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Merrickville Mini Conference 2018 | Montreal Dickens Fellowship

Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

Anesthesia was a discovery of Scottish obstetrician Dr. James Young Simpson. In 1853, Dr. John Snow administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she was in labour with her eighth child, Prince Leopold. This was the beginning of the popularization of anesthesia during childbirth.
On Friday afternoon, November 2, 2018, 4 cars, carrying 13 enthusiastic members of the Montreal Dickens Fellowship converged in the picturesque Ontario village of Merrickville to attend our first ever weekend Dickens conference and learn all about "Dickens on Holiday". Our theme and indeed the whole idea for our mini conference were inspired by the weekend retreat organized by the New South Wales Dickens Fellowship branch last year. Many many thanks to Michelle Cavanaugh and Catherine Barker for your inspiration, encouragement and sharing of presentation materials!

After some unintentional, but fun and interesting detours, we all checked into our three different accommodations, the Baldachin Inn, The 1840's Guest House and Mr. Toad's Happy Place where we all had a few hours to unpack and get our bearings. Some of us even had time to browse and shop in the very compact, quaint village.

At 6:00 P.M. we all met up in Renee's hotel room at the Baldachin Inn for a cocktail reception where members registered, paid the $40 fee and received booklets with pens, paper, maps of the town and a full agenda of the conference. Munchies were welcome and our conversation was lively and congenial!
After an introduction by Renee, Judith gave us a wonderful talk about the history of Sherry, providing us goblets of several kinds of this delicious fortified wine which was Dickens's favourite!!. Thank you so very much Judith! And a big thank you to Renee who provided us with such a comfortable venue, graciously accommodating all our seating, while occupying the largest seat in the room, the Jacuzzi!!!

We then strolled the very short few blocks, past an assortment of colourful and interesting shops to our setting for the evening, the "Goose and Gridiron" restaurant. Seated in a comfortable private room, we took turns perusing a large laminated facsimile of artist Robert Buss's painting "Dickens Dream" while ordering dinner from their large and varied menu. Ellie welcomed everyone with an informative and entertaining introductory presentation about Victorians on vacation and at the seaside (Thank you again Catherine Barker for your input!). We all thoroughly enjoyed our dinners and the talk and made our way back to our various accommodations filled with Dickensian spirit and Sticky Toffee Pudding!!!

The next morning, after a lovely breakfast at the "Village Bean" Coffee shop ( some of us breakfasted at their own hotels), we made our way just down the street to the Merrickville United Church where, in a large basement reception hall, we were welcomed with hot coffee and cookies and a comfortable set up for a full morning of presentations. Despite some computer glitches our morning was soon underway. Renee started us off by giving us the words to and a video clip of " Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside", an Edwardian ditty we all belted out enthusiastically. Gail treated us to a talk on the history of ice cream and the ice cream cone. Annette followed with all you could learn about the eating and selling of eel pie! Louise then shared with us the fascinating history of weather forecasting, while Judith shared all her knowledge about Dickens in Switzerland. Lila then gave us her memories of growing up in Merrickvile!! (Timmy's talk on the Victorian Bathing Costume had to be put off to another time as she had to return to Montreal unexpectedly)

After the morning session, we all jumped into our various cars and headed 30 minutes north east to the "Brigadoon" country pub for lunch. Set in the charming little village of Oxford Mills, this restaurant impressed us with its antiques and " British" decor and its delicious menu. Ellie read us Dickens's own description of Broadstairs in " Our English Watering Place" as we enjoyed our lunch before setting out to Almonte Ontario for an afternoon of antiquing and browsing. Despite nerve-racking detours and heavy rain, we all had lots of fun!

Back in Merrickville we had a good rest before heading back to the G&G for another evening of fun! We all enjoyed our dinners and our fellowship's second ever Dickens Trivia Quiz with Judith winning ( some chocolates) and our first ever Dickens Illustration Quiz with Louise as our winner of the chocolate prize. We then raffled off many lovely prizes which include a Dickens plate and a Dickens puzzle raising over $70.00 for the Tiny Tim Fund of the Montreal Childrens hospital. ( To date we have raised $3500.00!)

Sunday morning saw us back at the United Church where all systems were GO for our Power Point presentations. Sylvia gave us a very well researched. informative and colourful talk about The History of Luggage, Carly talked about Dickens's trip to Montreal , Janice talked about the Geranium, Dickens's favourite flower, Charlotte delighted us with historic Victorian photos of Dickens's London and Lise presented beautiful, sparkly show of Victorian Christmas cards . Ellie ended the presentations with slides showing various aspects of Broadstairs and Victorians at the seaside.

Lunch followed back at the G&G accompanied by a fascinating talk on the history of Merrickville and the Rideau Canal. by Michael Whittaker, member of the Historical Society of Merrickville. Thank you Michael! This was followed by a mini walking tour of the village, highlighting much of the historic architecture and then a short time for browsing and shopping before we checked out and headed home.

It was a hectic, fun, educational and convivial weekend for everyone!!! Exhausting but extremely enjoyable. Many many thanks to our planning committee, Judith, Sylvia, Louise and Ellie for their hard work with such thoughtful attention to detail and kind consideration of all our group! It was really a team effort.Thanks to all our hotel accommodations, the Village Bean, the Goose and Gridiron, Brigadoon Pub, The Merrickville United Church and the Merrickville Historic Society and most of all to our participants who really made the weekend such a great success. Hopefully this will be just the first of many such weekend conferences!