2010 winner: Will Ferguson

WILL FERGUSON scores hat-trick

Well done, Will Ferguson! Congratulations, Penguin Group Canada! Kudos, too (I’m sure Will would concur) to Penguin sales rep Bonnie St. Aubin for stepping up to the plate in Will’s absence April 29 for the Announcement of the Leacock Award at the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia.

“He wanted to be here today,” Bonnie told the 80 lunch guests, “but in the spirit of his book, he decided to walk!”

The book, Beyond Belfast, was one of 67 sent to the Stephen Leacock Association’s Reading Committee by the end of 2009 for judging in the 63rd annual competition. It was among the five chosen by the judges and the Orillia-area reading committee of 10 as most likely to be the top humour book for the year. As recipient, Will goes to the podium for the third time June 12 at Geneva Park Conference Centre to receive the TD Financial Group $15,000 cash award and the Stephen Leacock silver medal.

In the spirit of past award-announcement luncheons, it was heard in passing – here is a bit of gossip – that Will had assured Bonnie she would not have to get up and speak at the podium (have you heard this before?) because the other titles on the short list were all so well done and humorous. One of them was certain to win… for sure!

Beyond Belfast is the story of Will’s journey to Ireland to investigate his family’s background and a mystery. “He tells his story intelligently and kindly,” Leacock director Judith Rapson said. It is an adventure in the Irish rain with unsettling encounters and beautiful landscapes.

Association Chair Michael Hill opened the program with a quote from Stephen Leacock’s short story ‘My Financial Career,’ explained the involvement of TD Financial Group with its awards of $15,000 for the author, as well as $1,500 for each of the runners-up, thanked the five judges and the reading committee for reading 67 books to arrive at their conclusion, and also thanked Thor Motors of Orillia and Michael Rumball for sponsoring the accompanying Student Award.

“This award celebrates homegrown Canadian talent,” said Roy D’Sousa, regional vice president with TD Financial Group. “We’re proud of that.” TD took up sponsorship of the Leacock Award in 2004, initially with a $12,000 first-place prize.

Both Rene Stanton, representing her son MP Bruce Stanton, and Mary Silk, representative from the Orillia office of MPP Garfield Dunlop, brought certificates of congratulations to present to each of the short-listed authors.

The last word may be left to Fred Addis, curator of Stephen Leacock Museum. Called to the podium to congratulate award nominees, Addis said, “I seem to console a lot of un-winners.” He said there is only one recording of Stephen Leacock telling a joke. Then he told it.