“I am so concerned that small town history in Canada disappears so quickly with each generation,” said the retired school teacher. “If we do not capture it, our children will no longer have it.” Truer words were never spoken’ and we are very fortunate that Paul has undertaken the task of scribing times gone by in our area.
Born in Yorkshire, England, Paul moved to Canada residing in Scarborough. He attended Teachers College, and after a few years of elementary school and degrees from McMaster and U of T, decided to switch to teaching English and history in the high school circuit.
“I was fortunate to receive several job opportunities. When we came to Port Perry to spend a day I was made so welcome by Grant McDonald (Principal at PPHS at the time), and other local residents, that no other locale stood a chance. In 1970, Paul and his wife Isobel, moved here, and Paul began teaching at the Port Perry High School.
Peter Hvidsten, owner of the Port Perry Star at the time, asked Paul if he would be interested in writing a historical column for the newspaper. Paul agreed and his life as a historian was born. Paul wrote the column for ten years and began to record historical information, which made its way into his books.
The most popular is Durant’s Right Hand Man, a book about Edwin Campbell, one of the founders of General Motors and the Chevrolet. I was amazed at how Paul captured the realism of the trials and tribulations of one of our largest corporations.
When Paul was working on his Masters in 1988, he compiled an 80 page history of Port Perry High School, in time for their reunion.
His latest book, Pine Grove Cemetery, is a virtual Who’s Who of dozens of local personalities that make up our history. Once you start reading it, you feel as if you are sitting face to face with the likes of Joseph Bigelow, William Brock, Samuel Cawker and all the forefathers who built this great township.
Paul’s previous book, Blessed Are They, is a history of the Church and Parish of Blackstock with little known facts, which would have undoubtedly been forgotten if they had not been penned by him. Most of Paul’s books are available at local book stores.
Not only is Paul a respected author, but he also dons a top hat and gives local historical tours to residents and visitors alike. Towering well over six feet, with his deep voiced Yorkshire accent I could not help but think if his hair was darker he would be a double for Downton Abbey’s Carson. Pick up a copy of one of his books, and lose yourself in times past and the people who make up our history.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, author and columnist. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com
Join Jonathan van Bilsen next month in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person. The first will be March ### and will feature Port Perry's Art Ambassador, Kent Farndale.