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Community welcomes Purdy fans to Ameliasburgh

view-at-Purdy's“So we built a house, my wife and I
our house at a backwater puddle of a lake near Ameliasburg, Ont.”
                                                          — Al Purdy, “In Search of Owen Roblin”

Al-and-EuritheVisitors joined the community of Ameliasburgh to celebrate Al Purdy in conjunction with the third annual picnic in his honour at Roblin Lake.

At what Purdy’s widow Eurithe called their “low-slung, leaning bungalow” the Al Purdy A-Frame Foundation celebrated the life of one of Canada’s most loved poets with tours of the cottage, readings and stories by well-known writers.
Poetry-readingsHost Robert Priest shared the backyard stage with Adam Sol, Kevin Connolly, Paul Vermeersch and the current writer-in-residence, Laurie Graham.

Before the picnic, guests listened to lively entertainment by Sam Hirst while they chose their box lunches, received programs and maps.

At the Al Purdy gravesite in the nearby Grove Cemetery, a docent was present to share stories and answer questions about the poet and Roblin Mills. The Ameliasburgh Historical Museum and the Al Purdy Library were open. The library displayed Purdy’s Order of Canada medal.

ameliasburgh-library-book-saleOutside, the library held a book sale and hosted the Art on the Fence exhibit, as well as writers from the region.


A shuttle bus ferried guests to and from all the events.

The A-frame was built in 1957 by Purdy and  and his wife and over the years welcomed Canadian literature greats including Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee and Margaret Laurence, among many others.

Wellington’s Moira Creighton said she was enjoying her first visit to the cottage and recalled hearing Al Purdy read at the Milford Town Hall.

“He was reading from his poetry. I think it was an author’s festival, and I loved it,” she said. “I have read so much about this place, it feels a bit like a pilgrimage.”

The A-frame was where Purdy created his best work. He published 33 books of poetry, along with a novel, A Splinter in the Heart (1990); an autobiography, Reaching for the Beaufort Sea (1993); and nine collections of essays and correspondence. The Cariboo Horses (1965),  won the Governor General’s Literary Award and his Collected Poems (1986) won a second Governor General’s Award.

Purdy died in April, 2000 in Sidney, B.C. (He was born in Wooler.) Thanks to the generosity of Eurithe Purdy and donors from across Canada, the A-frame was acquired in 2012 by the A-frame Association to promote Canadian literature and to preserve it as a retreat for future generations of Canadian writers.
Purdy-writing-shedThe Al Purdy A-frame Association continues its work restoring the cottage, but its next focus is on the shed just outside the cottage, where Purdy crafted most of his work.

Event organizer Anne Preston notes about 100 people visited the cottage throughout the day.

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