Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Flowers for Al

Trenton, Ontario was abuzz yesterday with the first-hand accounts of a dramatic downtown fire which closed streets and evacuated a school. Firemen were injured looking for a missing woman. The Sherwood Forest Hotel, a local strip club, will not be missed by too many folks.

But it might be missed by Al Purdy, for the Sherwood was once called the Quinte Hotel.
sincere thanks to Eric Lorenzen of Trenton HS for this photo
I went to Ameliasburgh today, intending to spend some time at the Purdy A-frame. Before I left the house, I reread the poem which immortalized this less than lovely hotel.  In his famous poem 'At the Quinte Hotel', which I cannot read without hearing the voice of Gordon Pinsent buzzing in my ear, Al Purdy writes

I am drinking
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers
in the underground sunlight
and you can see that I am a sensitive man

photo credit: Ernst Kuglin/ QMI Agency

In the quiet of the Ameliasburgh cemetery, freezing in the unaccustomed cold, I told Al about the fire. I left a volcano-spawned stone, as I had planned. As I walked away I was drawn to the edge of the old mill-pond by a flash of colour. There, in the frost-killed brush and branches, lay a little yellow artificial flower, left over from someone's graveside beautification.

We pay close attention to coincidences in our family - I left the yellow flower with Al.


  1. Yellow flowers! Absolutely perfect. I am sure Al would be (and probably is) tickled. At the Quinte Hotel is a wonderful poem.

  2. A wonderful poem indeed, and I have it on no less an authority than Eurithe Purdy's, that the poem in question was written about the Hotel Quinte in Belleville, (not the one I wrote about above)which also burned in 2012. Matters not...a lost hotel inspired this moste enduring of poems.