Murray Barkley launching new book in Avonmore today

Murray Barkley, seen at his post narrating the historical sites of Avonmore during the village's 175th anniversary on Sept. 17, releases his new book about the village today, Nov. 19, at St. James United Church.

Speaking of Avonmore Once Again: More Lives, Legends, Lies and Legacies

AVONMORE — Local author Murray Barkley officially releases his latest book about his beloved Eastern Ontario hometown today, 1 to 3 p.m. at St. James United Church.

Speaking of Avonmore Once Again: More Lives, Legends, Lies and Legacies is a follow-up to Barkey’s popular 2006 work Speaking of Avonmore: History, Heroes, Happenings and Humour in the Life of a (Not Very) Typical Ontario Village, which sold 850 copies.

Where the original volume delved into rural Avonmore’s more distant past, the new 330-page book mostly records the goings-on in the community over the last 11 years, with some older photos never before published as well.

Author Murray Barkley selected this image of the early 1900s Avonmore Tennis Club for the new book’s cover.

It was during this recent period that Barkley marked the 100th anniversary of his family’s corner store but also retired from and ultimately sold the establishment still known today as ‘Barkley’s Store.’ The published author and history PhD who eschewed a big-city career in academia to take his place behind the ancestral shop counter has again trained his talented pen on the village and its “colourful characters” that he knows so intimately.

“I did all the writing and picked all the pictures. There’s about 130 photographs, most of them for the first-time ever made public,” Barkley told Nation Valley News in September as the work neared completion.
Assembling the captions for the historical photos becomes ever more difficult as time goes on, but saving and publishing that information for posterity is one of the reasons for the latest book, he acknowledged. “Absolutely, because at a certain point, if it’s not done, it’s lost forever,” said Barkley, who also played a pivotal role in Avonmore’s 175th anniversary celebrations and tours that took place on Sept. 17.

The glossy pamphlet he authored and produced for that occasion — “Lost Avonmore: A Walking Tour of the Historic Village” — proved the spark for Speaking of Avonmore Once Again. He said it was Avonmore’s Nancy Wert who inadvertently cajoled him into writing the new book when she approached him with plans for the 175th anniversary walking tour of the village back in the spring.

“I’ve had this book on the back burner for a long time. I’ve just been putting it off. I sat down at the computer one day here. I was bored, and I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon and the next day. And I came up with 11 pages, single-spaced, 70 historic sites in Avonmore … and stories about them for the brochure,” he recalled. His compositor, Lily Worrall, suggested he had enough material for a book.
“It kind of kick-started my new book, got me thinking seriously about it. Before I knew it, I had 30 chapters. It’s a full-fledged book, it just blossomed forward.”

As with his previous title, Annette McRae handled the copy editing.

Barkley also describes the new book as a “labour of love” that “chronicles the community’s more recent accomplishments.”

He says its more than 30 chapters include “a number of sketches of the town’s leading citizens, accounts of Morningside Place, the building of North Stormont Place, the Centennial celebrations of Barkley’s Store, the history of Avonmore’s community centres and of Avonmore Fair, and ‘Over the Counter (and Off the Wall), Part 2: Further Anecdotes, Conversations, Local Colour and World Views” from discussions in the Store — both wise and otherwise! The final chapter, “Lost Avonmore: A Virtual Tour of the Historic Village” transports the reader on a walking tour of our community and its many unique features and idiosyncratic characters through the years. The book also features fellow contributors Councillors Alton Blair and Jim Wert, Dr. Andrew Pipe, and Bill Park, among others.”

Launch today, Nov. 19, at St. James United Church

The author will speak and sign copies today (Sunday, Nov. 19), 1 to 3 p.m., in the old Sunday School room known as St. James Place. Light lunch will be provided. Priced at $20 (including tax), the book will be available at today’s launch and afterward at Barkley’s Store, Avonmore (346-5765), Ranger’s Convenience at the Esso in Monkland, the Avonmore Christmas Craft Sale at Tagwi on December 2nd and 3rd, or directly from the author (346-2350).

Update: See the author’s comments during the Nov. 19 launch (below).


A brief look back at Avonmore’s 175th …

‘Lost Avonmore’ — a brochure authored by Barkley for September’s 175th anniversary tours — is reprinted in the new book being launched Nov. 19. Below, the brochure’s back cover.

A busload of people on the Avonmore historical bus tour narrated by Murray Barkley, last September.

Commemorative medallions made for the 175th anniversary.

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