Somewhere in Ashton-The Ashton Curmudgeon

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Photo Linda Seccaspina 2013

 

I took this photo a few years ago and thought it was lost with 100s of other local photos of the area. Then- I clicked on one of my photos on Pinterest and it had about 30 others and this was one of them. So I asked on The Tales of Carleton Place if anyone knew about this cat.

Jim Amy Kirkpatrick came forth with some great information which I thank him for.

“The cat was made by the late Henry Darvell a.k.a. ‘The Ashton Curmudgeon’. Henry was also the creator or the gourd head creations some 10 years ago. The resident of the house had several cats.

He wanted to label the sculpture ‘the cat house’ but was persuaded that it would not be appropriate. We lived across the street for 15 years and had many encounters with Henry. The cat is located on the north side of Flewellyn Road just across from the Anglican Church and rectory”.

Henry was a father, husband, grandfather, friend, neighbour, gardener, outdoors man, engineer, self-declared curmudgeon. Born March 26, 1931, in Glasgow, Scotland. Died July 27, 2007, in Carleton Place, Ontario, of heart failure, aged 76.

So anyone that has a name like the The Ashton Curmudgeon’  there has to have a story right? Well Henry Darvell does, and after digging I found a story from The Globe and Mail that was written by SHAYNA WATSON, ROB JENNINGS AND GILES DARVELL in January of 2007

Globe and Mail story by SHAYNA WATSON, ROB JENNINGS AND GILES DARVELL

(Shayna Watson and Rob Jennings are Henry’s friends, and Giles Darvell is his eldest son)

It is fitting that Henry, born in Scotland and raised in England, would find himself in a Canadian hamlet of 100 people most famous for its pub. He claimed status as the Ashton Village Curmudgeon with a self-published book by that name. The book was atlas, architectural document and love song to the village and life he adored.

He left Ashton, near Ottawa, adorned with sculptures made of gourds, daffodils, trees, garden gates with sunflower designs and unlikely connections between people.

Henry cultivated relationships. He was married twice, first for 26 years to Betty, with whom he had three children – Giles, Karen and Tim (Henry Darvell was married to his first wife, Betty, for 30 years) and then for 20 years to Susan, who predeceased him in 2003.

Susan and Henry found great joy in their large garden. Henry designed and built additions to his barn and home. He traded lumber for copper and began building fountains; this gave way to gourd sculptures and then to painting and life drawing.

Henry accommodated, though didn’t give in to, his failing health. He had cardiomyopathy.

Henry enjoyed drinks at the Ashton Pub on darts night, ice cream at the General Store, a good meal and the perfume of a beautiful flower.

Behind his big gruff exterior was a gentle man who easily fell under the spell of small children, delicate garden creatures and the promise of seeds.

He spoke with great pride of his children and grandchildren. His friends were a group of people as eclectic as his interests. The extent of his social circle was evident at his 70th birthday party – toddlers, retired farmers, academics and artists joined the celebration.

Although he was unable to walk more than a block or two, Henry headed for Mexico with his dog and camper van. This was preceded by trips to northwestern Ontario, Yukon and James Bay, and followed by a trip to Newfoundland.

In the later stages of his illness, he complained that he was “dying too bloody slowly,” but Henry lived independently until a few days before his death, in his home surrounded by Dougal, his canine companion, sports on the telly and a book by his side.

When he died, he left an ambitious five-foot canvas with the beginnings of a farm scene, gourds partly carved, fish to feed, plants to tend and frogs to show to visiting children. These were the signs of hope and the love of life that desired one more day.

Author’s Note- That day when I stopped to take the picture of the cat I knew someone special had done this. Over the years I kept looking at the photo and wondering and now it has come 360. You were a special man Henry Darvell and I wish I had known you. Sometimes it’s just hard to be a square peg in a round hole, but I think every person has their own identity and beauty. If we were all the same, it would be boring.

historicalnotes

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Photo-Goulburn Historical Society

“Looking through the Reference Boxes of Goulbourn material now located in the Local History section of the Stittsville Library, I came across this treasure. It’s a beautiful little booklet entitled “The Ashton Village Curmudgeon.” It was written and illustrated by Henry Darvell and it has beautifully detailed coloured drawings of Ashton buildings and tells a simple and personal story of Ashton. You can go and see it for yourself. It’s not a circulating book but it’s worth a look just to admire Henry’s beautiful drawings” Goulburn Township Historical Society 2012

Goulbourn Township Historical Society Facebook page- click here..

NEWSLETTER: The GTHS newsletter, The Goulbourn News, is published quarterly and sent to all members free of charge. You can help the GTHS keep costs down by having your copy be sent to you via e-mail. METHODS OF PAYMENT: Cash, or Cheque made payable to the “Goulbourn Township Historical Society”. Please mail to: Goulbourn Township Historical Society PO Box 621, 2060 Huntley Road Stittsville, ON, Canada K2S 1A7

DARVELL, Henry S. Peacefully at the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital on July 27, 2007 at the age of 76 years. Beloved husband of the late Susan Darvell. Loving father of Giles and wife Laura of Ottawa, Karen of Moose Creek, and Tim of Delta B.C. Fondly remembered by grandsons Brian Darvell (Tanya) and Alex Darvell. Also remembered by his first wife, mother of Giles, Karen & Tim – Betty Darvell. After serving in the British Merchant Navy, Henry became a Professional Civil Engineer in England. His career then brought him to Canada where he worked on both private and public sector projects in Montreal, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

His lifelong passion for gardening turned into a second profession, working as a Horticulturalist until retirement. The family wish to extend their genuine appreciation to Dr. Walker and the nursing staff of the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital. They are also thankful to dear friend Brian Jarman for his care and support over the past number of months.

 Private cremation will take place at Pinecrest Crematorium. Reflecting Henry’s passion for plants and flowers, the family welcomes floral tributes, or donations may be made to the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital.

Related reading

The Ashton Funeral to end all Funerals

Did Anyone Ever Have Fun in Ashton? Ashton 101

Did Anyone Have Fun in Ashton? Part 2- The Fleming House

 

 

 

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. My name is Bill Guest of Carleton Place, I have the magazine (Image) advertisement, Leigh Instruments to supply Flight data Recorder Systems. I have provided Jinnifer Irwin this and other material including a photo of John J. Shepherd. The CPI has been awarded Canada’s #48 greatest invention.

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