38 FOCUS - APRIL 2018 lackstock residents will be familiar with the intriguing local story, which inspired author Lucy E. M. Black to write her historical novel entitled Eleanor Courtown. Twenty-six years ago, when Lucy began her teaching career at Port Perry High School, she moved with her husband Michael to a 25-acre farm in Blackstock. The rich, sandy loam in this area is ideal for grow- ing crops. Lucy was curious about a farm property to the east, which was always fallow. “Nobody ever farmed it,” she commented. “It was quite unusual.” The strange tale explains that this dates back to the 1870s. Locals believe that this particular farm was “cursed.” The story goes that a family from Ireland emigrated to Blackstock, then cleared and farmed the land. Their Irish spinster cousin joined them. The family tried to poison her with arsenic to get her money. Day af- ter day, she vomited in the farmyard. The livestock ate her vomit, got sick, and died. A veterinarian was called in to see what ailed the animals. He had to travel all the way from Bowmanville, which was a couple of days’ journey. By the time he arrived, the farmers and their remaining livestock had disappeared. No one saw them go. Rumour has it that they were “spirited away in the night by the little people.” No one knows what happened to them or their wealthy Irish cousin. This cursed agricultural land has not been farmed for over 100 years. Protagonist Eleanor Courtown is also poisoned. But we cannot reveal too much, because we don’t want to spoil this fascinating story for readers. Extensive research went into craft- ing this novel, including a trip to Ireland. There are many local references within the pages. The English Church, attended by Eleanor Courtown, is based on Lucy’s “beloved St. John’s Anglican Church* in Blackstock.” (*closed 2017). Lucy enjoyed researching the med- ical practices and instruments of that era for her novel. She envisions her character Dr. Stewart, who married Eleanor Courtown, living in the strik- ing 1870s red brick residence with the Italianate tower, which once housed Dr. John Montgomery and the First Cartwright Township Hospital. Dr. Stewart’s character is a composite of Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Osler, (who pioneered sterilization in the medical profession.) The map of Cartwright Township has a green star marking Tinkertown, SCUGOG HISTORY INSPIRES LUCY E. M. BLACK’S SUCCESSFUL DEBUT NOVEL PHOTOS BY MARYANN FLEMING