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Protected: The History of our Families in North America

Written by Harold McNeill on March 21st, 2023. Posted in Family History 1700 - 2000

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Protected: Trails West: The Opening of Western Canada

Written by Harold McNeill on February 19th, 2023. Posted in Family History 1700 - 2000, Biographies

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Protected: Audreys Spring Visit

Written by Harold McNeill on February 12th, 2023. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

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Protected: Trails North and West: The Opening of Western Canada

Written by Harold McNeill on February 11th, 2023. Posted in Family 1940 1965, Biographies

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Touching the Old World in the Balkans

Written by Harold McNeill on February 6th, 2023. Posted in Travelogue, Adventure

It was hard to bid farewell to Venice as it is such an amazing city. The water, the art, the culture of old and new. Plus, just by chance we happened to meet a couple we had shared time with in the Swiss Alps on our way to the Top of Europe.  Saying good-bye is difficult so we stopped saying that and now just part with “cheers, see you at some future stop.”  We wave and board the high speed ferry.

1. Across the Gulf of Venezia to the Adriatic.


The feelings of melancholy on leaving Venice do not last long. We have luxurious seating on the upper deck of our high-speed catamaran. We were no more than 25 minutes into our four-hour trip when we chanced to meet a young couple from Queens (New York). He, a deeply tanned, ebullient young man (perhaps Sean at a more mature age), who grew up in the Dominican Republic. She, from a small town just a few minutes from where our friends from Victoria are staying with their families near Labina in Istria.

They travel back to Croatia each year to spend time with her family and then return to the bustle of New York, where their lives are centred. We exchanged travel tips (places to go and things to see) and shared stories of our varied families, homes and views of the world. Ah, she also mentioned she is a skydiver, and they loved the pictures of our experience paragliding high over the Alps when in Interlaken visiting friends. It would be great to meet this young couple again. 

Croatia appears in the north as we travel past Pula, near the southern tip of Istria and glide into Rabac harbour. The hillsides are covered with colourful homes and great bursts of flowering shrubs. The harbour below is filled with boats, and the sidewalks with people. We are greeted at the terminal by our friends Adriano, Rosana and their daughter Vanessa. They never expected we would one day meet them in the country where they grew up.

2:  Meeting  the Families of Friends from Victoria

Our trip to meet Adriano’s mom and dad (we met them ten years earlier when they visited Victoria – his dad and I are only four months apart in age) is very quick as Adriano is free to drive in his preferred style (fast and furious with traffic control signs acting only as a very loose guideline that can be observed or not as impulse might dictate.

After a short visit, we are off to meet Rosana’s parents, who are also just visiting from Victoria (also our neighbour’s Royal Oak)) who maintain a home where Rosana grew up (5 minutes from Adriano’s childhood home). Present is her grandfather, two uncles, an aunt and several other relatives and friends.

Her parents are leaving the next day (after six weeks) and heading back to Victoria. They kindly offered us the use of their home for a couple of days while we got oriented. They have been in the process of renovating over the past few years, and it is a lovely place in a farm setting alongside other relatives.

Even though we have a language barrier, we feel most welcome. To give you a sense of this small farm area (as compared to our homes in Alberta, these homes and large tracts of land have been in these families for 400 500 years or more – no one knows how far the families stretch back. It is clear that all things being equal, these homes will stay in the families for hundreds of years into the future as they pass from family to family, and even those that live in other countries maintain a share.

The homes themselves are built to last hundreds of years as the walls are nearly a foot thick, and the tile on each roof looks to last a hundred years after an installation and periodic repair. They also have smoke and curing rooms that are not used as much now but still serve the families well. There is also the “vina room”, where each family prepares ample quantities each year from grapes grown on their vineyards with meticulous care.

The wine flows freely, and the food is sumptuous. Lynn has even taken to having a glass of wine at the most unusual of times (did I catch her having a little vino at breakfast?). In the early afternoon of our second day, Adriano and Rosana leave to drive her parents back to Zagreb for their flight back to Canada. The parting is touching as tears are evident in the eyes of the whole family – they all maintain close family connections even though they spend most of their lives living thousands of miles apart.

Lynn and I will long treasure meeting with these families and count the visit to Istria as among the highlights of our travels over the past several months.


Halloween 2022 at the McNeill’s

Written by Harold McNeill on November 9th, 2022. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts

Lynn sketched this welcoming sign

October 31, 2022

Over the course of the afternoon and evening we received a hoard of kids and adults (estimated at 150-200), all in a variety of great costumes. To get to the treats, they had to travel through the yard to reach the front door where they were greeted by a “schoolmarm” who questioned them about “have you completed you homework?” to which she was given all manner of answers (mostly yes, as they knew that likely meant an immediate treat). For the younger ones, perhaps intimidated by the sights and sounds, mom or dad supplied a reassuring hand to the front door. It was fortunate we purchased all those extra treats as by 8:45 the well was dry.

This was “Year 1” of expanding the Halloween scene to the full front and side yard.  The whole family, including Jay and Jeff, Avery, Lynn, shared in creating many of the new caricatures and ghostly scenes.  For some supplies Jay and I made a couple of trips to the Salvation Army on Quadra where we collected costumes and masks as well as other miscellaneous articles used for the various scenes. At home we used straw to stuff the body costumes, with the pumpkin heads being attached to a small shoulder board before being attached to a support pole driven into the ground.

To hold the black pumpkin ghosts, we used the same method to attach the pumpkin head, then placed the head over an inverted wire garden trellis (we forced the three wires into the bottom of the pumpkin, then rolled down a heavy-duty black plastic garbage bag. The inverted trellis was pushed down over a large, inverted plastic plant pot (photo description in the album). For the white ghosts we attached a stiff wire circle to a shoulder board and secured the wire head with two screws. We then folded over white sheets (purchased from the Salvation Army).

We completed the night scene by placing red, white, and yellow bulbs of various sizes in and around the scenes.  This gave the entire yard an eerie feel when accompanied by Halloween music found on YouTube and played moderately loud on the external trailer speakers.

As you might guess from the scenes, over the summer and fall, the front yard was transformed into a summer camp spot for family and guests, complete with trailer, gas campfire and BBQ, swings, swing ropes, sandbox (the Pirate Ship), a well as a tree house and lookout tower attached to a 30-foot slack line.

We rather expect this will become an annual practice back by popular demand.

Link Here to Facebook Photo Album


The McNeill’s


The Limits of Freedom

Written by Harold McNeill on February 16th, 2022. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials

While two of these five leaders have lost their job since the last election, our democracy remains strong because leaders can only lead as long as they are supported first by their party and then by Canadians in an election.  In many countries around the world, leaders remain in power regardless of the wishes of their party or general population.  A danger can arise when domestic and foreign interests seek to undermine our democracy. Although we maintain a solid right to protest, we must all accept some limits on that right. Those limits kick in when they interfere with the rights of the majority

National Post, February 15, 2022

Two excellent articles in the Post today. The first, a joint comment by Peter McKay, a former senior Conservative during the Harper years, and a retired Ottawa Police Chief, Vern White, titled “This is Anarchy. Order must be restored.” The article provides an unequivocal statement that using every means necessary to dismantle this protest is not a strike against democracy; it was a way to preserve it.

Having a senior Conservative thinker and former senior member of the party, taking a solid stand like this, speaks well for the view of the majority of the Conservative Party membership as well as the entire Left side of the political spectrum.The challenge faced by the majority of Conservatives is that the extreme right of their party carries a much louder, in your face, voice. This is clearly demonstrated in the current protests. It’s also a side of the party that attracts extremist groups whose agenda is often far beyond the far-right led by Maxime Bernier and the Peoples Party of Canada.

As we’ve all observed, the moment a centrist Conservative leader emerges (e.g. McKay, Sheer, O’Toole), it’s not long before the loud voice of the extremists takes over. Those groups start a fight that soon leads to those centrist leaders being dumped as “not Conservative enough”. In all this in-fighting, the good news for Canada is that the majority of people in Canada, be they Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc, supports the rule of law and our freedoms in a way that makes Canada a democratic leader in the world along side Australia, New Zealand, and others that have taken a similar stand.  That fact that that Conservatives breath fire and brimstone when speaking about the party in power and its leader, is just the way politicians play the game.  Article in the National Post Article on Press Reader

The second article, Civil Servants, NASA workers among donors, provides background on the hacker who gained access to the US Christian GiveSendGo site that intended to funnel millions into the Ottawa protests. While I generally don’t support ‘hackers’ as they most often gain access for the purpose of enriching themselves, others do it for altruistic purposes, as was done in this case. We all remember the Panama Papers and how those documents provided by Edward Snowden, opened the doors for many countries to chase down money hidden by some of the most powerful “men” in the world.

In the present case all those millions of dollars are now locked away by the hackers and cannot be used by the GoSendGo group.  Further they have placed a scrolling message on the site outlining their aims.  Again, if you have a chance, read the background on the GiveSendGo page. I cannot find a link to the National Post article, so I’ve included a few screenshots. One of the most disgusting and lasting symbols of that extended protest was the way the protestors abused the Canadian Flag as they dragged it through the mud as they cried for “Freedom”.

A few screen shots provided below

Foreign funding of political activism



  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.