Barrett’s local roots ran deep

To the Editor

The community of Port Dover – and the Haliburton Highlands Museum – were saddened to learn of the recent death of one of Norfolk County’s most respected citizens in the person of Harry Bemister Barrett in his 95th year on Jan. 26. Mr. Barrett was a Second World War Royal Canadian Navy veteran a retired teacher writer historian and community-minded citizen. He authored several local history books relevant to the Port Dover area.

Harry’s parents were Theobald Butler Barrett and Marjorie Clarke who were married at the bride’s home in Haliburton in 1920. This was the former Alexander Niven house where the Irish pub is now located. The newlyweds then returned to the groom’s hometown of Port Dover; Harry was their first child born in 1922. The marriage was solemnized at the bride’s Haliburton home because St. George’s the village’s Anglican Church had burned down earlier that year.

In the 1880s Harry H. Clarke of Port Dover settled in Haliburton where he managed Anderson’s general store (now the site of JoAnne Sharpley’s Source for Sports). He married their niece Fanny Bemister in 1891; they had three daughters viz. Marjorie Dorothy and Phyllis. The girls grew up in Haliburton raised in part by Miss Jeanette Bain due to their mother’s untimely death. After completing her schooling in Haliburton Marjorie trained as a school teacher moving to her father’s hometown of Port Dover to obtain her credentials. There she met Mr. Butler who she subsequently married. Her sister Dorothy never married but is fondly remembered as a lifelong Haliburton postmistress and the organist at St. George’s Anglican Church for 42 years. Phyllis married Tom McGrath of Kinmount; their son Jack McGrath was that village’s first Second World War casualty; the Royal Canadian Legion in Kinmount is named in his honour.

Prior to the commitments of marriage and a career Harry B. Barrett was a frequent visitor to Haliburton in his youth. While his life was spent in Norfolk County he had fond memories of Haliburton County and his Haliburton kin along with their many friends. As the family historian Harry’s notes included documentation concerning the H.H. Clarke branch. He had the foresight to sit down with his aunt Dorrie Clarke more than 50 years ago and have her identify the family photographs. Several of these one-of-kind images were included in the book Haliburton – A History in Pictures produced by the Haliburton Highlands Museum back in 2008 courtesy of Mr. Barrett.

A private family service was held at Port Dover for Mr. Barrett at St. John’s Woodhouse (Anglican).

The service was private only due to the Church’s limited seating capacity; Mr. Barrett had a large extended family. A public memorial service is scheduled for May of this year. A Masonic service was also held Mr. Barrett being a longtime member of Erie Lodge No. 149 A.F. and A.M. G.R.C. Mr. Barrett’s son Toby Barrett is also a member of this lodge and has been the Conservative MPP for the Haldimand-Norfolk riding since 1995. The Haliburton Highlands Museum extends our condolences to Mr. Barrett’s family. We have lost a good friend; his family and Port Dover has lost a wonderful gentleman and community spirited citizen.

Stephen Hill

Haliburton Highlands Museum