Grey’s Beacon of Community Spirit

Keith Davidson
Community and recreation activist
Kemble Locator map

I try to make a difference in my community by becoming involved.

I am a bit of a community and recreation activist - I try to make things happen. I try to lend a helping hand where I can. I am a participator. I try to make a difference in my community by becoming involved.

My wife Lola and I moved into our log cabin on my grandfather's old farm property on Island View Drive/Grey Road 1 in 1997 after retiring. I can’t believe the number of projects I have been involved with since then. There are three pages of these points in my hen scratching for Pete’s sake! I doubt if there is any way I can keep my blurb/story to 1,000 words. . . check that… nope... no way!

I’ve spent some time creating a list of the important community projects I’ve humbly supported - just a few things that came into my head as I reminisced to myself.

I’ve spent 15 years bagpiping the sun down on Friday nights at the Big Bay dock, followed by promoting special events in Georgian Bluffs, Owen Sound and Grey County to those who had assembled.

You see, Georgian Bluffs had never held anything to celebrate Canada Day, so I organized a celebration at the Big Bay Dock for four years. My Canadian flag was the biggest in the County at the time.  Kids would hold it from all sides while I piped them and those congregated out to the end of the dock where I MC’ed a Canada Day ceremony.

Keith Davidson Bagpiping on Canada Day

At Big Bay’s Sesquicentennial, I dressed in period costume - piped “John Horn” the first settler (Bill Loney) off the boat and into shore, piped the dignitaries in at the official opening/dedication of the new gates at the cemetery, and organized the first ever stone-skipping contest on the shore (I’m the creator of the iconic “Big Bay Stone Skipping Capital of Canada” sign at Big Bay… I have to re-paint it one of these years).

Big Bay stone skipping sign with young boy skipping rocks

I enjoy piping all by my lonesome at fantastic/scenic outlooks. Often passerby’s stop to listen for a couple of tunes. My great grandfather’s old farm property at the top of Dodd’s Hill (“W” Hill) that backs on to the Bruce Trail that looks down on the green landscape and out to Big Bay is my favourite spot in all of Georgian Bluffs either to pipe or just sit on one of the big boulders and enjoy the view.

I was a key factor in getting the Kemble Women’s Institute parkette moving. I was on the organizing committee.  My son Dick designed the parkette and my old friend Marnie Cheyne, a sculptor, designed and sculpted the table, a Mary Stewart Collect poem and chair.

Keith Davidson Bagpiping

Dick said when he was designing the park it would become a "prize winner”. It was. The park was named one of the top three wonders of Grey Bruce along with The Bruce Trail and Lake Huron sunsets in a contest operated by the O.S. University Women’s Club. The lookout is a place of pride for both visitors and locals.  It’s a true gem and a pat on the back to The Kemble Women’s Institute, the oldest active Women’s Institute in the world with unbroken service.

Kemble Women’s Institute Lookout with table and tea set

I love salmon fishing in my “Red Dog” 17.5 Wilker boat. I take family and friends out fishing for salmon in the summers and I operate my own Pyette Point Fishing Derby within the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Fishing Derby. Five friends and family bring their boats in for our Derby annually. We have so much fun, on the water and off the water. I also enjoy deer and wild turkey hunting across the road on my cousin Ron Mackenzie’s property.

I also love gardening! Lola has a beautiful flower garden next to our cabin and my garden is the one on the verge that fronts our property. It’s 150 feet long. Coming from Kincardine, where everybody grows flowers on their boulevards, I carried on with the tradition up here when I retired. People driving by whom have never seen our roadside flower garden often slow down to take in the rainbow of colours. I also volunteer at Keppel Croft Gardens, the best country garden in Canada!  Me and my jolly band of “greenthumber” volunteers do all kinds of chores/tasks for Bill and Dawn Loney the proprietors.  At noon we are always treated to a gourmet lunch.

I’m a huge advocate for road beautification; I’m constantly trying by conversations with people or by setting an example to get people to beautify their roadside properties by growing/placing flower pots and cutting their verge - just my way of helping beautify my beloved Grey Road 1.

Revitalization of Centennial Park - the upper, roadside level.  With the blessing of the Georgian Bluffs Parks Dept., I started a revitalization of the park five years ago.  It used to be in wonderful shape 50 years ago - flag pole, flowers etc. but over the past 30 years it was left to deteriorate.  I cleared out over 100 rogue trees all over the upper level.  All of a sudden you could see the old tapered metal flag pole. We flew a new Canadian flag and planted hundreds of tulips, daffodils and iris’ between 30 white lilac bushes. With much support from local contributors, the newly revitalized park was officially opened on Canada Day 150 and a nice red and white sign was unveiled “Centennial Park Canada 150 - A New Beginning”. 

The five parks in Georgian Bluffs on Grey Road 1 stretching from the Owen Sound Golf Club to the Jane Miller Park are a big, wonderful enhancement to the lifestyles of Georgian Bluffs and Grey County residents and visitors. Sarawak Family Park, Kemble Women’s Institute Parkette, Centennial Park, Cedar Hill Park and The Jane Miller (Conservation Dept.) are all parks to be proud of.

I’m very proud of my heritage and the rich history of Kemble and North Keppel. My great-grandfather Daniel came up to North Keppel in 1862, built a log cabin and farmed. When my father Dan Davidson was around 12 years old, he was helping his grandfather with the hay and asked, “why did you leave Listowel and walk up here to farm? Listowel has six inches of topsoil and up here on your stony farm you only have one inch.” To which my great-grandfather replied "THE SCENERY MY BOY, THE SCENERY!"

"THE SCENERY MY BOY, THE SCENERY!”

My great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland with his parents and siblings when he was 14 years old - when you go to the back of his old farm on the Bruce Trail where I bagpipe you will see why he said “THE SCENERY” - when you look down on the scene below you would think you were over in Scotland - what a view!

Every year on Christmas morning, I put on my Father Christmas outfit made by a former neighbor. It’s a dark, dull red full length smock body, with a separate collar shawl with white fur around the neck and a peaked cap with a white tassel on it; it’s cool!  I visit 20 neighbours and friends along our road - when they open the door I sing “Go Tell It on The Mountain” then give them a Christmas treat bag which has all kinds of different Christmas candy in it, a Christmas orange and a hand knitted special wash cloth made by Lola.

I am a “charter member” of The Kemble Lions annual Christmas non-motorized parade that goes down the main street of Kemble.  This year’s parade will be the 15th, if memory serves me correctly, and I have never missed one.  I used to decorate my old car utility trailer in various and sundry themes and pull it by hand in the parade but now that I am old and getting gray it is too heavy for me to pull. Instead I dress up to a theme and pull smaller props.

Father Christmas

For many years on New Year’s Eve I invited neighbours down to our shore to celebrate Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve) - had huge, huge bonfire, played Auld Lange Syne on the pipes with everybody singing. New Year’s hats, whistles and noisemakers for everybody.  When all the revelry was over, I would give everybody a kazoo and we would practice playing Scotland the Brave. I would then play the tune on the pipes and our Kemble Shore Kazoo Band would march and play up to our cabin whereupon “The First Foot” ceremony took place.  In this ceremony, it’s a Scottish tradition for good luck for the next year for the people living in the house to have a dark eyed, dark haired person holding a penny for wealth, shortbread for sustenance and a wee dram of whisky for thirst to be the first person to open the front door and walk over the threshold.

The day before Easter Sunday, I erect my big cross at the Big Bay. The symbolism always looks good for the sunrise service that the Kemble United Church Ministers have conducted on the shore for many years.  I always build a nice bonfire too for people to gather round if it’s cold.

There was never a picnic table at the Big Bay Dock for visitors and locals to use while they were at the beach.  Many years ago I took up a collection from friends and we were able to buy a special heavy duty cement based table with big wood plank seats and table top from carpenter Bill Stewart in Kincardine.  The table is still standing and has not moved an inch from where we placed it. I often chuckle thinking about the look on kids’ faces when they decided they would try to lift the picnic table up and throw it in the Bay.

Bird's eye view at Big Bay

For 15 years, I have operated a “Pop Cans for Shiners Kids Hospitals” depot on our roadside parking lot.  People along our road leave their pop cans here and I take them back to the Bruce Shrine Club in Kincardine when I go back for weekly band practice. We are now approaching 200,000 pop cans collected.  I am not a Shriner but have always admired what they do for kids. 

The two Heritage Hills in Kemble and North Keppel “Suicide Hill” and “Dodd’s Hill/W Hill” have always been near and dear to my heart - used them since I was a wee kid in my parents’ old car.  I’d hope to see the council reconsider reopening The Dodd’s Hill - the “W Hill” as a “One Way Only” hill from top down. The “W Hill” is so special to me - it was named after my great, great-grandfather Francis Dodd - one of the earliest settlers who in 1858, had a farm below the hill and was a lay minister. Since there was no church then he used his farmhouse for the church services. My great-grandfather Daniel married Francis’ daughter Elizabeth - as the story goes “he married the girl below the hill.”

I’m an avid, loyal, and long-time Owen Sound Attack Hockey fan.  I’ve been ringing my grandfather’s old cow bell, wearing my Attack jersey, and holding up motivational signs for the players when the national anthem is played - and they are looking directly at me behind the penalty box, waving my big Attack flag and in the playoffs wearing my “war paint” and leading Attack “Charges” with my Attack horn for many, many years. 

When we won the OHL Championship in 2010/11 I had the team logo tattooed on my upper right arm. I love hockey and baseball - coached hockey teams every year for the last four decades, and coached baseball rep teams for 20 years.

Keith Davidson dressed up for an Owen Sound Attack Hockey game

In 2012, I was presented with the Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Medal and a framed scroll signed by The Governor General of Canada by M.P. Larry Miller and M.P.P. Bill Walker to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Queen's ascension to the throne and for my contributions to Canada.  A true honour!

Finally, the love of my life, my wife Lola (we just celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary), my kids, grandkids and my great grandboy are the ones I get so much happiness/satisfaction from. I love them all dearly and they light up my life.

I have pictures filled away for most of the events, I have been involved with since retiring back to Grey County in 1997 and described above - the only thing left to do is find them all. I am always amazed how many there are...

Slainte Mhath

Keith Davidson

Colour Theory with Keith Davidson

When I colour Grey County My Way, it’s as follows:

  • Red/black - my Owen Sound Attack Hockey Club.
  • Green/Blue combo - my Kincardine Scottish tartan kilt which I wear when playing my bagpipes.
  • Pink - my favourite flowers on my roadside flower garden - the wild sweet peas.
  • Silver - the silver salmon I catch in the “Red Dog” out front of our cabin in the Owen Sound Bay.
  • Green - the green, green pastures I often look down on when playing my pipes up on the escarpment and for my green Davidson tartan kilt.
  • Blue - the blue, blue waters I look down on Colpoys Bay, Big Bay and The Owen Sound Bay when I play my pipes.
  • Red - all the Canada Day events I have been involved with and for the five Canadian flags I fly proudly at various locations on our cabin property and at our rural mail box.
  • Orange - the many Hogmanay fires that burned brightly on our shore for many New Year’s Eve.
  • White - the Easter Lilies I place every Easter Morn at The Big Bay Shore.
  • Yellow - the Kemble Lions Club in their Lion’s vests at their Annual Kemble Lions Club Christmas Parade which I always participate in.

I love the new Grey County Logo - “Grey County - Colour it Your Way”  - the logo reminds me of Skinners Bluff and the big base looks like stone and reminds us that we are on a firm foundation in Grey County.  The forward look - the Skinners Bluff “forward looks” It reminds me that we are progressive in Grey County - we are forward looking - we can “go for it” and can pretty well handle anything that's thrown our way.

 

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