By Jenn Watt
Published April 10, 2018
The loss of Bob and Noreen Bishop on March 27 and then of Earl Cooper a few days later, on March 31 feels like a shift in the landscape of the Highlands. The phrase “end of an era” has become a refrain as people come to terms with the absence of people whose contributions were part of the foundation that built the community we have now.
The Bishops are best known for the gamble they took in establishing Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride in Eagle Lake. Creating a major tourist attraction, stimulating the winter economy, promoting health and fitness, employing local residents and giving all people (but especially young people) something to do that’s positive and fun, the investment in Sir Sam’s in 1965 transformed this place.
Earl Cooper was a founder of the Haliburton Highlanders Pipes and Drums, which was proposed in 1970 with its first performance in 1972. The organization continues to this day, continuously refreshing itself with new pipers and drummers, providing a soundtrack to parades, Robbie Burns nights, Remembrance Day ceremonies and other events.
Earl was born in the same home in West Guilford where he died and he is remembered for his willingness to step up and help in times of need, for his generosity and hospitality. He served on council, was a Mason, an active member of the Anglican church, taught bagpipes and dedicated himself to the betterment of others.
While in some ways the loss of these three people signals an end to a part of Highlands history, you also have to marvel at how much impact a few individuals can have.
The establishment of the ski hill has brought untold numbers of new visitors to the region. The establishment of the pipes and drums has infused the Highlands with culture and song.
The people they taught, the institutions they built and the way they treated others along the way reverberates still.
We can see it in the families that continue on the traditions and the friends and neighbours who remember the principles upon which these lives were based.
We see it in the rosy cheeks of happy snowboarders at the top of the hill in Eagle Lake and in the cheerful step of the dancer as she performs the Highland Fling played by a local piper.
While it may be the end of an era, it is also a time of reflection and deep gratitude for the work others have done to make our communities what they are today.