Archives for: April 2007


Permalink 12:44:13 am, by Email , 448 words   English (CA)
Categories: Loons Throughout History, European History

Romanian President Ceausescu and Colonel Corbu

To say that Nicolai Ceausescu was a loon is an understatement to say the least. History has recorded him an absolute nut with good cause. While the body of this entry will only list one example of his lunacy I can assure you gentle readers there is much, much more....

Emperor Caligula briefly controlled the Roman Empire from AD 37-41. He too was quite mad, and has in historical articles been compared with Ceausescu. This is probably why. Caligula at one time named his horse a Roman Senator, while Ceausescu appointed his black Labrador dog named Corbu a colonel in the Romanian army.

Colonel Corbu was often seen riding about in the back of his limousine through the streets of Bucharest with his very own motorcade. The Ambassador from Britain wrote, "I saw this black dog sitting all on it's own in the back of a Dacia, looking rather pompous with it's nose in the air, as black Labradors often do."

Security surrounding the colonel was very tight. A statement made by one of the maids explains, "The secret police told us never to feed the dogs. There was a special doctor who checked the food - it was the best sort of meat. Only when the doctor had tasted the food could they be fed."

Corbu was spoiled as well. The Romanian Ambassador in Britain was under strict orders to go to Sainsbury's every week to purchase Winalot, and British dog biscuits for the colonel. These were then shipped back to Romania via the diplomatic bag.

One day Colonel Corbu accompanied the President on a visit to the Brancovenesc Hospital. The hospital, which treated up to 50,000 Romanians per year was infested with rats, and to keep down the rodent population the medical facility employed the use of cats. Upon entering the hospital the colonel spotted one of these cats, and did what all dogs do naturally...he gave chase. A fight between dog, and cat ensued with the cat coming out victorious having bloodied the colonel's nose.

President Ceausescu was furious, I mean how dare this lowly cat assault a colonel in his army! As they drove away in a huff the staff at the hospital knew that Ceausescu would never let this go without punishment. And they were right within days came an official order to shut the hospital down permanently, after all the colonel had been attacked!

In December of 1989 President Ceausescu was violently overthrown, captured while trying to flee Romania with his equally nutty wife, tried, convicted, and executed for crimes against his people. Romania is still in many ways recovering from the tyranny of this nutcase.

Source: Let Them Eat Cake, By Geoffrey Regan (c) 1994



Permalink 11:55:55 am, by Email , 197 words   English (CA)
Categories: Loons Throughout History, Kings And Queens, European History

Peter the Great of Russia

Tsar Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov - Reign: 7 May 1682 - 8 February 1725

Peter the Great is remembered for his modernization through western influence of Russia, creating a vast, and great empire. He was also in many regards a rather colourful character.

Peter conducted a grand tour of Europe between 1696 and 1698. His often dictatorial behaviour was not always well received in more progressively democratic European countries.

Here is an interesting snippet on Peter's thoughts towards control of crowds, of which he did not appreciate.

During his visit to to Holland Peter created quite a stir amongst the populace, and naturally the people wished to view him. When invited for a dinner party at the Hague with King William a large crowd assembled in order to watch both Kings dining. The congestion was so great that Peter offered to decapitate a few of them in order to lessen the gathering. After all he stated, that is what I would do in Russia. William apparently politely refused this offer.

As I said above Peter the Great had some rather interesting notions on many things, and you can be sure that we will be visiting more of these on this blog in the very near future.



Reproduction vs. Reality - Of stitch counters and rivet counters...

From the desk of Matthew Double-Decker-Bus-Guy Didier...

History, for Sue and myself... and our whole family... is more than just a subject, it literally is a part of our lives in what we do aside from those things that earn our daily bread.

As some of you may (or may not) be aware, we are also "living historians"... re-enactors... people who put on funny clothes and pretend to be in a time which they ain't.

Our era of "choice" is the early nineteenth-century in Upper Canada... the War of 1812 to be precise. Both Sue and I are "kitted out" and although we haven't been able to be as big a part of things over the last four years as we'd like to be, we do keep our fingers in the pie, so to speak, with an eye to returning at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Through this hobby, one gets to dress, drill, camp, and even eat like it's the period which they portray at historic sites relevant to the era... of course within limits of modern hygene, safety, and whatnot... but to the "outward appearance", it's about as true to 1812 - 1815 as one can get.

It's a great family friendly hobby... until one bumps into The Stitch Counters.

That tunic! It's not made of the RIGHT type of wool! The red is at least two shades off, the stitching was done by a machine and...

Those shoes... are those RUBBER soles on those shoes????

...and my favourite...

You! You have a moustache and beard! That's NOT PROPER!

Yes, The Stitch Counters... they not only ask for but DEMAND authenticity.

Now, I'm all for this... to a degree... but they have a problem sorting out "hobby" from "way of life". (Side Note: I often qualify certain sci-fi fans this way... those that understand 'X' movie or TV show was an entertaining production and those that get confused and think they are a way of life...)

...meanwhile, back from digressing...

I can understand avoiding nylon as an 1812 re-enactor... we deal with a lot of things involving fire... camp fires, flash-pan sparks, etc., and nylon would be highly dangerous... so nylon tunics and pants would be bad... and we all should SOMEWHAT match... despite, historically, this not being the case. In 1812, they TRIED to keep everyone "uniform", but due to equipment troubles, wear-and-tear, it never really worked out that way... some soldiers being described as "nearly naked" for lack of provisions...

Still, this doesn't deter The Stitch Counters.

They dictate the amount of stitches on the tunic and pants (BY HAND) and colour (as someone who in youth worked at a paint store, WE didn't demand as exact matching) and whatnot.

Then there's the anachronistic free encampments... this I totally understand. When the public visits an encampment, there should be NO modern things visible. They should feel as if they've stepped back in time when they wander through... which is fine... but The Stitch Counters WINCE when they see someone using an inflatable bed in their tent (despite it being well hidden by wool blankets) or if they catch a small peek of a food-cooler's corner from inside a tent... this sends them into spasms of anger.

Then there's my beard and moustache (and I'm not alone!)

There's FACIAL HAIR in MY line! My life is RUINED!



Now, it's true... facial hair was frowned upon (but not unknown) in the armies way back then... problem is, for me and others, the beard and 'stache are more than a fashion statement. I have a "young face". Last time I shaved, I was asked for I.D. to prove I was over eighteen to purchase cigarettes! (I'm forty right now...) So, without the beard and moustache, I look like a VERY young man. This is a good thing really... except in business where I need to be accepted as a professional... and sadly, too many won't accept a "very young man" as a professional... hence my facial hair.

However, I have actually heard (and read) where indeed, The Stitch Counters moan and complain that people like me have RUINED their experience!

(...this despite me finding a historical fellow in one of my regiments who did indeed sport a beard...)

Here's my take on all this...

#1: I'd love to be 100% authentic... but safety and real life must come first. Nylons and plastics are unsafe... wool is the order of the day... amongst other things... and my facial hair... if I'm dressed in my "red coat", is it not possible that a soldier in line forgot to shave one day and had a bad "face-hair" day?

#2: If safety is met and the veneer is good that the other re-enactors and the public "can't tell", what's the harm? Can a Stitch Counter truly say that he or she can tell my tunic was sewn by a machine while in line of battle?

I admire The Stitch Counters... and sure, it would be interesting if we could experience the period "perfectly"... but all things within measure and reason.

The 1812-ers are head and shoulders above The Society for Creative Anachronism who dress in late-Medieval/early-Renaissance garb for their outtings... but deftly avoid the issues of lack of personal hygiene of the period, illnesses (most notably, the plague), whacky-diet, caste-system, et al of the REAL period... in fact, the line from Monty Python's The Holy Grail springs to mind with these folks...

Da Boyz

Dead-Gatherer: Who's that then?
Peasant: I don't know.
Dead-Gatherer: Must be a king.
Peasant: Why?
Dead-Gatherer: He hasn't got sh*t all over him.

...anyway, back in 1812... as most of you, I would assume, are simply "The Viewing Public" to events like this... would YOU care if one of the fellows in that scarlet line isn't wearing wool socks?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Oh, and did you believe that I only have run into The Stitch Counters in my travels and hobbies?


Enter The Rivet Counters.

You folks know that our whole family are trying to "rescue" an old double-decker bus, right?

If not, please click here.

Anyway, did you know there is a contingent who are ACTIVELY working against us?

There are!

The Rivet Counters are those in the "bus enthusiast" realm who believe that all antique buses must be perfectly preserved to their original form and must be in their country of origin... England.

Yup, we are not worthy or capable of the ownership of our bus as we will most likely not replace every broken or non-working item with an exact duplicate of the original... right down to the seat-fabric.

In their eyes, and they'll rarely publicly admit this, a bus is better scrapped then in the hands of someone who'd make an effort to restore it in some fashion... especially those of us outside their birth country of England! We're the worst! Just ask 'em!

Now, again, I understand their point of view... they truly don't want to see these buses scrapped (which is often the fate of the buses in North America due to the rarity of parts and expense involved in maintaining them) and they don't wish to see the "original versions" more-or-less destroyed in the quest for convenience and functionality for the new owner(s).

The trouble is, in our case, for example, there ARE historically preserved examples of model of bus in England... several of them actually... so it's not like our's is truly "one of a kind" except to us.

Secondly, if we don't do something, it's not like the current owner in California is going to suddenly ship the bus home to waiting hands of loving new owners who will look after and perfectly historically preserve her... she's far more likely to end up as a four-by-four cube of semi-recyclable materials in a wrecking yard.

...but, again, to some this is "preferable" to us possibly putting a rivet in the wrong place or fixing the seats with a "different colour" of fabric. (I kid you not.)

I got into these whackos faces and said their attitude reminds me of the Bedouins suddenly demanding the return of ALL Arabian horses because the rest of us don't know how to look after and maintain them.

The logic of "better running and in shape and being looked after than scrapped" is alien to these folks....

Rivet Counters, meet The Stitch Counters.

I will be totally honest... I LOVE real history... I LOVE "authentic" vs. "reproduction"... I don't want a historic site to become a Disney village...

...but I'm also a realist.

I'd rather see a Disney village on a historic site then it bulldozed for a strip mall... at least it would be SOMEWHAT preserved...

...and to be honest, since "hand stitching" my tunic would cost me more than a used compact car and since our bus will be most likely scrapped before it's shipped to England to act as a museum piece, I think I'll take my middle-ground views.

Before leaving you to ponder these historic purists, allow me to impart ONE last thing...

In the War of 1812 mailgroup, I got into it with a muckee-muck about the re-enacting community about my beard... and he stuck to his DEMANDING historical perfection.

I responded thusly...

Sir, since you're so stuck on historical accuracy at events, pray that I do not find you using the "modern conveniences" like the toilets at the next event we're at together or I shall call you out!

It amused many of the other more realistic folks in our hobby!



Permalink 04:16:33 pm, by Email , 248 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Victor Borge - The Clown Prince of Denmark

January 3, 1909 – December 23, 2000

Victor Borge was a child prodigy in his native Denmark, and his phenomenal musical career as a pianist spanned a whopping 75 years! However, Victor perhaps is best remembered for his crazy sense of humour, which he incorporated brilliantly into his act.

By his early twenties Victor was already a sensation, and well known for his film, and stage performances throughout Scandinavia. Unafraid to use comedy to speak his mind he quickly ended up on Nazi Germany's blacklist for poking fun at Hitler, and his sharp anti-Nazi barbs.

Thankfully, and by fluke he managed to get on board the last American passenger ship to leave Europe in 1940.

Safely in the United States, Victor learned English through watching various B rated movies. When he was confident in this new language he worked on his act, honing his skills in night clubs, concert halls, and finally Carnegie Hall to the delight of audiences.

Victor admitted that his comedy antics were a mixture of stage fright, and a loathing of the pompous attitudes found in some concert musicians. And if anyone had earned the right to be conceited, (but was not) it was Victor. His skills as a concert pianist were flawless, and effortless. Victor appeared with the world's most prestigious orchestras, and averaged over 100 performances a year well into his eighties.

An outstanding performer, and talented musician who had the ability to make people belly laugh. The world needs more such as Victor Borge.

This entry is for Matthew



Permalink 10:31:20 pm, by Email , 156 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, British History

York England To Become World Heritage Site

The historic walled city of York has taken the first step towards becoming a World Heritage site.

Matthew, and I are both looking forward to visiting the historic city of York, so this news is of particular interest to us. Read on:

Councillors have voted to carry out a public consultation and government assessment which could see the old city put on a shortlist of UK candidates.

Tourism managers say the accolade would boost York's international profile and help preserve its rich heritage.

Yorkshire already boasts two World Heritage Sites - Fountains Abbey near Ripon and Saltaire village in Bradford.

The council's decision to explore the pros and cons of World Heritage Site status was prompted by the Lord Mayor of York, Janet Hopton, who set up a working group.

Full BBC Article Here

We wish the city of York all the best in their bid, and think they are a most worthy location for this distinction.



Permalink 07:40:54 pm, by Email , 41 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday, Folklore And Superstitions, European History

Wordless Wednesday - Bran Castle

Bran Castle also known as "Dracula's Castle" is located in Romania, and was originally a stronghold built by the Knights of Teutonic Order in 1212.

See also: Vlad III The Impaler

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 12:16:46 am, by Email , 626 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Charlie Chaplin - The Little Tramp

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr - April 16, 1889 – December 25, 1977

Charlie Chaplin was born across the pond in England, but built his highly successful film career in the United States Of America. Over the course of his lifetime Charlie made some 80 films, and often in his most famous role as the "Little Tramp" or "Charlot" in France he elevated slapstick humour to artistic genius. This is evidenced by his immense popularity that continues on even today.

In 1915 the now legendary "The Tramp" was released, and set a new benchmark in comedy. For his role Charlie had been given the task of assembling something "funny" to wear. He chose pants that had belonged to Fatty Arbuckle, size fourteen shoes, and placed them on the wrong feet, a derby, a tight-fitting coat, prop cane, and phoney moustache to complete the odd-ball look. Charlie tossed into the mix a shuffling sort of gait, and with this a new comic character was born, much to the delight of millions!

Chaplin and famed child star Jackie Coogan, in The Kid (1921)

Through the 1920's Chaplin continued to make several short, classic films.This decade also saw what is speculated as one of his best feature length films "The Gold Rush."

By the 1930's the silent film era had ended, and talkies became the rage amongst film-goers, but Charlie stayed true to his art, and his films were still amongst the top-grossing of this period in motion picture history.

Much has been written about Charlie's love life, but I have decided to concentrate on his artistic merits, achievements, and ideals within this article instead of focusing on that area of his life.

Many of Chaplin's films were considered left of centre such as "The Idle Class" (1921) this coupled with his refusal to accept US citizenship brought him much undesirable attention from paranoid US officials. They began compiling a file on the beloved "Little Tramp" and with the release of "Modern Times" a penetrating look at the alienation of capitalism, and "The Great Dictator" a satire of Adolph Hitler that's humour was lost on J. Edgar Hoover (Director of FBI), he was branded as a "Hollywood Bolsheviki," and undesirable.

Charlie was a marked man, and in a currently inexcusable brand of harassment in 1952, had his re-entry visa to the United States revoked after a brief visit to London. FBI documents of the era show that there was a huge effort put into deporting Charlie, with clearly no evidence to support his visa's revocation.

Chaplin chose not to fight it, and ended up moving to Switzerland. He did get a revenge of sorts through his film "The King In New York" (1957) which took a hard, satirical look at the House Committee On Un-American Activities, but the US government had broken him.

Charlie did return very briefly to the US in 1972 to receive a special Academy Award to honour his incalculable contributions on films "the art form of the century." And in 1975 received a knighthood from his native England.

Charlie died on Christmas day 1977, and was buried overlooking Lake Geneva in Switerzerland .....but was not there for very long....

In a very odd bit of crime trivia, Chaplin's body was dug up, and kidnapped for ransom in 1978 by two would-be criminal "geniuses." A few weeks after Charlie's coffin was stolen with him in it, his widow Oona received a ransom demand of $600,000 dollars. Oona contacted police, and with her assistance they were able to capture the criminals. Chaplin, and coffin were found in a corn-field about ten miles away, and were returned to it's original location, only this time housed in a concrete vault.

Our thanks to Andy for suggesting this entry, which is dedicated to him.

Further Online Reading:

Charlie Chaplin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chaplin - Official Website



Permalink 12:02:22 am, by Email , 171 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News, Book Reviews

Pride and Prejudice is voted #1 book in Britain

Keira Knightley stars in the film version of Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been voted the book Britain can't live without. Read on:

A survey to mark World Book Day puts Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien in second place, followed by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

The Bible is ranked sixth in the list, two places above Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy - considered by many to carry an anti-religious theme.

The results were from an online survey of more than 2,000 book lovers.

JK Rowling's Harry Potter books came fourth, ahead of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights was voted seventh, while His Dark Materials and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four tied for eighth place.

The top 10 is completed by Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Full BBC Article Here

This top 10 list is a delight to all those that appreciate the classics, which gave such a strong showing by the voters, and demonstrates their importance, and relevance to the contemporary reader.



Permalink 12:18:19 am, by Email , 1761 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, Heroic Women, Book Reviews

Jane Eyre Vs. Victorian Women

Jane Eyre is a classic romance novel by Charlotte Brontë which was published in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Company, London, and is one of the most famous British novels.

Charlotte Brontë first published the book as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography under the pseudonym Currer Bell, and it was an instant success, earning the praise of many reviewers, including William Makepeace Thackeray, to whom Charlotte Brontë dedicated her second edition.

Introduction: Jane Eyre Vs. Victorian Women

After reading the classic novel, Jane Eyre, I found myself interested in the lives of Victorian women. They lived during a time when women were thought to be inferior to men. They usually did not attend school, almost always married, and rarely worked. The novel of course follows the life of Jane Eyre, who is a living contrast of what Victorian society thought a woman should be. Jane is of lower class, is well educated, and working as a governess. Not to mention she is passionate, outspoken, and opinionated. These qualities deem her unfeminine, and a social outcast. The novel description perfectly calls it “…a passionate search for a wider, and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her sex in Victorian society”

Victorian Women and Education

In the novel Jane is sent to an all girls’ school for orphaned children. Typically in the Victorian era, most females did not attend school. This is because women were only expected to marry, have children, and maintain their household. They were taught of domestic duties only to ensure that they would make appealing wives in the future. (Elizabeth Horany, Women in Education) Usually only the lower class women attended school because they were more likely going to have to earn their own livings by working in the future. This is why the heroine in the novel, Jane Eyre, is sent to school to learn (aside from the fact that her Aunt no longer wanted to be burdened with her of course). After being orphaned at a young age and left in the care of her evil Aunt Reed, Jane had nobody to take care of her in the world, which was hard considering most Victorian women relied heavily on their families, and or husbands for support. She put all her time, and effort into her school work because ultimately she had nothing else. While most of her fellow Victorian females were being readied for suitors, Jane studied subjects such as French, English, and Art. The fact that Jane can read, and write separates her from most of the other ladies of her time.

Victorian Women and Marriage

Almost all women in Victorian society married at some point in their lives. This is because from the time they were born, they were raised to become wives. Parents would force their daughters into marrying wealthy men who were titled when possible in order to bring their family higher status. If they refused to marry, they would usually be shunned from their family, and forced to live on the streets. (Melissa Moore, Why Victorian Women Married) As I stated before, most females did not attend school, and therefore could not work. They needed husbands for financial support and protection. When Jane Eyre is confronted with the idea of marriage she is hesitant. This is because Victorian husbands had absolute power over their wives. By law husbands controlled all of their money, owned all of their possessions, and had complete custody over their children. Jane did not want to marry until she knew that she would be an equal with her husband. “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty, and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: - it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at gods feet, equal- as we are!”(Jane Eyre, PG 284) Here Jane exclaims to Mr. Rochester that they are equals. Unlike most Victorian women, equality was an issue that weighed heavy on Jane’s heart. Ultimately by the end of the novel, she marries because she no longer fears inequality between herself and Mr. Rochester.

Women’s Roles in Society

A Victorian Woman’s role in society was very clear - they married and took care of their families. They were responsible for looking after their household, which included instructing her servants and throwing dinner parties that would bring her family status and reputation. (Oscar Trejo, Domesticity). They were responsible for seeing to their children’s welfare. Her sons would need to be well educated, and her daughters brought up to the social standards of the era. She would need to make sure that her husband was always pleased with her by satisfying all of his many needs. Women were not recognized in politics or world affairs. Their lives were dedicated to their families, and that alone. This is why Victorian women were often described as bored and unsatisfied. Jane Eyre was different though. She did not have a family to look after or a household to maintain. She lived as an independent, and saw to her own needs only. She lived her life differently than most women and was looked down upon for it.

Social Conventions in Victorian Society

During the Victorian Era, social conventions curved the lives of many women. These conventions perceived the way women should look, sound, and act. Society believed that women were the property of their husbands. Women were supposed to give their husbands their love, bodies, and obedience. In return husbands offered their wives protection. Women were to dress conservatively, always appear clean, and have an air of innocence about them. “ In Victorian times, it was considered unfeminine and often “outrageous” for a woman to speak in public.” (Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri, Women in Society) Women were not supposed to be over opinionated or well educated. Jane Eyre did not live in a way that was socially acceptable. She was educated, worked as a governess, and was not interested in living under the restraints of a husband. She was a young opinionated female who was often out spoken and realistic. “ I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to visit you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty . . .”(Jane Eyre, PG 45) In this quotation Jane is passionately telling her aunt exactly how she feels. Passion like this was looked down upon by Victorian society.

Working Victorian Women

In the Victorian era only lower class women worked. This is because higher-class women were not educated and could not perform any jobs other than household related ones. Besides their husbands would never want the reputation of having a working wife, it deemed them incapable of providing for their family and of lower status. There weren’t many jobs available for females either, which made it harder for poor women to succeed in the working world. Jane Eyre found a job teaching as a governess in Mr. Rochester’s house. Many looked down upon her, but it was still a respectful way to earn a living. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester’s female houseguests discuss governesses and label them “detestable” and “ridiculous”. (Jane Eyre PG 199-200) One of the characters, Lady Ingram shares her opinion on governesses by saying “My dearest, don’t mention governesses; the word makes me nervous. I have suffered martyrdom from their incompetence and caprice; I thank Heaven I have now done with them!” (Jane Eyre PG 200) As you can imagine there were many other men and women who felt this way about governesses. Mostly because governesses were of lower class, and had to spend their lives teaching instead of fulfilling what every woman considered appropriate, having a family.

Conclusion: Jane Vs. Victorian Women

When reading Jane Eyre, I had the chance to see through the eyes of young a Victorian woman. I learned about her hardships and the ways in which she survived a life so heavily judged by society. Jane is not a typical Victorian female. She lives her life independently and as a governess under the restraints of no one, but herself. She is educated and very opinionated, which is why Mr. Rochester falls deeply in love with her. In many ways Jane’s rebellious nature could be considered an act of feminism. Here I have found a quotation to give you an idea of how Queen Victoria herself felt about feminism " I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of 'Women's Rights', with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety. Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to 'unsex' themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen, and disgusting of beings, and would surely perish without male protection." (Elizabeth Horany, Women in Education) Women who lived like Jane Eyre did not even have the support of their queen. This is why Victorian women, and their battle to supply women with the rights we have today have fascinated me. During my research I read through a book called Eminent Victorian Women, by Elizabeth Longford. If you are interested in the lives of Victorian women, I recommend this book.

Works Cited

Elizabeth Horany.Woman in Education. May 18th, 2002.April 6th, 2007.

Melissa Moore. Why Victorian Women Married. May 3rd, 2002. April 6th, 2007.

Oscar Trejo. Domesticity. May 18th, 2002. April 6th, 2007.

Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. Women in Society. March 2006. April 6th, 2007.

Arthur Munby. Work and Victorian Women. April 6th, 2007.

Elizabeth Longford. Eminent Victorian Women. 91 Clapham High Street London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981.

Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre. London England: Penguin, 1847.



Permalink 12:55:05 am, by Email , 340 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture, History In The News

Rare Portrait of Jane Austen To Be Auctioned In New York

Jane Austen portrait being sold in April, but is it really her?

A rare and contentious portrait of the esteemed novelist Jane Austen is due to go on sale in New York. Read on:

It has always been accepted by relatives as a picture of the writer but scholars are divided over the true identity of the young woman.

Its estimated auction price is $500,000 (£250,000) and it is being sold in America rather than Britain.

The full length oil portrait of a girl in a white dress is being sold by a distant relative of the writer.

There are few reliable pictures of Austen, who died nearly 200 years ago, a position similar to that of William Shakespeare.

A few weeks ago a publishing house decided it needed to improve the portrait they used on their editions of Austen's novels because the writer was "not much of a looker".

But a recent film about Austen's love life portrayed her as a very glamorous figure.

A drawing by her sister Cassandra shows Austen from behind wearing a hat.

Another of her sister's drawings held by London's National Portrait Gallery shows Austen looking grumpy.

The full length oil being sold in New York shows a girl walking outside with a resemblance to Austen.

It is being sold by a descendant so has good provenance.

However, the National Portrait Gallery does not think it is the writer. Some say the style of dress is from the wrong period while other Austen scholars are convinced it is their heroine.

The auction house Christie's is selling the picture in New York.

Full BBC Article Here

It seems to be the way of history that scholars will always disagree. I am far from an expert, but I tend to lean towards the camp that believe this portrait is of Austen. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part based on the loveliness of this artwork itself. I can guarantee this though, with disputes of such a nature it is rare that they are ever resolved to everyone's satisfaction.



Permalink 12:24:38 am, by Email , 1215 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana

Rev. William King (and the Elgin settlement)

Rev William King

Born in Ireland in 1812, William King didn't have his first experience with slavery until he became a teacher in Louisiana in 1841... and what he saw... misery, torture, hopelessness... he didn't like.

The other thing that troubled King was that he also recognised that freed slaves would be more-or-less helpless until they gained economic independence, became literate, and gained the basic educational skills to be able to do things for themselves. He described the plan as "Self Emancipation".

In a series of events through his wife and an inheritance, King ended up with property, and despite his desire to free slaves, ended up in acquisition of fifteen himself. He wanted to free them, but without an act of government within Louisiana, that wouldn't happen.

He sailed to Scotland in 1844 to study to become a Presbyterian minister... and all was going well until the abolitionists in the church discovered he was a slave owner at which point, he had to prove to the church that he was not a disgrace... and he did so with flying colours.

Once he completed the course, the now thirty-three year old minister asked to be placed in Canada... this way, he could free his slaves and establish a community with "Self Emancipation" as it's model.

The church sent him to Chatham where he could set up his settlement which was a good choice as it was a terminal on the underground railroad and home to Josiah Henson's settlement. (Josiah Henson is probably better known by another name... and is often maligned because people don't understand his true nature and contribution to society... and if certain people knew Josiah Henson, I doubt they'd feel the same way as using his "nick-name" if you will as a put down... Click here to find out more about "Uncle Tom".)

In 1849, King found the perfect location for what would be The Elgin Settlement... over four-thousand acres of unbroken forest on the Clergy Reserve and only eight miles South of Chatham.

Raising funds was a problem... dealing with certain locals was another. Led by Edwin Larwill, a town councilor, school trustee, and a Member of Parliament, a group had been active for fifteen years doing everything politically and legally to dissuade black settlers... and make the life of their supporters that much more miserable.

Hostilities between King and this group hit it's apex at a meeting of the town of Chatham in the Royal Exchange Hotel. Larwill and his followers wanted to stop the sale of the land to The Elgin Association... and had let it be known that, if they had to, violence was an option.

The town swore in 12 special constables for the meeting.

Larwill and his supporters picked perfect spots to "heckle" from... but soon, the room where the meeting was being held overflowed with spectators... and the meeting was adjourned to being on King Street where the speakers could use the hotel balcony to deliver their speeches.

Larwill's friends went first... and they were met with seemingly the mass approval of the collected audience.

When Rev. King stepped up, the hecklers, many of them being also Irish, let loose with the insults... King, knowing his own people, patiently waited them out.

I have come two hundred miles for this meeting and you cannot put me down. Besides, I am from Londonderry, and Londonderry never did surrender!

After his speech, even the pro-Larwill Chatham Chronicle reported that King did himself and the cause well. "...the objects of the Elgin Association were pure and philanthropic, and they had suffered much from misrepresentation and prejudices which is was his (Rev. King's) anxiety to clear away."

In essence, King's oratory won him praise from his followers and even many of his enemies.

The following day, wasting no time, King bought his land.

For the next few months, however, there were still people that did not want the Elgin settlement to exist. It was to such a degree that King was almost constantly surrounded by a bodyguard of black men... granted, they weren't his guard... they were just with him and then on their way to go "hunting".

Work on the settlement began in 1849... House raising, school building, land clearing... all a community effort.

Only blacks could purchase land in the Elgin settlement and King initially insisted that the school be segregated.

Thanks to the passing in the United States of The Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, many blacks (free and slave) made haste to Canada in fear of being "captured and sold" and many came to the Elgin Settlement.

Also in 1850, King opened the elementary school to white students and now was responsible for the first fully-integrated school in North America. Out of the roll of only sixteen students, two were from Edwin Larwill's District Common School. By 1851, more white students came to the school because of it's excellent academic reputation. The District Common School ended up being closed due to lack of attendance as students flowed to King's Academy. King also opened a successful and fully integrated adult night class to teach literacy.

When the enrollment of the day school reached 150, they opened another school... a third was erected in 1866 when 250 students were in attendance.

In 1852, there were 400 souls in the settlement working in the sawmill, the brickyard, or the gristmill. They had what was considered the finest tobacco crop in the region and a lively potash industry. All things considered, a grand success... but the best was yet to come.

Within seven years, the population doubled and supported three churches and had pretty much removed all opposition to it's existence... Larwill's protestations were dead.

In 1861, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, the member's of the community were wondering if President Lincoln would pass the emancipation act... and in 1863 when he called on blacks to enlist, seventy men joined the 24th Kent Regiment of the Militia... many would not be coming home to Canada.

In 1865 with the passing of the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation, the Elgin Settlement ceased to be a true "cause" and the Association closed it's books. By 1871, over seven-hundred men and women from the settlement had headed South to help educate and establish the newly freed slaves. According to the book, "Tombstone Tales - From Ontario Cemeteries" by Harvey Medland...

They included physicians, teachers, professors, lawyers and three politicians who were destined to become a congressman, a state senator and a speaker of the state legislature.

Those who remained behind called the settlement Buxton... after Sir Thomas Foxwell Buxton who championed the Emancipation Act of 1849 for Britain.

Reverend King resigned from the Chatham School Board and from the management of the community he spearheaded in 1880.

He continued to preach until he passed away in 1895 of malaria.

His vision of freedom through responsibility, integration, and hard work saw not only the establishment of a society that was truly worthy of envy, but that helped spawn a quality of existence that lasted throughout the darker years of this continent and beyond. A wonderful legacy of true freedom and equality... showing that despite prejudices, the black culture could aspire and even surpass the standards of the day.


The Presbyterian Church of Canada
Black History of Southwestern Ontario
Black History in Ontario
Buxton Historical Site and Museum
"Tombstone Tales - From Ontario Cemeteries" by Harvey Medland



Permalink 12:31:23 am, by Email , 11 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Old Fort York, Toronto, Canada, Circa 1908

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 02:00:26 pm, by Email , 242 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News

A Modern Day Lady Godiva

The Anglo-Saxon gentlewoman (also known as Godgifu), is famous for her legendary naked ride on horseback through Coventry.

Fast forward to today where the BBC covers the story of a remarkable woman, and modern day Lady Godiva. Read on:

Twenty-five years ago Pru Poretta was elected to recreate the role of Lady Godiva and ride on a horse through Coventry city centre.

Today, she is still in the role and has raised thousands of pounds for charities, receiving an honorary MA from the city's university for her work.

"It is something I never imagined I would be doing," she said.

In 1982, the organisers of the then Coventry Carnival decided they needed to do something to give it a boost.

The city was suffering a recession with the closure of several large factories.

Most noticeably, the British Leyland factory which made MGs had recently closed, putting 700 people out of work.

The redundancies had a knock-on effect on the carnival as it had been the factories which entered the floats.

The answer was, the organisers decided, to give the city a lift by organising a Godiva Pageant and to find a suitable Lady Godiva to draw in the crowds.

Full BBC Article Here

Congratulations to Pru not only for being able to educate the public about, recreate, and bring to life a little bit of history, and legend, but for raising so much money, and bringing awareness to various charities at the same time!



Permalink 04:05:07 pm, by Email , 147 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In The News

Great Expectations?

A Charles Dickens theme park opens in Kent soon, promising an authentic taste of the novelist's Victorian world. But is it wrong to "Disney-fy" Britain's greatest author? Read on:

The great American amusement park pioneer, George C Tilyou, once said: "What attracts the crowd is the wearied mind's demand for relief in unconsidered muscular action."

So it's inevitable that Dickens World conjures a degree of scepticism among those not ready for a theme-park tribute to one of the most popular novelists in the English language.

Housed in a modern, aluminium-clad hangar on the Chatham Maritime estate in Kent, its creators promise a flavour of "dark, smoky, moody London, full of smells and mist".

Workmen are hard at it, creating the rickety back streets and miasmatic waterways of urban, Victorian England. The overall effect is rather like Disney painted brown and plunged into twilight.

Full BBC Article Here



Permalink 07:28:57 am, by Email , 1086 words   English (CA)
Categories: Loons Throughout History, Folklore And Superstitions, European History

Vlad III The Impaler

Portrait of Vlad III in Innsbruck's Ambras Castle

His name was Vlad III and post mortem became Vlad Tepes (impaler). His father was known as "Vlad Dracul" which is literally translated to "Vlad The Dragon" or "Vlad the Devil"... adding the 'A' to the end of the surname denoted "Son Of" ergo: Vlad Dracula, and he was a prince of Wallachia (south of Transylvania). He was born in 1431 and died in 1476.

Vlad didn't have what one would call a great childhood... I mean having to live with a younger brother known as "Radu the Handsome" couldn't make anyone happy... but that was the least of his worries. When he was around the age of thirteen, Vlad and little handsome Radu were unceremoniously shipped off to Adrianople, Turkey, as "hostages" to ease the mind of the Turkish Sultan (the Turks, then being steeped in the Ottoman Empire were basically at war with Europe and taking bits and pieces of it all the time. Vlad Sr. sent his boys there to "prove" he wouldn't risk their wrath and fight so they'd leave him, and Wallachia alone).

Vlad stayed a prisoner of the Turks until the mid-1400's when they released him and his brother, Radu.

Radu, oddly enough, chose to stay in Turkey as it was where he grew up, and all he really knew. However, Vlad wanted to go back to Wallachia, and was even supported by the Turks as the Wallachian heir to the throne.

Something tells me that the Sultan probably regretted this as Vlad, after a while was really unpleasant to the Turks that came into Wallachia. You see Vlad had learned a lot from the Turks... especially an unpleasant way to put people to death... impalement.

After a time the Turks tried to forcibly take Wallachia and met a fierce resistance under Vlad III. After the battle, Vlad would have the prisoners impaled... According to one account, Vlad had over 10,000 men impaled at a grisly "fence" near the Danube where he left them to rot.

Woodblock print of Vlad III attending a mass impalement.

Many times, people have seen the old wood carving of Vlad having dinner near a bunch of impaled folks... this image is pretty accurate as he did do this once, but the method of impalement was... well... cleaned up a bit for the carving. To be "blunt" (forgive the pun,) Vlad would have a high stake sharpened... but not too sharp so it would cause a quick death. He would have the stake greased and slide the steak into the rectum (the "hind-quarters", if you will...) of his victim and usually, allow the stake to come out of the victims mouth. Only on occasion, when rushed, would he have victims "tossed" onto stakes "chest first".

Anyway, Vlad's methods though cruel, and somewhat unusual, were very effective. The Turks rarely ventured near Wallachia, and because of this he was and still is considered a bit of a hero to the people of Romania. After all he did keep the Turkish hoards at bay, and the homeland safe! What's a few impalements compared to that?

Don't get me wrong either... Vlad apparently had a sense of humour in his cruelty. Once, when a couple of diplomats from the Turks came to visit, they refused to take their hats off in the presence of the prince. Obligingly, he had their turbans nailed to their heads.

So, needless to say, Vlad was revered by some, hated mercilessly by others. As one of my historian friends put it, "If you're the winner, it was the 'Battle of'. If you were the loser, it was the 'Massacre of'."

Vlad did eventually lose a few battles to the Turks, and fled for Transylvania... and at that time guess who came back as a pro-Turkish ruler? Yup, Radu the Handsome! Radu, now firmly in the control of the Turks, probably wasn't too eager in helping out the public image of his now exiled brother... Stories and reports of executions and sadistic torture of not just Turks, but of Wallachian's too, made the rounds... Vlad was painted, possibly with some justification, possibly not, as a monster.

When Vlad made it to Transylvania, he was arrested, and imprisoned as a "Royal Prisoner". Must have been a tough life and his jail and captors must have thought he was a real monster, since he married the cousin of the Hungarian ruler Matthias Corvinus, and sired two sons with her during his incarceration.

Believe it or not, he did actually regain the Wallachian throne in 1476 just in time to die... It is believed by some that he was the victim of an assassination.

Once again, Vlad in death was revered for a bit, and then painted as an unspeakable monster as it suited the new ruling body's purposes to make Vlad the villain.

Vlad was buried in a mausoleum in a monastery at Lake Snagov that he had founded.

Poor old Vlad was NOT accused of being any sort of "paranormal monster" or "vampire" until after he was long dead... and even then (and now), it was not everyone who thought he was this "creature." His bloodlust and popular folklore combined to get him a passing accusation as a possible vampire... but to be honest, no one then seemed to think this might be true until a number of years after his death when they ordered his body to be exhumed from it's mausoleum at the monastery, and when his tomb was opened it was empty!

Did Vlad escape the assassin and fake his own death? Unlikely, as one has to assume he'd want to still be the ruler of his empire. Was he really the undead and his bloodlust and lack of a corpse prove it? I and many others doubt it. It's more likely that the monks, grateful to Vlad for founding their home, and knowing that the Turks (or, realistically, a "Turkish-Friendly Ruler") was in power and would want to wreak post-mortem revenge on Vlad's body simply moved him to hide his remains so they would lie undisturbed.

None-the-less Vlad Dracula is a "hero" to some, and a villain or monster to others.

He was certainly not a vampire, nor is it verifiable that he did actually inspire Bram Stoker's character for the famous fictional novel Dracula.

Further Reading:

Florescu Radu R, McNally Raymond T. (1989) Dracula: Prince of Many Faces. Little Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28655-9.

Radu R Florescu, McNally Raymond T. (1994) In Search of Dracula. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-65783-0.



Permalink 12:01:00 am, by Email , 277 words   English (CA)
Categories: Arts And Culture

Author Kurt Vonnegut Passed This Week...

Kurt Vonnegut had suffered a fall recently and was suffering from brain injuries sustained then... he succumbed these injuries on Wednesday the 11th. He was 84 years old.

Author of Slaughterhouse Five, Player Piano, Breakfast of Champions, Cat's Cradle, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Vonnegut drew from a rather interesting if partially tragic life... enlisting in the U.S. Army after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, he became a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany and held in Dresden. He was there when the allies levelled Dresden in a fire-bomb raid, surviving with his fellow captives in a meatpacking locker underground. The German's used the prisoners to find victims of the bombing which is the experience he used to create Slaughterhouse Five.

Vonnegut's mother committed suicide on Mother's Day in 1944 which also seems to have played a role in his creative process... but his experience as a POW seems to have been the most profound in his writing.

On my regular blog, I mentioned I often used a Vonnegut quote after the horrors of 9/11...

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire truck.

He was shocked to have been so long lived figuring, as a heavy smoker, he should have died years previous. "I'm suing a cigarette company because on the package they promised to kill me, and yet here I am." he once said.

The fall did what cigarettes didn't...

At 84, he was hardly a young man, but this planet will be a little less special without him.

Goodbye, Kilgore Trout. Farewell to Tralfamadore. We will be careful of what we pretend to be... 'cuz you warned us.



Permalink 12:56:04 am, by Email , 471 words   English (CA)
Categories: Folklore And Superstitions

The History Of Friday The Thirteenth

Members of the Eccentric Club of London at their annual Friday the 13th lunch in 1936 – surrounded by objects that are connected with superstitions.

Friday the 13th has never bothered me in fact my own parents were married on a Friday the thirteenth, but they liked to break with tradition as a rule.

Whilst the day and/or number has never troubled me personally, it does cause some real issues for certain people suffering paraskevidekatriaphobia (say that three times fast) or a morbid, and irrational fear of Friday the 13th, as coined by Dr. Donald Dossey. According to a 2000 survey conducted by American Demographics 13% of Americans suffer this fear. Interesting coincidence with that number 13, and I sincerely hope that you gentle readers are not afflicted with this.

The history of where this fear originated seems lost within the mists of time itself, but here are a few theories put forward by others:

Christ is thought to have been crucified on a Friday, which was execution day among the Romans. Friday's were also traditionally execution day in Britain. The number 13 ties in as it was believed to bring bad luck because there were 13 people at The Last Supper.

People have suggested that Friday was the day God threw Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, which would be a lucky guess as the concept of Friday hadn't been invented yet.

Thirteen is an unlucky or bad number in Norse mythology as well. Loki, the most mischievous of the Norse gods, went uninvited to a party for 12 at Valhalla, a banquet hall of the gods. And whilst there he caused the death of Balder, the god of light, joy, and reconciliation.

On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrests of Jaques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templars and sixty of his senior knights in Paris. Thousands of others were arrested elsewhere in the country. After utilising torture techniques to force the Templars to "confess" to wrongdoing, most were eventually executed and sympathizers of the Templars condemned Friday the 13th as an evil day.

Chaucer alluded to Friday as a day on which bad things seemed to happen in the Canterbury Tales during the late 14th century, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance." Perhaps with the plight of the Templars in mind?

In my opinion it was probably a combination of all of the above, and much more that led to the superstition, and belief that Friday the 13th is somehow an unlucky day.

How do you feel about Friday the 13th? Will you be doing anything different today because of it? Or do you believe it to be a silly superstition only?

Further Reading:

A World Of Luck - Friday The 13th

Friday the 13th - Unlucky No. 13 combines Christian and pagan beliefs

Image credit: Getty Images



Permalink 12:00:04 am, by Email , 1017 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele

Sam Steele

In the United States of America, they have emblems and icons that they bring to the fore to inspire... Uncle Sam, marching revolutionary rebels with flag, fife, and drum...

In Canada, we also have an icon... something many in the world recognise as distinctly Canadian... a Mountie.

Yes, a member of a police force... a member of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This isn't too odd, after all, our neighbours to the South have a motto of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" whereas Canada's lesser known - yet official motto is "Peace, Order, and Good Government" (I kid you not. The latter part is thanks to another fellow that will be blogged about later in this series... but more on that at a later date.)

Meet the archetype for the steady man in the red uniform... Sam Steele.

Born near Orillia, Ontario in 1851, Sam Steele came from a military background. He was educated in Toronto at a military academy and was a member of the 1st Ontario Rifles when a young man.

He joined the brand new North West Mounted Police (which would become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in 1873 as a Troop Sergeant Major and was part of the first men to set up a permanent policing force in the West of Canada. I should preface this a bit...

If you check back on my entry on Crowfoot, you may remember me mentioning the problems with the West and "Whisky Traders" amongst other things... and how Crowfoot was instrumental in getting the natives to agree to the policing activities of the NWMP... well, this is where Sam Steele comes in.

1871 saw one-hundred natives murdered in the Cypress Hills massacre. This combined with the "Indian Wars" happening South of the border showed the Canadian government the problems that could migrate North. They knew that peace and order needed to be established.

The North West Mounted Police's mandate was to protect the natives from the whisky traders, cultivate the aboriginal's respect, and prepare them for the impending changes that were spreading across the plains.

In 1874 (the year after Steele joined,) the NWMP had what has been called "The Great March" from Toronto to set up shop in Fort Mcleod in the West.

Three-hundred red-coated young men set off on what would be an extremely difficult journey through many places as yet unsettled... setting up forts and stations along the way to act as police stations for those who needed the assistance of the law.

So, far from being "lawless" as our neighbour's to the South portray their "Wild West", Canada's West would be a model of civility and order for the most part thanks to these actions... and Sam Steele would end up becoming almost the embodiment of this.

Steele, during "The Great March", gained the attention and admiration of his fellow officers with his work ethic, character, and sheer determination in his tasks.

Steele's first difficult command was looking after and policing the land where the national railway was being built. Steele literally took control and looked after land from one side of the country to the other to ensure that a rail link connecting sea-to-sea was constructed without issue.

During the Rebellion of 1885 (led by Louis Riel,) Steele formed "The Alberta Field Force" which was instrumental in putting an end to the uprising, which also led to Steele's reputation as a hard working, loyal, and honest man.

This led to his promotion to Superintendent of the force and given the difficult task of restoring law and order to the area known as Kootenay (in British Columbia) which was suffering from tensions between the white settlers and natives. Steele, being popular and well known within both communities, managed to use diplomacy and sheer presence to ease the issues and set up the first permanent post West of the Rocky Mountains in a town named Galbraith’s Ferry.

After successfully looking after that, he was posted to Macleod district, which was not only having the same problems, but also facing an increasing amount of general crime such as cattle and horse thievery and smuggling. Again, Steele's efforts helped quell the issues and his organisation skills helped stem the crime wave.

In the last part of the nineteenth century, the gold rush sent scores of people to the Yukon... and the NWMP sent their best man to control it, Sam Steele.

To quote the RCMP's official online biography of Steele...

He was policeman, magistrate and controller of rations under the very trying times of people seeking their fortunes and unprepared for the weather conditions.

Most of the "participants" in the great Yukon Gold Rush owe their survival and safety to one man... Sam Steele.

Many say that political "intrigue" kept Steele from becoming full or even assistant commissioner to the NWMP, but Steele still carved himself a niche and easily was and is Canada's most famed police officer.

You'd think this might be enough for one life... and you'd be wrong...

In 1900, the Boer War broke out and Steele was placed in charge of raising a mounted unit to help the Empire with the troubles in Africa. Steele raised a group named Lord Strathcona’s Horse (which is still an active unit in Canada's modern military) and later that year, went to South Africa with his men and ended up being a large part of setting up the South African Constabulary.

Not done yet, in 1915 he took command of the second Canadian expeditionary force in World War I.

In 1916, he accepted a posting to become General Officer Commanding Shorncliffe Area in England... a post he held until his retirement in 1918 after receiving his knighthood for his storied career.

He died in 1919 in London, England at the age of seventy.

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele... the embodiment of the honest, hard working, diplomatic, gentlemanly member of Canada's police force. An icon of Canadiana loyalty and order.


Official RCMP Biography of Sam Steele
Wiki-Sam Steele
Sam Steele Days
Our Heritage - Sam Steele

For fun, here's a video that some Canadian's may remember about Sam Steele...

Click here for that video...



Permalink 12:55:21 am, by Email , 11 words   English (CA)
Categories: Kings And Queens, Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: Queen Marie Antoinette's Cottage At Versailles

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 05:13:39 pm, by Email , 241 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, War And Conflict, History In The News

Vimy Ridge Remembered

Under the shadows of two stone pillars marking Canada's most celebrated military triumph of the First World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reflected Monday in France on the 1917 battle that many regard as the moment Canada was truly born.

"Every nation has a creation story to tell," Harper said to thousands gathered on the field below, where Canadian forces exactly 90 years ago captured the German-occupied position thought by Allied Forces to be impregnable.

The Queen, sitting next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the ceremonies, said Canada deserved to take its rightful place as a proud sovereign nation.

"The First World War and the Battle of Vimy Ridge are central to the story of our country."

As the brilliant sunshine warmed the throngs of French and Canadians who made the pilgrimage to the historic site, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Queen Elizabeth laid wreaths at the base of the Vimy Ridge monument's magnificent sculpted columns.

The Queen, making her address in French, declared the land "sacred soil" and spoke of its importance to Canada, a nation then barely 50 years old that "deserved so much to take its rightful place … as a proud sovereign nation, strong and free."

She concluded the ceremony by rededicating the newly refurbished Vimy Ridge monument. Then, with military precision, four low-flying French military jets soared over the memorial in time with the last notes from a musical cue.

Full CBC Coverage Here




Permalink 12:11:26 am, by Email , 201 words   English (CA)
Categories: Holidays And Traditions

The History Of The Easter Bunny

The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the Spring season.

The bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have it's origins in Germany, where it was first mentioned in German writings in the 1500s. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800s. These were made of pastry and sugar.

The Easter bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. The arrival of the "Oschter Haws" was considered "childhood's greatest pleasure" next to a visit from Christ-Kindel on Christmas Eve. The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay a nest of colored eggs.

The children would build their nest in a secluded place in the home, the barn or the garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests . The use of elaborate Easter baskets would come later as the tradition of the Easter bunny spread throughout the country.

Source: Easter Traditions

Wishing All Those Who Celebrate A Very Happy Easter!



Permalink 12:26:02 am, by Email , 501 words   English (CA)
Categories: Holidays And Traditions

The History Of The Easter Egg

Of all the symbols associated with Easter the egg, the symbol of fertility and new life, is the most identifiable. The customs and traditions of using eggs have been associated with Easter for centuries.

Originally Easter eggs were painted with bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring and were used in Easter-egg rolling contests or given as gifts. After they were colored and etched with various designs the eggs were exchanged by lovers and romantic admirers, much the same as valentines. In medieval time eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. In Germany eggs were given to children along with other Easter gifts.

Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. Crimson eggs, to honor the blood of Christ, are exchanged in Greece. In parts of Germany and Austria green eggs are used on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday). Slavic peoples decorate their eggs in special patterns of gold and silver.

Pysanki eggs are a masterpiece of skill and workmanship. Melted beeswax is applied to the fresh white egg. It is then dipped in successive baths of dye. After each dip wax is painted over the area where the preceding color is to remain. Eventually a complex pattern of lines and colors emerges into a work of art.

In Germany and other countries eggs used for cooking where not broken, but the contents were removed by piercing the end of each egg with a needle and blowing the contents into a bowl. The hollow eggs were died and hung from shrubs and trees during the Easter Week. The Armenians would decorate hollow eggs with pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and other religious designs.

For thousands of years, people thought of eggs as the symbols of new life. People also thought that the Earth itself hatched from a huge egg. So that is why the egg was chosen as the symbol of the resurrection.

Long before Jesus, people used to give each other eggs as presents. These eggs were dyed or painted in fancy colours and designs. Some of the most elaborate and beautifully designed eggs came from countries such as the Ukraine. The tool used by the Ukrainians was called a Kistka. It's a brass cone mounted on a stick. The artist filled this with wax and heats it so that the wax melts, the artist then draws patterns on the melted wax. All the designs used have a religious meaning.

Every country has its own customs. In the Northern counties of England the children go around begging for eggs and other presents and acting out the Pace egg Play, this was known as "Pace egging".

"Pace eggs" comes from the Hebrew word Pesach (Passover). In Scotland the word also appears as Peace or Paiss.

In Poland girls used to send eggs to their favorite boyfriends. Finnish children would beat the grown-ups with birch twigs until they were given eggs for ransom.

Source: Easter Traditions

Wishing All Of You That Celebrate A Very Happy Easter!



Permalink 12:48:59 am, by Email , 1187 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, Americana, Heroic Women

Mary Shadd Cary

Mary Shadd Cary

Mary Shadd, the eldest of thirteen children was born in October of 1823 in Willmington, Delaware... the daughter of Abraham and Harriett Shadd who were free blacks. Her parents were also "stationmasters" of the Underground Railroad... the path that led escaped slaves to freedom in the North.

Abraham and Harriett were also strong believers in education, and with this in mind, moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, so their children could be education at a Quaker-run school there.

When she finished her education in Pennsylvania, Mary moved back to Willmington to open her own school for black children.

Her work there was interrupted, however, with the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which allowed slave hunters to pursue escaped slaves into the North to "bring them back" to their old masters. Of course, it wasn't long before freed blacks were being kidnapped and sent South under the false pretense that they were "escapees".

Mary and her brother, Isaac, moved to Canada West (present day Ontario) where slavery had been completely abolished for many years and settled in Windsor where Mary set up a school... not strictly for black children, but as an advocate of integration rather than segregation, for all children regardless of race. Sadly, many of the black activists in Canada at the time did believe that settling in their own communities and being kept segregated was a better way to live life... Mary did not subscribe to this believing that all people were equal and capable of doing whatever they could based on their worth, not on their race.

This put her at loggerheads with the powerful American Missionary Association run by Henry Bibb, an established leader in the black community in Canada. Initially, Bibb's group funded Shadd's school... but when she publicly defied him and his segregated views (refusing to teach in a "black only" school), she lost her funding and was forced to do what she could to make ends meet and keep her school alive.

For this, she opened a newspaper... "The Provincial Freeman" to counter Bibb's paper, "The Voice of the Fugitive" (with which he was now attacking Shadd's ideas and character) and hopefully earn the money she needed to keep her school alive.

"The Provincial Freeman" promoted temperance, moral reform, civil rights, and black self-help while attacking the racial discrimination blacks faced within North America. It was one of the longest published black newspapers until the Civil War.

Oddly enough, Shadd became the first female newspaper editor in North America... although initially she didn't take credit.

At the time, a "woman's place" was not in charge of a paper, so she used the name of Presbyterian minister in Toronto, Samuel Ward, as it's editor... Needless to say, Ward was not really involved... it was Shadd... but since she was already fighting the fight against segregationism and the usual issues of race in European settled lands, she decided that, initially, using a man's name was more prudent and would assist the paper in launching properly.

Shadd became a popular speaker... touring Canada and the Northern U.S. to put out the word against slavery, for black integration into society, and to raise money for her paper... all the time decrying people like Bibb's who still asked for handouts to help "refugees"... Shadd felt this was turning popular opinion her people into beggers that could not support themselves... she disagreed with this on many levels... one of which was the Bibb's seemed to be getting richer and richer for his efforts with little of these "donations" getting back into the community.

Evetually, Mary moved the paper to Toronto where the black population was much larger. She also changed the masthead to show it was edited by M.A. Shadd... which, when it was discovered this was a woman, caused a stir... and she found herself on the defensive over her gender.

With reluctance, she appointed Rev. William Newman as editor (again, really a "token" editor) so she could continue her efforts with her speaking tours.

Although this moved "calmed the waters", everybody still realised that this was Mary's paper.

In 1855, Mary moved her paper to Chatham (Ontario) which had an even larger black population than Toronto... hoping to increase ad revenues and readership. In Chatham, Shadd rescued a young escaped slave running from slave catchers working illegally in Canada...

"Come with me, I'll save you!" Mary whispered to the frightened child. The boy looked up at her and nodded. Mary grabbed his hand and together they raced along the dusty street. Behind them, the two slave catchers bellowed in surprise and then took up the chase.

Out of breath, Mary slowed down in front of a large building. "We'll get help in the court house," Mary gasped as they staggered up it's steps. Once inside the building, Mary violently rang it's huge bell. As the bell rang out it's alarm, the townspeople of Chatham quickly gathered at the court house.

Mary pointed at the two men that chased her. "They are slave catchers," she shouted with contempt, "and they are trying to drag a child back to the United States to be a slave!"

The angry murmur from the crowd rose to a roar, Someone screamed "Grab them!" and the crowd rushed forward.

The slave catchers turned and ran for their lives.

While lecturing in Philadelphia, she so dazzled her audience with her speaking a debating skills that they a benefit in the city to honour her years of work and achievement for the rights and building of the culture of blacks in North America.

In 1856, Mary Shadd married Thomas Cary, a hard working member of the black community in Toronto and within five days of her marriage, was back speaking and touring to raise funds for the paper.

Hard times in 1857 (a general economic depression) stopped the paper publishing... and in 1861, Thomas passed away leaving Mary and two children.

With the ending of the American Civil War in 1865, Mary saw the huge task ahead with freed blacks in the States. She returned to America where she taught school for many years and at the age of sixty, was called to the bar and became a lawyer... only the second black woman to do so in her time.

Although the vote was given to black men in 1865, women were still not given the vote and Mary put her considerable talents and skills into the American Women's Rights Movement.

Mary joined the National Woman's Suffrage Association working with people such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton towards women's suffrage, even testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and becoming the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election.

Mary Shadd Cary passed away at age seventy... feted as one of the great women of her time and a hard worker towards universal suffrage and integration of society.

Frederick Douglass said once of Mary, "With voice and pen she is equally eloquent."

"Her Story - Women from Canada's Past" by Susan E. Merritt
Afro-American Almanac Biographies
Living Vignettes of Women from the Past
Library and Archives Canada



Permalink 12:03:45 am, by Email , 11 words   English (CA)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: The Tower Of London

For a list of other Wordless Wednesday participants please click here.



Permalink 12:53:44 am, by Email , 433 words   English (CA)
Categories: Meet The History Buffs

Meet The History Buffs

Your Host & Hostess......

Sue Darroch & Matthew James Didier

Amongst our many hobbies, and interests, we both share a love of history, and historical re-enactment. We are delighted to share this passion with you, and if you would like to make a suggestion for future entries on this blog then please just Ask The History Buffs. Not only do we write about history...we live it!

Sue Darroch is one of the founders and webmaster of ParaResearchers which has been active in the province of Ontario since the year 2000. Sue is a professional within the graphics and communications industry. She considers herself first and foremost an amateur scientist with specific interests in: ghosts and hauntings, ufology, and other Fortean topics. Sue has made an impressive impact within the Parascience community as a hands-on investigator of these phenomena. She also is greatly involved with The Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Societies as well as assisting many of the international GHRS directors with the development of innovative investigative techniques and methodology, and is also the co-author of the PSICAN/GHRS investigative course book. Sue has contributed as technical consultant on various media projects and has been a regular guest on CFRB's Mind/Shift. Her public speaking engagements include Skeptics Canada, Ontario Institute For Studies & Education, University of Toronto. For fun she enjoys historical study and is considered an authority on Tudor England, and William Lyon Mackenzie, a personal hero of hers.

Matthew James Didier is the founder of the Ghosts and Hauntings Research Societies which have been active since 1997. Matthew is still deeply involved with investigations and research with his original groups, The Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society and The Ontario Ghosts and Hauntings Research Societies. Matthew is currently a regular contributor to the CFRB paranormal radio program, Mind/Shift with his partner, Susan Darroch (see above). He is active in the "living history" community and has been an active War of 1812 re-enactor and volunteered his services to many different historic groups and museums, most notably in this aspect, he is webmaster and server administrator for the Upper Canadian Heritage Websites. Matthew's love of the paranormal and history is matched only by what some term his "unhealthy obsession" with double-decker buses which can be seen by another of his websites, DoubleDeckerBuses.Org.

Other blogs that we maintain, and regularly contribute to:

The Paranormal Blog

Nuttin' But Pimp

Life in the Urban Zoo

One Old Green Bus

Thank you for stopping by, and please do leave us a comment or two, we will reply, and enjoy our reader feedback!


Matthew & Sue



Permalink 12:09:33 am, by Email , 978 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, War And Conflict

Charles deSalaberry


Meet Lieutenant Colonel Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry... born in Quebec in 1778.

He is an oddity... most of the heroes of Canada "back in the day" tended to be immigrants... but not DeSallaberry. He was one of four boys from a proud Quebec family that had a long standing military history history in Canada... fighting for France when the French had control of the country, and then serving Britain in the same fashion after the British wrested control of the Canadas...

There's a fantastic story about DeSallaberry when he was serving in the West Indies... In the mess, a German soldier serving with him came in boasting about a duel he'd just won...

"I come just now from dispatching a French Canadian into another world!"

DeSallaberry answered the boast...

"We are going to finish lunch and then you will have the pleasure of dispatching another."

...the German didn't win that one... but DeSallaberry carried a scar on his brow from that day for the rest of his life.

At the first signs of war with America (the War of 1812), DeSallaberry was brought home to Canada where he raised a hand-picked militia group... The Voltigeurs... made up of not of farmers, but of voyageurs, lumbermen, and city-bred young men. DeSallaberry drilled them like regulars (rare for the time) and made them into one of Canada's fiercest and finest fighting groups of the time.

The Voltigeurs wore grey-wool jackets, (not "redcoats" or "green jackets" that were more common in British lines,) with black cross-belts... and black bear-skin hats... With their training, they were ready for what was to come.

Now, think about this... in the time of Napoleon and the wars with France when Britain was fighting in Spain and Portugal, one of the best British militia groups was a French group named "Voltigeurs"... and they were fighting for King and Country!

Easily, DeSallaberry's (and the Voltigeur's) greatest moment was at the Battle of Chateauguay...

U.S. General Wade Hampton and some four-thousand troops were heading to Montreal by way of the St. Lawrence.

Through intelligence, DeSallaberry knew they were coming... and picked his battlefield. He built a abatis (a tangle of branches and obstructions) to slow the American approach... but they came in force... right where he wanted them.

DeSallaberry had his Voltigeurs, a company of "Select Embodied Militia" (in read coats), and a picket of Chasseurs (embodied militia... mostly untrained) and a handful of Caughnawaga natives... in all, 460 men... facing almost ten-times their number... and as the Chasseurs weren't trained, they couldn't be counted on.

He did have 1,500 men in reserve... just in case his advanced position didn't hold... they would not see action this day.

The American's sent a single advanced horseman... who yelled to the Voltigeurs in French...

"Brave Canadians, surrender yourselves; We wish you no harm!"

This was done as the American's were somewhat counting on anti-British sentiment from the French Canadians...

Wrong move.

The "story" goes that DeSallaberry himself borrowed a musket from a man beside him, levelled it at the rider... and dropped him from his horse.

It's probably just a legend... but it's a good one.

The battle, such as it would be, was now joined.

DeSallaberry called for his bugler to sound the call to open fire... he noticed that the Americans, on hearing the bugle and musket fire, hesitated... so he sent buglers out all around... surrounding the Americans and sounding the call to fire. This led to the Americans assuming they were facing a much larger force.

He called to "Red" George MacDonald... the officer in charge of the Select Embodied militia... barking his orders in French to further confuse the Americans.

"Red" George marched his men in their red tunics up a hill and made them visible to the Americans... then marched them back, had them reverse their tunics (which were lined in white) and march back up the hill... "doubling their force"... at least in the eyes of the American soldiers.

The Caughnawagas would "pop-out" of the brush here and there... waving their weapons and giving "war whoops", then disappear into the woods, only to re-emerge elsewhere and repeat their step.

There's more to this story and battle... but I've got to keep this short...

"Surrounded by a huge force" of British soldiers... "Surrounded by angry natives"... the American's retreated in disorder...

Four-Thousand... thrown back by four-hundred.

Combined with the battle of Crysler's Farm, this stopped the American advance on Montreal... thus keeping the Americans hacking vainly at the "end" of Canada at the time... the Niagara region... they could have cut a swath through the heart of the country... but a French Canadian officer... and handful of militia... a handful of natives... stopped their plans dead... and yes, it can be said, they saved Canada.

DeSallaberry did receive awards for his efforts and was made inspector of all the light companies in the Canadas for the remainder of the war.

He spent the last of his days as a "seigneur" in Quebec... a "gentleman farmer" and landlord... He was also a folk-hero... and served as a justice of the peace and even spent a short time in politics, but was a "quiet rebel" and wasn't fond of the ruling oligarchy and preferred the life in St. Mathias as a seigneur... The government he was not fond of would later be thrown into turmoil during the rebellions of 1837...

DeSallaberry passed away in Chambly in 1829.

He's not too well known in Quebec... and almost anonymous in the rest of Canada with the exception of history buffs.

If you wish to know more, you can pick up a decent biography called Charles de Sallaberry - Soldier of the Empire, Defender of Quebec by J. Patrick Wohler.

Also have a "boo" at Fields of Glory - The Battle of Crysler's Farm, 1813 by Donald E. Graves and Flames Across the Border by Pierre Berton.


Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

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