Monday, July 5, 2010

Creating 'Firewalls' With Both Hands

I first met Matthew Ring about 6 years ago at a dry stone wall workshop I taught north of Cobourg, Ontario. He was one of those people who whenever they set their mind to it, just 'get it'. His walling abilities shined from the first stone he picked up and his enthusiasm was infectious.

He went home from the weekend totally excited about building dry stone walls and a week later phoned me to ask where he could get 24 tonnes of stone inexpensively for a project he was going to do in his front yard. When I went to see the wall two weeks later I was a little dubious about how it would look.

It was beautiful, and sturdy and quite well built. I asked him if he was concerned about vandalism since he built it so close to the sidewalk in a busy residential part of Oshawa. He told me many of the kids in the neighborhood came around and after watching him build the wall for a while, were invited to help out bringing hearting and sorting stones on his lawn. He said they really enjoyed getting involved and he appreciated their help.

"These same kids now take ownership of this wall. They are not going to allow anyone to come along and mess with it." he told me proudly.

One year later, after a couple more workshops and helping us with some Highland Events in Ontario, doing demonstration walls with the DSWAC, Matthew took his intermediate certification test during the first Canadian Dry Stone Wall Festival we held here in Port Hope, Ontario in 2009. He was tested by two good friends, Norman Haddow and Dave Goulder, both certified testers with the DSWA of UK.

Matthew passed it in flying colours and became the first intermediate accredited waller with the DSWA in Canada. He helped me after that on many interesting and challenging projects, including a very tricky 10 foot high 'Cheese Wedge' structure we built at the Niagara Horticultural School, behind the Butterfly Atrium at Niagara Falls. Occasionally he helps out teaching beginner workshops.

On the other hand, Matthew is actually a highly qulified I. T. guy, as well. 'It' stands for information technology: the branch of engineering that deals with the use of computers and telecommunications to retrieve and store and transmit information. Basically he spends a lot of time and hopefully enjoys figuring out computer related internet, stuff, which I can't begin to get my head around. Nearly three years ago he kindly helped us set up the new DSWAC web site, which has been a tremendous success in networking with wallers all over Canada. He continues to be our main source of help solving annoying website glitches and undoing the various website messes we get ourselves into at the DSWAC because of a basic lack of programming knowledge.

It seems appropriate to post a picture of a beautiful, and completely functional, 'fire wall' which Matthew created a few years ago at his property in Guelph Ontario. Matthew handily straddles both worlds, that of computers and dry stone walls. He is an inspiration to his peers in both of these pursuits. It occurred to me that there are a words too, where the terminologies used in these disciplines straddle both the world of walling and of computers. Although 'fire wall' describes two very different things, I suspect the expertise and skill needed to figure out how to design and create them is very similar.

His web site is...


  1. I like this and shall contact Matthew to ask him a burning question.

  2. I am sure he will be all fired up to answer it, Norman