Jeff Green | Aug 07, 2008
Feature Article - August 7, 2008
Back toHomeFeature Article - July 31, 2008 Modern Day TinkerBy Julie Druker
“Before there was tupperware there were tinkers”. It is not every day that one can boast of meeting one, a tinker that is. Bear is one in a long line of tinkers who have existed for thousands of years originally as nomadic traveling menders of metal kitchen utensils, hawkers and traders, handymen but also the tellers of tales, the singers of songs, the bearers of news, and the keepers of traditions.
Anyone traveling the smaller highways between Lansdowne and Inverary last weekend may have noticed a bearded, suspendered gentleman, of gentle expression and generous girth, driving a handsome gypsy caravan. Callum, his trusted Clydesdale, Shire horse led the way, pulling the tinker and his home at a steady 5 miles per hour/20 miles a day.
Bear the Tinker, who resides in Lansdowne, on Charleston Lake east of Kingston, made the arduous two-day trip through driving rain last Saturday to make a three-day engagement at the Inverary Playhouse, where he was scheduled to entertain campers and music lovers with his songs, stories, knowledge, skills, old-time charm, and way of life.
The lucky campers learned to bake biscuits in a Dutch oven, toured his caravan, met his horse, and learned many things about tinkers and their way of life.
The kids stuck to him like ants on jam, listened to his songs and stories and absorbed the essence of this unusual character.
Children are not the only ones who are enchanted by the tinker. “I knew I wanted Bear for the camp a year ago when I first saw him at the Pumpkin Pie Coffee House in Battersea“, said Kaye of the Inverary Playhouse. “The amount of knowledge that he has is amazing. I don‘t think there is a book that he hasn‘t read.”
Andrea Compson of Sunset Farms in Inverary offered her yard as his camp. “He lent a hand mending our fence and he has so much information to pass on; we have really learned a lot from him.”
Bear was raised on a family farm in New Brunswick by his grandparents and was greatly influenced by them. “Old people love to tell stories and I experienced their music and their culture…I always look back and I think I saw the end of a time…things are very different today.”
Not one to choose an ordinary path, Bear has had a wide range of work experiences. He’s taught riding and survival in the U.S., apprenticed and worked as a professional farrier, a blacksmith, folklorist, musician, and actor. He has written a book of stories, recorded a CD, and entertained dignitaries and the general public at various private parties and festivals throughout the Maritimes and Ontario.
He also plays the fiddle, the bag pipes, flutes, whistles, the bodhran (a Celtic drum) and the accordion.
Seated on a bench inside his cozy caravan, Bear recalls how this way of life began for him. “I got the idea to build a caravan back in 1972 from a National Geographic I found in a dentist’s office, an article titled ‘When Gypsies Come to Appleby Fair‘. It showed beautiful pictures of the caravans and the way of life and I just fell in love with the whole idea.”
A firm believer in living one‘s dreams, Bear built a caravan, purchased a horse and is now living the life of a tinker.
On Wednesday night in Inverary, he joined the local singer/song writers on stage at the Playhouse for the monthly song circle. He played and sang the traditional songs of a way of life that, thanks to him, still remains alive today.
For more information on Bear the Tinker and the services that he offers call (613) 659-4042 and ask for Bear.
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