Listowel is an unincorporated community in Ontario, Canada located in the municipality of North Perth. It was created in 1998 during the amalgamation of several other communities in the northern section of Perth County, and dissolved with the creation of North Perth. Its population was 5,905 at the Canada 2001 Census.
Settler John Binning arrived in 1857 and was the first to create a permanent residence in the area. The community was originally named Mapleton, but the name was changed when a post office was established. The new name was chosen by a government official and refers to Listowel, Ireland. The majority of early settlers were of Protestant Irish origin (Ulster Scots Planters, or English Planters). Incorporated in 1867 as a village and in 1875 as a town, Listowel is now part of the town of North Perth.
On February 28, 1959, the Listowel Memorial Arena collapsed, burying a boys’ hockey team playing a scrimmage game – the worst tragedy in the town’s history. Seven young players, along with a referee and recreation director (Reginald Kenneth McLeod), were all killed in the tragic collapse.
On March 17 2011, the local dollar store caught fire and its roof collapsed on volunteer firefighters killing Ray Walter (30) and Ken Ray (56). Listowel morned this tragic loss, closing major streets and posting black ribbons all over town in honour of the fallen firefighters. Paddyfest festivities continued to honour Kinsmen Ray Walter, but in a somber fashion. A community funeral service was held March 24, 2011 at the Listowel Memorial Arena, with a broadcast directly to Elma Community Center. Over 10,000 were expected to visit Listowel that day and Premier Dalton MaGunity joined emergency responders from all across the country to attend the funeral service. A minute of silence was held at the Ontario Legislature earlier in the week and flags were flown at half mast. Firefighters from London, Ontario came to help staff the local fire stations so all North Perth firefighters could attend the service. This was the first time a double firefighter fatality in Ontario has happened since 1978. Ken and Ray will be remembered for their braveness and will be honoured in the community of North Perth forever.
The region is home to many talented visual artists who are showcased annually as part of the region’s Studio Tour. Theatre 311 is a very reputable venue for live theatre, drawing on local talent and actors from surrounding cities. Listowel is also represented in the film industry by Dura Mater Productions, an independent film company that has received recognition by film festivals throughout North America and Europe. The Bookery is located across from Veky’s. This Celtic-inspired book store stocks over 25,000 books and traditional Celtic, Irish and Scottish jewellery in silver. In addition, they provide gallery space for local artists to display their work. The town of Listowel has also raised its fair share of talented musicians from many genres, such as Thirteen O’Clock, Krymera, Brian Vollmer (lead singer of Helix),Ian Laing, The Bender singers, and Chachi On Acid. In the vein of classical music, the Grammy Award-winning baritone, Kevin McMillan, is from Listowel.
Listowel has a large Irish festival, called Paddyfest, which is held over the two weeks surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. The festival was first started in 1977 from an idea put forth by Dave Murtha to honour the large numbers of persons of Irish ancestry present in the Listowel area and is largely maintained by the Kinsmen and Kinette clubs of Listowel.
The official spokesperson for Paddyfest is chosen yearly in the Paddyfest Ambassador Competition. Contestants must perform a speech, impromptu question and interview with the judges and receive the overall highest score to be awarded this position. A separate award of Talent is given out to the contestant with the highest score in the talent competition. Runner-up and Congeniality are also awards which are available. Although the Paddyfest Ambassador Competition changed its name and official status from being Miss Paddyfest when first created, a male has yet to win the title.
In 1871 the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway extended its line to Listowel. It was joined in 1873 by a second railway, the Stratford and Huron Railway, and Listowel soon became an important shipping point. The population doubled when industries, including a woollen mill, a sawmill, a planing mill and a tannery, were established. In 1891 the Morris, Field, Rogers Company Ltd began to manufacture Morris pianos in Listowel.
The Campbell Soup Company was a major local employer for 48 years, operating a frozen, foodservice and specialty food plant in Listowel. This relationship ended abruptly with the announcement of the factory’s pending closure on April 28, 2008. The surrounding area is mostly agricultural land located on the Perth Plain, dominated by the beef and pork industries.
- Colin Burrowes, film director.
- George Hay, NHL hall of famer
- Jared Keeso, Gemini Award Winning Actor.
- Pegi Nicol MacLeod, artist
- Chuck Tatham, television writer and producer.
- Cyclone Taylor, NHL Hall of Famer.
- Brian Vollmer, Helix vocalist
- Horatio Walker, popular artist in North America at the turn of the 20th century
- Corey Conners, NCAA Golfer for Kent State University in Ohio.
- Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland
A notable citizen of Listowel Ontario was John Livingstone. John was the older brother of Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer who explored Africa in the mid-19th century and discovered Victoria Falls. While his brother went to Africa, John emigrated to Canada, settling in Listowel.