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"Higher Than I Could Dream Upon" A Creative Commemoration of Rural Schools

welch mccracken penhale at flesherton library

Photo above, Barry Penhale asks questions of Katherine McCracken and Paul Welch at the Flesherton Library.

BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF — Attendees gathered at the Flesherton Public Library on Wednesday, July 11, to hear readings, music and discussion panels celebrating rural one-room schools.


John Butler acted as master of ceremonies introducing the participants.

Barry Penhale, a member of the Friends of South Grey Museum interviewed Kathleen McCracken and Paul Welch about how their book, 'Reflections: A Creative History of the Early Schools in Proton Township' had come about. 

McCracken and Welch had attended Grey Highlands Secondary School at the same time. Welsh had grown in a home that had formerly been a one room school and McCracken had been a student in a one room school. As a school project, the pair decided to compile poems and drawings about one room schools in Proton Township.

McCracken had gone through the archives at the school board and said he enjoyed doing the research. The two drove around to the former school locations and McCracken would write poems and Welch would draw. At times there was no school left standing, just an empty lot, they recalled.

Welsh currently lives in Markdale and is a graphic artist. For the past five years he has been an actor in community theatre. McCracken is living in Ireland. She is a professor and lecturer at the University of Ulster, and is a published poet. She is the author of seven collections of poetry and is currently working on two more collections. 

She read a selection of poems from Reflections and as well as collection of her later work.


John T. Davis, a film maker, musician and composer performed some of his original songs. McCracken and Welch appear in the monitor as students at the time they put their book together.

Kathleen McCracken read selections of her poems from Reflections. An illustrations by Paul Welch, from the book, appeared on screen.


Jane Gibson led the discussion of what teaching and learning in a one-room rural school was like, with former rural teacher Florence Hellyer and former student George Acheson.

Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen offered closing remarks.


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