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, 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?”
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.”
“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?”
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.


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, a devoted Catholic who once had given thought to becoming a Benedictine monk. 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 William 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-million 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.

A century standing by


On a warm summer day in 1985, Pammy’s great3grandson* looked on as Elmer MacKay, solicitor general of Canada, inaugurated the recently established museum of prison artifacts at Kingston Penitentiary, on the occasion of that cruel dungeon’s sesquicentennial. He was a member of the ministerial party because he had co-authored a history of KP. A hundred and fifty years before, on June 1, 1835, Matthew Tavender became 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. (A generation later the ancient stone walls would give up their last inmates at the instigation of Elmer’s son, Peter MacKay, minister of justice. KP, which overlooks the harbour where the sailing events were hosted during the 1976 Olympics, was one of the oldest prisons in continuous use in the world when it closed finally on September 30, 2013.)

+ 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.

Massacre starts Métis link

For more than a half century, they were all of one name. Then family mergers and moves away began. Doyles and Flemings and Simmons at Chaffey’s Lock turned to Noonans, O’Briens and Grays in Kingston, Montréal and Ottawa, then Jacksons, Breaults, Linders, Underwoods, Shaws, Kierans in Toronto, New York and London, then Cavalcantis, Pendakurs and deNeeves on the west coast, in Brazil, Ireland and the far east. There were fifty three great-grandchildren, almost a hundred in the next generation, then more than two hundred and by now, with the generation of great7grandchildren well underway, there are thousands of Pammy’s descendants in the land. Many have embraced cultures, traditions, languages, colours unknown to the Canadian progenitor. Others stayed close to the original homestead at Chaffey’s and live there still.
And some dug deep for Canadian roots. A child of the Inuit was adopted by Pammy’s great4granddaughter. A great5grandson is half Cree and a great6grandson is at least a quarter Mohawk.
A great2granddaughter married into one of the earliest lines of the Métis, a unique mix of aboriginal and colonist parentage, in this instance arising from one of the most inflammatory, defining incidents in Canada’s earliest days. It is still recorded as the worst mass killing in Canadian history, more than three hundred and twenty five years later. The Lachine Massacre.

Pammy’s granddaughter Kate at right, with her own granddaughter Eunice and great-grandsons Tony (right) and Brian, who are ninth generation Métis.

They came at night, an army of 1,500 Iroquois warriors, overwhelming the small Québec village and terrorizing Montréal a couple of miles east for days after. It happened August 5, 1689. The Iroquois took some captives from Lachine that day and those they didn’t kill or keep were returned in the year or so after the massacre. One of these was Anne Mouflet.
Anne Mouflet’s mother, Anne Dodin, was one of the famously-styled filles du roi sent by the Sun King Louis XIV to help populate what was then a French colony. In 1669 she married Jean Mouflet, a soldier in the Carignan-Salières Regiment and one of 450 who opted to remain here when the regiment went home to France. With a pension and a plot of land, he and Anne would have eight children.
In 1689 there were fewer than 12,000 colonists in Nouvelle France, or Quebec. There were another 1,000 in L’Acadie (N.B.) and 3,000 in Newfoundland. Lachine, with 375 inhabitants, was one of the larger communities. There were probably more than 50,000 aboriginals in the same territory, which stretched west only as far as an outpost at Kingston, then known as Fort Frontenac.
The assault on Lachine was the culmination of nearly a century of bloody, take-no-quarter, show-no-mercy brutality. If there was a single incident or instigator, it would have to be Samuel de Champlain. This was ironic because Sam was essentially a peacemaker whose entire career revolved about bringing people together. But he was new in Canada and made a big mistake in 1609 when he lined up with the Wendat nation (called Huron by colonists) against the Iroquois. In their very first encounter, Champlain killed two Iroquois chiefs. But these foes were more menacing than Sam or native enemies bargained for. They stayed at war continuously with Champlain and his successors and all but obliterated the Wendat. Sam’s shot would resonate for 80 years and finally explode in the savagery at Lachine.
Iroquois had seen the colonists as a threat to their sovereignty from virtually the first encounter. As time went on and newcomers kept coming, the Mohawk Chief Teoniahigarawe would warn, “Brethren, the Governor of Virginia and the Governor of Canada are both quarrelling about lands which belong to Us, and such quarrelling as this may end in our destruction.”

Iroquois flag

It wasn’t as simple as white people against auburn people. The whites — French, Dutch, Spanish and English — were fighting among themselves a lot of the time. And some blood feuds between aboriginal nations had gone on for centuries. But the Canadien-Iroquois connection at the core of the embryonic country was particularly intense, and so it remains in territories such as Kahnawake and Akwesasne, south and west of Montréal.
Iroquois are not an Amerindian nation per se, but a confederacy formed sometime in the fifteenth century. They refer to themselves as the Haudenausonee, or people of the longhouse, and there were five member nations in the 17th century — Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca. They lived for the most part in what is now northern New York, southern Quebec and eastern Ontario, an area not then under colonist control and referred to in French as Iroquoisie.
Furs were the primary reason for the French presence in Canada. The primary motive of Iroquois was to control access to furs, which could be traded for metal goods, guns and ammunition, cloth and brandy. This meant fighting off Wendat and Illinois and other nations that wanted a piece of the action, as well as resisting the push of settlers for land. Skirmishes and battles, part of a way of life on this frontier, escalated in 1665 when the Carignan-Salières regiment arrived from France and promptly destroyed several Mohawk villages where inhabitants had been decimated by smallpox. In 1687, Governor General Denonville lured 30 Iroquois chiefs under a flag of truce from a council at Onondaga. He had them seized, chained and shipped to France to be used as galley slaves. He then led 2,000 men deep into Seneca territory and destroyed their largest village. The confederacy, infuriated, set out to terrorize Canadiens as never before.

Fort Lachine in 17th century

There is no list of the warriors who descended on Lachine. Most were Mohawk, but warriors and younger braves from all five nations must have been present, a badge of honour to be there. The names of the leaders have not come down, nor the numbers from each member nation. But we know something of one young Onondaga. His name was Little Dog, at least that’s how it translates. He was 17. Was he there? Passions ran high. For Iroquois this was not just jostling for advantage but a strike of retribution in a war for survival. Most likely he wouldn’t have been kept away. Certain it is that he had friends and family in the fight.
There was a summer storm that night. Thunder rolled over the St. Lawrence. Lightning flashes lit the 77 log, plank and stone homes in the rural community, 10 miles west of Montréal. A hard rain pelted the roofs and ground. There were guards on duty, as always, because the danger of attack was constant. But they sought shelter from the weather and were sleeping as a war party stepped ashore in the dark. Undetected, they fanned out in pairs, threes, fours and small groups, holding to the edge of the woods, away from dogs that might bark a warning. Dressed in loincloths, bodies and faces painted to terrifying effect, they were armed with metal hatchets and guns supplied by English provocateurs in what is now the United States.
The command to attack comes at dawn Friday, August 5. They descend, smashing at windows and hacking doors, with howls and shrieks that disable their victims with fright. Some colonists try to barricade their homes. The attackers set fires and wait for them to flee the flames. Twenty-four settlers are killed in the initial raid (Jean Mouflet, Anne Dodin and two of their daughters among them), more than ninety are taken prisoner and four dozen die in captivity (including Anne Mouflet’s husband Mathias Chateaudeau and their son Jean) but Anne Mouflet survives.
The massacre sparked three years of off and on warfare, with sporadic attempts at parleying. Then a new player entered the arena. The name of Louis-Hector de Callière doesn’t echo through history’s halls as loud as Champlain, Maisonneuve or Callière’s long-time boss, Louis Buade de Frontenac, whom he succeeded. But his contribution was at least as valuable.
Callière convened the Great Peace Council of 1701 in Montréal. He had the assistance of some French military successes to bring adversaries to the table, but for his time he was a diplomat. He went first to meet Iroquois for a conference in the territory of Onondaga, in March 1700. In September, he signed a preliminary treaty with 13 chiefs. He then invited all Amerindian nations of the Great Lakes region to a council in Montréal in the summer of 1701.


Thirty nine nations sent representatives and their chiefs, sachems and orators were given warm welcome, here described by the great historian of pioneer North America, Francis Parkman.
“A vast, oblong space was marked out on a plain near the town, and enclosed with a fence of branches. At one end was a canopy of boughs and leaves, under which were seats for the spectators. Troops were drawn up in line along the sides; the seats under the canopy were filled by ladies, officials, and the chief inhabitants of Montréal; Callière sat in front, surrounded by interpreters; and the Indians were seated on the grass around the open space. There were more than thirteen hundred of them, gathered from a distance of full two thousand miles, Hurons and Ottawas from Michillimackinac, Ojibwas from Lake Superior, Crees from the remote north, Pottawatamies from Lake Michigan, Mascontins, Sacs, Foxes, Winnebagoes, and Menominies from Wisconsin, Miamis from the St. Joseph, Illinois from the river Illinois, Abenakis from Acadia each painted with diverse hues and patterns, and each in his dress of ceremony, leathern shirts fringed with scalp-locks, colored blankets or robes of bison hide and beaver skin, bristling crests of hair or long lank tresses, eagle feathers or horns of beasts.
“Pre-eminent among them all sat their valiant and terrible foes, the warriors of the Iroquois Confederacy, who could make a whole new world tremble and spread dread over an extent of more than fifteen hundred leagues.”
Callière opened with a speech. Each chief answered in turn. It wasn’t going to be a cut-and-dried process. To start with, his Wendat allies were a problem. Kondiaronk, the Wendat grand chief, once ambushed an Iroquois peace delegation to prevent a treaty between the French and the Iroquois. Kondiaronk was here.
Hassaki, chief of the Ottawa, came with four Iroquois captives. “You asked us for our prisoners,” he said, “and here they are. I set them free because you wish it.” Then turning to the Iroquois deputies: “Know that if I pleased I might have eaten them; but I have not done as you would have done. Remember this when we meet, and let us be friends.” Iroquois shouted their approval.
One chief followed another, with much the same message. The Miami orator said: “I am very angry with the Iroquois, who burned my son some years ago; but today I forget all that.”
Discussions were prolonged and after several days agreement was still not near. A major stumbling block was the return of prisoners captured by Iroquois during previous campaigns and enslaved or adopted.
Finally, on August 1, Kondiaronk stood to speak. Though suffering from influenza, he addressed the assembly for two hours, winding up to an impassioned conclusion: “Let it not be in a forced or insincere way that you ask Onontio for peace; for my part I return to him the hatchet he had given me, and lay it at his feet. Who will be so bold as to take it up?” Kondiaronk was onside.
But the next day he died. His funeral was said to rival that of Frontenac three years before, a demonstration of the esteem in which he was held by all sides. It may have given even more power to his words at the council, which reconvened with a presentation by Wendat Chief Michipichy.
“We thought that the Iroquois would have done by us as we have done by them,” he said, “and we were astonished to see that they had not brought us our prisoners. Listen to me, my father, and you, Iroquois, listen. I am not sorry to make peace, since my father wishes it, and I will live in peace with him and with you.”
When he and all the rest had ended an Iroquois orator strode to the front. “Onontio, we are pleased with all you have done, and we have listened to all you have said. We assure you by these four belts of wampum that we will stand fast in our obedience. As for the prisoners whom we have not brought you, we place them at your disposal, and you will send and fetch them.”
What a crowd it was! What an event! A constellation of chiefs. Anne Mouflet, now 31, would be there and as a Lachine survivor perhaps somewhat of a local celebrity. Her second husband was there as well. Anne’s first had been killed by her side that fearsome night at Lachine. She had married again eight years later. René Tsihène was his name. He was Onondaga.
Tsihène is not a French name and not Iroquois. My brother, who is educated in these matters, believes it to be a stab at ’ti chien, ‘little dog’ in French. This was either his true Onondaga name or one he was tagged with by the white eyes in town. He also adopted, as a sign of respect, the name of Anne’s first husband, Mathias Chateaudeau, who was killed by his kinsmen at Lachine. And it’s by this name — Massias — that he enters the written historical record.
He had met with Callière just before the conference was to start, when an incident threatened to derail the process. He was one of two deputies from Onondaga who were in town when they heard that a band of their hunters had been ambushed by Ottawa warriors. Such an attack contravened a preliminary agreement signed the previous year. The chiefs sought a meeting with the governor and “Massias, who had married a French woman, spoke first on this occasion.”
After asking that the Ottawa attackers be punished, the chief turned to a personal matter. He said that his frequent voyages between Canada and Iroquois territory on behalf of the peace process had prevented him from going to the hunt. Because of this, his wife was not able to take care of her responsibilities as an Iroquoise. “I ask of you,” Massias said, “for my son, a donkey no more than 10-12 years old that will be able to haul wood for heating.” One was found and given to him.
On August 4, 1701, eve of the massacre a dozen years before, the representative of each nation affixed his mark to the peace treaty. While tensions between the Canadiens and the Iroquois would continue they never erupted into warfare again. The Great Peace of Montréal is still recognized as a valid treaty by the nations involved.

Great Peace Treaty 1701

Genealogical tables don’t say how Anne Mouflet and Little Dog Tsihène came together after the bloody events of August 1689. Did she go to him? The marriage took place in Iroquoisie, in a Catholic church that preserved a record of the union. We don’t know whether they met or spoke when she was a captive and he a young warrior. The marriage came long after. It’s not obvious that he came all the way into her world but he came far enough for his line to survive there.

Métis blue flag

Métis red flag

She would live to be 70 and, after Massias died, took a third husband. But it was Massias who fathered this line. Out of the ashes of Lachine they survived to help populate the nation that in time would become Canada. Their healthy branch of Pammy’s family tree is living proof. After a few centuries, every genealogical list reveals dozens more cousins from the same stock.
Theirs was far from the first mixed marriage between white and aboriginal although it was early in the origins of that distinct Canadian population, the Métis. Most of the unions that produced the 400,000 Canadian Métis alive today began in the 18th and 19th centuries, between Algonquin, Cree, Ojibway or Mi’kmaq women and Canadien voyageurs and Scottish traders on their travels east and west from Montréal. But René Tsihène Massias was the man of Anne’s house.
These two were in the thick of it at Lachine that night in August 1689, on opposite sides, his people killing her people, and terrifying her. But survival in harsh conditions — harsh was a common condition in 17th century North America — requires a practical turn of mind. After a while hurts heal. Cooler counsels prevail. Come together. No more war. War no more. Peace.
Unusual it was for her to be Canadienne and he Onondaga. How much more unusual that they had set aside the hate from that day of infamy when their peoples had been on opposite sides? Despite furious provocation, this early willingness to bury the hatchet — Callière and the chiefs threw war-axes irretrievably into a “pit so deep that no-one could find them” before the peace conference — has become, after germinating all these centuries, a quasi-genetic Canadian trait to consult, to compromise, to accept and welcome differences, to mix, to keep the peace.

Pammy’s canal was to prevent another war and help build a nation


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.


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.

Scottish strain plays loud and long

Entering the bank

Whenever I’m in Montréal with a little extra time I’ll go into the Royal Bank at 360 St. Jacques in the old town. The Royal was founded in Halifax, but Nova Scotian reserve was let loose when it came to the bank’s new head office in Canada’s cultural and financial capital. It’s a remarkable entrance: high coffered cathedral ceilings, bronze fittings and crests, marble walls and counters, hand-painted wood, hand-broken marble mosaics in an Aztec-like pattern, gilded plaster. When I’m here I think of Earle McLaughlin.
I was a writer for Financial Times of Canada, which began as the Montreal Financial Times in 1912. I’m not in Montréal as much as I once was. It was home for more than thirty years. My schooling and early working years were there. But I came to the national capital a long time ago and live next to Armenia now on Queen Elizabeth Driveway, on the west side of the canal where flowers and trees get tended by the taxes of all. It’s one of the perks of a capital.

Armenian Embassy

It’s even more so in Washington. QE Drive was the first boulevard planned in Ottawa, once planning began. In its early years the capital was a mudhole in spring, a dustbowl in summer and impassable in winter. Fall foliage was a time of great beauty because the forest was everywhere. Now the ravages of weather have been overcome by technology but the forest has disappeared as people have flocked to the capital.
Earle was a storied bank guy, a direct link to the Scots who came in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to run the country’s money. They succeeded brilliantly. So much so that near the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, through the worst financial meltdown the world has ever known, worse some say than the crash of 1929 that brought on the great depression, Canada came off better than anywhere.
Financially, fiscally, structurally Canada was hurt less than any country in the world, some of which were devastated, like Ireland, or virtually destroyed, like Iceland. All but one of the thirteen largest banks in the United States were about to collapse in the depths of the credit crash in 2008. They were all “at serious risk of failure,” is the way Ben Bernanke put it, who was chair of the United States federal reserve. Canada’s Bernanke was Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney. He faced no such fearsome cliffhanger. McLaughlin, Muir, Finlayson, McMaster, MacKinnon, et alia, et alia, helped us here by managing prudently.

McLaughlin in his prime

Bank of Montreal was established in 1817 with five Scottish directors, joined by three more a year later. In 1832, the Bank of Nova Scotia opened, managed and controlled by Scots immigrants. Nova Scotia the province, of course, means New Scotland, which pretty well tells where the original non-native settlers came from.
Before 1971, Canadians of Scottish descent were a separate census category and around that time they registered as the third largest ethnic group in the country after the English and French. They have always remained a unique cultural group, including highlanders, lowlanders and Scotch-Irish from Ulster, and they proved influential in the growth of the Canadian economic and political framework, within which they often became leaders. Thirty percent of industrialists in the 1910 census self-identified as Scottish.

Bishop Strachan

Money matters particularly grabbed their attention, and they largely controlled the trade in furs, timber, banking and railroad management. Almost one quarter of Canada’s industrial leaders in the early twentieth century had been born in Scotland, and another quarter had Scottish-born fathers. As they became established as a major ethnic component of the fast growing Canadian population during the mid-nineteenth century, they came to dominate in other areas as well, such as education and politics. All but three of the Fathers of Confederation — all but two if Joey Smallwood is excluded — were Scots or of Scottish descent.
The Scottish diaspora to the new world spread the influence of its late eighteenth century enlightenment, an optimistic belief in the practical ability of people to use reason to make things better — the ideas of Adam Smith, David Hume and the like.
Scotland’s emphasis on universal, free education was adopted in Canada. Scottish ideals of scholarship and intellect took root here. Leading colleges and universities were established by John Strachan in Upper Canada (Trinity College at UofT) and by a bequest of James McGill in Montreal. McGill University is renowned for its work in chemistry, medicine and biology, where there are long-established Scottish traditions. Peter Redpath, Montreal-born son of a Scottish immigrant and Rideau Canal contractor — his father John was part of the consortium that built the towering Jones Falls Dam, in its day the largest in North America — paid for the McGill museum, the library and a university chair.

Jones Falls Dam

There are a host of Scottish names writ large in the Canadian pantheon. After Alexander Graham Bell conceived of the telephone he went to find resources in the U.S. He had great success there but his heart remained in Canada and his remains rest here. Global media barons Beaverbrook and Thomson, whose first daily paper in Europe was The Scotsman. Donald Smith and George Stephen, the principal drivers of the near-impossible, bankruptcy defying ribbon of track that bound the nation together from Atlantic to Pacific. Alexander Mackenzie was the first Liberal prime minister (1873-78). William Lyon Mackenzie, who led a revolt against autocratic rule in Upper Canada in 1839, became a symbol of Canadian radicalism. His rebellion dramatized the need to reform the country’s outmoded constitution. Sir Richard McBride was premier of British Columbia from 1903-1915. William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950), who was as proud of his Scottish heritage as he was of his rebellious grandfather, was three times prime minister and served in that office longer than any other. For over 200 years, Scots have entered the country in a constant flow. Their presence powerfully permeates the Canadian culture of politics, education, religion and business.
John A. Macdonald, Old Tomorrow, was a bank director before he was prime minister. New generations and new peoples have come on or come back to loosen the Scottish grip on Canada’s money supply. But Scots set the pattern and so far it has been good, allowing for some Keynesian adjustments along the way.

The best

The War of 1812 against the Americans was finished with the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The treaty after the war left everything as it was before the war, except for all the dead and dreadfully injured people and the property destroyed. But we had a border. It was the same border as always but now it was recognized. It wasn’t by force of arms we won. We won the war because we had everything to lose and didn’t. We won because we didn’t lose.
The country we got to build over the next two hundred years — the best country in the world to live in — is Canada. It’s not me who says it’s the best country in the world to live in. That would be immodest. As far back as 1973, when The Economist made its first attempt to measure quality of life, Canadians came up as the world’s happiest people, with fewer divorces, less crime, more space and a sufficient number of houses, cars and other toys to make us the envy of the western world. In the first eleven years that the United Nations put forth its human development index (HDI), Canada topped the list eight times, including every year from 1994 to 2000. Only Norway competes. On this ranking of the health, wealth and happiness of people from a hundred and sixty nine countries, nowhere else comes close.
Of course the whole notion of a best country is far-fetched. Most Japanese will pick Japan, despite earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear meltdowns. Americans will vote for the stars and stripes, despite their bloody history and failure to reconcile the races. Icelanders will say Iceland is the best. They would have had just claim in 2007 or 2008. In those years Iceland topped the HDI measurements of the most developed countries, with longer life expectancies, better schooling and superior standard of living. In the twenty-one years that the United Nations has been compiling this index, only four countries have ranked number one — Iceland, Norway, Canada and Japan. But topping the list is no guarantee. Even as it basked in the acclaim, Iceland was about to implode as a bizarre contributor-cum-victim of the global financial meltdown. Its three largest banks crashed and the longstanding coalition government collapsed. Emigration numbers shot up as Icelanders fled the economic wreckage. Best is in the opinion of the beholder. On objective criteria, there are always places better in one way or another, and everywhere some drawbacks. Canada has cold. That bothers some.
But, as far as I can tell, it’s the common opinion of objective observers that no place beats Canada for much or by far. A measuring standard put out by OECD in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of that extraordinary organization, allows a check against other countries across a range of indicators from health to income to social cohesion. The last time I looked, it was hard to beat Canada on this grid, no matter which indicators are chosen. You can try it here. And by the way, while on the subject, Ottawa is the best city to live in. This is well known by those who do in fact live here and by many who visit and is confirmed whenever a Canadian magazine recycles its “best Canadian cities” series (e.g. MoneySense April 2011).