Memories from Kelley O’Rourke

Although the Skelly farm belongs to the past, the memories of the wonderful family and friends who lived there, linger on. My grandmother had great memories growing up in St. Columban: “I remember how much the “Big Rock” at the left of the driveway played a part in the family lives. Children always played on and around it. It was a place we all gathered for family pictures;

Helping my father gather the sap from the maple trees in early spring with the horse and sleigh; Enjoying a visit and a cup of tea with grandma in her garden at the front of the house. This was an arbour of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs; Gathering the hay from the meadows and helping to feed the group of friends who came to help. The names I recall were the Funchions, McAndrews, Grimes, Elliotts, Phelans and the Keyes families; Travelling by sleigh or wagon to Ste. Scholastique to deliver and pick up goods. This journey took 2 hours each way, but was always fondly remembered; The quilting bees! All gathered around sewing on a large quilt laughing and talking. One of the games played was placing a cat in the middle and whoever it landed on getting itself out….was next to be married!

Playing the pump organ in the living/dining room, playing the organ in Church and singing, playing the fiddle at all the barn dances; Best of all, meeting Mike O’Rourke (the O’Rourke families were also Irish immigrant farmers from the St. Columban & St. Scholastique areas) at one of these soirees!” (Retold by my Aunt Audrey, daughter of Mike and Annie O’Rourke)
My father and his sister, Audrey, recollect great times spent in St. Columban:

“Audrey: From the age of 9 – 14, I recall visiting the farm with Uncle Buddy and Aunt Aggie (Skelly), their kids, Lillian, Evelyn and Eldon Cambridge; I loved these visits. Eldon and I also played around and on the “Big Rock”; Walking to Masson’s for milk each day – to the left of the farm – through the woods – I recall this road (it was only a wagon path) being half way between the house and the river (North River running through the back of the property);
Picking blueberries on our way back from swimming in the river (Lillian and Evelyn were usually with us); Walking to Phelan’s place to pick up the mail (All four of us!). The road then from the church to the farm was sand (We carried our shoes until we reached the Phelan house);
Going to church Sunday morning and always stopping at the Phelan’s house for a visit afterward. I seem to remember a Church picnic in the field where the park now is. Uncle Buddy donated a stained glass window – I thought it looked beautiful. Later, I tried to play the church organ, but couldn’t pump the pedal; I remember getting up in the morning, having breakfast, then playing outside all day regardless of the weather; Playing around in the one room schoolhouse. It was a great place to pick blueberries!

Michael: When Eldon and I were about 9 or 10 years old, we used to play by the old school house. One day, we came upon a stray horse and decided to ride it bare back to the Skelly farmhouse. Well…it didn’t go over to well!

Fetching water from the stream while trying not to step on the multitude of grass snakes;
We used to put our ear to the ground and listen for the rumbling sound of a car or truck from miles back. Then we would run up to the farmhouse to warn Annie and Aggie someone was coming!

Fishing for trout and swimming in the river (the stream was damned and flooded in later years by the Gauthier family); We fished there for years. When we were older, Eldon and I would take the Ile Bizard ferry through Laval Sur le Lac and up through the back roads to St. Columban. Only a few of us knew the exact fishing spot!”

The farm was sold by the time I came along, but that didn’t stop us from visiting our family and friends who continued to live in St. Columban. We attended plenty of dances at the church hall. My grandmother would play the fiddle with Neil Grimes and my dad the guitar. It seemed everyone played something…including the spoons!

We use to stay with Ernie and Mary McAndrew when we visited overnight. Ernie was still farming and it was one of my favourite places. Occasionally, my sisters and I lucked out and remained a couple of days longer!

During the sixties and seventies, some of the Phelan, Casey, McAndrew, Dunn, and Grimes family were still living in St. Columban. They used to get together with my parents and play cards well into the night! Usually they alternated between singsongs and card games.