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September 22, 2023

Islay from the Southeast

By Guy Scott

Islay is a small community in the southwest corner of Fenelon Township between Cambray and Powles Corners. It was a purely agricultural settlement: there were no stores or business core. But it did have a post office, a school and a blacksmith shop! The earliest settlers were Scottish immigrants who spilled east over the border from Eldon Township. The first group of settlers had come from the Isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides in Western Scotland. It was a rocky island that experienced a population surge around 1800. The surplus people were forced out to seek their fortunes elsewhere, and a goodly few ended up in Eldon Township. The fertile fields of Victoria County must have seemed like paradise to these displaced crofters.

A post office was issued in 1856, and the locals honoured their roots by naming it Islay. A log school house was in operation by 1855 and numbered SS # 2 Fenelon Township. It was quickly replaced by a brick school to serve the local farm children. In 1967, the school was closed and the students sent to Cameron. Being loyal Presbyterians, another priority was a church. By 1860, Presbyterian services were being held in Cambray, Islay and Glenarm: all 3 communities only a few miles apart! Obviously 3 churches were not practical, but which church would be cancelled? The reorganization of the Presbyterian Churches in Canada (1875) led the local minister to decide to amalgamate Islay and Glenarm. Glenarm had the larger congregation, but Islay had the larger church. Well, numbers won and Islay church was closed and a (much) larger new church built in Glenarm. Islay church was torn down. The post office was closed in 1917 and eventually the school went as well. All that is left is the Islay name on a sideroad in western Fenelon Township.

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