By Gord Bowes, News staff
Colwyn Beynon, whose columns about Hamilton’s history have been featured in the Mountain News for over two decades, has died.
He was 80.
His son Brian said Mr. Beynon passed away in his sleep Sunday.
The Dusty Corners column, featuring Mr. Beynon’s memories of life in Hamilton’s upper city, is one of the most popular features in the Mountain News.
Mr. Beynon’s last column, which he wrote to appear after his death, will appear in this week’s paper.
“He was one of a kind,” said James Elliott, a local historian and author of Strange Fatality. “He was fearless and indefatigable, too — he never ever gave up on a fight if it was something important.”
“He was so passionate. His intellectual energy was way, way removed from his years. I never thought of him as anything but a young man … I’m not saying he was always right, but he certainly livened things up and we all know history needs all the livening up it can get.”
Mr. Beynon was born in the lower city, but grew up on the Mountain after his family moved to Munn Street on the central Mountain near Peace Memorial Park (then an elementary school) when he was about 11 years old.
As he liked to note in his weekly Dusty Corners column, the area south of Fennell was Barton Township, at the time mostly farm land and an area where one could carry their shotgun while hunting. His love of history was inspired by his father, Howard.
“We’re losing a human institution on the Mountain,” said Coun. Tom Jackson (east Mountain, Ward 6).
He said Mr. Beynon’s work on a committee which fought to keep the grounds of Peace Memorial elementary school on East 36th Street out of the hands of developers was an example of how he “constantly reminded us of our history and our heritage.”
“The Peace Memorial Park project and the portico saved from the old school, that’s a symbolic example of what Colwyn Beynon did for the residents and citizens who call the Mountain home,” said Jackson.
Until last year, Mr. Beynon organized Remembrance Day services at the park. He was a tireless promoter of Canada and its armed forces who volunteered in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at age 18 and spent 30 years in service. He received the Canadian Forces Decoration and two bars for voluntary service.
Last fall, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee medal from Hamilton Mountain MP Chris Charlton, honouring him for his involvement in the community.
One of Mr. Beynon’s wishes over the last 20 years was to see the city build an “agri-tectural garden” — a maze of “cast-off stone statuary, columns, capitals, cornices, arches and bas relief sculptures” recovered from buildings around the city — at Sam Lawrence Park. He never let up on pushing politicians to pursue the idea.
“The grand garden, if approved for startup money in the amount of $125,000, could see the spade and backhoe in the spring,” he wrote in a January 2012 column. “What a wonderful way to remember Hamilton’s fighting mayor, Sam Lawrence, a stone mason by trade, in an old stone quarry.”
Another of Mr. Beynon’s favourite subjects over the years was the legend of Billy Green and his role during the 1813 Battle of Stoney Creek in leading the Brits to the American encampment.
“He and I both agree that’s a great big myth, and every time he found something to substantiate that, he would share it with me,” said Mountain historian and author Bob Williamson. “I think it was because of our military background. Being professional military people, we recognized it was a covert operation and something the regular British Army would not involve a child with, and they certainly didn’t need any guidance in finding Stoney Creek.”
Brian Beynon said while his father had a very public side, appearing each week in print, he was also very generous of his time and money to help anyone in need.
He said he only recently learned of a woman who his dad aided in getting a much-needed wheelchair ramp built for her brother.
“There are a hundred stories like that,” said Brian Beynon. “That’s just who he was.”
Mr. Beynon was predeceased by his wife, Jean Ann. Along with Brian, he had another son, David, and daughter Karen. He is also survived by his long-time companion Linda Siak.
The family is holding a private memorial service this week. Personal notes can be registered on an online guest book.
Tributes for Dusty Corners
“Colwyn’s passion for the Mountain, its people and its history was infectious. He inspired us all to care about Hamilton’s heritage and its preservation. Colwyn, and Dusty Corners, will be missed.” — Chris Charlton, Hamilton Mountain MP
“I had the privilege to count Colwyn as a friend, and I will miss his passion for local heritage and telling Hamilton’s history. His Dusty Corners column in the Mountain News will remain a living tribute to a great Canadian, a great Hamiltonian.” — Mark Cripps, publisher of YourHamiltonBiz.com
“He was like a conscience for us, reminding us what not to lose, how to improve our quality of life, tying in social, recreational and historic components. And his columns were a joy to read as well.” — Tom Jackson, councillor for Ward 6 (east Mountain)
“He would always email me to keep me up to date on things. Colwyn brought a lot of good ideas to the table to make sure history was never forgotten … It’s a big loss to Hamilton.” — Scott Duvall, councillor for Ward 7 (central Mountain)
“We’ll all miss him. He had a good heart, a kind heart.” — Bob Williamson, Mountain historian and author
“Colwyn Beynon, a truly dedicated mountaineer, will be remembered for his commitment in writing about the Hamilton Mountain’s history. While some of the projects he was involved with have come to fruition, the best was yet to come (an “agri-tectural garden” for Sam Lawrence Park).” — Pat Saunders, Mountain historian and Friends of Auchmar member