Community says goodbye to Horse Tony
The entire North Dundas community – and even some people who live outside of North Dundas – are having to say goodbye this month to a local landmark and popular waypoint for directions. A horse statue, formerly located on private property at the intersection of County Roads 43 and 3 (west of Winchester) is no longer watching over highway traffic like it once was.
People as far as Kemptville have commented on the statue being missing from its noble perch. It is without a doubt that countless people who use the busy County Road 43 – even just to pass through North Dundas – will notice the statue’s absence. In fact, it has been in place for decades, and had both a name and a rich history.
Many people will recognize the name Shirley Fawcett from a 2021 ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ article which was part of a Township series. Shirley is now just two months away from turning 90 years young. It was her late husband Roy Fawcett who purchased the horse – named Tony – as a fixture to harness up to an antique horse buggy in the mid-to-late 1980s. Roy’s daughter, Julie McKay, speculates that he might have purchased it for a Santa Claus parade or for the celebration of Winchester’s Centennial in 1988.
“By the 1990s, a young local girl asked if she could put a blanket on Tony for the winter,” Julie explained. “Following that, our family continued the tradition to outfit him.” Tony’s decoration with features such as colourful clothing or flowers surrounding him was one of the things that made him most recognizable to locals and people from far and wide. Also common was Tony’s use as a landmark for navigation. For motorists travelling to Inkerman or South Mountain from the west end of Winchester, an easy visual reference of the correct turn off was always to “look for the horse”.
Tony’s significance as a landmark is not nearly as special as his significance to his family. Tony was named in honour of Roy’s father (Julie and her siblings’ grandfather), W.J. Fawcett. The elder Fawcett served in the cavalry in WW1, and had a horse named Tony as a boy growing up on the family’s Holstein farm. Taking care of the beloved horse has always been a family affair. “Three years ago, my brother Rob and I gave Tony a much-needed paint job,” Julie added.
The explanation for the disappearance of Tony is a simple one – Roy passed away in 2018, and Shirley has finally decided to sell their house. Shirley still has her bookstore on Main Street, “Embracing the Arts”, and goes to work six days a week. She hasn’t sold the house yet and continues to live there, but her son John sold the horse in preparation for the sale of the house.
It is amazing how much one symbol can become ingrained in the lives of so many people. I distinctly remember being scared the first few times I drove past the horse, believing for a fleeting moment of terror that it was a deer ready to jump out in front of me. When my family and I moved to South Mountain from Winchester, I distinctly remember my mom explaining that she would have no problem visiting us because she would just have to “turn at the horse”. I had to explain to her that coming from Avonmore meant her direct route would not take her past the horse at all. Oh dear… the playful argument that ensued!
Tony: you were loved and cherished by so many, to the point that a whole community will miss you. The least we can do is preserve you in print and share you in memories. May your new home bring new life and happiness to countless more faces.