Gwen Tuinman

Novelist Speaker Advocate



The Shiner’s War

Booth_lumber_camp_Aylen_Lake_Ontario_1895_ source_Library and Archives Canada backslash C dash 075266

Men wielding oak clubs? Ladies of ill repute? Drunken disorder? Social chaos masterminded by one kingpin? It’s the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of — but it happened in Canada. As a matter of fact, this Wild West was playing out in Bytown when my Irish ancestors arrived in 1831. When they left the area eight years later, could they have been trying to escape the lawlessness of these events known as the Shiner’s War? Continue reading “The Shiner’s War”

A Traill in the Woods

2nd try

Catharine Parr Traill’s letters and journals are the source of much that we know today about the experience of the earliest Canadian settlers. Although she was born to a noble family in Britain, once emigrated to Upper Canada, she fell in love with the land and the way of life. She and her husband  faced many hardships and successes, each of which she documented in the detailed correspondence sent to friends and family.

(Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of A Traill in the Woods)

Continue reading “A Traill in the Woods”

So, I’m Irish

Irish Gwen

So, I’m Irish. More accurately, I’m about 25% Irish. My maternal grandparents’ last name was Lindsay. Although I’ve known this my whole life, it’s only been in the past year that I’ve become curious about my forefathers and mothers.

Through a popular genealogy website and some internet research, I’ve been able to learn some interesting history. The documents and history I’ve been able to uncover so far has sparked my writer’s mind. Continue reading “So, I’m Irish”

Lumberjack Heritage: Wood Is In My Blood

DSC_0649I love to hike in the woods.  In  any season, you can find me straggling several feet behind my husband, photographing tree trunks, decaying logs, scarred bark.

What accounts for this fascination with trees, I’ve often wondered. I chalk it up to the artist in me — an appreciation for colour, shape, texture, and pattern.

I may study a person’s face, interpreting lines of maturity as beautiful features, hints of some underlying story.  I look at trees in much the same way, seeing the curve of a trunk, the twist of a root, how it’s yielded to the elements, and I imagine its story. If only a  had a dime for every time I’ve said, “I wonder what tales this tree would tell if it could only talk.  To whom has it offered shade and shelter? What history has it overseen?”

My Roots Are Showing

Over the past year, I’ve been researching my ancestry. A branch of the family tree hales from Ireland.  Thanks to online documents and the research of a distant cousin, also an author/historian, I’ve learned some interesting details.

During the potato famine, my Irish ancestors left Cootehill, County Cavan to settle in a Canadian village that would later be called Bytown and then renamed, Ottawa. The Irish immigrants suffered through illness and poverty when they arrived.  Many accounts claim that they wore little more than rags.


Bytown was reportedly lawless, drunken and wild.  Colonel John By hired many of the Irish immigrants to excavate the Rideau Canal that connects the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario.

Although they lived in Bytown, my ancestors did not work for Colonel By.  Instead, they found employment through timber baron, Philemon Wright. They worked on the other side of the Ottawa River in Wrightville, later to be known as Hull, Quebec. Trees were cut and stacked along the banks of the river,  and in the spring, they were rolled into the water and floated to buyers downriver.  Logging and sawmills were booming businesses in Quebec in the mid 1800’s.


Researching for Writing

So, I am descended from Irish lumberjacks.  How exciting! I have begun the business of collecting information about the Irish,  lumberjacks, Bytown and Hull.  My findings will set the stage for a future novel. I look forward to sharing interesting more as my journey into the past continues.

You can see some of my photos and research I’ve collected so far on .  You can visit:

Oh the Irish         Lumberjacks and Timber        Bytown Ontario and Hull Quebec

Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

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