In keeping with my early Canadian history theme of late, I am writing a review of a wonderful book, called, ‘Sisters in the Wilderness’, written by Charlotte Gray in 1999.
It tells the story of two sisters, Catharine and Susanna Strickland, who immigrated to Upper Canada in 1832, along with their husbands. The latter were military men, still young, but pensioned off at half-pay after the Napoleonic Wars. The sisters were born in 1802 and 1803 respectfully. Their husbands, a few years older than the sisters, were Thomas Traill and John Dunbar.
Read – Sisters in the Wilderness
In conversations over this past year, and particularly after Julie Payette resigned her office, many friends have argued we have no need of a Governor-General in this country.
Some say the office should be replaced with an elected President, and others argue there is no need for anyone other than the Prime Minister to head the government. If someone is required to attend to the niceties of constitutional order — by signing the odd piece of legislation — surely it could be done by a Supreme Court justice. As for the ceremonial aspects of the job, they wonder if such things need doing.
First Parliament of Upper Canada in 1792-1796
In the course of a recent discussion on the early history of Upper Canada, Don asked me what lessons we might learn from our early colonial government. I thought this topic might interest readers, so I intend to summarize the main points of our conversation in the course of this article.
Most of the early settlers to Upper Canada were ‘United Empire Loyalists’ who left the United States after the ‘Revolutionary War’. Many were Americans who fought with the British Army, then slowly made their way to this new land of promise on the northern shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
I ordered ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’ from the library a few months ago and received the book last week. It was well worth the wait. It is a great story, and a thin book — clocking in at 178 pages.
Normally I like books that have fewer pages. But in this instance, I didn’t want the story to end. I liked the main character, Micah Mortimer — inadequate though he was — and enjoyed learning about his life, at a time when he was at little over forty.
Stratford Central Secondary School
A little over a year ago, my grandfather asked if I’d consider writing an article about my last year of high school. Thinking it would be fun to look back on 2020 — the year I turned eighteen — I readily agreed, not knowing what the future would bring.
I can safely say this past year has been a frustrating one. I’m not complaining — we’ve all had enough of that. But I will share one or two anecdotes that stand out in my mind.
Read – Turning Eighteen …
Lorne Willson (second from left) with his crew during 1944-45
I had hoped to write a book about my life up to the end of the Second World War — at a time when I was 33 years of age, a RCAF veteran, employed in Northern British Columbia and married with two children. I have given up the idea.
My family (with one exception) didn’t show much interest, so it just seemed silly to expend the effort. Still my story is a good one — an interesting tale of a man with an unusual childhood, an early life filled with adventure, and war service in the RCAF — the last year as part of a Lancaster bomber crew in the air war over Germany.
Rather than give up the idea, I am writing it as two magazine–sized articles — the first telling the story of my early years, and the second, the tale of my last year of the war. I hope you enjoy them.
Read – Lorne Willson’s Early Years
Lorne Willson (second from left) with his crew during 1944-45.
This story is indirectly about my last year of the air war over Germany, when I served as a ‘Bomb Aimer’ in RCAF Bomber Command. My name is Lorne Willson and I volunteered for aircrew in 1943, while stationed in Canada. After my training, I was sent to England to be part of ‘419 Moose Squadron’, a Lancaster bomber squadron with the RCAF.
The above photo shows a promotional picture for the 1965 film, The Bedford Incident. Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier were the two lead actors in this film, which tells the story of the U.S.S. Bedford, a destroyer assigned to shadow a ‘stealthy’ Soviet submarine during the Cold War. It is a very good film.
The book is even better. It provides more drama, greater detail, interesting explanations, and a different plot and ending from the film. If I had to choose, I’d pick the book without a second thought.
Read – The Bedford Incident
Building a Cabin circa 1815 in Glengarry County
Last week, I read an interesting article about the ‘Pilgrims’, who traveled from England to settle in Massachusetts — four hundred years ago this month. William Bradford was their leader and the ship in which they sailed was ‘The Mayflower’.
While this story was interesting, I have a better tale to tell. A little over 200 years ago, my g-g-g grandfather, William Fraser, and his wife, Mary Campbell, left the Western Highlands of Scotland to settle in Glengarry County in Upper Canada. It’s a better story, because the difficulties of the early settlers in Canada are just as compelling, but not as well known. Here are some details.
Berriedale School near Burk’s Falls, Ontario
My time at ‘Berriedale School’ in the fall of 1953 was a wonderful experience — in a year that was otherwise a sad one for our family. My father was killed in an automobile accident — near Stratford, Ontario — in the late summer.
Once my father’s funeral and burial was over, my mother packed up and made her way to the village of Burk’s Falls, where we initially lived with my grandparents six miles from town. There my brother and I hopped on a school bus each morning to attend Berriedale School, seven or eight miles from our home.
Read – The One Room Schoolhouse
In the past, I’ve sold many of my little figures while carving near the lake each summer. If I had any left over, a fellow named Pervez was always willing to purchase them for a bargain basement price of $5 each.
Here’s the way it worked. When I accumulated ten or more carvings, I’d call Pervez to let him know. Then I’d meet him, he’d take the carvings and I’d take the money. Easy-peasy.
Read – Five Guys Leave Home
It was during the early 1980s when I first became aware how poorly Alberta and its oil industry were treated by the Canadian Government. Under the leadership of Pierre Trudeau, the 1980 National Energy Program (NEP) put limits on the prices Alberta could charge Central Canada for oil. This had the effect of driving private investment out of the oil patch and making a bad recession worse for Alberta.
Read – Alberta Separation: A Good Idea?
Like many other novels reviewed in these pages, I first watched The Quiet American on a DVD obtained from my local library. The adaptation I watched was filmed in 2002, starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser. An earlier film adaptation was done in 1958, starring Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave.
The book was written by Graham Greene. My copy is only 180 pages — both indications I’d enjoy an evening or two of good reading. All in all, although the film was interesting and worthwhile, I preferred the book.
Read – The Quiet American
United States Capital Building
It is clear from the past four years (if not from the past few decades), the United States government is dysfunctional. I argue it was designed to be that way. Its Republican structure makes change difficult. Sometimes impossible.
In order for a law to be passed by Congress, it must be approved by a majority of 435 members in the House of Representatives. Then it must pass with a clear majority in the Senate (currently meaning 60 Senators voting for the bill, out of a body numbering 100 in total).
Read – Electoral Reform for America
This is the first in a trilogy of novels about Ardnish, a rural area in the Western Highlands of Scotland. More particularly, it is a novel of the First World War, the Gallipoli Campaign and a love story involving Louise Jones, a nurse from Wales, and Donald Peter Gillies (‘DP’), a young Scottish soldier in the ‘Lovat Scouts’ who hails from Ardnish.
It is a short book, just 244 pages, and well worth your while (if you choose to read it). It is written in a lovely way, with parts of it telling of the escape of Louise and Donald Peter overland, and by boat, from the peninsula of Gallipoli all the way to Malta.
Read – Ardnish was Home
Carving? Are you Crazy? I’m only six!
A couple of weeks ago, Ken told me his grandson, now age fourteen, expressed an interest in woodcarving. Ken felt he should encourage this and was keen on buying Jake a ‘carving kit’ to get him started. He also had a cutout of a ‘boot’ at home—a good project for a beginner. Ken would give this to Jake when they met.
Over the course of a few Saturdays, he would work with his grandson on the boot. If all went well, Jake would have a fine carving to set on the mantle, a good reminder that carving is a skill that can be taken up by almost everyone.
Read – Jake and ‘The Kit’
‘Witness for the Prosecution’ is a lovely film, as well as an enjoyable book. I watched the 2016 film version recently, set out in two parts on Acorn TV. I purchased the book shortly thereafter.
There were also film adaptations of the book in 1957 and 1982. I watched the earlier one when I was a youngster. I expect at least one of these three films should be available at your local library. And if not there, you can purchase or rent them through Amazon. The book is also widely available at libraries and book stores.
Read – Witness for the Prosecution
Socializing in the Early Days after ‘The Big Stop’.
It’s a pity I didn’t take this picture in March, when Ken Beckberger and I drove up to Brooklin once or twice a week, to sip lattés and chat in the Tim’s parking lot, often for two or three hours. Clearly we were starved for conversation and company. With winter coats, hats and scarves, we each sat in our respective cars, holding court through the driver’s seat window, until our bladders told us to head home for a washroom break.
Read – Lowdown on the Lockdown