Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Gord Durnan proposed a toast today.

To A.P. Cockburn — in a square already dubbed in his honour.

But that isn’t enough for a group of heritage enthusiasts, who want the August civic holiday named in honour of the great man who helped pioneer the Gateway to Muskoka.

With the Segwun and Wenonah II at their backs, the 15 holiday-makers raised their hands and cheered at the thought of making the first Monday of the second month of summer an occasion really worth celebrating locally.

They’d like to see more recognition than a Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee (MHC) sign nailed to a cedar post bearing Cockburn’s name.

Not that that’s too shabby, considering how far some of them have come from more than 50 years ago when the Segwun was a floating museum, there were no summer cruises like the four on the weekend. There was no ticket office, original museum and woodworking shop.

Certainly no Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre across the Bay.

And of course no gazebo bearing Cockburn’s name, which the serious historians rallied around this morning at 10 a.m. for almost an hour reminiscing about him.

Durnan — who livened up the proceedings with his colourful pink and blue summer shirt, short pants and matching sock combination — had been dusting off some old files and came across one he had put some notes in suggesting just this sort of day.

Unofficial or not.

With the MHC already pursing some sort of larger recognition of the Muskoka Steamships founder, MP, MPP, businessman, lumbering and steam tycoon, Durnan put a quick call and found more than a dozen like-minded supporters to raise a glass.

Responding were all the usual suspects he’d expect: Richard Tatley, who has been pushing this story for years.

Archivists Judy Humphrey and Mary Storey, MHC’s Colin Old and Eileen Godfrey, MHC chair Michael Wayling, John Storey, Ron “Mr. Canoe” Riddell and Hank Smith and 94-year-old Cyril Fry who played the part of a pair of grumpy old men as they kept their distance jostling over Smtih’s measured cane.

And several other equal enthusiasts worthy of such a noble endeavour.

Smith is pushing for Cockburn’s recognition for bringing rail to town.

Fry mentioned being taught by Cockburn’s son — who could reportedly write on the chalkboard simultaneously with both hands

Due to COVID-19 their efforts to have the town declare the day have been stymied by a lack of official meeting time to prepare and have passed their recommendation.

But they hope not to stop there.

They’ve tinkered with a few other ideas, including some sort of monument, for which they’ve got a preliminary quote of some $21,000 to erect at the new Muskoka Wharf — preferably near where they stood today.

That’s for another day’s discussion.

For now they’ll settle for one more salute of Dugald Brown’s Muskoka Dry Ginger-Ale, as Mary Storey did.

To be continued.

Organizer Gord Durnan proposes a toast this morning to A.P. Cockburn, which was heartily well received by the 14 others on hand at A.P. Cockburn Square in Gravenhurst. Here’s to a new holiday, some shouted.
Ron “Mr. Canoe” Riddell, left, can only laugh as grump old men Hank Smith and Cyril Fry, 94, jocularly jostle over Smith’s social-distancing cane.
Richard Tatley, who took time out from his weekend commnentating duties on the Wenonah II, shows a new photo of A.P. Cockburn. Tatley is a driving force behind the new holiday and memorial.
A.P. Cockburn watches over his supporters this morning as they sang his praises and wished him well in the future.
The gazebo at the new Muskoka Wharf already bears A.P. Cockburn’s name and likeness with a small MHC plaque in the public space in front of the Segwun and Wenonah II.



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