“Glengarry and the First World War” delves into the Great War’s impact on local residents

Above, Robert Flockton holds his new book at a monument commemorating Glengarry’s war dead.

ALEXANDRIA — Rather than a book about “bullets and battles,” Glengarry and the First World War instead attempts to record the impact upon — and the attitudes and experiences of — the people of this Eastern Ontario county during four years of global conflict. 

It is local author Robin Flockton’s contention that World War I had a greater impact on the way of life of the population of Glengarry than any other event in its history before or since.  

The story of the 177 who gave their lives is recorded, yet there are the experiences of those who remained — as chronicled in the new book Flockton released on Amazon last month.  Rural Canada had been largely immune to government regulation. The War Measures Act of September 1914 exposed the people of Glengarry to a litany of regulations to which they were forced to adjust.  In 1918 the Canadian Food Board even ran a “snitch line” to combat food hoarding. Censorship and “truth management” were pervasive during the war.

Patriotism was alive and well. Social life changed as people gathered in Red Cross sponsored groups to knit socks, hold fundraising concerts and even attend lawn socials to raise money for machine guns. God was definitely on the side of the Empire; a message that resonated from pulpits throughout Glengarry in French and English. Conscription was not an issue in Glengarry County.

Perhaps the greatest change precipitated by the war was, according to the author, the emancipation of the women of Glengarry.  The demand for their services by government, in offices and in industrial production provided them with an opportunity to leave the farms; never to return to rural life.

Readers may find there are some interesting parallels on the effects of government intervention on society to be drawn between the First World War and Covid-19 more than a century later.

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