Derryseigeofbookflier1869one036

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

images28129

Mina Hubbard—feminist icon and explorer extraordinaire

Mina Hubbard (1870 – 1956) is not a name that means much in the UK, although this intrepid explorer of Labrador ( the first woman to do so) retired to Britain and ended up in suburban Coulsdon, of all places, where she died rather tragically at the age of 86.
Born in Bewdley, Ontario, in 1870, to a Canadian father and an English mother, there was little in her early years that would suggest that worldwide fame as an explorer would attend her by the time she was 35. After leaving school she spent two years  teaching, then trained as a nurse. It was while nursing that she met the journalist Leonidas Hubbard, then ill with typhus (or typhoid). The couple married in 1901 and within 2 years he had embarked on an unsuccessful expedition to map northern Labrador that ultimately cost him his life.  Such a tragedy would have destroyed some women, but Mina was made of sterner stuff. When Dillon Wallace, a survivor of the expedition, published his account Mina suspected that he had been responsible for her husband’s death through starvation and vowed to revenge herself on him by embarking on her own expedition to achieve what he and her husband had failed to do. Recruiting three guides, two of them Cree Indians, she left for Labrador on June 27th 1905 and by 29th August had completed a trek of 576 miles, beating Wallace, who had embarked on the same day, by seven weeks. Not only did she bring home an accurate map of northern Labrador, but she also made an important  photographic record of the native Labradorians she had met.

On her return home Hubbard became an overnight celebrity. Before long she had been sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society to undertake a lecture tour in England. It was while on that tour that she wrote this letter to a Miss Lewis (possibly an admirer) gratefully accepting an invitation to dinner. She also met her second husband, the MP Harold Ellis. In 1908 appeared A Woman’s Way through Unknown Labrador , which became a best-seller.  Today this account of her expedition, and in particular the   photographs she took of the native tribes, is generally recognised as one of the most valuable anthropological records of the period. More recently, however, it has sparked controversy. In particular, feminist commentators have interpreted the text as a seminal document in women’s studies. Hubbard’s projected persona in the book is seen as that of a woman performing a male role as a conqueror of a hostile environment.

The Ellises produced three children, but the couple parted in the twenties and Mina returned to Canada in 1936. After this she seems to have led a rather conventional life, latterly in poverty. In 1956, while staying with a friend in Coulsdon, near  Croydon, she left the house to ‘ explore’ and on her way to the nearby Coulsdon South station she wandered aimlessly over the tracks, was hit by a speeding train and killed instantly. She was 86. What the grizzly bears and below zero temperatures of Labrador had failed to do, a British Railways commuter train had completed. [RMH]

Jot-101-Harry-Graham-Theatre-Royal-cover520-1

The Princess and the Pauper—seeing is not always believing

Sent in by loyal jotperson RMH. It is worth noting that despite his suggestion HG is not totally forgotten and, in fact, is quite saleable. He was also, at one time, collected by Teflon man Kenneth Baker and other lesser lights...

Here’s a puzzle. Look at the cover of this oddity recovered from a job lot two years ago. Open the volume and seemingly, what we have is the printed programme notes of a comic drama performed at ‘The Theatre Royal’, somewhere or other, bound in with a carbon copy of the script. Looking more closely we find that the venue is Government House and the reviews, which are from Canadian newspapers mainly from the Ottawa district, are far too facetious to have been genuine. Further research reveals that, despite the highly professional quality of the programme, everything suggests that the ‘extravaganza’ is purely an amateur production. A little more delving tells us that most of the players are members of the same aristocratic family—in fact sons and daughters  of the fourth Earl of Minto, Governor General of Canada, then a British colony.

We have already noted that the playwright was ‘Col. D Streamer’ and the small print reveals that this supposed army officer (who also directed the play) was the author of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, which had appeared a year before the play was performed. By now, most fans of ‘sick’ humour will have twigged that Col. D Streamer was the pseudonym of one of Britain’s most admired comic poets--a man worthy to stand by Thomas Hood and Edward Lear-- much darker than the former and just as inventive as the latter. We are talking, of course, about Harry Graham, then just 26, who was aide de camp to Lord Minto and a close friend of the Minto family (pic below).

The Governor General and Graham, who were both old Etonians, got on famously, but it is not known what his employer thought of such a ‘ruthless rhyme’ as the following:

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes
Now, although the room grows chilly
I haven’t the heart to poke poor Billy

However, it is likely that Minto took the play’s rather disparaging references to Canada, and Ottawa in particular, in good heart. In his turn Graham had the script ( which was probably his own )and accompanying programme notes specially bound and presented to Lady Minto at Christmas, 1900, possibly just after the play hit the Theatre Royal. Incidentally, this grandiose- sounding venue was probably just a modest lecture hall within Government House, specially adapted for this one performance by family and friends.

In the following year Graham departed for the Boer War. He returned unscathed in 1902 for a second term as Lord Minto’s right hand man. Before his death in 1936 he went on to publish more comic verse  and compose many more comic dramas, most of which, like The Princess and the Pauper,  are now totally forgotten.