The sun sets over Lindsay as a young family gathers at the end of a rustic peninsula on the west bank of the Scugog River to admire a heron standing regally on the opposite shore. If they are lucky, they might perchance see a beaver swimming through the water.
To their left, in the shadows of a well-preserved remnant of the Carew sawmill complex (now part of the Rivermill Condominium community), a groundhog stealthily makes its way through the tall grass. In the distance, two ancient boathouses watch forlornly from the east bank as personal watercraft roar past.
This pastoral-looking site – one that has been attracting visitors young and old alike for a quarter of a century now – is called McQuarrie Point. Purchased by the Wilson Estate for the Lindsay Board of Park Management, it lacks the horticultural elegance of Victoria Park or Memorial Park, but its quiet simplicity in many ways speaks to the character of those for whom it was named.
Making their way to the tip of this 575 foot-long peninsula, visitors pass a plaque which reads: “A tribute to Marnie & Jim McQuarrie For their dedicated community service to the Town of Lindsay and its parks system. Dedicated the 9th day of October 1993.”
“Who were Marnie and Jim McQuarrie?” these visitors may ask, especially if they are younger than 30 or new to town. This story seeks to answer that question. They were my maternal grandparents. While I never knew my grandfather, who died three years before I was born, and have only the vaguest recollections of my grandmother, their memory lives on in those whose lives they touched over the span of two generations.
Jim McQuarrie (1925-1988) worked as a lawyer in Lindsay, beginning his career with the firm of Frost, Richardson & McQuarrie. In 1958, he began his own practise which evolved into McQuarrie, Hill, Walden, Chester & McLeod. Descended from hardy Scottish farmers who settled in nearby Argyle some fifteen years before Confederation, Grandpa inherited his own father and grandfather’s devotion to serving the communities in which they lived.
Lachlan McQuarrie (1844-1922), a rugged-looking farmer with a thick white beard, served on the Eldon Township Council. His son, Donald, or ‘Dan’ McQuarrie (1887-1970) enjoyed a 20-year career as a teacher before serving as the Registrar of Deeds for Victoria County and later as Lindsay’s Industrial Commissioner. A community-minded man, my great-grandfather once served as Chairman of the Lindsay Board of Education, founding president of the Victoria County Historical Society, and an Elder at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
My grandmother, Marjorie Buchann McKerracher (1929-1994), known to most as Marnie, could likewise trace her interest in the health and well-being of others back into the mists of history. Like her own mother, Grandma was called into the nursing profession and worked for several years in the Ross Memorial Hospital. Grandma’s maternal grandfather owned and operated a pharmacy in Wiarton, Ontario during the 1800s; and in the person of Jonathan Fulford, an 18th Century United Empire Loyalist, Grandma shared a common ancestor with George T. Fulford (1852-1905), who launched a pharmaceutical empire and was later appointed to the Senate.
Marnie and Jim McQuarrie’s dedicated community service was clearly rooted in family, and they raised eight children who have perpetuated their commitment to serving others.
What did community service mean for Grandpa and Grandma McQuarrie? The causes of politics and education were dear to Grandpa’s heart. He served as a town councillor, and was active in the Progressive Conservative Party — when progressive in Progressive Conservative actually meant investing the long-term social well-being of communities. (Were they with us today, my grandparents surely would have questioned the present provincial government’s insistence on reducing the price of beer while failing to invest in helping the less fortunate.)
Always interested in the physical, mental, and educational well-being of young people, Grandpa served on the Victoria County Board of Education, the Lindsay Public Library Board, and the Lindsay Board of Park Management. Both he and Grandma served on the Board of Five Counties Children’s Centre, and Grandma had a special concern for the problem of child abuse, serving with the multidisciplinary Council on Child Abuse for some 10 years.
Both Grandpa and Grandma died far too young, at 63 and 64, respectively. McQuarrie Point remains a lasting physical memorial to their many contributions, but its future depends on regular upkeep. Erosion has eaten away at the peninsula, and litter is a common sight. The plaque bearing my grandparents’ names has been defaced from time to time, and the “winding, central granular pathway,” fishing platform, and wooden look-out area promised in the landscape architect’s plans 25 years ago have yet to materialize.
Perhaps the best and most lasting way to remember the dedicated service of Marnie and Jim McQuarrie is, in the words of the story about the Good Samaritan, to “go and do likewise.” Get involved in serving your community by making a positive difference in the lives of others. In this world of “fake news,” distrust, and injustice, we take heart from the epitaph inscribed on my grandparents headstone out in the little Argyle cemetery: “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”