A century standing by

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On a warm summer day in 1985, Pammy’s great3grandson* looked on as Elmer MacKay, solicitor general of Canada, inaugurated the museum at Kingston Penitentiary. It was the sesquicentennial of the arrival, on June 1, 1835, of Matthew Tavender. He was KP’s Inmate Number One, sentenced to three years for grand larceny. Tavender and the convicts who followed him inside were forced into labour gangs that would greatly expand the fortress-like prison on the shore of Lake Ontario, but the earliest work on the massive stone building was done by local tradesmen.
+ For an explanation of the convention designating various generations of Pammy’s family, see About Rideau Canal And All That on the bar above.

In Kingston, the local workers who knew best how to work with stone were those who had just finished the Rideau Canal. The new pen, destined to be still in use in the twenty first century, wasn’t the only lucrative construction contract in those days in Kingston. Fort Henry, which commands the city’s entrance heights was — is — an imposing fortification. Some of the last Martello Towers ever built are in Kingston. It was a bit late for these defensive forts when they went up — another example of the military preparing for its last war — but they still stand tall for tourists. These were massive works of construction and times were good in Kingston, which in another half-dozen years would be the first capital of what would become Canada and where the young John Alexander Macdonald was entering upon a legal career, his thought not yet turned to politics. It was a bonanza for stone workers. Good times would come again for their descendants in the 1860s with work on Parliament buildings for the new country then being born. In the meantime they built many great houses along the Rideau corridor between the first Canadian capital (Kingston 1841) to the one we have now (Ottawa 1867), including the official residences on Sussex Drive for prime minister and governor general.

Many of the stone workers were among or had been trained by those who came to work on the canal in 1826. There were two companies of Royal Sappers and Miners recruited to assist Lt. Col. John By (right) in his great task, a complement of a hundred and sixty two men. Fifty seven were lost to accident, disease and desertion through the six years of construction. When the work was finished, seventy one of those remaining accepted hundred acre grants of land and settled along the corridor of the canal, planting outposts of settlement where none existed. And then there were the lucky few who got the land and a job as well. But few were as fortunate as William (Pammy) Fleming, who got all of that and the lady too.

Everything Jim Simmons owned was sold after he was killed in a blasting accident on the canal at Newboro in 1830. His wardrobe and kit and ‘necessaries’ went to provide some relief to his family.  Pammy, who had been a friend and fellow bricklayer among the sappers, bought a pair of regimental trousers for twelve shillings. Elizabeth Simmons, mother of a girl and seven-year old Jim Jr., received thirteen pounds, eight shillings, ninepence. Not a fortune but a tidy sum and with a widow’s pension from the military Elizabeth could bide her time. There was no shortage of suitors. There were many more men than women in Upper Canada. Women could choose. She waited two years, until it was sure that the colonel would give Pammy the job at Chaffey’s Lock. He wasn’t a big man, just five and a half feet tall, but strong. (It wasn’t a time of tall men, then or for a long time after. The mean height of a company of British soldiers en route to India in 1865 was 5’5. Winston Churchill, who was almost a teenager when Pammy died in 1887, was well short of 5’7.) He hadn’t been a non-com. Sergeants and corporals were getting preference for canal jobs. But Pammy was made an acting corporal before discharge. And she knew he had one of the essential requirements. Pammy could read and he could write, one of the few who could.

In his survey of the Rideau route in 1826 John MacTaggart, Colonel By’s clerk of works, wrote that at Chaffey’s “I am not ashamed to own that I was more puzzled to know how to act, than on any other part of the route.” This was because MacTaggart wanted to bypass the mills that Sam Chaffey and his brother had built on both banks near a waterfall of thirteen feet. It would be too expensive to expropriate the distillery and the grist, carding and sawmills that the Chaffeys had put up in the six years they had been in the area. “High banks on either side of the river, and mills choking up that river, seemed to defy the science of engineering to pass them with the Canal . . .”

But the problem would be resolved by tragic circumstance just a year later when Sam Chaffey died of malaria. His widow decided to sell the millworks and two hundred acres of land to Colonel By for two thousand pounds. His brother Ben had already departed for the United States and the family spread later to Australia, producing significant memorials wherever they settled. They are inveterate builders. One of Sam’s nephews was back at Chaffey’s in 1872 to construct a stone gristmill.

The contract to remove the mills and build a lock with nine feet of lift and a twenty foot high dam went to John Sheriff & Co. The project became known as Haggart’s Job after Sheriff’s partner, “a jolly bachelor of that name, well known for convivial hospitality to all travellers by this route.” Another year, another tragedy, when John Sheriff succumbed to malaria in 1828, along with several labourers on the lock.

Over the six year construction period more than five hundred men and an unknown number of women and children at and near the canal works died of malaria. It was a disease that had been present in eastern North America for many years. The mosquito that transmitted it could and did live here. But it was groupings of people that helped to spread the disease. In construction camps one worker to another was a zip for a mosquito. No one escaped, from Colonel By down through the ranks to the wives and children of workers. Everyone suffered. During the “sickly month” of August, six out of ten workers took to their beds with terrible pain, stomach upset, vomiting and general debility. The only known antimalarial treatment was quinine but it was quite rare and very expensive. It was hard to get in Canada and few had it. The old Chaffey’s graveyard is said to contain the remains of more unrecognized malaria victims than any other. (In the picture, Mary Anne Chaffey’s plot is fenced in, with fieldstones and headstones in the distance marking early graves where wood crosses have rotted away.)

But the work continued. And what a work it was that the colonel had conceived. To build the canal, John By had two options. The conventional and proven option was to use excavated channels of considerable length to link existing waterways that were navigable, bypassing falls, rapids, swamps and rocky shallows. By dismissed this approach as being too expensive and time-consuming, given the terrain, geology and configuration of the lakes and rivers.

Through what would be called “a fundamental stroke of creative genius” he envisioned another option, the relatively untried technology called ‘slackwater’. It would use a large number of embankments and high dams to inundate shallows, swamps, and rapids, creating a series of basins deep enough to navigate the full length of the canal. This dramatically reduced the need to excavate channels. Costs and construction time were greatly contained and compressed.

Slackwater techniques had never been attempted in North America near the complexity of what By conceived to join the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers into a corridor linking the Ottawa River with Lake Ontario. This would become the swiftest route of the day from Montreal, where most British troops were stationed, to the frontier opposite the United States at Kingston. It was the threat from the U.S. that By was addressing. He never forgot that. Speed was essential. His Corps of Royal Engineers designed an ingenious system to exercise unprecedented control over water levels. They included seventy four dams and forty seven locks at twenty four lock stations, allowing vessels to ascend eighty five metres to the summit of the canal from the Ottawa River, and then descend fifty metres to Lake Ontario.

Part of By’s genius was his foresight in planning for the future dominance of steamboats. The specs for the canal that he was given called for locks just sufficient to pass durham boats, flat-bottomed vessels propelled by sail or oars. By sought and got authorization to build larger locks able to accommodate the bigger boats that would use the emerging technology of steam power.

“It is the best preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America,” UNESCO wrote in designating the canal a World Heritage Site. “It is the only canal dating from the great North American canal-building era of the early nineteenth century to remain operational along its original line with most of its original structures intact.”

Once built, with what even today would be considered blazing speed, the problem became one of operations. By’s final task before departure was to ensure that key posts along the waterway were filled with the best candidates available. Literacy was a prime requirement for a lockmaster, but not the only one. They are outlined by Ed Bebee in his original and masterful portrayal of the workers who have kept the canal operating almost the way it was built for almost two centuries. His book is entitled Invisible Army: Hard Times, Heartbreak and Heritage, and he writes:

“What were the qualifications to be a lockmaster? First, military experience, generally as a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), either Corporal or Sergeant; second the ability to read and write, because of the flood of written orders and the extensive record-keeping; third, basic arithmetic and some sense of book-keeping to be able to manage the accounts of tolls and local rents; fourth, robust good health; fifth, ‘steadiness’, which could mean anything. Sobriety was not a requirement, as soon became evident.”

Canal jobs were the pick of the province. The Army built the canal. The Army owned the canal. There was nothing more stable in all of Canada than the British Army. The pay was not bad and it came in cash, a rare perk in an economy that operated almost entirely on barter and long-term credit. Pammy was a lucky man and knew it the year the widow and the colonel said yes. It was 1832.

Lockmasters initially got housing (or materials to build their own) and permanent lock labourers had small houses or stayed in dormitories at larger stations. Garden plots were also provided. Lockmasters and workers were strictly admonished to avoid political partisanship and even voting. They were front line public servants and expected to behave as such. Patronage was endemic in the early days of colonial semi-self-government. The Rideau Canal was one of the few major generators of jobs and contracts in eastern Ontario. Politicians were very much aware of the opportunities. The local MP, or the defeated candidate if his party happened to be in power, would provide a list of acceptable candidates.

Pammy and his bride Elizabeth (later Gammy) had little time to consider their circumstances in those first months at Chaffey’s, after the military had departed and the first ceremonial passage was through the lock, en route from Kingston to Bytown. Colonel By and his family were joined by aides and dignitaries aboard the canal tug Pumper, renamed Rideau for the journey, greeted all along the great waterway he had built with rousing cheers that fell not far short of adulation. In this place and time he had made a wonder of the modern world. The people along the Rideau corridor, some who had been his soldiers and many who had worked on the canal, sensed greatness. Sadly, he was to fall victim to bureaucrats and petty politics on his return to Britain, his world-class achievement never celebrated by the British, whose taxes had paid for it.

The Pumper, built for Robert Drummond, one of the primary canal contractors, would be followed through the years by a succession of maintenance tugs well into the twentieth century. The longest lasting and most famous was Loretta, whose captain into the 1930s was Pammy’s grandson. Captain Ned, Kate’s brother, also had captained the Rideau King (left), one of the passenger steamers owned by his brother-in-law. For many years the Rideau King and Rideau Queen, with their musical steam whistles that could be heard for miles, provided a luxurious cruise along the beautifully crafted waterway between two of Ontario’s principal population centres. He was known as the ‘poet laureate’ within the family. When tied up overnight at a station along the waterway, the sweet sound of Captain Ned’s violin would often swell from Loretta’s deck and fill the summer evening all around.

In 1832 the population of York (Toronto) was 5,000, Kingston was 4,200 and Bytown (Ottawa), which hadn’t existed six years earlier, was 3,200. It was the beginning of urban society but not yet an urban economy. As one merchant wrote, “No one here can do business and obtain payment short of a year’s credit.” Almost all sales to farmers were on credit. They had no cash until the crops were harvested. Some debts were settled by a merchant buying land and having debtors supply labour or materials to erect a house or building.

Pammy, who built a ‘log house’ for his family when he arrived, was paid the lockmaster’s wage of $0.80 per day. The days were long, sometimes stretching through the nights and into new days. A lot of labour and time went to stretching the salary. There was a plot to grow vegetables. The potato was a staple of the daily diet, which made for hardship in the mid 1840s when a blight struck. Ireland was being devastated at the same time by this crop failure but the famine that prevailed there was in no way repeated here. Canadians were survivors in the toughest climate of the new world. They kept a cow, pigs and chickens. Fish were plentiful as were venison, ducks, muskrat. Drowned logs or trees from the surrounding forest were fuel for winter fires. They might have been colonists, or even colonials, but they weren’t landless peasants so weakened by life as the 20,000 Irish who died of disease and malnutrition on their way to Canada in 1847, one out of five who sailed.

In the colony the Rideau Canal was about to become an economic lifeline. It would get busier and busier, day and night, week after week, month on month until ice checked the flow. Ultimately, of course, the onset of a navigable St, Lawrence and the railroad combined to overpower the canal as a commercial route. But for a century the scene was the one described by an anonymous writer at Newboro, quoted by Robert Legget in Rideau Waterway. The canal was “crowded with boats carrying the produce of the country and bringing in such goods as were needed and the growing prosperity of the country could afford. City of Ottawa, Rideau King and Rideau Queen were some of the boats that carried passengers and freight and looked to one in their day like monsters of marine architecture. Tugs were towing 2, 3 and 4 barges; about 40 sailing scows carried out wood, lumber, pressed hay, grain, horses, cheese, whatever the country had to sell and brought in goods the merchants sold, the implements that were needed, the foodstuffs not grown in this climate and furnished employment to hundreds of men. Rafts of squared timber and of rough logs running up to hundreds of lock bands, built up with cook and bunk houses, stables for horses gouged by 20 or 30 men made their slow way to mills and market every year and left behind a fire menace. I have seen the men at work without a break for over sixty hours. They slept on the grass while the locks were filling and ate their meals that were brought to them sitting on a swing bar. They worked 24 hours a day, slept when they could. At first the lockmen were paid 60 cents a day for 71/2 months each year. Later their pay was raised to $1 a day and there never was a time when there was any trouble getting men to work on the lock.”

It was non-stop “when the horn blew we’d lock ‘em through” twenty four hours a day, seven days a week until 1871, after which Sunday was allowed off. Sleep between lockages was often snatched on a cot on the lockmaster’s porch. The biggest problem were the “blue barges” of logs, huge flotillas of lumber that had to be passed through the lock bit-by-bit, hour-after-hour.

For more than seven months a year there was no shortage of activity or company at the station. But in the winter it was thoroughly isolated. Distances to Kingston or even Elgin, a few miles away, were over trails rather than roads. The few people in the area had to make do with one another’s company. Pammy’s house, the largest around, was often the centre for euchre games, Christmas parties and impromptu dancing. “One of the high spots during the winter,” Melinda Warren writes in Hearth and Heritage: History of Chaffey’s Lock and Area, “would be when the carpentry crew came. The crew, of about twelve members, would camp at the station, sleeping on bunks in the storehouse. This work force was provided with their own cook, for a crew could live at the lock site for sometimes two months, building a new set of gates or a new dock. Because of their long stay they would become temporary members of the small communities. They provided a friendly diversion from long winter boredom. At night when the day’s work was done the crew, Lockmen and families would sit around the wood stove; stories and homemade bread in abundance. When the families retired for the evening, more stories and other ‘refreshments’ would be in greater abundance!

“It was a special time for the Lock Station when this crew came. The empty space which the crew left in the community when they moved on, would soon be filled by hard work to prepare for the new navigation season; and later new faces to relate the past winter’s tales to. . .”

Lockstations were strengthened in 1837-38 in response to rebellion troubles in both provinces (Upper and Lower Canada at that time, to become Canada West and East in 1841 and Ontario and Quebec in 1867) that pointed to the susceptibility of canal works to attack. Government durham boats loaded with ammunition and troops were passing through. Lock workers were called out to train with the militia. A report in Pammy’s hand describes “the loyal men who turned out to defend the lock and other works at Chaffey’s, Rideau Canal, on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th of July, 1838,” when the lock was menaced by sympathizers with the rebellion in Upper Canada. Under Pammy’s command twenty seven volunteers, including fifteen-year-old stepson James Simmons Jr., mounted sentries and patrolled the area to deter aggression.

Captain Billy, Pammy’s son, in 1890.

In the meantime Pammy and Elizabeth had a son William in 1833. As a boy he became a lake sailor and earned his captain’s papers at an early age. He would eventually be the first master of the Rideau Queen, owned by his son-in-law, and become widely known along the Rideau as Captain Billy.

As word spread of employment possibilities, good farmland and world class sport fishing at Chaffey’s, immigrant families began to arrive, many of them fleeing the famine in Ireland. Among these were the Doyles, who arrived from near Dublin in 1830 with an infant daughter. Young Billy and Margaret Doyle grew up together and just before Christmas 1854 they eloped and married. Elopement was necessary because the English Protestant Flemings and Irish Catholic Doyles were not ready mixers. They had to get over it eventually though as Captain Billy and his bride made passionate use of the long winters over the next two decades to produce five sons and three daughters, most born in a little log cabin on a section of Pammy’s property. The first born, Mary, married Captain Dan Noonan, who owned the Rideau Navigation Company. Henry, the second, became the third Chaffey’s lockmaster. A younger brother, Edward, would succeed Captain Billy as master of the Rideau Queen and earn his own local fame as Captain Ned.

Kate, christened Catharine, was the third, born in 1859. At nineteen she married James O’Brien, fifteen years older, the only son of Little Ned O’Brien, who had arrived in Chaffey’s from Ireland in 1840. Little Ned’s property would become the core of Queen’s University’s Biological Station (pictured) on Opinicon Lake a century later, where Pammy’s great3grandson Roberto would one day pursue studies toward his doctorate in zoology.
Jim O’Brien, who had been a lakeboat captain, tried farming at Chaffey’s as he and Kate started the family that would eventually number eight girls and five boys. But in less than a decade that toil was abandoned and they picked up and left for Montreal, the first ever of the family to move from Chaffey’s. Jim would be a milkdealer at first, then a grocer, and died in 1925. Kate would live to ninety nine in 1958 with the patience and quiet acceptance of the poker player and lifelong fisher she was.

The log cabin they were born and raised in had long outlived its comfort level by the time Captain Billy got around to building a proper home for his fast growing brood. Margaret would reminisce years later about the day in 1870 when the house was ready and what a pleasure it had been “to walk down the hill carrying baby Charles and take my family into our new home.”

And what a home it was. It’s described in a remarkable family manuscript written by Pammy’s great-granddaughter Catherine in 1975. Catherine was born at Chaffey’s in 1899 and knew Captain Billy intimately. They lived in the 1870 house together while she was growing up. Pammy had died a dozen years before but his memory lived strong in the neighbourhood where there were many old friends and much family. Catherine writes of the times, the neighbourhood, the customs, schools, entertainments, home life for the girls and the boys, a full and telling evocation of what it was to grow up and live at Chaffey’s Lock through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. The manuscript is contained in the privately printed genealogical masterwork by Pammy’s great2grandson, James, entitled The Fleming Family Tree. Suffice to say the new home for Captain Billy and family was “the nicest and largest farm house in the community” with an iron roof, room to house a three-generation family of ten and an annex with a winter kitchen. It was still in use more than a hundred years after going up and may be still.

It was in this context that Pammy got the name he was universally known by, and which has descended to a property at Chaffey’s still referred to as Pammy’s Farm. A fourth generation grandson once suggested that it was derived from the derogatory slang for Englishman, ‘pommy’. This was impossible. Pammy was a man of respect in the county around Elgin. He had been discharged an acting corporal. There were very few field promotions in the two companies of sappers and miners of the Royal Engineers working with Lt. Col. By on the building of the Rideau Canal. Pammy was the Lockmaster at Chaffey’s, in command of a link on a vital waterway, holding one of the few permanent, paying jobs in the colony. He wouldn’t have been dissed by his neighbours.

Then, there were hundreds of demobbed sappers after the work was finished. Could Pammy have been a generally used nickname? Well no. Finally, there’s no record of the word ‘pommy’ being used before 1912, and then primarily in Australia. That’s well after Pammy’s day and far away. So how did he come by that nickname? For anyone with grandkids, it’s clear enough.  Pammy (William Fleming) had only one natural son, Billy. But he had eight grandchildren, all born at Chaffey’s, all within hailing distance for most of his life. He lived with one of his grandsons and family in later years. It was these kids who called him Pammy, an easy childish mangling of Papa or Grandpa. One after another they made it stick. Only they would have been innocent enough, and well enough loved, to have dared. For Pammy was far from a figure of fun. He had an aristocratic bent and, according to family account, in retirement “always dressed in a swallow tail coat, wore a high silk hat and carried a cane.”

A one storey, defensible lockmaster’s house was built in 1844 and after a dozen years in the log house Pammy, Gammy and family were finally able to move in. It was completely renovated in 1894-85 for their grandson Henry, another of Kate’s brothers, who was the third lockmaster at Chaffey’s. A second storey was added and a wood frame back kitchen. This house (pictured) is now a museum. Chaffey’s was a Fleming family fief for a century. After retiring in 1856, Pammy was succeeded by his stepson, Jim, who served until 1894. There was some fuss when grandson Henry got the next appointment. Patronage was alleged. Henry was dismissed in December 1896 but rehired three months later. He’d hold the job for more than three decades.

As Ed Bebee writes in Invisible Army, “An affable lockmaster with thirty-five years service at a popular station met a lot of people. When his family is there for generations, then relationships run deep.” Henry was such a person.

A combination of age (65 in 1922) and years of service (39) meant that Henry would most likely retire in the early 1920s. Knowing he’d have to move from the Lockmaster’s house, he wanted to acquire a property nearby where he could build a home. He wanted to get it at a good price and avoid an auction that might increase it, particularly since the CNR had built a station at Chaffey’s and local land prices had soared. So he wrote his good acquaintance, George Buskard, private secretary to Prime Minister Arthur Meighen, enquiring casually after family members and enclosing a sketch of the land he wanted. Within a day, enquiries on Henry’s behalf were dispatched on prime ministerial letterhead. The sale transpired as he had wished, helped by an Order-in-Council that designated him the buyer and sidetracked any other potential bidder. Perhaps most remarkably, the government had changed in the interim. Mr. Meighen had been replaced by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. But the change hadn’t bothered Henry. Rather, he lobbied again to have his retirement postponed. He wasn’t finally succeeded as Lockmaster until 1929. The family had held the job just three years shy of a century from the day Pammy got it from Colonel By.

James and Kate O’Brien. First to leave Chaffey’s, Pammy’s granddaughter Catharine (Kate) Fleming was the motherlink of the clan with thirteen children in Montreal. She lived to ninety nine.

After 1847, when work on the St. Lawrence River canals was completed, the Rideau system gradually lost its commercial prominence, though it long remained a gracious and comfortable route for passengers on the Rideau Queen, Rideau King and their like that plied regularly between Kingston and Ottawa. Until today the Rideau Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remains a destination for boats and yachts from near and far as well as the focal point for local festivals in summer and, never forget, the largest skating rink in the world in winter.

Pammy helped build a canal that would prevent another war and help build a nation

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It was fire that cleared the path for a capital that Canada might be proud of. Prime Minister Laurier and his planners used the disaster to advantage and made creative use of destruction.

They planned it around the canal, then as now the most singular feature of a capital rich in monuments. They gave it to the improvement commission to manage, which became the Federal District Commission, which became the National Capital Commission (NCC), which today is the principal real estate owner in the national capital region, with 1,400 properties, including the homes of the prime minister and governor general, four hundred and seventy square kilometers of greenbelt and parkland, and an annual budget pushing a hundred and fifty million dollars.

The canal of which I speak is the canal that gave the Yanks pause. They had jumped us twice in thirty years. Some Americans thought their manifest destiny was to own and occupy the whole of the continent. George Washington sent a general to take Montreal, “not to plunder but to protect you” in one of the earliest campaigns of the American revolutionary war. President Jefferson (1801-1809) said they had only to march to take us over, and President Madison (1809-1817) set troops marching to do just that in 1812. Twice bitten, Canada had ample reason to be shy.

Fort Henry commands Lake Ontario and overlooks the southern end of the canal at the mouth of the Cataraqui River

The Rideau Canal was one of the most spectacular engineering feats of the nineteenth century. Carved through a wilderness at considerable loss of life to work accidents and disease, at an incredibly low cost that nevertheless prompted a parliamentary enquiry, it was a measure of defence and defiance. Along with Fort Henry and a handful of defensive Martello towers that had emerged from the Napoleonic Wars, which defend its southern end at Kingston, the canal was the clearest statement possible at the time that no effort would be spared by Great Britain, no cost would be too high, no sacrifice too great, to defend Canada if the Americans were to try again their vicious incursion of 1812-15.

No less a military genius than Field Marshall Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, victor on the field at Waterloo in June 1815 not long after the nastiness in North America had ended, understood this all too well. When the decision was made to proceed with the canal he was serving as Master General of the Ordnance. He picked the man to build it. John By had been with him in the peninsular war. Wellington became prime minister during the years it took to finish the canal.

Martello

Dug by hand and heart and pick and shovel through hundreds of miles of wildlands and swamp, some so malodorous that breath of it could bring on fever, even death, the canal was a sign of determination so emphatic that America had to believe that Great Britain was serious. The motherland would rush in reinforcements and die on the ramparts in defence of Canada, outpost of empire, if attacked. In fact it had not been much more than a calculated bluff. England was stretched thin with European wars and colonial commitments. In only a few years it would be desperate to pull out of colonies that were costly to govern from across an ocean. It gambled that Americans would forget about Canada after a while if it wasn’t fighting Britain, which it had been doing off and on for a half century. It was a winning strategy. Before long Americans were consumed with their civil war catastrophe. The bluff would never be called.

The Rideau Canal, meanwhile, became a key lifeline in the fast growing colony about to become a country. Bob Sneyd tells the story in a masterful thesis at the UofT. But for Mr. Sneyd, who has made his life and his living on the waterway, it might well have been forgotten that the canal was the way of choice for decades for commerce and other traffic between the major cities and two provinces that then existed. The St. Lawrence hadn’t yet been tamed. Barges could shoot the rapids going downstream, but it was a job-and-a-half to get them back upstream. Steam power alone couldn’t beat the current. The best that could be done was to drag small barges, eight to fourteen tons, up the rapids by oxen and horses.

Upper Canadians 175 years ago believed that the Rideau Canal would do more for the commercial strength of the country than anything since its origin. Even as Col By and his family were aboard ship on their return voyage to London, Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Colborne announced at the opening of the legislature that a “profitable return” could be expected and in a resolution a week later, the assembly agreed that the new canal would be of “great national benefit.” Waterborne commerce, as Mr. Sneyd reports in The Role of the Rideau Waterway, 1826-1856, immediately found and followed the easiest, cheapest and safest route. A triangular pattern soon emerged. Imported British manufactured goods were transferred from ocean-going ships to barges in Montreal. They were then towed by steamboats up the Ottawa, through the Rideau, and transshipped to lake schooners at Kingston. In turn, those bulk staples destined for British and European ports were reloaded from schooners to barges and run directly down the St Lawrence to Montreal shooting rapids on the way. Two years after the canal’s opening, three quarters of westbound traffic was using the route, given its cost and security advantage over the St Lawrence, where surly Americans had cannon on their side of the river. The 1830s wasn’t a great decade for the young Canadian economy. Political upset and armed uprisings were disruptive. But one million bushels of wheat and eight tons of flour were being shipped through the canal by 1840. It was clear that it had become the vital link in inter-provincial trade.

The Rideau Canal also carried hordes of European immigrants fleeing famine and oppression for a better life in Canada. The canal was the reason for Ottawa, which became the capital. The canal was a technological wonder for the age, foreshadowing and inspiring ages of technology to come that would awe the world more than once. And the Rideau canal brought William (Pammy) Fleming from Old Swinford in Worcestershire, not far from Birmingham, a city that would drive the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century.

Captain Billy, above, who started early on the boats, came to resemble his father, whom he would never have called Pammy. Sir, more likely, or Master when locking through.

Pammy’s father was a nailer. It had been a decent craft from Roman times, even earlier. There were four nailers among the craftsmen counted in the 1665 Canadian census. But those times were over and nailers were pretty well done for in Birmingham, workshop of the world and city of a thousand trades. Nails would always be essential for fastening materials together, for building things. For centuries they had been fashioned by hand, one at a time, and that work had provided sufficiently for a nailer and his family. Now there were machines that spit them out by the hundreds of thousands. With no future in the family craft, Pammy enlisted. The army sent him here to help By build the canal. The colonel would prove to be a genius. He was an artist of an engineer who would use muscle and blasting powder to sculpt for the ages a waterscape surpassing nature. Pammy was a sapper, obeyed orders, kept his mouth shut, angling to come out of it alive. Many wouldn’t.

Among the Canadian supervisors and contractors on canal construction first generation Scots were prominent, if not predominant. Redpath, Drummond and McKay, who took on frontier construction challenges to build the locks, are names that resonate even today as nation builders, physically, politically and commercially. Skilled workers such as masons, carpenters and blacksmiths were mostly a mix of British, Scottish, Irish and French Canadians. Unskilled workers were Irish not long off the boats — the largest ethnic contingent and most difficult to manage, then and later — and French Canadians. They would wield axe, pick and shovel, push barrows, pump water, clear brush.

John MacTaggart was there as clerk of works and gives a vivid description of the hazards. “Even in their spade and pickaxe business, the [men] receive dreadful accidents; as excavating in a wilderness is quite a different thing from doing that kind of labour in a cleared country. Thus they have to pool in, as the tactics of the art go — that is, dig beneath the roots of trees, which not infrequently fall down and smother them. . . Some of them . . . would take jobs of quarrying from contractors, because they thought there were good wages for this work, never thinking that they did not understand the business. Of course many of them were blasted to pieces by their own shots, others killed by stones falling on them. I have seen heads, arms and legs, blown in all directions . . .”

Unusual as it was for any of these heads to belong to the men of the Royal Sappers and Miners, the soldiers were not totally immune. A blasting accident on May 29, 1830, killed Pammy’s friend and fellow bricklayer of the seventh company, Jim Simmons, at Newboro. Six men of the seventh and fifteenth companies died in the work on the waterway. Another twenty two died of malaria or cholera, which at times came on so violently that whole camps and villages were decimated.

Food and learning under Northern lights, Part 3/4 Umiujaq

Nanuk480X212
Foster is a family name. Pammy’s great2granddaughter Eunice, who was Kerrin’s grandmother, was born a Foster. When Kerrin perceived the desperate need in the Inuit community, it became a personal commitment. Her foster daughter is Inuk. Right now (2013) she has just turned eleven and is living in Umiujaq, near the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, where Kerrin teaches at Umiujaq-Kiluutaq School. At the mid-point of the 21st century she’ll be in her forties and part of the generation in charge of Canada’s North.
Canada is a big, big country, bigger than any other except Russia, with which it shares a northern border. But more than nine out of ten Canadians live in a narrow strip of land a hundred miles deep, stretching 3,000 miles east to west along Canada’s southern border with the United States. The rest of the great sweep of the country to the far, far North is largely unpopulated. Yet it is a bank of wealth beyond any other known on earth, bursting with mineral deposits and awash in hydrocarbons.
Alberta oilsands, Saskatchewan potash fields, Quebec hydro power, Ontario nickel, zinc and uranium are the low hanging globes of mega opportunity. There’s more, much more, in the far North. And there’s the fabled Northwest Passage, sought for centuries by adventurers, explorers and builders of fortune, a way to cut transit times and costs from Europe to Asia in half. As the Passage becomes navigable the world will be calling, with all its flotsam and jetsam and spillage and naval muscle. At Canada’s Northern extremity one of the world’s busiest shipping routes is about to open. Hadn’t thought much about that.
KangViewLights250X167It’s the task of Kerrin’s foster daughter to think about it more than the rest of us. She’s one of “the people” as they call themselves in this land of ice and snow and giant floes and bears and whales and gas and oil. She’s young just now. But as an adult she’ll find herself at a critical intersection of global warming and commercial globalization, the two most confounding revolutions of our time. She has roots in America deeper than most others. How will she and her Inuit cousins fare through the cataclysmic years on the horizon?
She already exceeds all expectations of birth and survival as the product of an inconceivably complex and divergent ancestry, spiraling and branching back into primordial beginnings. Think of the cruelties of accident, chance and predation that beset the newborn, not least in the unforgiving Northern tundra. Had her ancestors back over countless generations not been one hundred percent successful at procreating, she could not exist. We are all of us, of course, next to impossible beings who have bested astronomical odds to be here, but she even more so. She’s one who knows the North, gigantic and unforgiving, beautiful and cruel. And she’s Canadian. That’s a combo as cool as it gets this century.
Canada’s North. It trips from the pen. But it’s been the tripping up of many, from Hudson, Franklin and Amundsen, who perished there, to unwary retailers of the 20th century who first offered free shipping “anywhere in North America.” Orders from the North for tinned goods and other heavy items by the case piled up. Shipping to the North is a big charge. There are no free deliveries any more to the North of North America.
KangStop227X141Umiujaq, population 444, is a modern Inuit village. It was built and supplied within the last half century by order of the southern qallunaat (white guys, outsiders). It’s not alone in this respect. Many Inuk have been moved from traditional lands for reasons ranging from geopolitics (send some of them up North to bolster Canadian claims to sovereignty) to resource development (move them out of the way so we can get at the minerals and hydrocarbons we want). Umiujaq was one outcome of the massive James Bay hydro-electric project. It cost more than $20 billion to build, covers an area larger than the Maritime provinces and provides more than half of Hydro Québec’s output.
Part of a deal to relocate an Inuit community away from the Cree-dominated region. Umijuaq is 160 miles North of James Bay, where fish and game are not threatened by hydro development and they can preserve their traditional lifestyle. The traditional Inuit lifestyle sees most families in the North draw their livelihood from a combination of hunting, gathering and fishing, the sale of handmade commodities and a very modicum of wages. There are some local, small business opportunities for employment, some public service jobs, but very few or none in the smallest communities. Individuals and families may engage in all of these activities, making the best use of the opportunities available to them. Virtually no one lives by traditional pursuits alone, but few Aboriginal people in the North live entirely by wages, and there is little prospect that everyone will be able to do so in the future.
Country food harvesting and sharing have very high cultural value in Inuit communities. Social relations around producing food for the traditional economy are critical to the functioning of that economy, and the sharing of food through the extended family and community reinforce those relations.
Harvested country food is often cheaper and healthier than store-bought alternatives. It’s richer in protein and has lower fat content, particularly saturated fat, than meats imported from southern Canada. This applies not only to sea mammals and fish but also to beaver, muskrat, polar bear and caribou. Seal meat consists of 32% protein and two per cent fat, and caribou is 27% protein and one per cent fat. In contrast, beef is 17% protein and as much as 23% fat.
Construction of Umiujaq was completed in 1986 and the settlement took life. Of course in 1986 few people were talking about climate change. There wasn’t a lot of evidence of climate change. The ice wasn’t melting any faster than it usually did, or if it was who knew? The Northwest Passage was as impassable as always. Fish and game remained abundant. That was then.
Now it’s clear that climate change is causing the Arctic to warm twice as quickly as the rest of the world, trending toward an average annual increase of between six and 12 degrees celsius by the end of the century. One result already is a dramatic loss of the sea ice that reflects sunlight and helps cool the planet. Between March and September of 2012, 4.57 million square miles of Arctic sea ice melted. This area of melt is larger than the size of the continental United States. Another threat lies beneath the Northern permafrost, where massive amounts of methane are stored naturally. If this ever escapes it will add cataclysmically to global warming.
Sled Dog Pups245X184But nowhere is it more distressing than at home where interactions between environment, animals and people are all changing. We know that thin ice threatens hunters and fishers in search of marine life. It’s even more precarious when local knowledge is no longer as useful. Among animals, the narwhal, polar bear and walrus are susceptible and warmth could drive some species so far North that they’ll be extinguished.
But warming will also bring economic opportunity for the North, say the optimists. In May 2013 the U.S. Coast Guard and the White House released separate but complementary strategies for the Arctic region. As the Coast Guard puts it, “Sovereign and industrial activities will continue to evolve around access to an abundance of resources. These resources include an estimated 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil (90 billion barrels), 30 percent of undiscovered gas, and some one trillion dollars worth of minerals including gold, zinc, palladium, nickel, platinum, lead, rare-earth minerals, and gem-quality diamonds.”
Climate change has caused permanent ice cover to shrink to record low levels and, as the Coast Guard says, “environmental changes and economic incentives are driving a transformation of maritime activity.” Ships in Arctic waters have traditionally been there for exploration or scientific research. The new traffic is aimed at resource extraction, commercial shipments, tourism and many other pursuits. Arctic adventure and eco-tourism often involve transportation by vessel due to limited road and air infrastructure.
Faces 371X401Economic opportunity is the primary driver for increasing human activity in the Arctic. An oceanic trade route across the Arctic from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific would represent a transformational shift in maritime trade, akin to the opening of the Panama Canal in the early 20th century. An Arctic marine highway would cut existing oceanic transit between Europe and Asia by an estimated 5,000 nautical miles. While a shipping route through Canada’s Northwest Passage has yet to prove economically viable (although transits of the passage by small craft are increasing), trans-Arctic traffic through Russia’s Northeast Passage is rising swiftly. In 2012, over one million tons of cargo transited this Northern Sea route, 46 vessels compared to 34 in 2011, and four in 2010. The Russians charge $400,000 per ship to sail along this route, for which they supply a nuclear-powered icebreaker when needed.
The Northwest Passage can’t be found on a map because the Passage is not a defined waterway but a route through various sounds, straits, bays, inlets and gulfs. Most voyages through the ice fields in the past 400 years or so have been by icebreakers. A Canadian icebreaker escorted an American oil tanker through in 1969. There was a flurry of concern about Canada’s Arctic sovereignty in 1985 when the U.S. Coast Guard sent the Polar Sea through without a “by your leave.” Since then Canada has waved U.S. ships through on a case-by-case basis, but the sovereignty question has been left in abeyance. Canada claims the Northwest Passage as internal. The U.S. and Russia believe it is international water. Others may take a stand in the matter anytime, a stand we won’t like, because the status of the Northwest Passage is going to become as changeable as the weather or, to be more exact, is going to change because of the weather. But like the weather, nobody knows for sure. The state of the science is imprecise. Speculation about what could happen ranges from one month of open water in 50 years to four months in 10 years.
But what is certain is that impenetrable pack ice will be free flowing waters for part of each year in the foreseeable future. An open Northwest Passage combined with the Northeast Passage across the top of Russia would encourage routine commercial shipping, spawn new fisheries and lead to smuggling, piracy, oil spills and all the usual problems of marine traffic that the nation with sovereign jurisdiction can expect to confront.
K. and Molly 256X144As the U.S. Coast Guard puts it, “The increase in vessel traffic presents challenges to sovereign capacity for incident prevention and response in the Arctic. A major casualty on board a large modern cruise ship in the Arctic would pose a significant challenge to responders and stress any one nation’s capacity for mass rescue at sea. If an oil tanker were to spill its cargo in Arctic waters the potential impact to the marine environment would be profound, and removing the oil would be challenging.”
If Canada is that sovereign nation, how would we do it, particularly if our jurisdiction should be challenged? Who knows? Through all the years since Canada acquired the Northwest Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1870 until we bought 275,000 sq. km. further North from Norway in 1930 for $67,000, up until right now, our commitment to Arctic development and security has been more rhetoric than reality. Canadian forces in the North are members of the Canadian Ranger Patrol Group. They are part-time Inuit reservists who wear bright red sweatshirts and red ball caps or toques, get paid for up to 12 days on guard a year (more if they’re called for emergencies such as search-and-rescue) and are armed with a #4 Lee-Enfield rifle, last manufactured in 1955. They are dedicated and watchful but they won’t enforce Canadian maritime law against tankers.
As radical changes in climate and culture remake the North for the new millennium, the Inuit taught by Pammy’s great4granddaughter Kerrin and her Inuk foster daughter are in the front line. But the responsible authority with all the clout is far away. Ottawa ranks among the coldest capitals on earth but it’s nowhere near what Canadians know as the North. It’s not near — it’s far away physically, culturally, environmentally, culturally — but it’s in charge.
The following links will bring you to Part 1 of this series, Yellowknife, and Part 2, Kangiqsualujjuaq.

Food and learning under northern lights, Part 2/4 Kangiqsualujjuaq

Ulluriaq School605X381It was good to visit with family in the south for a while. Ottawa is south for anyone from the territories. But Kerrin knew she’d be going back. Pammy’s great4granddaughter hadn’t experienced Canada’s true north yet, the land of the Inuit. There are many northern peoples. There are nine aboriginal languages recognized officially by the NWT government that sits in Yellowknife. But the most northern of all are the Inuit, the original and enduring people of the polar region, who for countless generations until less than a lifetime ago endured privations and a nomadic existence in an unforgiving land. Kerrin wanted to know what Inuit village life was all about, the hunting and fishing, jobs, social life, entertainments, what the people ate. She was Qallunaat, to be sure, an outsider. But she hoped for the best. It started with a memorable first day at school, recorded in the diary she began when she got there but abandoned not long after when the art bug bit her.

January 26, 2007
I’m going to teach again, this time in a small Inuit community on Ungava Bay. It is a very remote settlement – the only one on the east side of the bay.  [Ed. note: Kangiqsualujjuaq, population 874, also known as George River, is in Nunavik, which is the virtually self-governing far northern region of Quebec.]
Inukshuk 186X201Flight from Ottawa to Mtl – Mtl to Kujjuaq to George River by Twin Otter. You really know you are flying when in a Twin Otter.  It is cold, dark and very loud. The snow is blowing when we arrive. It is blowing, not snowing. This is something I will have to get used to. The wind is howling and whipping the outer lining of my western arctic parka about me. My coat snaps like a flag in a gusting northern wind. It is dark and relatively mild for this time of year, -8 when it should be -40.
January 27
The weekend is spent hunkered down in my dismally bare apt. It may take up to two weeks to get the meagre decorations and food supplies I have had sent up. I brought only what I would be willing to abandon if necessary. I have no intention of leaving before the end of June but some people only last a day and the school board won’t remove any belongings unless you’re here six weeks. I’m on a term position for the rest of the year. The students have been without a teacher for almost a month and I hurried to get here.
I am pretty much the last option though the last candidate. All others backed out soon after being hired, opting for less isolated settlements. But this is what I want to see — the communities. I regretted after being in Yellowknife fourteen years that I had never seen the communities. But I was thinking of the western arctic.
January 28
The wind howls eerily all weekend.  I can see only rock and snow outside my window.  Occasionally a snowmobile roars down the street. There are packs of beautiful looking but hungry dogs roaming constantly. When the wind dies and the town sleeps and the furnace stops, and the refrigerator, the silence is so complete your ears hurt for straining to hear a sound. Desolate is the only word for my first impression.
KangSunset205X154January 29
It’s Monday and my first day at school – though I have been given till Wednesday to prepare. After lunch Mark comes with unwelcome news. There was a suicide at lunch. I never met her though she will always remain in my memory as my introduction to life here. Her name was Celina. She was 17.
January 31
The quality of the snow here is unlike anything I have ever seen. Last night a wind came up and blew huge drifts of snow to new locations. I had finally found a solid path through to the school but it is now gone. It is impossible to tell where one might walk safely. My solid path of yesterday may be knee deep today. Even the Inuit are unsure. One asked me just yesterday if my path was solid and had his daughter follow me to school. Like desert sands the snow dunes shift. One foot from the path lies the possibility of a wrenched knee or twisted ankle. But when the path is set it is hard as packed earth. The force of the wind and the lack of moisture leave no space among the solid crystals and the snow is the density of cork. The children use machete type knives to build igloo type snow forts cutting and shaping snow blocks as easily as southern children shape plasticine.
Nanuk480X212The Weekend
I played poker with the cops and a few teachers on Friday night. It will be difficult to play with them as they care nothing about winning or losing. The cops are a young couple. She likes to do paint by numbers while he likes to cook. Neither of them were trained or had any experience when they were hired though he had worked for a time as a prison guard. They came up, were given guns and the way was pointed to the station.  They are all alone working 24 hours a day seven days a week. Only one is on shift at any time. When a call comes in, the other joins in for the call. The officer not on duty gets paid three hours for the call. There have been none for a few weeks now – but they come in waves. There are supposed to be three police officers here but no one wants to come. After the game I saw noone from Friday evening till Monday morning.
Monday Feb 5th
My students are helping me piece together the story of the town. Their parents were born on the tundra in tents 40 years ago. Now half of the adults in the community are on welfare and half of the teenagers have dropped out of school. The few remaining students have little good to say about their former classmates. Knives 186X202They are home watching television, drinking and smoking pot and neglecting the babies they start having in their teens. The students who have stayed will be the future leaders in the community.
Feb 6th
C. drove me to the municipal building after school to get my modem.  She is young – maybe twenty and has an admin job at school. She went to school here all her life. “And I graduated.” She is proud and holds a good job. She missed work today. Giselle, in the classroom next door, made a drinking sign. Sunday night there had been a big booze delivery.
The town is restricted, not dry. Booze can be ordered from the south. One case of beer and four bottles of wine per month. Hard liquor was banned a month ago. The bootleggers are ecstatic. They will get $200 for a bottle of alcohol. A single beer regularly sells for $10 though $20 is not unheard of. Mostly everyone takes advantage of the lack of spirits when they have the opportunity to go south. Montreal is the port of call and a doctor’s visit is a gold mine when you can return with a suitcase of liquor.
Feb 7th
Road safety is not a concern here. Seatbelts, child seats, helmets are all of the south. Children as young as 11 drive snowmobiles pulling others on sled behind. Mothers and fathers drive kids to school on snowmobiles with cousins and neighbors piled 10 to a kamatik. Teens fly by in trucks with friends sitting on the sideboards in the bed. Today a truck pulled up beside two youngsters.KangStop227X141 They hopped up onto the rear bumper and held onto the tailgate and the truck moved off down the road. There are eight stop signs in town. These are new and result from an accident a few years ago at an intersection. These are the only street signs or traffic regulating devices in town.
Feb. 8
Crystal upstairs is having a hard time with one young boy – she teaches grade five. This guy – who is bigger than her – punched her in the face in the yard at school. This was after pushing her on the stairs, throwing boots at her, yelling at her constantly in class and in the halls to fuck off and die, you’re a whore, you’re a cunt etc. Crystal is upset. She is afraid to go out and now keeps her door locked.
The Students
Don’t get me wrong, most of the students are really great. The usual problems with teenagers exist of course but for the most part the students are lovely. However Philip was telling me that a month into school this year the kindergarten students were so out of control that the entire class was suspended for two weeks. A month later it was the grade twos. And there have been incidents of extreme violence – which is scary in a community where two year olds have access to unlocked guns and plenty of ammunition.

Faces 371X401Feb. 9
Of course it isn’t really the kids fault. Many of them have very bad home lives. The parents are up gambling all night and sleep all day. They will gamble their whole cheque away in one night. There is no food and often times no one to take care of them. Two sisters are off school right now taking care of the house while their mother is away giving birth to yet another baby. They are the 15 and 16 year old caregivers to a house full of kids. They’ll be out of school for two weeks. It also keeps most of their friends from attending as everyone is over at their house all night.
Feb. 10
I have finally made an Inuit friend. Daisy. She is a janitor at the school and the mother of Louisa, one of the 3-4-5 class. She came to the door to see if I wanted to buy a broach Louisa made, an embroidered broach adorned with a hanging pair of sealskin mucklucks. It was well crafted and I bought it for $25.00. I thought it a good enough deal. It was a good thing I was on the phone or I might not have invited her in. She is the third person, though the first woman, who has come to the door trying to sell things. She was in and as we were chatting I invited her to stay for tea. She was here about an hour. She is delightful and we will go shopping on Saturday to the Co-op. We are going to shop for material and she is going to make an amouti type pouch for me to carry Molly in. I’m sure it will be expensive but I need one for her. I also need a kettle Daisy said. It will be my first shopping expedition to the Co-op though it is only five minutes walk at most.
The Dogs
Felix is in charge of maintaining dog control in town. Felix is actually in charge of lots of things. He is a big man around here and one of the best looking men I have ever seen. Every few months Felix will get a dog in heat tie it in the back of his truck and drive slowly through town luring the loose male dogs out to the dump. He then shoots them.  Sometimes he takes the fur. Apparently the fur from black shiny dogs is quite good. According to his grandfather it is the best for wearing close to your face – it doesn’t freeze and stick to your skin.
Sled Dog Pups245X184Feb 13th
The kid who was hassling Crystal attacked her on the street last night. He ran up and punched her in the face as she was leaving the Northern store. Mark came and the cops (her best friends) but they say there is nothing they can do as he is only 11. I think they can. It is assault. If he had a gun or had set a fire they would have taken him in. But they say they need permission from the parents to try scare tactics and the parents – well they just shrug.
Feb. 14
I guess anyone can have access to guns. Yesterday I went to the Northern and there were two snowmobiles running outside both with shotguns leaned up against the seat. I wonder if they were loaded. No one needs permits here and two of my secondary4 students were out shooting ptarmigan at lunch on Friday just behind the school. I guess if ptarmigan are spotted they can go to the IPL teacher downstairs and get guns. I will be meeting one of the more violent students tomorrow. Monday week three. Apparently he was in my class the first day I taught it but didn’t stand out. He has been suspended ever since. We will see.
February 20
The kids are having a hard time with socials. English can be made relevant to almost anyone. And some kids are just really good at and enjoy math. But socials? Well. It is hard to make European Inventions and Exploration during the Renaissance relevant to grade nine and ten Inuit students many of whom are AAD or FAS. They just don’t care and I don’t blame them. And what does it matter to most of them if they graduate or not.  Blue Inukshuks279X123This is where 97% of them will spend the rest of their lives. There is 50% unemployment and most of the boys want to drive the water truck when they grow up. The girls want to work at the daycare. There is certainly no need for an early-childhood education degree to work at the daycare here.
February 26
School is tough. The kids are capable but for the most part lazy. Two out of 13 did their family time-line project. But, they have been spoon fed for the past 8 years – and they are working in a second language and I must remember that. I am going to try to change my methods to more fun activities and attempt to be more project based. I can start with projects on different First Nations groups with the sec1’s. More movies, etc. etc. I am not going to do the math in Economics as I don’t know it and they don’t need it.
March 5
Daisy has had four children. The two girls she raised I believe – Nancy is 21 and works with the elders. Louisa is still in school. One of her boys died from meningitis at eight months – she said she let him go because the doctor said she could have more children. And she has a son Elijah. Daisy was in the avalanche and mentioned it three times while here. She is obviously still having a very hard time dealing with the tragedy.  Jan 1st, 2000 I think [Ed. note: 1999]. An avalanche slammed into the school gym collapsing the wall. Eight people were killed and dozens injured. A chair flew at Daisy and hit her in the stomach – she has had problems ever since though there is nothing the doctors can do. I think she has been to Montreal numerous times – she mentioned the hospital a lot. She is 47 – same as me. What different lives we have led though she did attend Algonquin school at one point – she didn’t pass she told me. What with the culture shock and difference in schooling levels it is no wonder. When she was young she would travel by dog sled from Kujjuaq to Kangiqsualujjuaq with her parents. It would take two days and was lots of fun. Her parents are both dead now. She is from Kujjuaq originally but likes it better here. There is a bar there where she lost two brothers. One was murdered and the other sustained severe head injuries – from the way she talked the second is worse off than the first. I feel Daisy will be my needed link to the people here. And she said I will really like the fishing. The char are thick as flies in the spring and jump from the water after the bait. They are renowned for putting up a really good fight.
Caribou 298X118March 12
It is not unusual for kids to be wandering around the streets in the wee hours of the morning. The parents are partying or fornicating and they kick the kids out or don’t let them into the house. And there is no one to help.
Of course this is not always the case. Some are luckier. I met Susan’s mother at parent teacher interviews a week into my journey here. She saw my tattoo and asked if it hurt. I said not really. She immediately pulled off her coat and showed me her arm which was covered in bruises. It looked bad. I asked her how it happened. She said she was drunk and fighting. But she is kind and caring and at least makes it to parent-teacher interviews.  Though, as she approached down the hall the teacher next door hurried over to me and whispered to be very careful about what I said about Susan. If the mother hears anything bad she will yell and yell at her. I was glad to be warned though as far as I was able to tell at that point Susan was a lovely girl. On task and trying hard at school.
March 19
I moved to the beach – there is a view to die for. It is on a bay just up the George River from Ungava Bay with mountains in the background – spectacular is the only word that comes to mind. There are lots of kids around and I like that. What I don’t like is them looking in the windows and trying to get Molly worked up. They bang on the window and bark at her and ask to come in. And they bang on the door and run away. Kids!  But I am not going to let them in. I will ask my kids down at times perhaps but not all the kids off the street.
March 26
They are a very pretty people – for the most part. The kids are really cute but at this time of year their noses drip snot and they often have sores from being so Caribou Anyone23(X292chapped. Their lips are terribly cracked and peeling.
Life is very tough for a lot of the kids. Many are adopted by grandparents or aunts and uncles. Many are abused either physically or emotionally. The top priorities are drugs and alcohol. Families on welfare are given food coupons to ensure not all the money is spent on gambling and drugs. The houses are supplied but many are without beds, fridges etc. though every home has a television. A young man came to the door the other day selling a pendant of a dancing polar bear. He said he was from out of town and staying at a house where there was no food. He said the kids were hungry. My students said he was lying – he just wanted a joint. Nice pendant though. I am going to give it to Chris if he likes it. I am also going to try to get a market going for some of the kids’ artwork – ulus and carvings.
March 27
There used to be a meat factory here. Isabelle said they killed all the caribou. They thought it was the George River herd but it turned out to be a sub herd. They are all gone.  Too bad – caribou is a specialty high-end product down south and in Europe. They could make a small fortune if they worked it properly.
March 28
A. and C. are the biggest challenges in terms of behaviour.

K. and Molly 256X144Once she caught the beat of the place, Kerrin got a kitchen going to provide hot, nutritious meals to staff and students, as well as cater special events for the town. This CanTeen raised thousands of dollars for school and community activities, including a grad trip to Montreal, food baskets for needy families at Christmas and T-shirts featuring the new school logo for all the students.
As in Yellowknife, where she took turns as clown and face painter at festivities and actor/director in community theatre, she was an after hours dervish. In some ways, this extra-curricular activity touched youth who were not making it in a system imported from the south, modified though it was for Inuit cultural imperatives. Nine out of ten Inuk students in Nunavik are behind grade level when entering high school (the rate for the rest of Quebec is less than two out of ten). Four out of five will not graduate.
At the edge of the earth where global warming strikes first and foremost, with strategic world players all staring intently at resources and passages in places where none but the Inuit have ever lived, scenarios for the future become monumental and complex. But in real time, on the frozen ground, it’s the kids who can take it and make it through who will make a difference, one Inuk at a time. Some will make the thousand year leap from where their grandparents were to where their own children and grandchildren must live. These are going to be increasingly important people as the century moves on and the world closes in. The Inuit will need them. Canada will need them.
Elisapee432X576Kerrin remained in Kangiqsualujjuaq for five years. She then took a turn as den mother in a group home for foster children in Kujjuuaq, the principal town of Nunavik. She was interested and involved in looking after Inuit children who fall through the usual safety net of parents, family and friends. These are the neediest among a people struggling to find a way between a harsh life at the edge of survival and whatever is coming with the Qallunaat. After her grown daughter, Olivia, returned to Yellowknife, where she’d been brought up and educated, Kerrin took in a seven year old girl who’d had a frightful beginning involving parental murder and serial abuse through more than a dozen uncaring placements.
It’s not a legal adoption. Qallunaat don’t get to adopt Inuit children. Yet in everything but law she’s part of the family now (11 years old in 2013), an Inuk great5granddaughter for Pammy. And more fuel for Kerrin’s northern passion. After a year in Kujjuuaq, a rough and unruly frontier town, the two of them and Molly were off to the other side of Nunavik. She’d be teaching there in Umiujaq, a village on Hudson Bay. On arrival she wrote, “Kangiqsualujjuaq is a metropolis by comparison.”
The following links will bring you to Part 1 of this series, Yellowknife, and Part 3, Umiujaq

Food and learning under northern lights Part 1/4 Yellowknife

Muskox Bourguignonne
Muskox strip loin, Mushrooms and Pearl Onions simmered in Red Wine
Caribou Stroganoff
Ground Caribou and Mushrooms simmered in a Garlic Sour Cream Sauce

Northern entrées by Pammy’s great4granddaughter

Museum of Civilization facing Parliament Hill

Museum of Civilization facing Parliament Hill

The Canadian Museum of Civilization is built as a grand curvilinear that grasps the Gatineau bank of the Ottawa River opposite Parliament Hill. In the museum’s Canada Hall a great journey is simulated through many centuries and over vast distance via icons of Canada’s social history. Under the ceiling’s super high dome the adventure starts at a sod longhouse, part of a Viking settlement on the northern tip of Newfoundland around 1000 AD. Basque ship, whaling station, Métis settlement, Voyageur camp, Ukrainian church, grain elevator, Chinese hand laundry, the many turns and tides of the Canadian historical experience are replicated. Finally, at the far end of the trek through Canada Hall’s history, the visitor is invited to sit, sip tea and listen a while to tales of the frozen northwest in the warm welcome of the Wildcat Café.
The Wildcat is faithfully reproduced and featured at the museum because it was at the core of the pioneer community of Yellowknife and remains a symbol of identity in the Northwest Territories. In this expanse of more than a million square kilometers of the Canadian northlands just 41,000 people face tremendously challenging climatic extremes. (Nunavut, which was carved from the Northwest Territories in 1999 and stretches to Alert, 800 kms from the North Pole and the northernmost permanently inhabited point in the world, has twice the area of NWT, just 31,000 people and even more challenging conditions.) In the harsh northern frontier, prospectors, bush pilots, miners and trappers created places where they could exchange information and stories. The Wildcat was a popular gathering spot, part of the core and colour of Yellowknife. Built in 1937, an early owner also ran one of the two taxis then operating in town. His was the bigger car and he contrived a head-on collision with the other cab to drive his competitor out of business.

Wildcat-CafeThe Wildcat was popular but not always prosperous. It served at various times as an eatery, a Chinese restaurant, an ice cream and soda stand. Once it featured steam baths next door. Each new venture told of a previous failure. Finally, in the 1970s a volunteer group undertook to restore the log cabin, now one of the last remaining buildings in what had been the commercial centre of Yellowknife in the 1940s, and reopen it in 1979 as a restaurant featuring northern fare such as caribou and char.
It was this enterprising revival that caught the interest of the Museum of Civilization, which was itself re-housed in the sweeping cantilevered vision of Métis architect Douglas Cardinal in 1989, though it traces its origins as one of North America’s oldest cultural institutions back to 1856 (and is to be renamed the Canadian Museum of History post-2012).
Icon it might be, but the Wildcat wasn’t protected by any heritage or museum budget. Enthusiasts for heritage restoration proved over time not as adept at restaurant management. What the museum didn’t know – Yellowknife is a long way off and there are no direct flights – was that the restaurant had fallen on hard times again even as they were building the full-scale replica in Canada Hall. There was a danger that the Wildcat would be closing just as the Canada Hall exhibit was opening.
Then Pammy’s great4granddaughter took a hand. Kerrin had lived a decade in Yellowknife. A single mom with a fresh teaching degree from McGill, she’d come to teach at the school named for John Franklin. Her ancestor had once encountered the famed northern explorer. Returning in 1827 from two years of exploration in the Arctic, Franklin stopped at Bytown (now Ottawa) and presided at a ceremony at the entrance locks of the Rideau Canal on August 16. Pammy was among “as large and respectable gathering of spectators as had ever been witnessed at this place” for Franklin’s show. The intrepid adventurer, who would later return on a fourth expedition to the far north and disappear completely, laid the first stone of the great work that Colonel By and his men, the sapper Pammy among them, would strive mightily to build over the next five years.
Kerrin’s address — Trail’s End, Northwest Territories — spoke of vistas in the Canadian landscape that few have witnessed. Born and bred in Montreal, a big city girl, she came to know the midnight sun, the great life forms, the northern lights, the huge expanses and ice floes. “The north grows on you,” say those who know. “Eventually you have to decide whether you will spend the rest of your life there or get out.” Kerrin sank roots. She would stay.
Teaching was her vocation, cuisine her passion with some strong family antecedents. A grandfather owned one of the signature restaurants in mid-twentieth century Montreal. Her stepmother acquired the Grande Diplome of the Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School, still on Kerrin’s kitchen wall.Wildcat KPatCAT Edit361X266
The Wildcat was a summer project, mostly months she was off from her primary occupation teaching art and drama to mostly Inuit high school students. Arctic summers are much like those in the rest of the country, with the exceptional delight that the sunlight and the days often stretch twenty hours or longer. Yellowknife has more sunshine each year than anywhere in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritime provinces.
The distance from the replica tea room at the Museum to actual operation of the Wildcat is captured in this monologue from Kerrin’s unfinished play about food and family, Wildcat Capers. The lights come up on Cook. She is pounding caribou and occasionally swatting flies. She is wearing the patch. It’s 4:00 at the Wildcat and the restaurant is prepping for dinner.

Cook: “Veg! Veg, veg, veg! Damned ferry. Damned veg. Always a problem. Friday afternoon, four o’clock, the food order shows up – no potatoes – no corn. Brunch tomorrow and no potatoes for home fries – no veg for tonight. Fucking produce guys. Only a lunatic opens a seasonal restaurant during break-up. Where does one find 100 lbs of potatoes at four o’clock on Friday afternoon in Yellowknife? Co-op! Not supposed to shop for the restaurant at the Co-op. Costly. But what’s a girl gonna do? Boy the flies are bad today! Anyway, Danica has the car again and she’s not answering the phone. Again. It’s nice she’s still here but why does she always have my car? I am not taking a taxi to the Co-op for potatoes and veg. Twenty dollar taxi for a twenty dollar grocery bill. Well it would be down south but this is Yellowknife and the ferry isn’t in. Fucking ferry. I can pick up potatoes at Extra foods tomorrow morning and get down here before . . . No. No I can’t. Shit! Veg, veg, veg! Ok – I got carrots, celery and onion for sure. A nice mira-poix for the dinner veg? Could stuff peppers. Never been a pepper person, only in chili and spaghetti sauce. Anyway peppers stuffed with rice and served with rice and fish won’t wash, not for 16.95 a plate. God it’s hot in here. Turnip! There’s turnip left from Gord’s stew. Turnip and carrot mash. I love that. A Christmas staple at home. My favorite thing on the plate – besides the beet salad. Best thing about Christmas is the cold turkey and mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread the next morning. Plain, just salt, pepper, mayo. Marcus puts stuffing and cranberries on his, which I personally think is a mistake. (Calling backstage) Tara – could you please bring in those turnips (pause) they’re in the bag in the produce cupboard? Turnip and carrot mashed with butter salt and pepper. And beets. We have beets. A mound of turnip and carrots with beets on top. Beets warmed in melted butter with salt, pepper and . . . dill. Great! I’ve gotta use up that dill. I have a car load of the stuff. It will be tasty and look great on the plate! Bridget always said we eat first with our eyes. Dad always said it better taste good too. I can please both. But he’s right. Nana judged restaurants on how clean their bathrooms were. Daddy by the bread. Now I can pee in a dirty latrine but I insist on fresh rolls. (Again to backstage) Tara could you bring the beets too? They’re in the box under the rotten onions. Fucking produce guys. I want a credit for those onions! And the romaine!”

Kerrin ran the historic Wildcat for four seasons, for another year had her own eponymous eatery, then set off to a new frontier. Yellowknife is a pioneer town still, with a population just shy of 20,000. Only Whitehorse in the western Yukon Territory is larger, by a few thousand people, in the whole of the immense Canadian north. But Yellowknife is the NWT capital and by far the largest city in the eastern territories. Kerrin was ready to experience traditional Inuit communities. True north.
She gave notice to John Franklin, sold the house at Trail’s End and Kerrin’s Restaurant. Danica and Marcus helped stow fifteen years of accumulation and Molly the dog in a convoy of north-beaten vehicles that took the four of them almost 5,000 kilometres over seven days to near the parental home in the Nation’s Capital.
The following links will bring you to Part 2 of this series, Kangiqsualujjuaq, and Part 3, Umiujaq

While the getting is good

Jones_Falls_Dam-560X372I’ve written (here) about the Scottish strain in Canada. Their masterful hands sculpted the historic Rideau waterway, including the largest dam in North America in its day (1832) at Jones Falls (above). Their great qualities of prudence and moderation pervaded the banking system and large segments of Canadian business until the country was a hundred years old, an era I’ve written about here. Today I’m reminded how profoundly things have changed in the past half century or so. Scots are no longer in the ascendant. We now have moguls of English, German, Austrian, Hungarian origin. Even Irish. Even from among Pammy‘s fast spreading family. And the change is nowhere more evident than in pay packets.
The July-August 2013 edition of the Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine (ROB) tells the tale in its analysis of the Top 1000 corporations in Canada. The Royal Bank of Canada leads the list, as it usually does, with profit of $7.4 billion. Its CEO, Gord Nixon, collects $14 million for steering RBC.
Way down at the bottom of the ROB list is gas-producer Encana Corp. of Calgary, No. 1000 with a loss of nearly $3 billion. (ROB ranks the Top 1000 companies in Canada by profitability but just over half of the thousand — 544 to be precise — show any profit at all. The rest are all losers for 2012.) Encana’s CEO last year, Randy Eresman, was paid only $7 million. As ROB meanly calculates, Mr. Nixon’s bank made $542 of profit for every loonie he was paid. Mr. Eresman was paid more than $2,500 for every million dollars down the toilet at Encana. According to a calculation by Corporate Knights magazine, Mr. Nixon and Mr. Eresman were each paid 92 times the average salary in their respective companies, an intriguing coincidence.
Who decides this kind of compensation practice, and why? There’s no denying that, like the Big Mac, it’s an importation from the U.S. of A. Mr. Nixon explains it this way in the ROB. “It is a global market, a competitive market . . . most of my top executives have been offered very big positions in the United States and elsewhere.” As if on cue, Mark Carney makes his debut as the new governor of the Bank of England, filched by the Brits from the Bank of Canada. Mr. Nixon might point to this but he refrains. Mark Carney’s salary will be $1.4 million (decimal point not misplaced). He’s a public servant. At the Royal Bank of Scotland, which predates RBC by a hundred and forty years, the CEO was dismissed last month amidst a scandal over high salaries and bonuses. His salary had been the equivalent of $3.5 million with a chance three years forward at another $2.6 million. These are all big numbers. But some are a lot bigger than others. So who decides? Does Mr. Nixon set his own pay level? Does Mr. Eresman? No way. These are Board decisions. Directors decide.
Research for the New York Times (June 29), finds that for the “top 200 chief executives at public companies with at least $1 billion in revenue . . . the median 2012 pay package came in at $15.1 million — a leap of 16 percent from 2011.” Of course even the most ambitious and self-confident Canadian business executive might feel it a long stretch to become CEO of a multi-billion dollar American enterprise. That’s OK because it’s not necessary to reach the very top in order to become very wealthy. As the NYT points out, “Because the data shows only chief executives’ pay, it does not reveal how good it still is to be a prince . . . compensation of the No. 2 executives at some of these companies would have vaulted them to the top ranks on the C.E.O. roster.”
Jim Hynes recalls that, “My father retired as President of C-I-L with a very modest pension just about a decade before it became fashionable to push CEO compensation up to obscene levels. Had I stayed in the banking business, I might have gotten a monumentally unearned slice of this pie myself. This phenomenon, like the credit default swap, is an American invention that we’re stuck with, and like gun control, it isn’t going to get fixed anytime soon.”

David, Pammy's great2grandson

David, Pammy’s great2grandson

At least noone in Canada tried to push Larry Ellison last year. The larger-than-life CEO of Oracle took $84.5 million from the company to fund his expensive and enduring pursuit of yachting’s America’s Cup. Peter Munk’s gold-plated lures for directors at Barrick or Frank Stronach’s platinum-lined parachute from Magna don’t compare. Not since 2001 have we seen anything like it, when Canadian Pacific was split into five independent and self-sustaining companies after a century at the core of Canadian business and regional development. The CEO who made that break-up call received compensation, according to reports, somewhere above $83 million. This was Canadian money, of course, not American like Mr. Ellison’s. Then again it was a dozen years ago.
Who makes these decisions? Directors do and primus inter pares of directors is the Chair. The Chair usually gives a lead and the Board decides. In some cases the Chair and the CEO are one and the same. This was the case at CP in 2001, when the Chair and CEO who got the Canadian break-up fee of the century was Pammy’s great2grandson, David. The titles used to be joined at the RBC as well, in Earle McLaughlin‘s day (Earle’s day was about the same as Jim’s dad Leonard Hynes and he had a similar restrained grasp), but they’ve been split for some time now at Canada’s biggest bank. Mr. Nixon is CEO. The Chair is Pammy’s great2grandson David. Similarly at Encana. Mr. Eresman was succeeded early this year as CEO by Clayton Woitas. But the Chair remains the same as before. That would be Pammy’s great2grandson David.
Pammy’s starting wage as lockmaster at Chaffey’s on the Rideau Canal was $0.80 a day. During the boating season that was a 24 hour day. I write about some of that here.

One, two and through for Joey

Joey Smallwood-180X280“You saw they got Joey?” Pammy’s great2grandson Jon was calling from Toronto. A Royal Commission had nailed Canada’s only living Father of Confederation. It had made the Globe and both network newscasts.
In Quebec governments are always investigating their ousted opponents. There’s no reason it should be any different in Newfoundland and Labrador, where political nest building is equally a way of life. The ins put the boots to the outs. The only novelty in Newfoundland was that it was was the first time, for the very good reason that it was first change of government.
“Sure.” I had caught the item but I hadn’t been in Newfoundland for a while.
“How do you like what they did with your report?”
My report . . .???
The article July 6, 1972 in the Globe by John Zaritzky from St. John’s opened, “Joseph Smallwood and two associates bought $1.5 million worth of shares in Brinco Ltd., while Mr. Smallwood as Premier of Newfoundland was negotiating a $950 million deal with the firm on behalf of the province, a royal commission reported yesterday. The commission said that Mr. Smallwood and his associates borrowed money to buy the stock from the Bank of Montreal, which was and is the provincial government’s banker as well as Brinco’s.” There was some detail. Premier Frank Moores said his government would go after Smallwood in the courts. Finance Minister John Crosbie was flying to Toronto to confer with a top criminal lawyer. “The commission, headed by Fabian O’Dea, a former Lieutenant Governor of the province, was appointed by Mr. Moores on Feb. 29,” the Globe report concluded.
What had that to do with my report?

Accra-700X200

Accra, Barbados, West Indies

In May 1969 I was a resident of Barbados in the West Indies working on various economic development projects, including communications, hotel and restaurant management and an assignment with Gerry Bull’s controversial but highly innovative Space Research Corporation. I had departed Canada — mon pays c’est l’hiver — eight months before. There was still warmth in my heart for the old places, but I hadn’t been back. I had grown accustomed to the sun in my face.

Late on a Sunday afternoon, just home from a lazy day at Accra beach, Mary-Lea was laying the table for a supper of flying fish, christophine and breadfruit. Mary-Lea was cook and staff sergeant-major. But she couldn’t make a decent daiquiri so I was mixing the Mount Gay and lime when my daughter called from the den, “Daddy, it’s Canada.”
Jon asked, “Can you come to St. John’s?”
“Where?”
“Newfoundland.”
Kieran 1-168X211When in Canada, Jon (pictured right) was seldom away from where the money is, mostly Toronto. Since quitting school at fifteen shy a diploma and sticking out his thumb heading west, Jon had fashioned a sophisticated PR and lobbying consultancy. This belied his village origins. He had spent his infancy and pre-school years in the family hamlet on the Rideau Canal, Chaffey’s Lock with its population out of fishing season of a hundred and change. He bunked with his grandparents while his father was in prison on a DWI manslaughter conviction. He had vivid memories of his granddad Henry Fleming, who was Pammy’s eldest grandson and Kate’s big brother. Henry put in more than thirty years of service as lockmaster at the old stand, extending the family’s tenure  at Chaffey’s to as near a full century as dammit (1832-1929).
“Why are you in Newfoundland?”
“Can’t explain on the phone. Can you come?”
“It’s not really a good time.”
“Would ten thousand dollars persuade you?”
“And expenses.”
“Naturally.”
“When?”
“As soon as possible.”
I left the next day, figuring to stop a day or two in Montreal, which was home town. Forty eight hours later– I hadn’t even said hello to family and friends — he tracked me down at the Hotel Bonaventure.
“I need you right away,” he said.
“I’ll try to get out tomorrow.”
“My office has you booked on the midnight flight tonight. You can pick up your ticket at the airport. You have plenty of time.” It was 10 p.m.
The flight by DC8-F from Barbados had been five hours. From Montreal to St. John’s took twelve. A turbo-prop Viscount added undreamed-of dimension to the term “milk-run” as it chugged up from Dorval, down at Moncton, over to Halifax, to Sydney to Stephenville, to Gander where it sat motionless on the tarmac for two hours. Stops for weather. Passengers deplaning, emplaning, complaining. Stops for new crew. For refueling. From Gander the flight was wrapped in a fog soup. I first saw ground at St. John’s ten feet above it.
Jon was there. As we drove to the hotel he filled me in on what-was-really-happening in Newfoundland.

John Crosbie1-138X206

John Crosbie

In his autobiographical Recollections of a Streetfighter, which was privately printed but deserves study by anyone in the rough and tumble of winning business and influencing governments, Jon writes of “the Smallwood Project” he took on after “two very high profile recently appointed provincial cabinet ministers resigned to protest the abuses of privilege, the patronage, and the anti-democratic dominance of Joey Smallwood.” The two who resigned were John Crosbie and Clyde Wells.
Now Boss Smallwood, it appeared, was going to retire, although nobody knew for sure. He said he would, probably. He had called a Liberal leadership convention for the fall. He had loosed his grip on the provincial Liberal party, which he had founded and always controlled. Some constituency organizations had exercised their newfound freedom to choose delegates to this convention who would not simply rubber-stamp Joey’s decisions.

Clyde Wells

Clyde Wells

As I arrived John Crosbie was the only declared candidate for the leadership. He had once appeared to be the heir apparent. Born to the St. John’s merchant clique that Joey baited with such devastating effect on the outport hustings, Crosbie had won a seat for the Liberals — no difficult task for they had dominated political life ever since the province had opted for Canada. After Joey took a liking to him he was named to the cabinet where as Health Minister he began to look like the anointed one. But he ran afoul of one of Joey’s pet industrial giveaways, a passel of government goodies for New York financier John Shaheen, who was promoting an oil refinery at Come-By-Chance, a hamlet with a deepwater port. Crosbie resigned from cabinet rather than endorse a deal that gave Shaheen a $15 million unsecured loan.
By the standards of the day in the province this arrangement was not extraordinary. It hardly compared in generosity, for instance, with the mineral rights and loans provided for John Doyle’s Javelin empire. Or the local pork-barreling that had turned the Lundrigan family from impecunious owners of a small sawmill into multi-millionaire construction czars. Or the benefits over a quarter-century that had siphoned millions of Canada’s transfer payments into the pockets of the established merchants — not excluding the Crosbie clan, which controlled construction and building materials companies, the regional airline, insurance and shipping companies, and a St. John’s daily newspaper. (This empire, run by Andrew Crosbie, John’s brother, was destined to collapse of mismanagement some years later.)
But Shaheen and the deal stuck in Crosbie’s craw and he withdrew to the backbenches. When Smallwood announced in early 1969 that he would retire it was widely understood that he would promote his own successor. Joey didn’t like it at all when Crosbie decided to make a contest of it and announced he would be a candidate for the Liberal leadership.
Joey Smallwood was the first and, until then, only Premier of Newfoundland. Almost singlehandedly against the opposition of the colonial-minded administration and the merchants of St. John’s he had persuaded the Islanders to opt for union with Canada in 1949. This coup had brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the new province, money which Joey had shrewdly distributed in ways to ensure the loyalty of the electorate. He was Premier-For-Life, or as long as he wanted to be.
However John Crosbie had got religion. He believed the time had come to call a halt to Joey and bring Newfoundland into respectable alignment with fiscal probity, at least to the extent it existed in other provinces. An autocracy was no longer tolerable, and Joey himself had dangled the possibility of change by calling for the leadership convention. The opening was slight and diminishing every day as Joey reconsidered, but Crosbie finally decided to run against Joey’s man, or against Joey himself if that became necessary, as indeed it would.

Jon swinging

Jon swinging

Jon was Crosbie’s campaign manager.
I wasn’t surprised; Jon is a great believer in improbable causes. He had put his talents at the disposal of Eric Kierans’ bid for the federal Liberal leadership (against Trudeau at his most charismatic), Bob Nixon’s hope to become Premier of Ontario (against unbeatable Bill Davis), and the First Nations’ fight for a fair future (against the weight of centuries). Managing opposition to Smallwood in Newfoundland seemed right in character.
”We don’t expect to beat him if he runs,” said Jon. “But we think we can create enough of a stink — or threaten to — that he’ll have to make a deal to leave soon. The first priority is to get Joey out. Getting Crosbie in is secondary.” It would be an expensive sacrifice.
What he wanted of me, I should have known, was “to provide the stink.”
In Streetfighter, written some forty years later, Jon describes how he “had taken a lot of heat from Andrew Crosbie” over a contract he had put out “to a financial journalist who had a unique forensic ability. The deal was $10,000 plus expenses for a publishable article that, if ever printed, would result in the biggest public scandal since the financing of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Its key value was that if the Smallwood campaign got unduly dirty, we had the capability to offer a scorched earth response.”
Before decamping for the West Indies I was associate editor of Financial Times of Canada. Anything remotely comparable to the CPR scandal had my attention, especially if it had scorched earth potential. After checking in to the Hotel Newfoundland, which would be home for two weeks, I walked to Jon’s headquarters, a two-storey frame house on a pleasant, tree lined, middle-class street not far from the hotel. It was leased for the summer from a family vacationing in Europe. What a treat it would have been to hear the neighbours describe that summer scene to the homeowners on their return. The place was erupting.

Jon in later years and six of Pammy's great3grandchildren. Their eldest sibling Susan died suddenly when just a young mother.

Jon in later years with six of his kids and Pammy’s great3grandchildren. Their eldest sibling Susan died suddenly when just a young mother.

Jon had three of his seven children visiting from the mainland. There was a red-haired girl friend in residence (Jon was in the midst of what he himself referred to as a “somewhat messy divorce action”), a brunette secretary and blonde transient. A young law student, who ran the campaign office, was encamped. And his girl friend. A private detective dropped in frequently to check for bugs. One was discovered and cleverly turned to deliver misinformation to the enemy camp. Public relations counselors were draped over the couches at all hours of the day and well into the nights. The freezer was stocked exclusively with steaks, the refrigerator partitioned between white wine and tomato juice. Much of the shelf space was occupied by cartons of Islay Mist scotch whiskey.
The strategists were from Toronto and the runners from Memorial. But the local strength was impressive. Brian Peckford, a political activist, was among the first to join the team. Clyde Wells, a Cornerbrook lawyer and Crosbie’s fellow defector from the Smallwood cabinet, organized volunteers. They would each become Liberal premier of Newfoundland in their day. Though his assistance had to be kept “in deepest confidence,” as Jon put it, Frank Moores “happily helped with the fund raising.” Moores belonged in the enemy camp. He was MP for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception and president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He too would become premier, finally ousting Smallwood and the Liberals and bringing the first Conservative government to the province since joining Canada. All this was to come but known to none of the Crosbie cabal at that time.

Brian Peckford

Brian Peckford

“You’re not to tell anybody what you’re really doing here,” said Jon. “As a cover, you can say you’re researching a story on economic conditions in the province.”
“What will I really be doing?”
“You’ll be digging up all you can find on Smallwood.” After I had dug out whatever there was to be found, Jon wanted a report. He wanted it in publishable form, though there was no plan to publish it. “We want it as a lever,” he said. “This campaign is going to be bitter. If we have this in reserve it might keep Joey’s camp from going overboard.”
Crosbie had already paid for a wide-ranging survey of public attitudes done by one of the top American pollsters. He discovered that Newfoundlanders believed that their government was corrupt but didn’t much care. Joey was a folk-hero. Whatever he took for himself was alright with them.

Frank Moores

Frank Moores

At the time Joey talked the island into confederation just after the end of World War II, he had been a failure at almost every business he had tried. Before becoming premier he had run a pig-farming operation into the dirt. His salary for the top political job in the province had been $6,000 a year. Yet he lived in a lavish home that he had built privately and then, in an imperial gesture, willed to the people of the province.
But the Crosbie camp was convinced that the people had no idea of the extent of the rip-off. Particularly, they weren’t aware that, while Joey was well off, some of his friends and associates were wealthy beyond avarice. A complete accounting might be able to topple the tyrant. But perhaps just the threat of it could induce him to retire gracefully.
“We really want to avoid an all-out battle between Joey and Crosbie,” Jon said. “That can only undermine the party, and might mean a Conservative win at the next provincial election.”
Obviously, if I was going to be nosing about on this tight island, no cover story we could concoct would fool anyone for very long. This was alright, Jon said. It didn’t matter if Joey’s gang found out. In fact they were supposed to; it might throw the proper scare into them. But it would be more useful if they thought they were being clever while discovering me.
In fact I’d already been discovered. As Geoffrey Stevens reports in The Player: The Life and Times of Dalton Camp, “Smallwood was known to have informants at the airport who kept him personally posted on the arrival of suspicious strangers from the mainland.” By my May tan alone I was suspicious.
Jon suggested I get a copy of Richard Gwyn’s biography of Smallwood. He made an appointment for me with Baron Macdonald, an executive with the Crosbie companies, for the next day. I had a number to call in case I needed anything. I saw him only twice again in the next two weeks — once by chance at the Candlelight and once when I delivered my report.
In fifteen years of reporting there were a few luxuries I had missed. One was a research assistant. No employer had ever seen fit to provide one. Now that I was being paid so munificently, I thought to fill the gap myself. It seemed likely to be useful to have someone around who knew something about Newfoundland and its politics ¾ not to mention somebody to escort me about St. John’s. It didn’t take long to find Helen, a young widow who was under-appreciated by the daily paper where she worked and willing to moonlight.
She had the important qualification of family links to one of St. John’s old families. She knew a lot of skeletons, some still clicking.
Gwyn’s biography of Smallwood is excellent, very chatty, full of detail, some of it even critical. It was only after I had been in the province a few days that a strange omission struck me. All kinds of people were in the book, friends and enemies, rich and influential, politicos, merchants and fishermen. But there were no Lundrigans. This was very curious indeed because the more I tried to find out about Smallwood’s business affairs and the economic policies of his government, the larger Lundrigan loomed.
A courtly and charming clerk informed me with regret that there, were no open records of debates in the Newfoundland legislature. He had them of course, and they were scrupulously kept. But they weren’t to be made public. The reports of the provincial auditor-general were stored in the basement of the Confederation Building. When I asked for all the reports over the past 15 years, the guardian of the stores looked at me with quizzical condescension.
“You’d better come back tomorrow,” he said.
I called the number Jon had given me and told the young law student that I could use some expense money. Thirty minutes later there was a knock at the hotel room door. The girl standing there was very pretty, very young and very serious. She would have made a popular beauty queen at Memorial University but her manner said she would rather be student president.
“Mr. Patterson?”
”Yes.”
She reached into a shoulder bag and pulled out a thick, white, unaddressed envelope, handed it to me and left without another word. The envelope was stuffed with $20, $50 and $100 bills. There was no note.
The next day the guardian of the stores had the A-G reports ready, except for two that were “out of print.” For several days I pored over these records, particularly the sections dealing with grants to private companies. There were dozens of these, for everything from fish packing to motel building. A number of companies, after taking the government’s money, had been somewhat improvident with it and come to the edge of bankruptcy. The practice then was for the government’s industrial development agency to take control of the company, and frequently hand over management to another business group. One of the most prominent of these business-fixers was Lundrigan’s Ltd.
Armed with the names of the companies I visited the provincial corporate records department to find out who was behind them. I was surrounded by law clerks in the dimly lit, meshed-in storeroom. We all suffered from eyestrain and the mugginess of an early summer heat wave.
It became clear that millions of dollars of government money had been pumped into ventures that had little or no chance of commercial success but had been sponsored by close friends of the Liberal party. Of the government-supported companies that survived, many had a remarkable congruence of directors.
The name that appeared most frequently was D.W.K. Dawe, a St. John’s lawyer whose clients included Lundrigan’s Ltd. and Joey Smallwood. Oliver Vardy, a senior public servant and Smallwood’s closest friend, and Arthur Lundrigan, who never met a benefactor he didn’t like, also sat on many recipient boards.
Arthur Lundrigan was a director of the Bank of Montreal, which was the province’s official banker. One of the first things I’d learned about Joey’s financial affairs was that he had a loan from the BofM that he used to buy stock in Brinco, the company that was building a gigantic power complex at Labrador’s Churchill Falls. Jon had known about it and so had Baron Macdonald, the Crosbie lieutenant. In fact it was almost a matter of common gossip.
One afternoon drinking screech in the hotel bar with one of the best freelance journalists in town, I told him of a complicated maneuver involving the provincial agricultural marketing board and a large chicken farm that Joey owned and his family ran. “Hell,” he came back, “I had that months ago. Sent a query but nobody bit.”
It was interesting and frustrating. Each time I discovered a particularly unorthodox situation involving Smallwood and company, I found the essentials of the deal were fairly well known in the corridors of St. John’s. My research was just confirming rumours that everyone believed anyway.
That night I saw Jon at the Candlelight and mentioned this problem. He didn’t seem concerned about the cost. “Put it all together with some documentation,” he said. “Nobody’s done that before. It should be enough to scare Joey. That’s all we want to do.”
I had several meals at the Candlelight during my time on the job. At first glance it appeared the typical eastern short-order lunch counter. But the Wyatts orchestrated a kitchen and a homey warmth into a rare experience. The place was a jewel.
It was also a traffic centre. My first evening there I met enough people to keep successive conversations going well past midnight.
Newfoundlanders are great storytellers and Joey was one of their favourite topics. It was something of a temptation to include in my narrative for Jon some of the more delicious scandals told me with serious conviction by more than one respected citizen. But most of the worst tales of venality were simply impossible to document. In the end I stuck very close to what was in the public records. On the tenth day I rented an IBM Selectric and started to write. After work Helen would drop over and we’d discuss my notes. She was a fount of knowledge on relationships ¾ where the family ties were, or the long-standing friendship, or the submerged but powerful business links ¾ the kind of things you learn by osmosis when you’re born into a community.
Two nights later the final version was ready. It fell short of proving malfeasance but showed a pattern that explained how a political cadre had been able to manipulate public funds in order to raise themselves from impoverishment to opulence and develop the clout to borrow millions of dollars from one of the nation’s Big Five banks. One original, no copies, per instruction. I delivered it to Jon the next morning and that afternoon the young woman arrived again with another unmarked envelope stuffed with bills. I left on a Wednesday.

Alex Hickman

Alex Hickman

The report that was supposed to increase pressure on Joey to see the light didn’t work at all the way it was intended. Events moved faster than anyone anticipated. Less than a week after I arrived Smallwood announced he would indeed be a candidate to succeed himself as Liberal leader. Crosbie’s campaign would feature an attack on “Newfoundland’s LSD — Lundrigan, Shaheen and Doyle,” but it fell well short. Joey was a shoo-in at the convention. Crosbie’s team secretly subsidized Alex Hickman, the justice minister, to join the race. The subsidy, Jon writes in Streetfighter, was delivered “in a shopping bag containing $25,000 in $100 bills.” Hickman’s entry split the vote three ways and spared Crosbie the ignominy of a head-to-head trouncing by the wily old veteran.
The report never surfaced during the campaign. A top libel lawyer provided an opinion that any action arising from its publication could be “successfully defended,” but it represented too much escalation for the Crosbie family, which still had to do business in the province after the votes were counted.
Only one person outside the Crosbie entourage ever saw the complete document. Jon told me a year or so later (he didn’t repeat it in Streetfighter – perhaps memory had faded after forty years) that he brought it himself to Frank Moores as soon as the Crosbie’s loss was certain. After all, the two men shared the same basic objective. Moores was a boyhood friend of Crosbie’s; they had been schoolmates together at St. Andrew’s College in Ontario. Both millionaires, from old island families. Both politicians. They shared many objectives, including the basic conviction that Joey had to be gone if Newfoundland was to have any chance to prosper.
As it happened, they soon accomplished this goal in a classic one-two combination. Crosbie weakened Joey’s credibility in the no-holds-barred fight for the Liberal leadership in 1969. Moores took over the PC Party in Newfoundland the next year. In the 1971 provincial election Moores’ Progressive Conservatives beat Smallwood’s Liberals to form a minority government, which became a knockout majority in early 1972.

Lt. Gov. John Crosbie

Lt. Gov. John Crosbie

Once Frank Moores became Premier, John Crosbie crossed the floor to become his finance minister. His political career took a federal turn that would include senior cabinet posts in both the Clark and Mulroney governments. In 2008 Harper appointed him Lieutenant Governor of the province, a gig that lasted until March 2013 when he was eighty-two. Joey left for London to write his version of the province’s history. Though he would live another two decades and die a nonagenarian, he was a spent force politically. It had all come about much as Jon had predicted.
Among the items flagged in my report, now in the hands of Joey’s opponents in power, were the unusual leasing practices of the Newfoundland Liquor Commission. Moores picked this peccadillo to invoke the Public Enquiries Act and establish a Royal Commission to investigate breaches of trust, conflicts of interest and other ways and means that public funds had been misused by his predecessor.

Fabian O'Dea

Fabian O’Dea

Fabian O’Dea found much the same pattern of private gain at public expense for a small group of Smallwood intimates that I had. He had access to private documents and could call witnesses to testify under oath, so his findings were more detailed. Even so there was not enough evidence to sustain criminal action. All the government could do was try to recover some excess payments through the civil courts. This would prove no more successful than recovering any of the billions from Churchill Falls that were recklessly ceded to Quebec by Smallwood, with a hydro obsession but blind to fiscal reality while he was in power.

And the man plays on

This story isn’t about me, not much, but my eye goes blurry a month before I’m to play tennis at the World Masters Games. Right eye. The world will be in Edmonton — 22,000 athletes 35 years of age and up — for the games, not that Edmonton cares. It’s an athletic extravaganza that brings together more competitors than the Olympics every four years. But in 2005 Edmonton media pay no attention, consumed instead by the murder of Liana White, a twenty-nine year old mother and pregnant, by her husband.

Best of all at 81

Best of them all at 81

The ophthalmologist finds burst blood vessels. “Looks like you’ve had a mini-stroke,” he says.
“Don’t say that.”
It’s as bad as anything I ever heard. Dad was cut back drastically and too early by a stroke. My sister came back from one, praise the Lord, which she does incessantly, the stroke having deepened her already intense religious disposition. Stroke runs amok in the family.
“It’s just minor,” says the eye doctor. A mini-stroke doesn’t portend a maxi-stroke, at least not necessarily, he explains. With this modest assurance I hasten for an ultrasound while he calls for a retinal specialist to repair the damage.
But it’s mid-summer and specialists are all gone fishing. The appointment is set six weeks forward and long before then I am committed to the Masters. I’m playing mixed doubles with a woman coming from Australia who has won provincial titles. It has been arranged on the games’ mating site. I haven’t met her but I’m not about to let her down.
From Edmonton I’m booked to go to Saskatoon for the Canadian Senior Tennis Championships. Here again I have a partner, flying in from Toronto.

Family gathers for  Medicine Hat court naming

Some of Pammy’s great3great4great5grandchildren gather for Medicine Hat court naming

I’m playing singles in both tournaments as well, but I’d give them a miss while waiting for the retinist if not for stranding my doubles partners. I’m not nearly as competitive as most of the guys at these tournaments. I go for those moments in locker rooms and on club verandas where I reconnect and reminisce with many I’ve played with or against since I was a boy. In Edmonton a half dozen players from Medicine Hat show up. Excited by their new tennis club there, they’re singing the praises of Pammy’s great3grandson Brian, who long ago scored a minor footnote in tennis lore as the first Canadian to meet Rod Laver on court, at a junior tournament in Ottawa. He didn’t win but he was playing those days at a level to compete with the likes of the Carpenter brothers, Mike and Keith, Smitty Chapman and Dave Pemberton-Smith. They would all chase balls in the 1950s for Davis Cup matches on the manicured grass courts at the Mount Royal Tennis Club in the heart of Montreal’s anglo west end. The hero of the time was Vancouver’s Lorne Main, already playing Davis Cup and on the international circuit at 19. Later, Keith Carpenter would make the Canadian team and he and Mike were Canadian doubles champs in 1966. Smitty was a Canadian squash champion. So was Pem-Smith, who would also partner Main to the squash doubles title. But that was long ago. The news the guys from Medicine Hat brought to Edmonton was that they had named court No. 1 at their club for Brian, who had been instrumental in getting it built. As it happens, Lorne Main is one of the guys I’d be seeing in Saskatoon.
Brian is among the second generation of the family to move west from the city of churches and city of sin where Pammy’s granddaughter Kate settled. Montreal is where all thirteen of her kids lived pretty well from childhood through expiry. Kate had been the first to venture away from the Chaffey’s Lock homestead, where some cousins remain to this day and probably always will. It was her grandkids, Pammy’s great2grandchildren, who began the exodus from Montreal, where again some remain. There are clusters of the clan east (Halifax, Fredericton), north (Yellowknife, Kuujjuuaq), west in Calgary, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Vancouver, Victoria and Bowen Island, as well as Medicine Hat. (There is no Canadian south. Toronto? Big bunch of the clan there, bien sûr.)

The sun was bright the day they presented Brian (at right) the new signage for his court

The sun was bright the day they presented Brian (at right) the new signage for his court

Brian isn’t the only one of Pammy’s clan to make his mark in the west. David, a great2grandson, is a hero in Alberta for uprooting a major company from eastern Canada and replanting it in Calgary. And high in the Coastal Mountains of British Columbia there’s a unique tribute to Jim, a great3grandson who in 1993 was the first Canadian to reach the summit of the world’s second highest mountain, K-2.
Guides and other professionals consider this to be more difficult than the more publicized ascent of Everest. K2 soars 8,611 metres at the border of Pakistan and China but can’t be seen from any inhabited place. Styled “the mountain of mountains,” it rises out of a bleak wilderness, particularly treacherous because of its steep height, frequent avalanches, savage winds, generally unpredictable weather and contours that offer little natural shelter from the elements. K2 has claimed the lives of at least thirty three mountaineers, including one who climbed with Jim’s party in ’93.

Pammy's great2grandson Jim

Pammy’s great2grandson Jim

Six years later Jim himself would lose a climber’s gamble when he was swept off a cliff in Alaska by a slab avalanche. He was a well loved and respected guide and before long volunteers with The Alpine Club of Canada were planning a memorial tribute. It saw the light of day seven years later in the form of a Hut to shelter climbers traversing the Coastal chain. A wood frame structure with kitchen, sitting room and bedrooms with bunks, it’s there for anyone to use and can be reached in about a half day by climbing a few thousand metres in the Tantalus Range of southern BC from a start in Squamish. Once there, mountaineers find inscribed at the Hut, “Jim was an internationally certified full mountain guide, freelance photojournalist, national best-selling author, motivational speaker and a loving husband, son, brother, uncle, friend and mentor.” The Hut was built, “to celebrate Jim’s spirit and to remind us what a gift he was to the world.”

Jim's hut

Jim’s hut

In 2005 in Saskatoon Lorne Main wins in his age group (75-80) as he usually does, thereby qualifying to represent Canada at the International Tennis Federation championships that year in Manavgat, Turkey. The federation, based in London, with almost a century of history, is the governing body of tennis, which is one of the few truly global sporting activities. ITF oversees 201 national tennis associations and controls the major international team events, including the Davis Cup for men and Fed Cup for women, wheelchair tennis and the Olympic Games, to which tennis was reintroduced as a full medal sport in 1988. ITF is a member of the Grand Slam Committee that controls the Australian, French, British and United States open tournaments. It also runs the global championships for junior and senior players.
In 2005 Roger Federer is the best tennis player alive. Everyone knows this. By a number of measures he may be the best of all time. But not by every measure. There’s one record that Federer will never match, let alone exceed. Perhaps the most unbreakable in all of sport, it’s a challenge at the start of every tennis season. Again in 2010, as in 2007, 2006 and 2004, as he swings for immortality by brushing aside all opponents in the Australian Open, the great Swiss champion knows it’s hopeless. Whenever he looks at the name on the stadium wall at Melbourne he knows.
Rod Laver won the Grand Slam in 1962, all four slam events — Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open tournaments — in the same year. It had been done just once before, by Don Budge in 1938. Those were the days when only amateurs were allowed to enter the slams. Greats such as Jack Kramer, founding father of the pro era, and Pancho Gonzalez, unconquered champ of its early years, were not competing. When slams opened to the pros in 1968, Laver promptly joined their ranks and won the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969. It has never happened since, not once in more than forty years. All successors, including the brilliant Federer, eat their hearts out each January in the Melbourne arena called Laver.
Nicknamed Rocket, Laver was the starburst at the peak of a procession of Australian superheros who paralyzed opponents and dominated all surfaces of the tennis world from 1950 through the 1970s. Groomed by Harry Hopman, a slam-quality player in the 1930s who became a legendary coach of young talent, they included Ken McGregor, who won the Australian Open in 1952 and was half the doubles team that won seven consecutive slam titles in 1951-52. The next open Down Under went to Ken Rosewall, who then took the ’53 French Open on Roland Garros clay. He was 19. Called Muscles by his peers for his apparent lack of them, Rosewall would go on to win more than 130 singles titles, including a dozen slams, one more than Laver in total but never all four in a single year. The slam champ of all time until Federer dethroned him a half century later was Roy Emerson, with 12 singles titles and 16 doubles, mostly partnering Aussie compatriot Neale Fraser. In reserve for the never-to-be-equaled tennis team of the century were Lew Hoad, still on everyone’s top-ten-of-all-time list, Mervyn Rose, Mal Anderson, Rex Hartwig, Tony Roche, John Newcombe and Ashley Cooper. From 1951 to 1976 Australian men won 60 of 104 slams, where the battle is one-on-one. Their teams took 15 out of 18 nation vs. nation Davis Cup ties between 1950 and 1967.
First out of the gate and first among equals of these net superstars was Frank Sedgman, who won 22 slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles between 1949 and 1952, the year he won his second consecutive U.S. Open.
Sedgman was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1950 when he led the Aussies who came to play at the Mount Royal in Montreal. It was an early round in that year’s Davis Cup series. Canadian expectations were not high. Australia would win the Stanley Cup before losing a tennis match to Canada. Lorne Main, the teenage phenom from Vancouver, would get a crack at Sedgman. Not in his wildest dreams did he expect to beat him. In fact he was mercilessly racquet-whipped, trounced by Sedge 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 and out. It was particularly hurtful because it’s the first big match with his sweetheart Ivy looking on.
Ivy was perky and pretty and the little sister of the club pro. All the junior players at Mount Royal desperately craved her attention. But they had no chance once Lorne Main came to town, though some found consolation on warm summer evenings with her flame-haired younger sisters on the roof of their low-rise apartment building nearby.
Main had an unusual stroke for the day, a two-fisted backhand and forehand that he’d created to generate power and compensate for his slight build. Coach after coach had tried to wean him off it. But the day he won the U.S. 16-and-under championship Jack Kramer was watching and told him, “The two-handed grip is a winner for you. Never let anyone talk you into changing it. Stick with it.” Harry Hopman saw him use it in Montreal and thought it a great way to compensate for size. McGregor at 6’4” and Sedgman at 5’11” were sizable enough for the power game. But Hopman had a couple of smaller guys back home he said he’d get to try the two hand grip. The tennis world would be hearing a lot about them soon. “Hopman said I should go to Australia to show them the grip,” says Main. “Good thing I didn’t listen. The juniors were Laver, Rosewall and Hoad.” (Laver had his own secret weapon, which is not always appreciated. He swung his racquet from the left, a decided advantage in the game.)
It didn’t matter much to Ivy that Sedgman had trounced her guy. She loved him and, after all, Sedge was ranked number one in the world. Sedgman “was the quickest I’ve ever seen,” said Kramer. “He could attack off his second serve, or he could come in behind his little slice backhand — and once Sedge got to the net, forget it, because he was so quick you had to thread a needle to get anything past him. Anything he could get he would put away. Frank Sedgman hardly ever hit a second volley. If he got his racquet on a volley, it was almost always a placement, deep and hard.”
Lorne Main was just getting started, a couple of years past junior. He wouldn’t turn twenty for another two months. He was hope for the future. So he was blown away by the best of his time anywhere in the world. So what? Ivy was in a tennis family. She knew well the ups and downs of wins and losses.

Lorne's forehand

Lorne’s forehand

Tennis stars were the real deal in Australia in the ’50s but this was still long before athletes became financial empires. Amateurs weren’t supposed to be paid at all to compete in tournaments, but name players got under-the-table appearance fees. “There is no such thing as amateur tennis,” Roy Emerson declared. The year he topped the rankings he was called “the highest paid amateur tennis player in the world.”
Young Australian players worked their butts off to make the touring team, after which they would get a boost, often by staging exhibitions. The money wasn’t big, but enough to get by on, particularly for a youngster. Rosewall and Laver each earned about $1.5 million over their entire pro careers, but they were exceptional. Most tennis stars of the era retired before 30 and went to work like everybody else, playing with the better local talent when work and family allowed.
Frank Sedgman was the exception. Born October 29, 1927, he passed the worst day in his life on his second birthday — Black Tuesday 1929, the day share prices on the New York Stock Exchange began a freefall that marked the onset of the Great Depression — after which he was pretty well golden.

Jack Kramer at right, 86, visits Sedge on his 80th birthday.

Jack Kramer at right, 86, visits Sedge on his 80th birthday.

He had always been the toast of Australia. When he was tempted to become a professional in 1951, Hopman orchestrated a public subscription through a newspaper in Sydney to keep him eligible for the amateur-only slams and Davis Cup play. The campaign raised $25,000 as a wedding gift. Frank postponed his professional plans for a year, helping Australia win another Davis Cup. He finally turned pro in 1953 and promptly broke all earnings records for tennis players, taking home $150,000 from match play and exhibitions that year.
But for Lorne Main appearance fees were few and far between. It wasn’t a bad life. Just a kid when he lost to Sedgman, the next year he won the Canadian championship, first of five in a row, and played Davis Cup for the second of five consecutive appearances. In 1951 Tennis Canada sent him to Europe, where he played Wimbledon and the French Open, losing in the early rounds but not disgraced. He wasn’t making any money but he was making good connections. Interesting people. Business executives. Politicians. And he wasn’t always knocked out early. In 1954 he won the Monte Carlo open, for more than half a century the best singles victory by a Canadian, one notch below the slams. (Milos Raonic won two ATP titles in 2011-12 to equal then surpass Main’s achievement at that level.)

Lorne's backhand

Lorne’s backhand

By 1955 Sedgman had pretty well retired and gone into business. He acquired a gymnasium in Melbourne and started to invest in real estate. With Rosewall and Hoad, he bought into a resort hotel that did very well. He was careful with money, a trait shared by his teammates. Australians had a reputation for cautious spending and would laugh at their own “deep pockets and short arms.” The tradition carried over to their senior careers. Pancho Segura, when asked about his greatest thrill in the Grand Masters, said it was “the time Frank Sedgman picked up the dinner cheque.”
The Grand Masters tour was organized in the early 1970s to promote matches among a dozen of the big names in the game who had reached or passed their 45th birthday. This was comfortable hunting ground for players who would be legends — Vic Seixas, Pancho Gonzalez, Anderson, Emerson and, later, Laver and Rosewall. Sedgman had always stayed in shape. He came back a big winner, playing with his old, standard-size Oliver, the only wood racquet on the circuit. For half a dozen years he dominated the Grand Masters tour, even after a painful and crippling Achilles tendon snap in 1978. Following surgery he returned to win both the singles and doubles again in 1979.

Jack Kramer (L) and Frank Sedgman (R) flank Australian aboriginal artist  Albert Namatjira

In the time of the Grand Masters: Jack Kramer (L) and Frank Sedgman (R) flank Australian aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira

As well as great competition and great entertainment for fans, the Grand Masters served as something of a refuge for the best of the forty-five-and-older tennis players. John Sharnik in Remembrance of Games Past, his engrossing history of the Grand Masters, writes that “beyond it there is nothing but the so-called supersenior tournaments for fifty-five-year-olds, for sixty-year-olds and so on. These . . . used to be disdained by most world-class players. The early rounds are populated by old geezers in elbow braces and baseball caps, with dubious strokes. The later rounds are minefields packed with danger to the prestige and egos of old champions. It can be discomfiting to find yourself bracketed in the semi-finals against, let’s say, a former twenty-fifth ranked player who has stayed in shape and worked on his strokes for twenty or thirty years, while you had no place to go but down.
“The general feeling used to be that if you’d once won Forest Hills or played in the Davis Cup, then you had nothing to prove in an old geezers’ tournament — and a lot to lose. As Vic Seixas says, ‘Eventually someone you shouldn’t lose to will beat you, and then it’s a big deal’.”
Sedgman played his last match in the Grand Masters in 1984. At the start of the schedule Rosewall was detained so, writes Sharnik, “a hurry-up call had been sent out to Frank Sedgman in Melbourne, and he had flown in, looking about as fit as a fifty-six-year-old grandfather can without being downright freakish.”
While Sedgman was swinging from success to success, Lorne Main was on a different course. There was no livelihood in tennis even after a decade at the top of the game in Canada. He had been playing since he was a kid and never held a job. In the early 1960s he joins the promotion department of the Toronto Telegram. His actual assignment is to be house pro for the larger-than-life proprietor of the paper, John Bassett, a tennis fanatic whose drive and reach will propel his son Johnny to the Davis Cup squad over bigger talents and his granddaughter Carling to No. 2 junior in the world at 14. Main keeps a good salary and Bassett’s good will as long as he shows up on court at noon to help the boss demolish the day’s competition, which often includes the Tely’s major advertisers.
“Isn’t it bad business sticking it to the customers every day on court,” he asks Johnny, who’s on court with them when he isn’t in school. “Of course. But the old man would rather lose an account than a match.”
With little else to do much of the time and few friends in Toronto, which wasn’t his home or Ivy’s, he spends hours in the club lounge, where drinks are on offer from around 11 a.m. Ivy’s time is increasingly occupied by the boy and girl they adopted and then, surprise!, by a girl born to them in 1963. Pleading family necessity, Main works a transfer to Montreal, where Ivy at least has parents, siblings and friends.

Lorne with doubles partner Ken Siclair

Lorne with doubles partner Ken Sinclair

It may have seemed a good move but it broke the close tie with Bassett and left Main at the mercy of those who resented his connection to Big John. When results in Montreal fall below expectation and reports of questionable behaviour travel back to Toronto, he is vulnerable. Alcohol is playing an ever larger part in their life together. Ivy likes to drink as well. Main is just 5’8”and Ivy’s even smaller. No matter whether genetic predisposition or body size is the determining factor, it isn’t long before liquor is leading them. In 1967 Bassett fires him. Ivy is eight months pregnant with their fourth child. The family picks up and heads for Vancouver, Lorne Main’s home town.
In a succession of menial jobs — including driver for an obese, alcoholic and unscrupulous antique dealer — Main hasn’t the resources or the interest to join the local tennis fraternity. Lorne and Ivy live in isolated days of wine and roses. His face is puffy. His gut hangs over his belt. She is overwhelmed by the demands of child raising with little money. By 1974 they are reduced to returning hundreds of gallon-size sherry jugs stacked in the basement for deposit refunds to replenish their liquor supply. Not long after, Ivy dies suddenly of acute pancreatitis. A well known danger of chronic alcohol abuse, this is more common in men than women. Despondent and terrified, fearing the same end, Lorne piles the kids and the few belongings worth saving into a barely legal banger and drives 2,400 miles back to Montreal. He parks the kids with Ivy’s family and enters a residential treatment program for alcoholics at Beaver House on Montreal’s south shore, in a bleak setting opposite a cemetery. He joins A.A. and will become an ardent practitioner of its steps to sobriety.
Leaning heavily on the kindness of friends Lorne starts a long and tortuous climb back from the crater bottom. He takes on managing a small tennis club in a Montreal suburb, where he opens the doors in the morning, locks them at night and when it rains before a tournament he sweeps water from the courts to get play started. He throws himself into work, sometimes 18 hours a day. He hasn’t held a racquet in years but starts rallying with members. He’s asked to teach some juniors. Working with them he works himself into shape.
Back on the court he abandons his original two-hand grip, only to see some new stars — Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray — adopt it with devastating effect. The grip was not his only idiosyncracy. He subsists on an unusual diet, heavy on Pepsi and Mars bars.
One night we have dinner together, poached salmon. Born in hailing distance of the Pacific, Main tolerates fish. He shakes salt on his butter, pushes the cauliflower and beans to the side of his plate. “I never touch vegetables, fruit or salads,” he says. “Probably not a good idea for everyone but it works for me.”
Despite the fare, over the next few years he gradually regains fitness as well as self-respect and finds new challenges within the relatively close-knit tennis community. The 1980s find him teaching at a tennis academy in London, Ontario owned by Ken Sinclair, a power within Canada’s tennis establishment. Sinclair, who has never been other than fit and is uber-competitive, asks him in 1986 to be his partner for the Canadian Seniors Championship. They win the doubles and Main wins the singles title. This qualifies them as Canada’s entry to the ITF-sanctioned Austria Cup for players 55-59 in Pörtschach, Austria.
Australia wins the Austria Cup that year. The Australian team is led by none other than Frank Sedgman, still anxious to compete after superannuation as a Grand Master.
Each year, after the trials for national teams, ITF sponsors the world championship for individuals of a certain age. At Pörtschach it plays down to the leaders of the two far flung Commonwealth teams facing each other. Sedgman vs. Main, shades of that Davis Cup match in Montreal three-and-a-half decades earlier. This time the outcome is reversed. Main wins and they are even. A few years later they meet again, on Sedgman’s turf in Australia, with the same result. Lifetime score: Main 2, Sedgman 1.
Main is wound up. He wins world championships in his age bracket in 1991 in Australia, 1993 in Spain, 1995 in England, 1996 in Austria, 2000 in South Africa, 2001 in Australia.
After Saskatoon in 2005, he wins the 75-and-over in Turkey in his first year in that category, beating his friend and doubles partner Sinclair in the final. He does it again the next year, and the next. He wins again in 2011, bringing his total of world individual championships to thirteen. Main and Sinclair have captured a record thirteen world doubles titles over the same period. They have also combined to win thirteen ITF nation-to-nation tournaments.

Brothers and Pammy’s great3grandsons on Mount Royal TC courts 1 and 2, 2009, Senior Nationals

At 81, with 39 gold medals, Lorne Main is the most successful senior tennis player of all time. On June 5, 2012, mid-way through the French Open, he is invited to Roland Garros in Paris as guest of honour at an ITF dinner to mark his achievement. He is the first senior player ever to earn such recognition.
As for me, I got to the quarter finals of the World Masters — my best senior result ever. I lost at Saskatoon in an early round. And it wasn’t a stroke I had that gave me blurry eyesight. Two cataract surgeries later and I see better than ever.

Canada’s Aquinas loved a good joke

Bernard Joseph Francis Lonergan SJ, CC,  liked to laugh. He liked Goldie Hawn in the movies. He liked Jane Jacobs too. Not because she was funny but because she was smart. He called her Mrs. Insight. Not as smart as he was, of course. In that he stood alone.

Lonergan UofT set280X107

Some volumes in UofT’s Lonergan Series

Pammy’s great2granddaughter Eileen had dinner with Lonergan the evening of February 19, 1981. That afternoon he asked to borrow a copy of Eichner’s Guide to Post-Keynesian Economics from the library at Montreal’s Thomas More Institute. He explained that it would be good to have at hand for his visit with Eileen. They knew each other well. Eileen had written her doctoral thesis on Lonergan’s economics. But she was somewhat shy and he was somewhat introverted, neither of them big on table talk. Economic theory would be easier for both.
He was in town from Boston College, where he held appointment as Distinguished Professor. He had consented to a week of interviews by disciples who wanted to mine the fatherlode before it petered out. He was 76 years old, a survivor of cancer surgery with one lung carved away from three decades of pipe smoking, who would be in declining health during the few years left before he died in November 1984.
The outcome of the talks at TMI would be a slim volume of Q&As, Caring About Meaning, privately printed by the Institute and dealing with “patterns in the life of Bernard Lonergan.” This transcript “moves around,” writes the editor, “as in any good conversation. There are frequent and abrupt changes of topic, some repetitions, and the casual use by Father Lonergan of Latin, Greek, German and French,” some of the languages in which he was proficient.

Lonergan shuffling

Lonergan shuffling

In marked contrast to the simplicity of this memoir are the academic surroundings in which the boy from Buckingham is enshrined today. There are gatherings worldwide to discuss his meaning. The Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto and the Marquette Lonergan Project in Milwaukee are jointly digitizing and preserving his papers, sponsoring seminars and publishing newsletters to describe the thriving world of Lonergan studies. There are Lonergan Centres at seven universities and at least another seven independent Lonergan Institutes in places as diverse as Nairobi, Mexico City, Montreal, Sydney and Innsbruck. The University of Toronto Press is publishing a compendium of his works in 22 large volumes at a cost north of $1 million. They’re on the market for prices as little as $18 for a paperback, or up to $114 for clothbound major works. More than 500 hours of his lectures, delivered and taped between 1957 and 1980, are being remastered to CDs. Three decades after his death he has become an academic industry with branches on all continents.
Major international collocutions are scheduled on topics such as “Lonergan’s Insight After Fifty Years: Its Origins, Its Meaning, Its Reception and Prospects,” on the agenda for one of the annual symposia at Marymount U. in Los Angeles. In 2013, for the 40th annual workshop on his work at Boston College, the Lonergan lens is on the “50th anniversary of Vatican II.” Workshops are also scheduled this year for Jerusalem and Melbourne, Australia.
He was the great grandson of a saloonkeeper. Hugh Gorman was among the early settlers of the lumber town of Buckingham, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. It was largely an Irish community to begin with but later became and remains primarily French speaking. Lonergan’s father was an engineer and surveyor who was away much of the time, marking ways for rail lines through the Canadian northwest. His mother, remembered even today as particularly pious, prayed the rosary three times daily and was the foundation of the home, assisted by her spinster sister Mollie.

Mackell164X236

Fleming Mackell followed his Dad into the NHL

A precocious student, he was reading Treasure Island at six and went through four years of high school in two. Much of his drive for learning he attributed to formation at the Buckingham primary school, where the Christian Brothers organized students into three sets of three grades. “I had the advantage — in the ungraded school you kept working. If you had one teacher talking all day long, you just wasted your time.”
Young Bernie enjoyed all the usual pursuits of small town Canada. His delight in winter sports was amplified by the exploits of his cousin, Ed Gorman, who would go on to play in the mid-1920s for the original Ottawa Senators. One of the founding clubs of the NHL, contender for 11 Stanley Cups in 17 years of which it won five, this team was voted the greatest of the first half century by Canadian sports editors in 1950. Another player among the Silver Seven, as this great team was known by fans and sportswriters, was winger Jack Mackell, who married Pammy’s great-granddaughter Margaret (Kate’s niece) in 1922. Their son Fleming Mackell, Pammy’s great2grandson, also won a couple of Stanley Cup rings. Ironically, he got both during his three season run with the Toronto Maple Leafs, while he made his reputation in the game as a rugged all-star centre and alternate captain with the Boston Bruins.
In summer Bernie Lonergan went river rafting on the Lièvre River, which drained a vast region of virgin forest and flowed to the Ottawa River four miles south. He wasn’t altogether free of mischief. He taught his two younger brothers to play poker and took their money at cards, returning it only after they threatened to tell their parents. One of these siblings, Gregory, also joined the Society of Jesus and was able to stay with Bernie at the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering to provide palliative attention during the distressing last year of his life (1984), when he was afflicted by depression and a long-simmering addiction to alcohol as well as the ongoing effects of the cancer surgery.

Boy from Buckingham ready for Loyola

Boy from Buckingham ready for Loyola

He waved goodbye to Buckingham at fourteen to study at Loyola College in Montreal, now a division of Concordia University, but then a Jesuit-run liberal arts college which was organized, he would write some years later “pretty much along the same lines as Jesuit schools had been since the beginning of the Renaissance, with a few slight modifications.” After schooling, he would return home only occasionally as his work took him further and further afield (late in life he would count that he had been “across the Atlantic about forty six times”). But Buckingham remembers him. The town’s public library is the Bibliothèque Municipale Bernard Lonergan and a plaque at the door reads, “Born in Buckingham, member of the Order of Canada and considered by many intellectuals as the best philosophical thinker of the twentieth century, he was a Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian of world renown.”
A philosopher and theologian indeed, also an economist of original perception, though most who look carefully at the vast expanse of his work conclude that none of these labels really capture him. He was essentially a methodologist, whose vocation was to teach how we can “appropriate our own rational self-consciousness,” by which he meant understanding the operations of experiencing, understanding, judging and deciding as we perform them in our daily routines. But first and foremost he was a Jesuit, which provided both his greatest support and his greatest frustration.
At Loyola “I acquired great respect for intelligence,” he would say years later. “The Jesuits were the best educated people I had ever met.”
As much as anybody, once Jacques Cartier had found the place for Europeans, the Jesuits made Canada. The Society of Jesus was founded in the mid-16th century by Ignatius Loyola and immediately set to work to counter the reformation being promulgated by Martin Luther. Their primary tool would be education  — Ignatius Loyola, founding “general” of the Society and his first half-dozen recruits were all doctoral students at the University of Paris  —  that they deployed in order to strengthen faith, gain converts and cultivate influence, both within the Church and beyond. Education was the hottest product in the cultural arena as literacy began its run following Gutenberg’s marvelous invention barely a century before.  As the Society’s origin coincided with a great age of exploration, discovery and settlement in new worlds — the age of Cartier, Columbus, Cabot, Verrazano, Hudson and hundreds more — its schools spread worldwide, some to become major universities (Université Laval in Quebec City, among the oldest institutions of higher learning in North America, would evolve out of the Collège des Jésuites). Many members of the order through the centuries became renowned scholars and scientists, making significant contributions particularly in fields such as astronomy and anthropology. And they became inveterate travelers, carpetbaggers of the church, seeking to spread the Roman Catholic faith throughout North and South America, and in the far east, particularly China (even today the largest Chinese dictionary in a western language is a Jesuit publication of 9,000 pages).

Jesuit college and church, Quebec City, 1761 (Nat. Archive of Cda)

Jesuit college and church, Quebec City, 1761 (Nat. Archive of Cda)

The first Jesuits to reach the land that would become Canada were Pierre Biard and Ennémond Massé on May 22, 1611. They and many who came after them went to live among the native nations. They followed the wanderers through forests, along waterways and across long portages. They acquired some fluency in aboriginal languages and customs, and served as interpreters, guides and go-betweens for the early traders and colonizers, who could hardly have survived the harsh climate, rocky soil and distant treks to fur-bearing resources without this assistance. Some blackrobes set out to explore the vastness of the American continent. Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest, and Louis Jolliet, who studied eleven years with the Jesuits but backed away from ordination at the last minute, were the first Europeans to reach the Mississippi. Others taught, baptized and ministered to the settlers and “sought to insulate the Natives from the consuming ravages of greed.” The annually published Jesuit Relations, begun as reports from missionaries in the field to superiors back home, gradually evolved into travelogues and adventure tales circulated in Europe to attract immigrants and enlist support for the mission. As colonial powers began to negotiate treaties with aboriginal inhabitants during the 18th and 19th centuries, Jesuits acted as counselors and interpreters in an effort to protect indigenous interests. That they were not always, or even often, successful was acknowledged by Peter-Hans Kolvenback, the General of the order, in 1993. He offered the Society’s apology to American Indians for “the mistakes it has made in the past (when) the church was insensitive toward your tribal customs, language and spirituality.”
The million or so Canoriginals today are proportionally much more numerous than their cousins in the United States. There, indigenous peoples were not regarded as trading partners but as barriers to western expansion. They were cut down like trees in the forest so that white Americans could achieve their manifest destiny, range their cattle and farm their fields. Jesuits were among those who imprinted a pattern in Canada that moderated the military violence and wanton massacres so common south of the border. (Which is not to say that Canada treats its indigenous peoples fairly and justly. It doesn’t.)
Jesuits were intrepid to the point of sacrificing their lives. Jean de Brébeuf and seven companions are canonized as saints of the Catholic Church. In their memory each year on Sept. 26 a reading of the religious ‘office’ proclaims that their lives were “like a martyrdom because of the character and wretched conditions of the Huron Indians of that time.” In the mid 17th century the Hurons were wiped out by the Iroquois and blackrobes were among the casualties of conflict, some of whom “endured almost unbelievable tortures with such invincible courage as to arouse the admiration of the savage executioners themselves.”

The Canadian Encyclopedia says “the torture and death of blackrobes Gabriel Lalemant (left) and Jean de Brébeuf (right) in 1649 was one of the most powerful images distributed of the New World, not least for its value as propaganda.”

It should not be hard to imagine why impressionable young men are attracted to this adventurous, historic band of brothers. I dare say that almost everybody who spent as much time at Loyola as Lonergan did, or I did, gave some thought at some time to joining the Jesuits. They are figures of authority and of mystery, a fraternity with great traditions, who opened many frontiers for European civilization in new found worlds and ancient. They had been advisers to emperors and teachers of princes. They also had been persecuted, martyred and, for forty years in the 19th century, disbanded under a papal prohibition. There were some places in the world where the ban was not rigidly enforced and one of them was Quebec. By going underground and keeping the dream alive the Jesuits survived and eventually were allowed to raise their head again. They were a magnetic draw for boys (there were no girls at Loyola then, nor in the Society of Jesus).
I gave it a few days consideration before concluding that the strict vows of poverty, chastity and obedience required of Jesuits were not for me. The fathers bent little effort to persuade me otherwise. Some of the more courageous among my friends took the spiritual path, among them David Asselin, who would have become a brother-in-law had he not died so young; and Jean-Marc Laporte, a philosophy wunderkind who dazzled us in caf and coffee shop sessions with his grasp of subtleties in Aquinas, Scotus, Kant and other lights, including the recently published Bernard Lonergan. After long apprenticeship (the road to full membership in the Society of Jesus stretches fourteen years) Laporte would become Lonergan’s personal secretary and in 2002 he was appointed Provincial, the highest administrative post of the order in English Canada (Jesuits long ago divided Canada into just two provinces, English and French). Provincials report to the Jesuit General in Rome, who reports to the Pope. In fact the General is referred to by scoffers as the black pope. Jesuits are the papal legion, canonically speaking. (This was written before the election of Pope Francis, an unexpected event that likely portends more change for the Church than for the Society, which seems to be dong better than its founder Ignatius could have dreamed.) 

Former Chapel (now F.C. Smith Auditorium) on Loyola Campus

Former Chapel (now F.C. Smith Auditorium) on Loyola Campus. Mary Blickstead and I were married here in December 1958.

When I was at Loyola, through most of the 1950s, the Thomas More Institute was a centre of continuing education and intellectual discourse for adults, and so it remains. Founded by Eric O’Connor, a Jesuit and Harvard-educated mathematician, it was here in 1945 that Lonergan began to think through a centrepiece in the ever-expanding universe of his thought. Though Insight: A Study of Human Understanding , would not be published for another dozen years, it was in a series of lectures at TMI that the brilliant, middle-aged professor found inspiration to begin writing what would quickly be recognized as one of the most original and profound philosophical works of the 20th century. Of its origins at TMI he would later say, “It seemed clear that I had a marketable product not only because of the notable perseverance of the class but also from the interest that lit up their faces.”
The spark had been struck but it was soon in danger of being extinguished as year after year, for more than a decade, he was consigned by the order to teach in institutions that he found intellectually stagnant. His personal standard for education was set somewhat higher than the Society’s. When he was sent to Europe as part of his Jesuit training he found he had to work harder just to catch up. “I read Thackeray and made a list of all the words,” he said, “to know the meaning well enough to use them myself. I looked them up in the dictionary and wrote them down and went over these lists; if I still didn’t know the meaning I would look up the dictionary again. I improved my vocabulary tremendously. But I went to England for philosophy, and all the lads there were talking that well!”
Years later he would write to a superior, “At the parish school I always had to work my hardest. At Loyola my acquired habits did not survive my first year: by the mid-term exams I was in 3rd High; by the end of the year I was fully aware that the Jesuits did not know how to make one work, that working was unnecessary to pass exams, and that working was regarded by all my fellows as quite anti-social. For my remaining three years at Loyola I loafed and passed exams with honours . . . Now do not tell me that I am exceptional. I have more than average ability, but not so much more that I did not have to work when confronted with the standards of the parish school in Buckingham or the University of London.”

Lonergan laughing, as often he did

Lonergan laughing, as often he did

Only the strict vow of obedience he had taken kept him on course. In the Society of Jesus, he would say in later years, “you have to do things that are rather hard and you need a lot of grace to do them. That is the advantage of a religious life.”
In the early 1950s the advantages were not evident. The grind of teaching scholastics (Jesuit apprentices) year after year in Montreal and Toronto was wearing him down. Then his superiors relented. In 1953 he was dispatched to begin a dozen years as professor of theology at the world-renowned Gregorian University in Rome. Apparently he had passed the test of obedience.
He finished the last seven chapters of Insight in a white heat between December 1952 and August 1953, fired by the titanic orchestrations of Ludwig van Beethoven. Insight sold out its first printing within a year, “a best seller of its type,” he once quipped. It has since been translated into all European and several Asian languages and still sells thousands of copies annually. I fear to put it this simply, but since he repeats it a couple of times in Insight, I’ll say its premise is that by understanding what it is to understand “not only will you understand the broad lines of all there is to be understood but also you will possess a fixed base, an invariant pattern, opening upon all further developments of understanding.”
Putting Insight behind him, Lonergan turned to shedding new light on old theological questions. At the Gregorian as many as 650 students would crowd into his classes, and the works he produced there had an unusual feature for a modern author. They were written in Latin. He was also fluent in Italian, German and classical Greek, all important to pursue his theological and philosophical studies, and French. Perhaps not surprisingly for a Quebec-born Canadian of his era, he didn’t learn French at home. In Buckingham “we didn’t speak French. That depended on what part of the town you were from. And the hardest place to learn French is Montreal. I learned French in England.”

Receiving the Order of Canada

Receiving the Order of Canada

In fact Insight had never been the end that Lonergan had in mind. His overriding concern was to bring to the 20th century the kind of synthesis of modern thought with theology that Thomas Aquinas had achieved in the 13th century and that had endured, sometimes in observance sometimes in ignorance, for some 800 years. He agreed with Aquinas that philosophy did not consist in knowing what others have said, but in seeking and finding what is true. Bringing to bear the findings of physics and mathematics, often in dialogue and exchange with Eric O’Connor, he built on Aquinas with practical examples just as Aquinas had built on Aristotle’s first principles.
He didn’t delude himself that altering the classical perspective would be easily accomplished. “Centuries are required to change mentalities,” he would say, “centuries. You don’t get a change of mentality by introducing a few fads.”.He found it necessary first to consider the fundamental question, “What is it to know?” The answer he put forward in Insight would have effects far beyond philosophy and theology. His long-time Jesuit friend and biographer, Fred Crowe, points out, “his political thought has been found relevant to problems in the Philippines; his social thought was the focus of a study group in Mexico; his notion of values was used in an analysis of rural development in Ethiopia; doctors and nurses are applying his ideas in their field of health care; there have been similar applications to Anglican moral theology, to Quaker spirituality, and to Australian and Chinese contextualization of theology; to theories of architecture, chemistry, feminism, to jurisprudence and to psychotherapy . . .” In Ottawa his method is used to train border guards how to tell who’s slippery in the line. There is no end in sight.
His shift forward into theology was given a hard check in 1965 when lung cancer was diagnosed while he was on a return visit to Toronto. He remained for radical surgery, first to remove the lung and then to reshape the ribcage. Recovery was slow. He never returned to his Rome professorship. Instead he began to formulate what would become his second masterwork, Method In Theology, which would be published in 1972.
Theology, he points out “is a reflection on religion, it isn’t being religious.” In Lonergan’s view “contemporary theology and especially contemporary Catholic theology are in a feverish ferment. An old theology is being recognized as obsolete.” Not just theology, but all handed-down classical ‘truths.’
“What breathed life and form into the civilization of Greece and Rome, what was born again in a European Renaissance, what provided the chrysalis whence issued modern languages and literature, modern mathematics and science, modern philosophy and history, held its own right into the twentieth century . . .
“Classicist philosophy was the one perennial philosophy. Classicist art was the set of immortal classics. Classicist laws and structures were the deposit of wisdom and prudence of mankind. This classicist outlook was a great protector of good manners and a great support of good morals. But it had one enormous drawback. It included a built-in incapacity to grasp the need to change and to effect the necessary adaptations.”
Lonergan does not attempt a new or revised theology per se. Rather he creates a process, a method of drawing on the past to enlighten the future. It is not confined to theology but can be applied, as Fred Crowe puts it, “in philosophy or theology, in the pursuit of any project in the field of human studies and human sciences, be it theoretical or practical, present or future, peculiar to one culture or another.”
Though his strength had been sapped by the surgeries, he believed that his desire to finish this project “was a psychological factor in my recovery.” Writing didn’t come fluidly to him. “I write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, eh . . . I could have written more by taking another ten years. But you get sick and tired of a subject and you call it off. Books aren’t finished; authors get tired.”
For relaxation Lonergan often saw films in the company of younger Jesuits who wouldn’t pester him to expound philosophy, and developed an appreciation for the talents of Goldie Hawn. He enjoyed a good joke and could tell one. He read widely, chuckling through Waugh, Chesterton and Lewis Carroll. He championed the work of urban guru Jane Jacobs, whom he dubbed “Mrs. Insight.” Insight occurs with respect to concrete images, not abstractions, and Jacobs is very much grounded in what’s real. But he was no casual conversationalist. In general he displayed a modesty approaching shyness. And while he had a photographic memory and amazing powers of retention for what he read, he was not swift at repartee. The telling comment or response to a question often would occur to him hours after a conversation had ended. He described himself as a “forty eight hour man, strong on l’esprit d’escalier, the witticism you think of when you’re going down the stairs.”
Lonergan’s interest in economics was stimulated by social disruption in the first instance and, in the second, by the quandaries that the profession was experiencing. These instances were separated by some forty years. “When I came back to Canada in 1930,” he said, “the rich were poor and the poor were out of work. The rich were trying to get money selling apples on the street. Many theories were floating around.”

Pammy's great2granddaughter Eileen

Pammy’s great2granddaughter Eileen

Eileen, his dinner companion while visiting Montreal to be interviewed for Caring About Meaning, wrote in her review of the economics volumes in the collected works, “Both the 1930s and 1970s were periods of ferment in economic theory because of the major structural changes and crises that were not explained satisfactorily.”
His response was to identify two separate but interactive levels in the economy that produce wealth and income in different ways. The surplus sector produces goods for further production, e.g. rails for railroads. The basic sector produces goods for consumption. As well, when prices rise, workers demand more and the wage-price spiral begins. When prices fall, producers pull back from investing and recession begins. The result is often panic and “panic doesn’t get you anywhere; it is just stupidity, loss of nerve.” He proposes an economic policy based fundamentally on a strategy of education, generating widespread understanding of the way these cycles work and the natural interconnection between them.
He was far from embracing socialism, “which doesn’t work very well.” He believed that “the trouble with the welfare state is that it crowds out investment, and if you crowd out investment the economy goes to pot.” But he favoured creation of benevolent enterprise, small-scale industries that employ people who can’t be taught much, or who can’t find jobs elsewhere. Also, “If you can have government deficits to conduct wars, you can have government deficits for a war on poverty, a war on ignorance, a war on ill health, and so on.”
The first International Lonergan Congress was held in Tampa, Florida in 1970, attracting eminent theologians and other thinkers from around the world. One of the participants was former senator and presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy. When an eminent intellectual remarked, “there are large gobs of Insight” he didn’t understand, McCarthy quipped, “You’re the first to admit it at breakfast. Most of us wait until afternoon.”
The following year Lonergan was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest rank.
Lonergan’s invitation to self-appropriation is also an invitation to self-development through self-criticism and self-evaluation. Professor Ken Melchin at Ottawa’s St. Paul University writes in his introduction to ethics, Living With Other People, “More than any other author, Lonergan makes self-discovery the central activity of philosophy and theology. While much of his writing is theoretically complex, it is everywhere guided by a single purpose, the understanding of ourselves in our everyday acts of understanding.”

Delphi today

Delphi today

It sounds straightforward yet, as Fred Crowe says, “the full extent of his influence will not be seen for many years yet. His chief contribution was the creation of an instrument of mind and heart for others to use, whose worth will be discovered not only in study but also in implementation. Only the slow process of history can measure the enduring stature of this great thinker who belongs to the world as much as to his native Canada.”
In a lecture just after Insight was published, Lonergan said: “Your interest may be to find out what Lonergan thinks and what Lonergan says, but I am not offering you that, or what anyone else thinks or says, as a basis. If a person is to be a philosopher, his thinking as a whole cannot depend upon someone or something else. There has to be a basis within himself; he must have resources of his own to which he can appeal as a last resort.”
Know Thyself. It was inscribed on Apollo’s Temple at Delphi in southern Greece and has been a precept for human action since before the time of Socrates. But it has famously defied easy doing. Lonergan doesn’t promise to make it any easier. But he may well be the first and only oracle to nail precisely how it can be done.

Even as our fathers are perfect

“I never wanted this for you. I worked my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool, dancing on a string held by all those big shots. I don’t apologize. That’s my life. But I thought that when it was your time that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone. Governor Corleone. There wasn’t enough time Michael. Not enough time.”
Don Corleone, The Godfather

“We’ll get there Pop. We’ll get there.”
Michael Corleone

Bernard Jack Shapiro was surprised in May 2004 to be named Canada’s first Ethics Commissioner. He wasn’t even aware the position existed when Prime Minister Martin’s office called. Shapiro would report directly and publicly to the Parliament of Canada. Max Shapiro’s son Bernie. Who would have believed?

Montreal has always been, as it remains, the gastronomic capital of Canada. While the best restaurants are French, many of the city’s most popular eateries in the mid-twentieth century were anglo: Dinty Moore’s for corned beef and cabbage; Drury’s, opened in 1887, modeled on a London Chophouse; Martin’s Since 1861 featuring pea soup, roast beef and a nude disguised in a painting titled “What’s On An Old Man’s Mind”. Colloquially known as Mother Martin’s, it was a hangout for newspapermen. The Gazette was around the corner. Windsor Station, Montreal’s first (1887) skyscraper and  Canadian Pacific Rail’s headquarters, was across the street. It was also the venue for a revival of musical revue in Montreal. After the family acquired it from the Martin heirs, Pammy‘s great3grandson produced a series of variety programs there, starting with the Cole Porter Revue in the mid-1960s. Performers imported for these shows such as Dinah Christie, Jack Creley, Tom Kneebone, Eric Donkin and Dave Broadfoot also helped two Loyola College (not yet Concordia) grads, Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson, launch what would become a three decade long hit on radio and television, Royal Canadian Air Farce. Cabaret at Martin’s continued until the restaurant fell victim to the increasing dominance of franco preferences and a sharp reduction in anglo population and patronage. Dinty’s, Drury’s and Martin’s are all long gone.

In 1945 Max Shapiro and friends opened Ruby Foo’s, which served gourmet Chinese food and boasted it was the restaurant “preferred by the most interesting people.” Away from centretown and near the track, it was also the largest, with some seven hundred seats. A beautiful Asian girl carried a tray of cigars and cigarette packages discreetly among the tables, a photographer was on hand to take a candid shot, the sommelier decanted wine, a washroom attendant provided hand towels, a trio played in the Black Sheep bar that served both as bistro and waiting room for busy tables in the restaurant. Ruby Foo’s was the habitual destination of Montreal’s business class, lawyers, politicians, gamblers and wiseguys. Politicians particularly wanted booths just past the entrance where they could see and be seen. A banknote discreetly slipped to maître d’ Frank Goral would secure a choice table.

Camillien Houde

Montreal was party town through much of the century. During prohibition, it was one of the few places in North America to get a legal drink in public. Gambling flourished under the benign civic administration of the flamboyant Camillien Houde, jailed in wartime as an enemy of the state, and avuncular J.O. (Joseph Omer) Asselin, father of eight including two MPs, a Jesuit who taught at Loyola and a New York lounge singer. Entrepreneurial citizens exercised their business talents in shadowy, often illegal activities that enjoyed widespread public participation and were tacitly approved by cops on the take. Musicians, showgirls and gangsters from the United States flocked to town.

Montreal was also a flourishing sex bazaar. Judge Louis Coderre would write of the scene in the 1920s that “the traffic in human flesh, in its most shameful and degrading form, operates and flourishes in Montreal like a commercial enterprise perfectly organized. I would venture to say that few industrial establishments or businesses possess an organization as perfect, a means of operation as vast, personnel as well trained and discipline so well and rigorously applied. I know of none which has so quickly enriched such a large number of proprietors.”

In February 1944 almost all the houses of ill repute shut down. “What decades of exhortation by social reformers failed to achieve,” William Weintraub writes in City Unique, his exploration of Montreal’s days and nights through the mid-decades of the 20th century, “was accomplished overnight by the Canadian army. Far too many soldiers were contracting syphilis or gonorrhea during their visits to the red-light district. In Quebec, five times as many servicemen were contracting venereal disease as in British Columbia. The war effort was being endangered.”

The army “seemed to have no quarrel with Montreal’s other main vice, gambling, even though plenty of soldiers were losing their pay at illegal tables all over town,” according to Weintraub. “But soldiers’ bets were small potatoes in the big joints run by operators like Max Shapiro . . .

“In those places, wagers of many thousands of dollars were common, with big wartime profits bulging in the pockets of many Montreal businessmen in the 1940s, much of it in ‘black market money’ that was not known to the income tax department.”

However the 1940s saw the beginning of the end for the City of Sin. In 1945 Jacques Francoeur, then a reporter just 19 years old but destined to become owner-publisher of a chain of Quebec newspapers, wrote a series of stories about illegal gambling in the Gazette. Some city councilors called for a judicial enquiry but they ran into opposition from the power behind the mayor. Houde had been away for four years, imprisoned when he said publicly that he would refuse to register for conscription at the height of World War II and would advise others to do the same. On his return from prison camp he was enthusiastically re-elected and would hold office for another decade. But since the populist mayor par excellence had little patience for the details of administration, he left this to Joe Asselin, chairman of the city’s executive committee. JO, as Weintraub writes, “insisted that the city simply didn’t have enough money to close down the gambling dens. It would take five thousand more policemen to do it, he said. But several police officers told journalists, off the record, that they wouldn’t need more than twenty-five good men to do the job, if they were ever ordered to do it.”

J.O. Asselin

This was just the start of the reform movement that would culminate less than a decade later in the election of Jean Drapeau on a morality platform that he would expand over the next quarter century into extravaganzas such as Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics. In another series of articles, reform-minded lawyer Pacifique Plante made specific accusations. After Joe Asselin and police chief Albert Langlois, who were accused of tolerating vice throughout the decade and protecting dozens of unconvicted criminals, “came the list of those who were protected,” Weintraub writes, “five owners of whorehouses and forty-one gambling bosses. The gambling roster was headed by Max Shapiro, often referred to as the kingpin of the industry in Montreal . . .”

These articles fomented concerns that culminated in 1950 in a commission of enquiry headed by Justice François Caron. It would run for four years. Max Shapiro admitted to Caron that he had operated a gambling establishment on Peel Street where wealthy Montrealers and tourists came to play roulette, baccarat and chemin de fer.

Tandem is the weekly English-language subsidiary of Corriere Canadese, the daily Italian-language newspaper aimed at the two million Canadians of Italian origin. Antonio Nicaso writes in Tandem about “the ‘junta’ that handled gambling, clandestine bets, prostitution and all the illegal activities connected to show business in the 1940s and 1950s in what was then called the Paris of North America.

“These are stories of bygone days, investigative craftsmanship, marked by black-and-white photos showing the sneering smile of many untouchable bosses, such as Max Shapiro, Frank Petrula, Louis Greco, and Harry Ship. Gambling alone generated profits to the tune of $50 million per year. And with money, the Montreal crooks bribed everybody, politicians, policemen, and middlemen included.”

Shapiro’s partners in Montreal’s most lucrative gambling den included Harry Davis, for many years the undisputed overlord of Montreal’s underworld, until he was gunned down in July 1946. Davis controlled much of the drug trade, brothels and gambling in the city, but he was imprisoned in 1933 for drug trafficking and corrupting public officials. While he served a dozen years in prison, Greco and Petrula took over many of his rackets and joined forces with the Italian Mafia, led by Vic Cotroni.

Greco never rose higher than number two to Cotroni but he was a formidable lieutenant. Highly active in gambling, loansharking, extortion and drug trafficking, Greco was a major financial backer of Giuseppe Cotroni’s lucrative drug network and also a partner in the Alpha Investment Corporation with, among others, Vic Cotroni, Carmine Galante, a ruthless killer from New York, and Max Shapiro. By this time Shapiro also had diversified into the restaurant business with Ruby Foo’s, located opposite Blue Bonnets race track on Decarie Boulevard.

The outcome of the Caron hearings was the dismissal of the police chief and retirement from politics of Joe Asselin, who became a bank executive as his wife ascended in the anterooms of the Liberal Party. Beatrice Tobin Asselin was the daughter of eight-term Member of Parliament and then Senator Edmund Wilson Tobin, who had been a colleague, neighbour and friend of Wilfrid Laurier. A tireless organizer for Mackenzie King, she was president of the Women’s Liberal Federation under Prime Minister Pearson. One of her sons was a long serving councillor in Montreal and then an MP. Another won election to Parliament from his grandfather’s old riding in the Eastern Townships and later became mayor of Aylmer, Quebec. Both were present in the House of Commons for the lengthy, ugly, divisive, nation-defining Canadian flag debate. Bea and Joe’s youngest married Pammy’s great3grandson.

In the mid-1950s, Ruby Foo’s management was turned over to two young men who had worked there during summers and breaks from their studies at McGill, which they had just completed. They were Max Shapiro’s twin sons, born nine minutes apart on June 8, 1935. Harry and Bernie Shapiro ran the restaurant for a few years, until their father died, then sold out and returned to university. They both earned doctorates, Bernie at Harvard and Harry at Princeton, and would climb to the very apex of the academic structure. Harry Shapiro became chair of the board of the $1.9 billion Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, president of the University of Michigan and ultimately president of Princeton, where he remains emeritus professor. Bernie, who served as Ontario’s deputy minister of education under Premier Bill Davis, would be appointed principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University in 1994, kicked upstairs to the same titles “emeritus” in January 2003.

Bernard Shapiro

His term as Ethics Commissioner, while not ignominious, was hardly noteworthy. An election mired his office in the gamesmanship of minority government. He never had the backing of PM Stephen Harper and came under increasing attack from politicians of all parties, including NDP icon Ed Broadbent. Conservatives wrote a “judicial or semi-judicial” requirement into their newly crafted position of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. With no legal background, he walked away before being pushed. He anticipated no more public responsibilities. He would continue to collect honourary degrees – at last count eleven – and awards for good works. One example: more than 1,100 people attended a tribute dinner in Toronto to honour Bernard Shapiro and the president and CEO of ATCO Ltd., Nancy Southern, as “great supporters” of public education in Canada. Max would be proud and, coincidentally, Joe Asselin would be too. Nancy Southern manages a worldwide corporation with more than 6,000 employees and is also executive VP of Spruce Meadows in Calgary, one of the world’s finest equestrian facilities. She is a director of Shell Canada and the Bank of Montreal, the mother of three, and married to Olympic show jumping competitor Jonathan Asselin. Jonathan, who finished one place behind the legendary Ian Millar at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is Joe Asselin’s grandson.

Jonathan Jumping Down Under

But gathering accolades and resting on laurels wasn’t to be the end of it for Bernie Shapiro. In 2010 he was asked by Concordia University to examine its governance and structure in the wake of the departure of two presidents halfway through their first terms in office. Formed in 1971 by a merger of Loyola College and Sir George Williams, Concordia had expanded geometrically to become the second largest university in the province (larger than McGill) and sixth largest in Canada.

Nancy Morelli, Concordia archivist, instructs Judith Woodsworth (centre) where to sign in as President and Vice-Chancellor while Chancellor David O’Brien overlooks. Judith’s abrupt departure two years later would precipitate the Shapiro report that found a “culture of contempt” at the university.

“It’s a lovely irony,” friend Jim Hynes says, “that they adopted the name ‘Concordia’ for the ungovernable mish-mash they created out of two unrelated outfits, where it seems concord has never existed. Any resemblance between today’s multicultural, secular stew-pot of divergent identities and the Jebbies’ tight-knit, buttoned-down Irish/Franco redoubt vanished long, long ago. The Loyola of our day put us in a voluntary ghetto, where we were taught what we were supposed to know, and largely shielded from everything else. Like it or not, it was an institution that knew what it was, and what it was supposed to do. The new one has tried to do something much more difficult, i.e., create a modern, full-scale, secular university. History shows us that this usually takes a clear vision and exceptional leadership to make it happen. Obviously, Concordia has never had either of those things going for it.”

That’s pretty well what Bernie discovered and he pulled no punches in describing a “culture of contempt” that had paralyzed decision-making in the place for years. Earle McLaughlin’s days as Chancellor ended long before the culture became twisted and crippling. Pammy’s great2grandson also wore Concordia’s gaudy gown and tassled flat hat for a while. But the Chancellor of a university is largely a figurehead, not an active participant in the governing structure. If blame were to be assigned for allowing a culture of contempt to flourish – Bernie named no names – it’s highly unlikely any Chancellor would be held responsible.

Those who know Bernie best attest to a lively sense of humour, though he appears somewhat unapproachable. He has picked up a few simple convictions along the way. He defines an optimist as one who scans the list of exam marks down from the highest at the top, a pessimist as one who starts from the bottom and reads up. He learned the value of throwing oneself “body and soul” into achieving the best result by observing how a Chinese waiter at Ruby Foo’s memorized the name of each guest, his food and drink preferences, where he liked to sit. As a result many clients would ask for this waiter by name when they arrived or made a reservation. This was naturally reflected in the generosity of the tips he received. Shapiro noticed.

He came to the task of Ethics Commissioner at a moment when the Liberal government, in power then for more than a decade and about 70 percent of the prior century, was awash in scandal and ethical dilemmas that would ultimately chase it from office and thence into an historic collapse. Prime Minister Martin was charged with peeking under the covers of a “blind trust” while in his previous role as finance minister. The nation’s auditor general identified huge gaps in record keeping for a $250 million “sponsorship” fund dispensed at political direction through Liberal-connected advertising agencies, discrepancies that would lead to a commission of enquiry under Judge John Gomery (who once had been counsel to the family business of Pammy’s great2granddaughter). Nobody knew where the buck stopped for huge cost overruns in controversial gun registry and computerization programs.

Shapiro, his judgment honed in public service and academic administration, readily admitted he had no particular insights into ethical issues, but expressed confidence he could rise to the challenge. “I think what [the job] needs is some magic combination of intelligence, wisdom and judgment,” he told reporters. “I’m not modest about myself.”

He got there Max. He got there.

And the beat goes on

Earle McLaughlin kept an abacus on his side table set to multi-billion dollar record earnings for his bank. He was a native-born son and heir to Canada’s twentieth century post-war boom. His cousin Sam was president of General Motors in Canada and manufactured Buick models under the family name until World War II. McLaughlin Buick is still a brand of repute among auto buffs.

Early in his career, Earle worked at 360 rue St. Jacques (then known as St. James St. at the tail end of anglo dominance in the city). This was then the very heart of the financial capital of Canada. 360 St. James, at 21 storeys, was the tallest skyscraper in the British Empire when it opened in 1928. It cost $6.5-million to build. Of course head office operations are long gone from this site. They were moved uptown in the early 1960s to Place Ville Marie, the cruciform by master architect I.M.Pei built on Earle’s watch. RBC’s head office is still nominally at PVM. The chairman of the Royal as I write and the current chief executive, as well as his forerunner, are all Montrealers. But they don’t live in Montreal any more. The bank is run from Toronto.

Earle didn’t start his career in the lofts of the skyscraper. He’d get there soon enough, as well as to the board tables of Canada’s biggest public companies and honorifics such as Chancellor of Concordia U. But in the 1950s he was managing the main branch of the Royal Bank of Canada on the ground floor at 360, with square picture windows overseeing the street (the branch is due to close in 2012). One of his clients was the owner and publisher of Financial Times of Canada, a troubled man named Ted Ertl.

Ted Ertl’s troubles were about fifty thousand dollars worth, an amount he owed RBC and couldn’t pay. He’d resort to great lengths and various dodges through the narrow streets and cobbled alleys of Montreal’s centuries-old financial district to avoid McLaughlin’s arm-twisting. Slip sliding through slush on St. James, ducking around corners, hugging the granite and the shadows, he’d manage to skirt the windows and the stern managerial gaze. Ted was an honourable man. He wanted to clear the debt. But the paper wasn’t doing well. Then he died.

Financial Times wasn’t always a loser. It did very well for its founding editor and owner, Robert Emmett Cox, after startup in 1912. The day of Emmett Cox was a day of robber baron industrialists and financial market manipulators, largely assisted and often enabled by a financial press controlled and operated by cronies. Monopoly wasn’t a board game yet. A monopoly was a licence to print money. While major monopolies were built around utilities and other essential services, there were a host of other opportunities waiting for anyone with the eye to see them and the daring to move. Emmett Cox moved in the same circles, for instance, as John Sparrow, an inveterate host and “life of the gathering” at open houses for journalists and entertainers at his home in the north of the city (Sault-au-Récollet) and his country estate in Sainte-Agathe. His was a local application of the baronial technique. Sparrow had built a monopoly of the important theatres and music halls in Montreal. By 1904 he controlled the Theatre Royal, Academy of Music, Théâtre Français and His Majesty’s. Control and restraint of competition kept admission charges higher than they might otherwise be. It was a modest form of the primitive, unchecked capitalism that held sway through the roaring twenties, until the stock market crash of 1929, which brought some regulation and, in the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission, run at first by one of the boldest barons ever, Joe Kennedy. (Ever struggling to catch up with its big neighbour, Canada has yet to establish a national securities regulator.)

Cox retired after the crash, which he came through with assets intact. His successors didn’t enjoy the same good fortune. Boom times for business tycoons enjoying media support were over. Ted Ertl held the publication together for years but he hadn’t done well at all. The bank said it was poor management. But the bank always says it’s poor management. Perhaps Ted wasn’t as sophisticated as other publishers. Perhaps it was ethics. Perhaps it was just that the centre of financial gravity was shifting. Whatever it was, he owed the Royal Bank about fifty large ones when he died.

Earle at the peak of his game

Earle McLaughlin didn’t need to concern himself with Ted Ertl’s posthumous debt. Earle was long past managing a branch by then. He had made general manager of the bank at forty-five, the youngest ever, and soon after that he was president, then chairman. A fifty thousand dollar problem was beneath notice. But he had approved the loan for Ted way back and felt responsible. So he called St. Clair Balfour, the patriarch then in charge of the family’s publishing empire, Southam Press (now Postmedia).

Balfour got the drift and was agreeable. It was chicken feed in the overall scheme of things. A favour for the biggest of the Big Five banks might be returned with interest some day, some way. It could prove a bargain. As for the Financial Times, Southam might even make a go of it. Financial Times had survived for fifty years by then. If this wasn’t a record for independent Canadian publishing, it was damn close. Balfour cut a cheque and Earle handed over FT.

Balfour hired Michael Barkway as editor and publisher. Garth Hopkins was managing editor, a cowboy from Alberta who had wrangled a communications job with the World Bank, where Barkway found him.

Michael Barkway wasn’t planning to shepherd some second tier business tabloid. He had come of age before the war and as a BBC correspondent had interviewed the likes of Eisenhower, Churchill and Montgomery. He knew Fleet Street, Muggeridge and Orwell. He was big time talent for a colony and if Canada wasn’t a colony any longer when he got here, we weren’t all that far removed. We were certainly a generation or two behind when it came to journalism. We had the steadfast Globe, here from the start and often enough playing an influential part at the country’s beginning. We had the CBC, bless the pioneers who created it and, even better, secured it tightly within the national infrastructure so that it might never be shook loose. Apart from that there wasn’t much to distinguish Canadian journalism, nothing to touch the Wall Street Journal, The Times, Washington Post or The Economist.

FT was consigned in Montreal to a nineteenth century industrial building on St. Alexandre Street in the shadow of St. Patrick’s Basilica, hundreds of miles away from and a world of mindset apart from Southam’s head office in Toronto. This was territory far beyond and beneath where Balfour or anyone close to him ever ventured. Here Barkway had no superior, no peer, no problems. He got what he wanted and he wanted the best. Of course it would be costly.

For a few years, at least, FT was among the livelier and more literate publications in Canada, an adumbration of the National Post formula a generation later. But it was fighting a losing battle. When the paper was founded and through its heyday, Montreal was still the financial capital. By the time I was hired by Hopkins in the early 1960s the centre of gravity was perceptibly shifting. Financial Times still had purpose. There was much that remained. As late as 1982 half of the twenty largest companies in Canada had their head offices in Montreal. But Toronto would be the financial capital for the future.

Senator Fraser

Barkway’s FT was a hothouse of talent, most of it young, some of it lovely, all of it springing successfully from the FT trampoline. Ken Strachan and Jake Doherty became publishers of Southam dailies. Neither rose to the height of Joan Fraser, who got the Montreal Gazette. Jake got to run both the Spectator in Hamilton and the Whig Standard in Kingston before being severanced in the Conrad Black takeover of 1982. Joan was booted from the Gazette by Black as well. Perhaps because Jean Chrétien hated Conrad so fervently that he’d do anything to one-up his lordship, she was named a Senator. Judy Maxwell ran the Economic Council of Canada until she ran afoul of Brian Mulroney by speaking some truth about Quebec.

Judy Maxwell

To rid himself of Judy, Mulroney killed the ECC, which for three decades had been the strongest independent voice on Canadian economic policy. She landed on her feet with the Order of Canada, on the board of Canada’s largest communications company and on the dais for at least eight honourary degrees.

Jock Osler

Jock Osler became Joe Clark’s communications director during Joe’s brief spell as prime minister. Bobby Stewart wrote the book on Sam Steele and for years produced the highly literate, intelligent series of essays that the Royal Bank gave as monthly letters to its clients. Mike Cassidy became leader of the New Democratic Party in Ontario, provincial opposition leader, then a member of parliament.

Mike Cassidy still stumping ’06

Don McGillivray succeeded Charles Lynch as Southam’s top Ottawa columnist. But his legend looms largest among the many young scribblers he taught at Carleton and Concordia and led in the attempt, never entirely successful for lack of support from accountant-cuffed media, to create a culture of investigative journalism in Canada.

Linden MacIntyre

Lindsay Crysler segued to a career as a journalism professor and head of the faculty at Concordia, after a spell as executive editor at The Gazette. Linden MacIntyre is a much published author of fiction and non-fiction and for more than two decades has been front and centre on the CBC’s flagship public affairs show, the 5th estate. Bogdan Kipling still plies our trade as a member, a dean surely by now, of the Washington press corps.

Tim Pritchard went to the Globe and was editor of the Report On Business for a long time, where he was succeeded by Peter Cook, who also cut his teeth at Barkway’s FT. ROB had arrived in 1965 to grab a chunk of Canada’s relatively limited attention or need for business journalism. It was a daily. It was fresh. It was from Toronto. It appeared just as Barkway was trying to revive Financial Times, tired and weekly, from Montreal. It was unexpected but it’s never only one misfortune or unpredictable reverse, it’s a flood of them that afflict the newborn enterprise or, like FT, the just reviving. As setbacks go, though, ROB was pretty major. In the end it gobbled FT.

It took double digit millions in losses and three decades to reach bottom of the sinkhole that McLaughlin had passed to Balfour. Then Southam offloaded it to the Globe for the cost of the subscriber list, which had some value for ROB.

Soon after I started at Financial Times under Barkway I began to learn of his illustrious forerunners, such as B. K. Sandwell, a colleague of Stephen Leacock, who later edited Saturday Night. And of course Emmett Cox, the paper’s founder. Cox prospered along with others like his friend John Sparrow in the money maelstrom of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sparrow’s theatre empire eventually extended to Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, and New York. His connections with the New York Syndicate were instrumental in making Montreal a showcase for pre-Broadway tryouts. Most American stars of the day walked his boards. In Toronto Sparrow would give a hand up to one of his managers, Ambrose Small, who would become an even more famous theatrical magnate than his mentor.

Small’s fame grew to international tabloid proportions following his disappearance one December night in 1919, the day after he had sold his holdings for $1.7 million. Described by one writer as “the jackal of Toronto’s business world . . . he was bare-knuckle capitalism,” Small’s fortune was largely made on what was the era’s equivalent of strip and porno shows, risqué plays about the imagined sexuality of single working girls. These played to puritan Toronto’s prurient preoccupation with country girls coming to work in the booming city, where the jobs were.

Tess Kormann Small

Small’s wife, Theresa (Tess), who inherited his fortune, was publicly suspected of murder and disposing of the remains. But no body was ever found and nobody was ever charged. Tess was ostensibly the total opposite of her husband. She was well educated, spoke several languages and was a devout Roman Catholic who raised large sums for charities. Born into the wealthy Kormann brewing family, she was a formidable businesswoman and a leading socialite. Her funeral in 1935 was attended by MPs, MPPs, high church officials and other dignitaries, as well as hundreds of the curious.

Years before this all-too-real melodrama, Tess Kormann’s older sister Emma wed Emmett Cox in 1903. (He would live until 1973, a hale nonagenarian.) Their daughter Ethel married  Pammy’s great-grandson, twelfth of Kate’s thirteen children, who carved his name on several national law firms, served as bâtonnier of the Montreal bar and who still, decades after his sudden death on Christmas Day 1980, remains a recognized giant of his profession. He and Ethel produced as the family expected. Two girls. Four boys. One of these, David, in the fullness of time, would succeed to more than one of Earle McLaughlin’s chairs.