Monday, 26 June 2017


This past Saturday I signed books at the Westport Heritage Festival in Westport, Ontario. We had great weather, and while the turnout to Lockwood Park was a little lighter, perhaps, than in past years when the festival was held on Bedford Street downtown, I still had a great time talking to people and selling books.

Westport is a community of about 600 people on the Rideau Waterway, an extensive canal system that connects Ottawa, our nation's capital, with Kingston, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Its population more or less triples in summer because it is an enormously popular spot for tourists and boaters, particularly Americans who travel the canal or own cottages in the area.

Westport is always very kind to me when I go there, in part because the community is extremely supportive of the arts. My secret weapon, however, is my name. When people walk by my table and see McCANN on my banners and book covers, their feet slow, they edge over, and after a moment or two make eye contact and say, "Are you related to the McCanns who were up on the mountain?"

In my spare time (!) I'm an amateur genealogist of sorts. Over the years I've researched my family history and the histories of other related families, and it's something I love to talk about. My great-great-great grandparents Arthur McCann and Ann Quinn emigrated from Forkhill Parish, County Armagh, Ireland and settled in North Crosby township, which included the village of Westport. They first appear in local records in 1842. My great-great grandfather, Michael J. McCann, was a successful shoemaker and merchant in the village from the 1850s until his death in 1910. My father was born in Westport and lived there until he was 12, when the family moved to Kingston looking for work.

So while I'm not directly related to the "Foley Mountain" McCanns, who were from a different townland in Forkhill Parish, I answer the above question by launching into the above thumbnail sketch of my ancestry, and away we go. The conversation can go on for quite a while as we trade names, ponder possible relationships, and laugh about the fact that at one time you couldn't swing a dead rat in Westport without hitting a McCann!

While I've never lived there myself, my heritage makes me an accepted son of the community, and I couldn't be happier.

Selling books, on a day like this, is an added bonus!

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