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The ‘Belfast of Canada’

Anyone with even slight Catholic sympathies would probably not have got on well in Toronto during the late nineteenth century, when it had become a hotbed of Protestant ascendancy. By the turn of the century, the power of the Orange Order, who returned twenty of the twenty three mayors in fifty years, got it nicknamed 'the Belfast of Canada'.
Even by the 1940s this legacy had not waned sufficiently for the artist and writer Wyndham Lewis who, forced by circumstances to spend several years there during the War, was constantly frustrated and angered by the philistinism and religious bigotry of its leading lights.

The prevalence of militant Protestantism in mid nineteenth century Toronto is well illustrated by this scarce flier of c 1869 from Maclear and Co, the dominant publisher in Canada for many years. In advertising the forthcoming reprint of The Siege of Derry, originally published in 1823 by  the Rev John Graham, a clergyman from Ulster , it combined blatant propaganda on behalf of ‘ the heroes of the Irish struggle in 1688 – 90 with a nifty aside aimed at backsliding Anglo-Catholics:

'When men bearing the once-revered name of Protestant , aye Protestant clergy, have set up the Confessional, the Rags and mummeries of Rome…'

A rather appropriate piece of propaganda, given the crisis now attending the power-sharing agreement at Stormont.

R.M.Healey

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Royal Charter wreck – the gold ring on the beach

This poem about the Royal Charter disaster is printed at the back of An  Authentic Account if the Wreck of the Royal Charter Sream Clipper on her passage from Australia to Liverpool , October 26th 1859 with an Interesting Additoion of Subsequent  Events and Incidents Written During a Residence at Moelfra, the Scene of the Catastrophe (Dublin 1860.) The poem was inspired by an account of the finding of a gold ring on the beach at Moelfra  'by one of the peasants living in the vicinity of the wreck.'  With help from the local vicar the ring was restored to the father of the drowned owner - a Mr. Corry Fowler of Dublin. The ring had been worn by his son in memory of his departed sister whose name was inscribed on it. The poem is by a niece.

Lines on a Ring cast on shore five months after the wreck of the Royal Charter.

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Laurence Ambrose Waldron

Found in a collection of other examples, this is rather dull little bookplate, considering it came from the library of Laurence Ambrose Waldron (1858 – 1923), one of Ireland’s great and good in the first two decades of the twentieth century-- a patron of the Arts, a Nationalist politician, public benefactor, and ardent book collector with a library of several thousand volumes.

The conventional design of the bookplate is even more bewildering when we consider that Waldron was such an Arts and Crafts enthusiast, that in the early 1900s he built a mansion, which he christened ‘Marino’ in this style at Ballybrack, just outside Dublin. He later commissioned the Beardsley-influenced cult illustrator Harry Clarke to create nine exquisite stained glass illustration of Synge’s Queens (below) for his new library there. In 1998, after having not been seen since 1928, these were sold by Christies for over £300,000.

The only possible explanation seems to be that Waldron had the bookplate printed some time before his enthusiasm for Arts and Crafts and Clarke took off. As he succeeded his much more conservative father (also called Laurence) at the age of 17  in 1875, the design was probably made between this date and the building of ‘Marino’. [RH]

Bookplate of Waldron's father *
*Many thanks Mullen Books
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Political and Royal gossip 1920s

Lady Elvery by William Orpen

A good letter, over 20 closely written pages. Indiscreet, gossipy ('The Prince of Wales was blotto..') from the inner circles of power and privilege in the mid 1920s. The recipent was Beatrice Elvery, Lady Glenavy (1881 - 1970). Irish artist and literary host, friend of Katherine Mansfield and friend of Shaw, Lawrence and Yeats. She modelled for Orpen and painted 'Éire' (1907) a landmark painting promoting the idea of an independent Irish state. The letter is from her husband Charles Henry Gordon Campbell, 2nd Baron Glenavy (1885–1963) politician and banker in England and Ireland.

Quite a good little show at the Londonderry's the other night. Great strong retainers at the door in short kilts of the Stewart tartan created an atmosphere of sex appeal, much fortified by the magnificent bosoms of the Marchioness Curzon which are said to have only reached their full bloom for the first time this season.

Eire by Beatrice
Elvery (1907)

The white face of Elinor Glynn, a a long green velvet gown, made our RC aboriginals visibly insecure: her walk is so sensuous as to suggest unimagined pleasures in love and is enhanced by some minor pelvic obstruction which necessitates a few swings with the right leg before she can take a step. Her daughters, married to a pair of peers or better, offer a pleasant contrast of blackheads and anaemia. Lady Jowett was escorted by Eddie Marsh who is still holding up wonderfully together...........We bumped into Gladys Cooper fresh from the theatre in full make up, on Londonderry's arm and a bodyguard of four young men........

On asking Lady Jowett how she explained Baldwin's remaining in public life she said the Baldwin family had a firm hold on the British public's imagination ever since she said, when asked whether she found it (illegible) to have so many children imposed upon her by her husband that 'each time she closed her eyes and thought of England'...........

On Friday McGilligan, Hogan and Fitzgerald went to dinner with the King. Everything gold including the forks.

But the king forgot it was Friday: the soup was a meat soup so the R.C's couldn't eat it and in the end, after a huge long dinner all they had was a bit of sole. a few peas and an ice cream. They rushed back here at midnight and gorged themselves on rolls and butter and tea. They said the Prince of Wales was blotto........

[Later he goes to a party at Buckingham Palace and his take on the queen's breasts is hilarious....  He spends a lot of time with Mark Gertler and Mary Hutchinson. The letters ends on a scrap of 'Irish Free State Delegation' paper.] I am writing to keep myself awake while Ramsay Macdonald meanders on about things he doesn't understand.....

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Sligo’s Markree Castle—a misdemeanour recorded

Markree Castle

An extraordinary memento of Ireland’s bloody Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923) is this blue crayon scrawl in a copy of John Scott’s Visit to Paris (1814). The book came from the library of Edward Joshua Cooper, M.P. (1798 – 1863), one of a long line of Protestant occupiers of Markree Castle dating back to 1663.
During the short war between the Anti-Treaty IRA and the Irish Free State forces, a battalion from the latter occupied the majestic Castle for a short time, presumably to consolidate their hold over County Sligo. No doubt, the Coopers wisely decided to flee their family home during this bloody period, which gave some of the Irish officers the opportunity to avail themselves of a splendid library. It is not known how much a certain Captain Cavanagh read of Mr Scott’s book on Paris, or what he thought of it. However, what we do know is that he found the blank pages a very convenient notebook, as made his mark on at least three pages.

The most interesting entry concerns Corporal George O’Mahoney Rogers who, Cavanagh notes, was found ‘drunk and disorderly in (a) Public House at about 9.45 P.M.’ Perhaps at some time, other records will divulge what happened to Corporal Rogers… Or indeed Captain Cavanagh.