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This article first appeared in the April 1, 2015 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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A glimpse into the history of the Gatineau Hills

By Anastasia Philopoulos

"My fear started on our Atlantic crossing, I was climbing into a lifeboat for a drill when through the fog, the outline of two ships caught my eye. They were steaming towards us. We knew the Germans would send us to the bottom quickly. We waited, waited, nobody spoke. Then we could see the ships, they were not German battleships but friendly British destroyers. Hip-hip hurrah everyone cheered."

In 1915, 2,000 Canadian nurses applied for the honour of serving as nursing sisters in the First World War. There were 75 positions available back then, and Wakefield's Laura Gamble - daughter of the Presbyterian Minister Robert Gamble - was chosen.

Laura Gamble
A photo of Laura Gamble, a Wakefield nurse. Her diaries have been used as part of a new project that details the history of the Gatineau Hills. It is a joint effort between Theatre Wakefield and Fairbairn House. Photo courtesy the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

The excerpt above is a theatrical rendition of Gamble's diary entries, something put together for the New Horizons seniors' project, a joint effort between Theatre Wakefield and the Fairbairn House. On March 29, the animation project was launched at the historical site.

"What is the most amazing is that the community is telling its own story, the community is bringing its own history," said Brenda Rooney.

The federally funded project saw 12 seniors come together for three workshops this past fall. Using historical resources, including the Gatineau Valley Historical Society's 'Up the Gatineau' series, seniors chose a story they'd like to write and/or tell.

Theatre Wakefield helped produce and adapt the stories into skits, which were then brought to life by Theatre Wakefield actors who voiced and narrated the productions. The historical vignettes were infused with the musical stylings of Deborah Thomson on piano and Nathan Curry on fiddle, and montages of historical images appear during each of the seven skits.

When a visitor to the Fairbairn House uses one of the two interactive touch-screens installed at the museum, they will experience a production featuring old photos and a story narrated by a local actor and chosen by a local senior.

"What you get is this very layered, very rich historical experience," Rooney added.

Laura Gamble's story was written by Brooke Broadbent and Susan Spoke. Other stories folks can find on the Fairbairn touch screens this summer feature topics including logging, farming, the one-room schoolhouse, and the Copeland Ferry.


The Fairbairn House is set to open on May 25 and is located at 45 chemin Wakefield Heights.