Thumbing your nose at death, that would be the late Bernard Epps, and he did it in his first book, Pilgarlic the Death. The book was written in 1967, when he was living on a farm in Gould Station. It is less well-known than the book he published six years later about Donald Morrison, The Outlaw of Megantic.

Lucky us: Come February 23, we’re going to be treated to a play in Sawyerville based on Pilgarlic the Death.

Said the playwright Janice LaDuke, “I was inspired by the theatre group in Sawyerville associated with the Eaton Corner Museum. We’ve gone to all of their plays, and I just think they’re doing a fabulous job writing and performing those plays. And just the last year or two, And just the last year or two, I have thought how Pilgarlic should be on this stage. I’ve always loved this novel, and I was always disappointed that it went out of print, that so few people know this story. I think it’s a wonderful story, and I think it really captures something of a small rural village in the 60s.”

Now what village would that be? Epps calls it “Stormaway,” and it’s not so far away from “Scotchtown.” The river is the Saint Francis, and the nearby cities are Little Forks and Big Forks, the names Lennoxville and Sherbrooke used to go by. A familiar setting, but the book is clearly fiction.

The characters take on mythical dimensions: Hell Fire, an itinerant preacher; Dougal the School, the village teacher; and the roguish Old Hugh, who sits and rocks and ruminates on the hotel verandah. To name a few.

Pilgarlic the Death is a pungent read, with poetic and philosophical turns, but also caustic and earthy dialogues. The villagers go about the business of farming, yes, but also cattle rustling and other illicit activities. Well, sex.

The play conveys the vigorous personalities that inhabit the book, but the dialogue arcs more toward slang, less toward bawdiness. There’s a little talk of sex, but none happens on stage.

Love of the land permeates both the book and the play, and the realization that the present moment shines more brightly because of our mortality. When Old Hugh dies, Dougal the School ponders death. “Death is an insignificant little fart,” he says. “And his ancient, fearful and unholy Name? Pilgarlic. Peeled Garlic. Mr. Pilgarlic the Death.”
And life goes on.

On December 11 at the Bulwer Golden Agers’ Christmas supper, before an audience of 90 people, Serena Wintle received a Hommage bénévolat-Québec award, proudly presented by Diane Grenier of the Centre d’action bénévole du Haut-Saint-François. The award is one of the Quebec government’s highest distinctions for volunteer work.
A Certificate of Merit Award for Community Services from the House of Commons, Canada, was also presented by Diane Grenier on behalf of Marie-Claude Bibeau, MP for Compton-Stanstead, who was not able to attend.
“I was thrilled. I was very surprised. It’s nice to be appreciated,” Wintle said about the double honour.
Grenier seemed almost as thrilled as Wintle. To apply for the Quebec award, she had quietly rounded up letters of recommendations from organizations that Wintle is working with as a volunteer. “She’s into everything!” said Grenier. “At least 15 different groups.” To name a few: The Cookshire Fair. The Bulwer Golden Agers. The Lennoxville Quilters’ Guild. The Bury Women’s Institute. The St. Paul’s Home. The Eaton Corner Museum. And she leads a weekly Viactive group in Cookshire.
Congratulations, Serena! You are appreciated.

Tai Chi classes have begun again in Scotstown and Sawyerville, and Taoist Tai Chi teacher Pierre Robitaille invites interested persons to an open house during his weekly bilingual sessions.
In Scotstown, classes resumed on Monday, January 7, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Town Hall, 101 Victoria West (upstairs). In Sawyerville, they began again on Tuesday, January 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Église Notre Dame du Rosaire, 4 Randboro Road, Sawyerville.
Beginners are welcome, and are invited to attend a first class anytime without obligation or fee. Info: Pierre Robitaille at 819-875-1384.

All four of the bilingual weekly exercise groups for people aged 50-plus are on Wednesdays and are free of charge. Newcomers are welcome to begin anytime.
In Bury, returning January 9, Doris Eryou leads the group at 10 a.m. at the Armoury Community Centre, 563 Main St., Bury. Info: 819-238-8541.
In Cookshire, as of January 16, Serena Wintle and Lyne Maisonneuve welcome you from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Manoir de l’Eau vive, 210 Principale East. Info: 819-875-5210.
In Newport, beginning January 16, Ruth Shipman and Christiane Côté invite you to the Viactive group at the Municipal Hall, 1452 Route 212, Island Brook, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Info: 819-889-1340 or 819-560-8565.
And in Sawyerville, starting January 9, Denise Nault and Gérard Nault facilitate the group at the Sawyerville Community Centre, 6 Church Street, at 10 to 11 a.m. Info: 819-889-2630.

Baptist. In Sawyerville, the Sunday worship service is at 9 a.m. in French, and 11 a.m. in English. Sunday school is at 10 a.m. in English and French. Info: 819-239-8818.
Anglican. Sunday worship services are at 9:30 a.m. at the St. Paul’s Church in Bury, and at 11:15 a.m. in Cookshire, in the lower level of the Trinity United Church, 190 Principale West. Info: 819-887-6802.
United. Sunday worship services are at Trinity United in Cookshire at 9:30 a.m. and at the Sawyerville United at 11 a.m. Info: 819-889-2838 (listen to message) or Rev. Tami Spires 819-452-3685.
Messy Church. On Monday, January 28, at 5:30 p.m., stories, crafts, singing and supper are on the agenda for the next Messy Church at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 550 Main St., Bury. A joint United and Anglican intergenerational event. All are welcome. Info: Rev. Tami Spires, 819-452-3685.
Do you have news to share? Call 819-300-2374 or email by January 14 for publication January 23. Thank you!

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