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Playwright Dan Needles appearing at Relessey Church event

June 20, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It is called the annual Relessey Memorial Service but since Dan Needles is coming to spin his stories in his “homily” titled “How to Keep Sheep and Stay a Christian,” there is a first good reason to join the fun. Mr. Needles lived as a boy on a farm not far from the church and his mother chose to be buried there. He is the playwright of the much-loved and very funny Wingfield Series.

But wait, there is more. The very talented and award-winning Anne Lindsay is coming too, to play her violin/fiddle in her own very special way. So many styles, so much energy, Ms. Lindsay has family ties to an old farm just down the road from Relessey.

This delightful couple of hours at the antique Relessey Church in Mono is taking place this coming Sunday, June 23. It starts at 2:30 p.m.

Marion Haddock, Chair of the Cemetery Board since 1981, told us the Relessey was named after the first postmaster, who came from Relessey, Ireland.

She informed us as well, “Looking back in the history book, Russel Thompson the then chair of the Cemetery Board, had the Needles boys mow the grass.”

Those first members of the church at the time were instrumental in clearing all the vines and wild lilac that were covering the stones.

Said Mrs. Haddock, “Relessey was the first Ontario Heritage building designated in 1994. The church has actually been Ebeneezer Methodist then it became a United Church. It was built in 1870.”

These old churches are a lot of work to keep up with, she told the Citizen. There is no heat, no hydro and now Relessey Church needs new windows; with some brick repair work first.

This entertainment of Dan Needles’ deeply humorous country tales and Anne Lindsay’s exceptional take on playing her violin, her fiddle, is a fundraiser too for the maintenance and repairs the church requires. Marion Haddock was proud to say the Cemetery Board has never asked for money from a government body. 

“I have talked to people who tell us to apply to local council for funding but we never have and we’re proud about that. We have supported the church entirely with donations.

“The windows are pretty well held together with paint,” she joked.

For anyone who loves and respects a truly historical building, it is a joy to continue to care for it. What keeps Mrs. Haddock there is that she has so many family members buried in the cemetery. Her own family members and her husband, Harvey’s family are buried there. Her mother was born in England and she never knew her grandparents. 

“We were really pleased that Dan Needles accepted our invitation to come and talk.

“Anne Lindsay is so entertaining. Her family had a farm just around the corner. She’s an award-winning violinist with local roots.”

What is important is the continuity of care. The whole board misses secretary-treasurer, Donna Holmes, who tragically died recently. Her two sons have stepped up to take her place, each of them taking on the role of secretary and treasurer. Donna Holmes lived all her life on the family farm on the Fifth Line, just south of Relessey and the family requested that donations to her beloved Relessey be given rather than flowers.

What is remarkable as well as the fine old church is the beautifully kept cemetery, with stones that date back to 1867.

They are all local families, as Mrs. Haddock made the point. They are people whose very heritage is embodied in this beautiful antique church. Yet, the attention to Relessey and its continued good condition could be of interest to anyone, not necessarily with a personal connection. Simply, its long history and its mark on the land make Relessey worthy of attention and support for the work it needs to be done.

Mrs. Haddock confirms, “It’s important to all of us who have people there in the Cemetery. We get compliments on how that cemetery is kept up. We’re all proud of it. If we don’t keep the building up, that would be a terrible loss of an important landmark – we depend on donations. But we’ve never asked for a penny from government.”

She commented that they were “honoured” that Dan Needles’ mother, Dorothy-Jane Needles, herself a broadcaster and writer, wanted to be buried in the Relessey cemetery.

Why a person should surely come to this wonderful afternoon can be for those who have links to the area and a personal interest in the cemetery but as well, she said, “We have to hang on to the history of the old buildings. We will keep it going and we hope younger members will continue for generations.

“The idea of tradition is important.”

Everyone will enjoy the fine, funny and exciting performances of these two brilliant entertainers.

On Sunday, June 23, at 2:30 p.m., at Relessey Church (874615 5th Line EHS, Mono). You can visit the Relessey Church Facebook page for more information.

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