Jeremy Woodchuck of Gemmill Park

Jeremy Woodchuck of Gemmill Park

by Neil Carleton
Gemmill Park in Almonte is well known for the arena, curling rink, soccer field, swings, tennis court, track, and baseball diamond.  Not everyone is familiar with the woodland trails which are used in all seasons. The Millstone click

March 1958

The following short story referring to the groundhog Candlemas legend was turned in by a resident of the Gemmill Park section.

Candlemas was originally a Celtic festival marking the “cross-quarter day,” or midpoint of the season. The Sun is halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. The Christian church expanded this festival of light to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Candlelit processions accompanied the feast day.

Since the traditional Candlemas celebration anticipated the planting of crops, a central focus of the festivities was the forecasting of either an early spring or a lingering winter. Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. Similarly, “When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day / There it will stick till the second of May.”

A bear brought the forecast to the people of France and England, while those in Germany looked to a badger for a sign. In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas legends with them. Finding no badgers but lots of groundhogs, or woodchucks, there, they adapted the New World species to fit the lore.

Today that lore has grown into a full-blown festival, with Punxsutawney Phil presiding.

Freddie Groundhog (alias Jeremy Woodchuck), made an early season appearance in the Gemmill Park area behind *Dr. Schulte’s home Wednesday morning about 6:30. He foraged over a remarkably wide area, moving quickly over the hard-packed snow. After about three-quarters of an hour of surface manoeuvres, which delighted the children of the area but not necessarily their sleepy parents, he submerged again under the wild Sherry trees for who knows how long. This is an interesting animal, somewhat playful if not bothered; and with at least two and often three or four separate entrances to his nest. Webster lists the groundhog and the woodchuck as identical, the names having arisen originally from the Algonquin Indian names wuchak or fisher. He is a rodent, and hence a cousin to rats and mice. His generic name is marmota monax.

Incidentally, he had plenty of chances to see his shadow on Candlemas day this year, and one wonders why he was out again so early. One possibility is that he is an expectant father and, behaving in characteristic fashion, was not quite steady enough to devise a way of awakening his neighbour at 6.30 a.m.!

An elderly man and a 10-year-old girl both suffered brain concussions Thursday evening in an accident here involving a bicycle driven by the girl. Eighty-four-year-old William “Shorty” Stevens and little Diane Wright were admitted to Rosamond Hospital as a result of the mishap, which occurred at the intersection of Union and Main Streets. The girl is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Wright of Almonte. The elderly man also sustained extensive head scratches in addition to the concussion. His condition was Thursday night described as “poor ” It is expected that the youngster will be released from hospital within a few days. According to police both persons were thrown to the pavement after Mr. Stevens was struck by a bicycle driven by the girl.* Dr. Otto Schulte, of Almonte, was called to the scene and or dered the injured persons removed to hospital. Con. Roy Dawson of the Almonte detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police Investigated the accident.

CLIPPED FROMThe Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada25 Sep 1953, Fri  •  Page 8

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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.

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