Discovering Your Roots

Actor Discovers His Roots In Hunter River

Actor Paul Cowling is performing this summer at Watermark Theatre in North Rustico. This is his first time on the Island, but he has roots that go quite a ways back. “My mother’s family came to the Hunter River area from Scotland sometime in the mid-1800s, around 1839,” Cowling says. “My great-great grandfather, Farquhar Beaton, and his wife Flora, settled in that area. A land lease shows he was given 100 acres on the Old Princetown Road. He had 8 children, one of whom was Malcolm, who was my great-grandfather. Malcolm in turn had 22 children, most of whom were also born in Hunter River. My grandfather, Bentley, was among them.”

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Cowling says that his mother’s family were all close, so he met many of his grandfather’s siblings while he was growing up. “The Beatons were, and still are, very close to each other. They are also very good musicians, and play fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. When my great grandfather moved his family to Saskatchewan, he became well-known for his musicianship, winning “old time fiddle” contests around the region. This love and ability to play music was passed on to all of his children, and growing up I remember many, many kitchen parties that would go on long into the night. So, I hope to have a chance to go to the ceilidhs on the island, to listen to the music and relive those childhood memories.”

Paul is also a musician, learning the guitar in his early teens. “The Beatons all played by ear, and I was lucky enough to inherit whatever gene that was myself. Sadly, I contracted Lyme Disease several years ago, and it’s affected my hand. So, I haven’t been able to play since. I’m starting a new treatment in the fall, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to play again soon. My mother always said that the Beatons have music in their blood, and I do miss not being able to pick up the guitar from time to time.”

Though he’s been busy with rehearsing two shows, Cowling has had some time to explore the island. “It’s so beautiful here,” Cowling says. “More so than I could have imagined. I had a very limited idea of what the area was like. People talk about how red the soil is, but until you see it, in the fields or on the beaches, you really can’t begin to describe it. I’ve taken quite a few photos of it since I’ve been here. Also, it goes without saying that the people I’ve met on the island have been very friendly and welcoming.”

Once he is out of rehearsal, and the shows at Watermark are up and running, Paul plans to make the trip out to Hunter River. “I want to see the area that marked the beginning of the Beaton journey in Canada, and where Farquhar Beaton and his wife, and any of his children, are laid to rest. I want to pay my respects, and in some way thank him for coming to Canada and starting a life and a family that eventually led to my being here on the island. Also, to thank him for passing down, in whatever way, the love of music and talent for entertaining that resulted in my becoming an actor.”

Asked for a few final thoughts about his experience here in PEI so far, Cowling has this to say: “I feel like I’ve been given a gift. Here I am, in the home of my ancestors, working on two fantastic shows with an enormously talented and wonderful group of individuals. The island itself is breathtakingly beautiful, the people are lovely and kind, and the whole area is alive with amazing music and musicians. I can’t think of a better place to spend the summer. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to do it again someday.”

Paul Cowling is performing in two shows at the Watermark Theatre this summer; “Dial M For Murder”, and “A Moon For The Misbegotten”. Both shows run all summer to September 1st. Tickets can be purchased via the company’s website http://www.watermarktheatre.com or by calling 902-963-3963.

For more information, or to further interview Paul Cowling, please contact Andrea Surich at 902-963-3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

Watermark Theatre is a proud member of the PTN (Professional Theatre Network of PEI)

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