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One Book, One New Tecumseth, one Machine Without Horses

October 25, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

On Tuesday, October 15, Canadian author Helen Humphreys was in Alliston for the fifth annual New Tecumseth Public Library (NTPL) One Book, One New Tecumseth culmination to discuss her book, “Machine Without Horses.”

One Book, One New Tecumseth is a community-wide reading event for adults. The event encourages a love of reading and contributes to the culture of adult reading in the community; it creates opportunities for social interaction and community development; and it supports life-long learning and literacy.

“When our One Book committee first met about six months ago to brainstorm authors and titles for One Book, One New Tecumseth 2019, I personally championed Machine Without Horses and Helen Humphreys because, for me, Helen is truly an iconic Canadian author. Helen’s books are, of course, perennial favourites with our patrons and with our more than 24 internal and external book clubs,” said Kimberley Burgess, Adult Services Programmer, New Tecumseth Public Library, Alliston Memorial Branch.

“Helen was born in Kingston-on-Thames, England, and came to Canada as a young girl. In describing how she became a writer, Helen said, ‘I started writing when I was young and I just kept going. I read voraciously. I sent my poems (for I was writing exclusively poems then) out to magazines, and eventually I began to get them published. My first book of poetry came out when I was 25.’ That first book of poetry, Gods and Other Mortals, was published in 1986, over 30 years ago. Helen is the author of eighteen titles: five collections of poetry, three works of non-fiction, and ten novels.”

This year, 150 people read Humphreys’ novel, Machine Without Horses, prior to the author visit, Q & A, and book signing.

“Educate, Enlighten, Entertain, and Engage. One Book, One New Tecumseth accomplishes all of that,” said Burgess on the purpose of the event. “We gathered as a community to enjoy the many facets of Helen Humphreys’, Machine Without Horses.”

Highlights from Humphrey’s visit included four dances performed by the South Simcoe Scottish Country Dances, including the dance Machine Without Horses.

“As you know [if you read] the novel Machine Without Horses, Megan Boyd [the main character] enjoyed Scottish Country Dancing and ceilidhs. We were delighted that our local Scottish Country Dancing group accepted our invitation to attend!” said Burgess. “The South Simcoe Scottish Country Dancers meet Friday evenings from September to May right here in Alliston. Their emphasis is on having fun. They welcome new members.”

Leading up to the author’s visit, several groups “Got Caught Reading” Humphrey’s book.

“We had 10 groups who ‘Got Caught Reading’ – the NTPL Board; Next Step Literacy Council AGM members; Sugartones; South Simcoe Scottish Country Dancers; South Simcoe Arts Council Culture Days Paint Party; Judy Penz Sheluk local mystery writer; Brain Power Studio Inc. film crew; Istvan Nimenyi local fly tying expert; Kate Vander Zaag/Circle Theatre; and Charlotte Gray 2017 Once Book author,” said Burgess.

For attending, Humphrey’s was presented with a framed “Caught Reading” print of Megan Boyd (now deceased, real-life world-renowned salmon fly-tier), shown reading Humphreys’ book, as created by the NTPL’s Electronic Services Coordinator Julie Fox-Snively. 

The event also allowed guests to meet with Istvan Nemenyi, a real fly fisherman.

“Istvan started fly-fishing over 35 years ago and in the mid 90s became fascinated with tying salmon patterns,” said Burgess. “He has tied for a fly shop, took orders from private customers, tied for a mining company and instructed fly-tying. He is also one of the founding members of the Headwaters Fly Fishing Club. Istvan was loved by all! Participants enjoyed his demonstration of the fly-tying process and also his extensive display of ties. In addition to the photo, we also presented Helen with a fly-ty brooch, hand crafted by Nemenyi is his home studio.  Istvan recreated a Poul Jorgensen’s ‘Blue R. A. T’ hair-wing salmon fly brooch.”

“Scottish Country Dancing and Megan Boyd/salmon fly tying are focal points of the book, which is why we incorporated these into the evening’s festivities,” adds Burgess. 

Burgess wishes to acknowledge the following One Book supporters:

• The Rotary Club of Alliston

• The Alliston Lions Club 

• Nottawasaga Inn and Resort 

• Circle Theatre

• Wendy Gabrek from The New Tecumseth Times and Brad Pritchard from The Alliston Herald 

“We’d also like to thank all of the people and organizations that shared their own ‘Get Caught Reading’ photo essay. Hopefully many of you have seen and enjoyed these photos in our media campaign, in the branches on our display boards or here tonight.

“It takes a village to put on an event like this, and I would like to extend personal thanks to the Library One Book Committee, who aided greatly in tonight’s festivities and who have helped to stimulate conversations throughout this campaign: Leslie Carrol, Julie Fox-Snively and Vaughn Thurman.

“Most importantly, of course we would like to thank all of you for your attendance tonight, and for your enthusiastic participation in this event. I would like to encourage you to continue to visit the library in your community – to take advantage of the resources, the programs, the staff, and the sense of community that you will find there. Libraries can bring us together, and enrich our lives in new and compelling ways.”

Machine Without Horses was described by the Toronto Star as “One of the best – and most wonderfully experimental – historical fiction titles of the year. Truly spectacular.”

Copies are available at all three branches of the New Tecumseth Public Library.

For more information about the NTPL, or to check out future programs – for both adults and youth – visit them online at

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