The Ghosts of Hamilton's Past

Wednesday 30 October 2013
“One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it — water stained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave wants to make you be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.”
— Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

It's the night before Halloween, so there's no better time to unleash some of the ghosts of Hamilton's past. I've spent a lot of time researching Hamilton's history, sometimes for writing projects and sometimes just out of morbid curiosity, and what I've found, is that there's no better way to learn about the people who built this city than going on one of historian Robin McKee's guided tours of the Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard.

From ornate vaults to vast unmarked graves, the Hamilton Cemetery houses at least 200 years of the city's history. Though the cemetery was officially established in 1848, the land on which it stands, then known as Burlington Heights, played a crucial role in the War of 1812.

These photos were taken during the Disasters tour earlier this year which featured the fascinating lives, and untimely deaths, of Hamiltonians such as rum-runner Ben Kerr and murder victim Ethel Kinrade.

You can't take a stroll through the Hamilton Cemetery without recognizing the surnames of prominent Hamilton families. Click here to watch Robin McKee talk about Joseph Lister as part of his Firefighter's Tour.

The tombstone of Colin Ferrie, an early politician in Hamilton.

This intriguing epitaph prompted McKee to research the fate of Walter Teale. I won't give his findings away, but let's just say, they were explosive.

The story of Ethel Kinrade and her sister Florence, a vaudeville actress, has all the trimmings of a Hollywood movie, from adultery, scandal, blackmail, and ultimately, murder.

One of multiple mass graves in the Hamilton Cemetery.

There are three more chances in 2013 to attend one of Robin McKee's guided tours, including his War of 1812 tour on Saturday, November 2. I couldn't recommend it enough.

Cask Days

Sunday 20 October 2013

Yesterday, I found my beer soul mate. It may not have been the beer everybody loved the most. It may not have been the one everybody was lining up to try. But it was perfect for me. And it was love at first swig. As soon as I had my first taste of the Saw Dust City Smoked Pumpkin, I knew it was love. It was the beer I've waited my entire (drinking) life to find.

The smoked pumpkin was just one of the many beers I tasted yesterday afternoon at Cask Days, the ninth annual cask-conditioned craft beer festival, which was held at the Brickworks in Toronto. The festival was a beer snob's paradise, and by far the best food or drink event I've attended. Unlike other beer festivals (cough ... cough) Cask Days was simply about unique, delicious beer. Missing was the usual barrage of free t-shirts, mailing lists, stickers, terrible bands, and cheap free sunglasses, instead, it was simply a gathering of hundreds of people who love good beer.

The Saw Dust City Smoked Pumpkin was my clear winner, but I tried many amazing beers, among them the Half Pints Strawberry Rhubarb Pie amber ale, the Bridge 40 Shot espresso stout, and the Indie Alehouse X Karate Garage S'more stout.


Monday 7 October 2013
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Buying Local

Sunday 6 October 2013

This post is a part of's Eat Local Challenge. Read more here.

Our small one-bedroom apartment has a lot of character on the inside, but outside, it’s little more than a large brick rectangle on a tiny piece of land. With the exception of a few stray daffodils that poke through the soil every Spring, our garden space is nil. I’ve tried windowsill gardening, and I’ve failed at windowsill gardening, so in order to eat local, I need to buy local.

For the past three years, buying local has meant ordering a weekly food share from Hamilton’s Plan B Organic, and occasional trips to farms in the area. It has also meant becoming a regular at Hamilton Farmers’ Market.

Since 1837, the Hamilton Farmers’ Market has been a staple in this city, connecting farmers to the community. My dad remembers taking the bus down the Niagara Escarpment with my grandmother to visit the market, where farmers would sell produce from the back of their trucks. Today, the market may not only sell locally grown produce, and it certainly doesn’t sell produce from the back of pick-up trucks, but it still offers the opportunity to meet the people who harvest local food, all while supporting local farmers and sustainable food.

Other reasons to shop at a farmer’s market:
  • Avoid the line-ups! A trip to the farmer’s market, even on a Saturday, can be relaxing without the pushing and shoving of the check-out counter at a big box store. 
  • Connect to farmers — Becoming a regular not only gives you the chance to ask questions and get to know the people who grow your food, but from time to time, it also means free samples! 
  • Connect to community — Most trips to the market result in seeing at least one familiar face.  
  • Try new things. One thing's for sure — I had no idea what a garlic scape was until I started shopping locally.
  • Food just tastes better! There's no comparison between a strawberry grown locally and one that has spent a few days on a transport truck to get to a grocery store. 
On my most recent trip to the market, my haul included a gigantic butternut squash, Bartlett pears, 200g of Steel City Cheddar, Ginger gold apples, and enough samosas to last me a week. The squash, pears, and cheddar all ended up in my own recipe that I loosely based on this from the Vegetarian Times.

Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards

Friday 4 October 2013
The finalists for the 20th annual Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards are out, and the list is fantastic. The winners will be announced on November 12th, 2013 in the Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre at Theatre Aquarius. I didn't need proof, but the list is an excellent reminder of what a vibrant literary scene we have in Hamilton.

And the nominees are ...

The finalists for the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Non-fiction are:
Hamilton Illustrated, by David Collier
Haunted Hamilton, by Mark Leslie
Empty Cradle, by Diana Walsh

The finalists for the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction are:
Come Back, by Sky Gilbert
Sleeping Funny, by Miranda Hill
Small Medium at Large, by Joanne Levy

The finalists for The Kerry Schooley Award are:
A Private Man, by Chris Laing
Shirts and Skins, by Jeffry Luscombe
The Fishers of Paradise, by Rachel Preston
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