By Jenn Watt
Most of us have a list in the back of our minds of things we would like to do in our lives: learning a new skill, travelling to far off places or sticking our neck out and doing something out of our comfort zone. We don’t all get the chance, or have the guts, to do those things.
George Farrell certainly did, packing plenty of accomplishments into his life.
George was a columnist for many newspapers in the Highlands over his decades here, most recently in County Life, the Echo’s sister publication. There he chronicled the goings on of the arts community, highlighting the work of creative types and promoting the work they do, which makes the Highlands a vibrant place to be.
He died on Oct. 17 from complications related to a brain tumour.
Over the last week, I’ve interviewed just a few of the many people who adored George. They relayed how funny and kind, smart and curious about the world he was.
What was probably the most striking about the stories told about George was how hard he worked to make things happen. The idea was introduced to him and Shawn Chamberlin to start a blues series, so they did it. He wanted to write a book, so he did, publishing Lonely Lake in 2014. He loved making art and participated in the members’ show at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery and was chosen to become the next year’s featured artist. He wanted to front a blues band, and he did that too. George sang with local band Cheeky Monkey for the last two or three years.
“George was a charming and engaging man, with a generous heart, and really did have a twinkle in his eye, which told you that he had a good sense of humour and irony and did not take himself too seriously,” said Hugh Taylor, who has been friends with George since they were roommates during their university days.
It’s hard to imagine the Highlands without George Farrell. To open the newspaper and not see his column, weighing in on the latest exhibition, a new restaurant, or his thoughts on music and art. To attend the opening reception at the Minden or Haliburton gallery and not see him, drink in hand, getting closer to the canvas to see just how the artist put the piece together. To attend a blues concert and not see him joyously bobbing through the crowd, leaning in to make a friendly quip.
Haliburton County has lost an engaged citizen, Shawn Chamberlin said of George when I interviewed him last week. He was passionate about life and about this place. We were lucky to have known him and that he shared so much of himself while he was here.