Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old Reminders of Older Hands

Not far from South Monaghan Ontario along Line 3 Road east of Smithson Road there are the remnants of old dry stone walls either side of the road. The stone is predominantly glacially deposited granite which has been painstaking cleared from the fields many years ago. I was told about these walls last week and wanted to see them for myself, and so, as I was driving back yesterday from a quarry where I picked up 4 tons of rubble limestone to be used (in Toronto) in the Nuit Blanche 'bell sculpture' we will be building this Saturday (an all night 'ringing in' of next Sunday) I took a detour to go see them.

They are in sad disrepair and have obviously had many of their stones removed, probably by people who don't consider these historic features of the Ontario countryside to be of any worth. I think of them however, as valuable architectural landmarks on a historically dissolving landscape. They are as important as any other valuable Canadian antiques. You can't buy them at an auction or purchase them in an antique store to bring home and hang on your wall, but you can appreciate them where they lay, and respect them for the history they hold and the story they tell.

As I look at the old walls I think about the hands that built them. Judging by the moss and lichen on the stones, the last time these stones were moved must have been over a hundred years ago. The placement of each rock was accomplished by hands that are no longer with us. There is only the stoney memorial to them in the clever placement of the silent stones along the wall. The antique furniture tools and dishes we own have value often because we can imagine the people who made them and once used them . So too with old stone walls. As we 'hold' these stoney antiques in view, we join an unspoken line of admiration and respect for the people who held them before and left their timeless mark throughout the country side(roads)


  1. Hi John,
    Your pictures here look just like the hedge row walls where Scott and I are picking stone for the upcoming workshop. It feels sacrilegious to be pulling this stone apart since it was obviously laid with care. In this case the farmers are expanding the fields and the stone hedges are doomed to the bulldozers come spring time. Good to know that the stone will be reincarnated in a wall once again at your dry stone workshop in Brockport, NY

  2. Yes that's a good thing.
    Its just when stones from old walls like these are stolen to be dotting in someone's garden that it seems so wrong. Better to rebuild the wall on site, first, and then if you can't, build a new wall with them somewhere else if they are going t be burried, second . Good to hear that this is your goal, Dan.