Westfield volunteer receives Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement

John Aikman, Westfield volunteer in Blacksmith costumeJohn Aikman, a volunteer at Westfield Heritage Village since 1969, will be presented the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement on February 26 at Queen’s Park in Toronto.

John’s involvement began when as an outdoor education consultant with the Hamilton Board of Education, he assisted with the organization of the first educational outing at Westfield, then called Wentworth Pioneer Village. The program was an overnight two-day event, with students carding wool, working on patchwork quilts, making candles and participating in outdoor activities.

In 1978, John was appointed to the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Heritage Sites Advisory Committee, which he served on for thirteen years. As a part of this committee, he worked on overseeing the restoration of the log cabin at Valens Lake, the Ingledale house at Fifty Point, the Darnley Mill at Crooks Hollow and the stabilization of the ruins of the Hermitage and the restoration of the Darnley Mill. John did the research on the history of Crooks Hollow, Upper Canada’s first industrial community, developing a new interpretative guidebook, leading to the development of the Crooks Hollow Historical Trail and the production of a new trail guide and brochure. During the 80s and 90s, he led Crooks Heritage Trail walks, which grew to over 200 people participating in each walk.

In the 1980s, John began volunteering at the Blacksmith Shop under the tutelage of then blacksmith, John Blythe and blacksmith hobbyist, Dan Wentworth. As a result of John Aikman’s efforts, a training program and blacksmith recruitment program was created, as well as a handbook which is still in use today. John still volunteers in the Blacksmith Shop and he and the other Blacksmiths helped to restore the former early 1800s Saccamano House, which is now the Blacksmith’s home.

“John Aikman has been a powerful influence on the success of Westfield Heritage Village for over forty-five years. It has been my privilege to work with him and to be inspired by him for the last thirty-five. He has been a driving force behind many valuable initiatives at Westfield and a strong supporter and friend to our living history museum. The guidance and mentorship that John has provided for so many years has been a key in making Westfield the treasure it is today. John is still actively involved at Westfield and we look forward to his continued involvement for many years to come,” said Rondalyn Brown, Westfield’s manager. Rondalyn’s career with Westfield started in 1981, when she was first hired as a student interpreter, by John and the Heritage Sites Advisory Committee.

John is also involved with other local heritage organizations and projects in the area, including assisting with education programs at Dundurn Castle. He currently volunteers as Manager of the Educational Archives and Heritage Centre of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

“Involved, committed and passionate about history and imparting our history to adults and children for over forty years, we are blessed to have him here at Westfield,” said Janet Knowles, Resource Officer at Westfield Heritage Village.

Born and raised in Hamilton, John completed his elementary and secondary education in Hamilton. He graduated from Hamilton Teachers’ College in 1961 and received his Bachelor Arts in History and Sociology from McMaster University in 1967. John continued his education at the University of Toronto receiving his Bachelor of Education in Environmental Studies in 1974. He received his Masters of Science in Education in 1980 from the University of Northern Illinois and his Masters of Education at Brock University in 1982.

John has been married to Elaine for fifty-two years, and they have two sons and two grandchildren.