Myrtle Smyth is a, “Grande Dame” in the City of Leduc. She is the wife of the late Dr. John Smyth, founder of Leduc’s Smyth Medical Clinic that celebrated its 60th anniversary in May of this year. This energetic, chic and soft-spoken lady is a true dynamo who has organized a Maritime Social for the past 19 years. Featuring a jigs dinner, raffles, door prizes, a lively Celtic-style band and a step-dancing contest, this popular event held at the Leduc Royal Canadian Legion was once again enjoyed by a full house of Maritimers and their friends and family.
A Newfoundland native, married to a young doctor who had chosen to pursue his career ‘out West’, she found that many fellow Maritimers were missing their native province, its joie-de-vivre and culture. She started hosting dinners in their home and eventually created a larger annual Social event with a ‘jigs’ dinner and lively music. The event survived a turbulent economy and a fluctuating influx of Maritimers new to Leduc and became a welcomed fundraiser for her church, St. Paul Anglican in Leduc’s downtown core.
For the sixth consecutive year, the band that performed that night was Fiddles ‘n Sticks. With talented musicians from Edmonton, Sherwood Park and Strathcona County, these musicians performed free of charge for this critical fundraiser. Margaret Adamson on keyboard, Scott Macdonald on percussion, Bob Adamson on fiddle, mandolin, vocals and baritone horn, Terry Godwelt on fiddle, saw, vocals and guitar, Scott Montgomery (also the night’s congenial MC) on bass, guitar and vocals were assisted by Kent Heime on the sound board. After the delicious dinner prepared by the Leduc Legion staff, the lively audience enjoyed each musical piece, dancing to some of them. The baritone horn was played by Bob Adamson while walking around the room and the saw tunes performed by the youngest band member Terry Godwelt were obvious favorites of the evening. The Step-dancing contest was entered by a dozen or so dancers including regional MLA George Rogers who had won it previously. He had tough competition this year, as Rob Marshall, a Nova Scotia native and Beaumont resident (Sarah Jones of Leduc is the connection here), was the proud winner and walked away with a large basket of mysterious and colorful goodies.
The African Connection: It was fascinating to discover that this group of musical friends all have church ties and have used their musical talents to support a great cause abroad. In 2004, Scott McDonald’s daughter Erin Robinson, equipped with a Sociology degree, traveled to Ghana, Africa to assist a refugee camp. She came back inspired to do more and enlisted her parents’ help. Her dad then started a ten-year fundraising campaign that continues today. Fiddles ‘n Sticks set out to raise funds with the support of family and friends, a Rotary Club and a Tim Hortons’ owner. They raised an amazing $60,000 which allowed Scott, a federal government retiree, to go to Ghana on three occasions to assist in building five water wells, two kindergarten classrooms, water-gathering reservoirs, public toilets and a community hall.
These kindergarten classrooms were much needed as the parents in this poor mountainside village could not take the time off from their farming duties to escort their small kids to attend kindergarten classes in the next village located 2.5 km away. Older kids walk this every day and then hop on a rickety bus to travel to the nearest city to attend school. Children of this poor village are used to helping out with farming duties, each morning. The 12 to 14 year-olds walk 2.5 km to go fetch water.
In October, Project Mercy, an organization devoted to eliminating child slavery on Lake Volta in Africa, announced the release of its new children’s book, ‘Under the Mango Tree’, a story of friendship and freedom, a great idea for a Christmas gift while its purchase will contribute to a great cause.
In this country of ours, education, food and water are sometimes taken for granted. It is heart-warning to hear that a group like Fiddles ‘n Sticks is not only supporting our Leduc St. Paul Anglican Church but also a needy village far from our own comforts, but not far from our minds. Congrats, Myrtle Smyth and Fiddles ‘n Sticks for sharing your heart, talents and compassion!
Pictured: Fiddles‘n Sticks performed at the Maritimes Social on November 1st at the Leduc Legion. Photo by Dominique Vrolyk