there was the violent death of a parent in political strife, but I may be making that part up. The boy jumped into the harbour and swam to a boat departing for the New World. When he was fished out of the drink, he was taken in by a family named Collier who were on their way to Canada.

A cousin remembers that the boy was a thief escaping from the law. I recall the surname Byrne or Burns. It's all a lie, no doubt, or someone else's story filched to fill some existential gap.

Ah, the book. It's Michael Crummey's Galore. I am making no attempt whatsoever to imitate a Newfoundland accent while reading this aloud. But I often think of bits of beloved landscape and perhaps the wind in my memory eats at the sound of my voice.



Welcome to the world of cussot, which is an old diminutive for Constance. There isn't much point to this web site, really. We just needed somewhere to park our email and I wanted to learn a bit of rudimentary CSS.

who we are

Mark and I met in Victoria BC in 1980 and we've been muddling through together ever since. In 2001, we got married in honour of our 20 years of cohabitation. We stood before a marriage commissioner on Sir Wilfred Grenfell's front porch overlooking St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. After the brief ceremony, a clutch of French tourists applauded politely.

We're a long way from salt water these days and neither of us is entirely sure we like it that way. But recently we decided, to hell with it, if we can't buy some ocean vista, let's get a couple of big old deciduous trees instead. Oh, and a house came with them.

our house