Sunday November 23, 2014

My Nikkel’s Worth

By Greg Nikkel

There is something in Weyburn that helps urge on the creative spirit. I don’t know if it’s anything unusually strong or weird or different from other communities — but something in the air or in the water must help out those who have a creative bent.

There have been some incredibly creative people come out of Weyburn and area, including a man who is arguably one of Canada’s literary legends, William Ormond Mitchell, or W.O. Mitchell as he’s known as an author.

Born and raised in Weyburn, he grew up in a house on Sixth Street that still stands today and is being beautifully restored and renovated by the home’s current owners. Recently, W.O.’s son, Orm, and his wife Barb, came to visit here and attended a reception in their honour at the W.O.  Mitchell house, and in talking with Orm, he shared some stories about his father around the house itself, but also about the place Weyburn played in his life and work.

Noting how his father’s career had stalled at one time, Weyburn kind of played a role in helping to rejuvenate his spirit and his career. Orm told how he was struggling, and then his mother died in 1960. He came back to Weyburn for the funeral, and after having his memories stirred by being back in the community and talking with many people he knew while growing up, he began writing these reminiscent pieces that he would then perform when he gave readings — and wouldn’t you know but he became really well-known as a performer as he told these stories, some based on his growing up years in Weyburn.

More recently, Weyburn author and farm wife and mother, Anne Lazurko, released her first full-length novel, Dollybird, and she was not only nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award, but she more recently won a Willa Award for Historical Fiction, proving that there is a good piece of writing here that needs to be recognized.

Who else has there been? Well, there was Scotty Melville who went on to be the sports editor at the Leader-Post for many years; there is Ed Willett, who grew up here and is well-known as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and as a columnist too; playwright Leanne Minogue makes her home here out towards Griffin way, and Jean Fahlman has been known to take up the pen now and again. (And, there are many others, known to a greater or lesser degree …)

So is it this place? The ethos and the spirit of this community on the banks of the Souris? Or is it more that we’ve had some really remarkable people here, and people inspire people — genuine, creative, talented people? Who knows who else might rise up?


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