The Real Sam McGee is from Kawartha Lakes

You’ve probably heard of the poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service. If not, enjoy this version read by Johnny Cash with paintings by Ted Harrison:

Here’s what you might not know: the titular character, “Sam McGee” was from Kawartha Lakes.

Robert Service was a clerk for CIBC in Whitehorse, when a form crossed his desk with Sam McGee’s name on it. The rhythm of the name captured Service, and he knew it would fit a ballad. So he wrote to Sam McGee, a prosperous builder of roads in the Klondike, to ask about using his name. McGee said yes, and the rest is poetry. (

Now here’s the history.

“Sam McGee” was born William Samuel McGee on August 28, 1868 on a farm just outside Lindsay. In fact, that farm was in (at the time) Fenelon Township, just up the road from Cameron, and registered in his mother’s name, Ellen McGee. (

William Samuel McGee married in Peterborough in 1901:

William Samuel McGEE, 32, miner, Cameron – Victoria Co., Whitehorse Yukon, s/o Joseph McGEE & Ellen McCULLOUGH, married Ruth WARNER, 20, Liverpool England, Harvey twp., d/o James WARNER & Betsy JENKINSON, witn: George WARNER & Mrs. Annie EARL, both of Harvey twp., 5 June 1901 at Peterborough (

More about Sam McGee (with photo):


Borrow The Cremation of Sam McGee from the library.


Lakefield Literary Festival – July 12 – 14 [Lakefield]

The Lakefield Literary Festival celebrates its rich literary heritage each July on the weekend closest to Margaret Laurence’s birthday, and showcases many current Canadian authors. The festival was created to celebrate the work of Catharine Parr Traill, Susanna Moodie and Margaret Laurence, among others, all of whom lived and wrote in Lakefield.


Saturday July 13
9:30 am Cenotaph Park.

Admission: Free to all. Donations are appreciated.
We are excited to bring together the award-winning creators of the Stanley picture books and the Good Times Travel Agency series, author Linda Bailey and illustrator, Bill Slavin. Linda will also tell the story Toads on Toast, her newest picture book. Bill’s love of comics shines through in his graphic novel series, Elephants Never Forget. He is pleased to present the latest book in the series. Bill’s partner in life and work, Esperança Melo is the designer of this year’s Festival T-shirts. Her newest books include Mr. Dash and the Cupcake Calamity and Jojo the Giant, nominated for the 2013 Blue Spruce Award.

2:30pm Bryan Jones Theatre, Lakefield College School

Admission: $20.00
Join host and Trent University teacher, Lewis MacLeod, as we greet a giant in the Canadian publishing world, Douglas Gibson and many famous Canadian authors. The one-man show based on his most recent book, Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau and Others, consists of Douglas telling stories about the authors he got to know well in the course of his amazing career as their Editor and Publisher. Each of the 21 authors he discusses at length appears on a central screen behind him in a lively caricature specially created by the mischievous Tony Jenkins of The Globe and Mail. Over 40 versions of the unique show have been given in eight provinces across Canada since October 2011 producing reactions such as “hilarious”, “moving” and “entertaining and informative.” This presentation could only come from someone who has had a long and fascinating career working behind the scenes with some of the most memorable literary men and women of our era.

And more events scheduled!
Purchase tickets on-line or by mail. See website for details.

Cat Sass Literary Night including Leah Bobet – June 15 [Norwood]

Cat Sass is hosting another literary night on Saturday June 15th from 5-7 pm with three wonderful writers! There may be a surprise fourth guest so stay tuned! Cat Sass is in Norwood at 4255 Hwy 7, (705) 639-5494. This event is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Leah Bobet is the author of Above, a young adult urban fantasy novel. She is the editor and publisher of Ideomancer Speculative Fiction, a resident editor at the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and a contributor to speculative web serial Shadow Unit.
Her short fiction has been reprinted in several Year’s Best anthologies; Further short work appears in the anthologies Witches: Wicked, Wild and Wonderful; Chilling Tales; Clockwork Phoenix; The Mammoth Book of Extreme Fantasy; and TEL: Stories. She is a frequent contributor to On Spec, Realms of Fantasy, and Strange Horizons. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling and Pushcart Prizes, and she is the recipient of the 2003 Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize. Visit her at:

Shane Joseph is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers where he studied under Giller Prize and Canadian Governor General’s Award winning author David Adams Richards. Redemption in Paradise, his first novel, was published in 2004. Fringe Dwellers, his first collection of short stories, was released in 2008, and is now in its second edition. Shane’s third work of fiction, After the Flood, a dystopian novel of hope, was released in 2009 and won the Canadian Christian Writing Awards best novel in the futuristic/fantasy category in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies internationally. His blog is widely syndicated. His latest novel, The Ulysses Man, was released in 2011.

Wes Ryan is a multi-faceted artist with a penchant for combining spoken-word and dance into genre-mashing performances confronting mediocrity. The current Peterborough slam-poetry champ, he has represented Peterborough at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam and a national team member for three years. Since suffering a brain injury in 2007, Wes has performed shows about living on social margins and facilitated workshops encouraging youth to find empowerment by sharing their narratives. Currently studying Social Service Work at Fleming College, he is also a member of the Centre for Gender and Social Justice and the Peterborough Poetry Collective.

Summer at the Library! Summer Reading Club Kawartha Lakes Library has programs happening through the summer months. Here is one:

Summer Travel Not An Option?

This year’s theme:
Travel/Amazing Race

Journey to places near and far, from the backyard to other worlds,
by whatever means you can, imagining and experiencing new
tastes, friends and excitement along the way. Lead the way with
your reading adventures, exploring anywhere or anything.

Visit your local branch of the City of Kawartha Lakes
Public Library for summer reading suggestions, activities,
events, and much more.