Memories of Long Ago by Benjamin Bremner


This file has been typed into a word processor by Eileen Bremner - eileen@diether.org. Benjamin died in 1938, and has presented here a lovely narrative of early Charlottetown history and life.


Memories of Long Ago, by Benjamin Bremner - Page 3


An Old Cemetery

 

A walk through the Old Cemetery on Malpeque road (Elm Avenue).

 

"Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;

Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,

Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre". -- Grey

 

There is history for all and reminiscences for many in this old graveyard.

Here may be found not a few reminders of people of whom we have read in

books of history and been told about by our forbearers - people who were

closely associated with the welfare of the Town as well as with the

government of the Island in its early days after it had become a separate

colony under the Crown. Several of the monuments and headstones, which have

not altogether succumbed to the touch of time and the wear of the elements,

bear names of prominent individuals, well known to a very few of our people

who can remember back to the middle of the nineteenth century, but the great

majority of those whose remains lie here were unknown to any now living.

 

Many of the memorials show very beautiful carvings, ornamentation's to be

seen in old - time steel engravings "olde" English lettering,

"line of beauty" flourishes, etc., etc. Some are standing, others lying flat

on stone or iron supports, still others in the form of sarcophagi, which

many, it is sad to say, have suffered from vandalism, being broken in pieces

and scattered about. Surely, something can be done to restore, even

partially, these latter to something comprehendible to those who visit here,

for it is of great interest to many who have read the early history of the

Island to find the names here recorded of a large number of people who

figure in such archives of the Province as have been preserved.

 

Take for instance, the name of Thomas Tremlett, the sixth Chief Justice of

Prince Edward island, who was not a lawyer and altogether unfitted for such

an office (see Warburton's History). A memorial to one of his family is to

be found here. Tremlett was a special protégé of Governor Charles Douglas

Smith one of the early Governors of the Province, who autocratically ruled

for ten years, and was then recalled by the Home government. A monument to

the Governor's wife is to be seen in the southeast corner of the cemetery.

Governor Smith was a brother is the celebrated Admiral Sir Sydney Smith,

G.C.B., the hero of Acre. In Governor Smith's conduct of affairs he was

ably assisted by his son - in - law, whose monument is near by and is inscribed

as follows:"Sacred to the memory of Captain the Honorable Ambrose Lane,

H.P. 98th foot, Lieut.Colonel, Adjutant - General and inspector of Militia of

this Island .. departed this life 7th Sept. 1853, in the 62nd year of his age".

 

"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth ere gave

Await alike the inevitable hour,

The paths of glory lead but to the grave". -- Grey

 

Of happy memory was Colonel John Ready, probably the most popular of all

the early English governors of the colony, a monument to whose daughter,

Susan, is to be seen in this old cemetery. She died on the 13th day of

February, 1827, at the early age of eighteen years. Governor Ready was a

grandfather of the late Lord Milner, formerly governor - general of South Africa.

 

There are a few still living who may remember a well known figure in

Charlottetown in the fifties and early sixties, viz., Capt. Paul Mabey, * the

inscription on whose monument contains the following; "Died March 22 1863

aged 76 years. The Lord shall raise him up". On the same stone is the

following: "George Mabey, died March 4 1848, aged 89 , and also his wife,

Mary, died April 1, 1836, aged 75. The trumpet shall sound and the dead

shall raised incorruptible.(1st Cor. xv, 52)".

 

Others living will probably remember the name of George R. Goodman, who

died in 1870 and whose remains are here deposited. His wife predeceased

him by 22 years. The monument to her memory is still in good preservation

and reads: " Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Isabella, (Bremner) the beloved

wife of the Hon. G.R. Goodman, who departed this life December 18, 1848,

aged 42 years".

 

A few of our townspeople will remember the subject of the following

epitaph: "Sacred to the memory of Charles Welsh Esq. Who departed this life

October 20, 1873, in the 77th year of his age" ; "Blessed are the pure in

heart for they shall see God". Charles Welsh was the father of the late

William Welsh, M.P. (of the firm of Welsh & Owen) and of Pope Welsh and

James E. Welsh both deceased.

 

The name of Stewart is a prominent one in early Island affairs, and is

particularly mentioned in Warburton's History of Prince Edward island. It

might be interesting to note here the inscriptions to be seen on two large

stones in this old graveyard; thus reads one:

"Sacred to the memory of Peter Stewart, Esq. Who after a faithful discharge

of his duty as Chief Justice of this Island for the space of 25 years

departed this life the Xth day of November MDCCV, Aged LXXX years".

 

Foot Note * Paul Maby represented Charlottetown in the House of Assembly

for several years, and a colleague of his, during the administration of

Governor Smith, was Robert Hodgson, afterwards Sir Robert Hodgson, Chief

Justice.

 

The other of the same name is quaintly inscribed as follows, " To the memory

of John Stewart, of Mount Stewart, Esquire, Deputy Paymaster general of

H.M. Forces, and collector General of Quit Rents in this Island, who departed

this life the 22nd day of June, A.D. 1834, aged 76 years". Intimately

connected during a long and active life with the teaching interests of the

country. The energies of his mind were ever devoted to the advancement of

education. "The paths of duty lead but to the grave".

 

The graving of this stone, as well as the companion stone to the memory of

his wife, is beautifully executed, which is true of many other of the old

monuments.

 

Another history mark bears the following inscription to the memory of the

first Postmaster of Prince Edward Island: "In memory of Benjamin Chappell,

late Postmaster of Charlottetown, who died January 6, 1825. Aged 76 years".

 

Still another historical figure: "In memory of Rev. Theophilus Desbrisay, of

Trinity College, Dublin who for upwards of 47 years discharged the duties of

Rector of this parish. Died the 14th March, 1823. Aged 69". (The First

Rector of St. Paul's).

 

There maybe one or two yet living who can remember the late Judge Jarvis,

on whose monument is the following: "In memory of Edward James Jarvis, Chief

Justice of this Island, who died May 9, 1952. Aged 63 years". "The memory

of the just is blessed". Prov. 10:7. (He was the father of the wife of the

late Charles Palmer, Q.C.).

 

Many may remember the greatly beloved Hammond Johnson, M/D., who died on

September 28, 1868, at the early age of 39 years. A stone erected to his

memory stands just inside the cemetery entrance, also one to his aged

father, Dr. the Hon. Henry A. Johnson, who died in 1872. Aged 83 years.

 

A monument linking the present with the past, shows the name of Com'dr.

Beazeley. He was at one time owner of the property now occupied by the

provincial Exhibition and Driving park commissioners.

 

Prominent in the social and religious life of the people of Charlottetown

in the sixties, was Commander John Orlebar, R.N. A monument to the memory

of his daughter is to be seen at the eastern end of the cemetery. His

residence, while living in Charlottetown, was that now owned and occupied by

Mr. Justice Haszard. Also the street adjacent thereto is called Orlebar Street.

Space will not permit of extended notes of many others quite as prominent

as those already mentioned people who were well known in Island affairs in

the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such names as Thos. Pethick, Thos.

Owen, Ralph Brecken, T.H. Haviland, Sr., Mark Burcher, Jabez Barnard, John

S. Bremner, William Smardon (Owner of corner known in later years as Beale's

corner, but now the "Capitol Theatre"). Benjamin Dest. Croix, Donald

McKinnon, Thos. Dodd, Sr. Isaac Smith, Charles and John Binns, Ewen

Cameron, T.B. Tremaine, Edward R. Humphrey (head master of Central

Academy now P. of W. College) Joseph and John Ball, John Plawe, architect,

and an host of other names identified with the history of the Island in the

middle of the nineteenth century, such as Bayfield, Hodgson, Brecken,

Palmer, Douse, Coles, Longworth, Cambridge, Swabey, Nelson, Jenkins Davies,

Yates, Haszard, Gardiner,Pippy, Gall, Dempsey, Compton, Mawley, Webb,

Trenaman, Worthy, Morris, etc.,

 

"No farther seek their merits to disclose

Or draw their frailties from their dread abode,

(There they alike in trembling hope repose)

The bosom of their Father and their God". -- Grey

 

The old Cemetery was closed by law on the 1st of January 1874.

The following beautiful sentiment expressed by the late John P. Tanton,

appears in the P.E.I.. Magazine of January 1900:

 

As we wander over its numerous mounds, besides its broken stones, dilapidated

rails and verdant shrubbery, we think of 'man's inhumanity to man,' and of

how many tears were shed over those who lay in the narrow portals of the

tomb, of the memories of the past, and varrity of the present; and as

thought after thought arises from a perusal of its engraved records, we are

led to the conclusion that the unwritten history of the Island lies buried

in the old graveyard.

 

A Sad Memory

 

I remember, when a child of eight years of the great shock I received when

told by my parents of the death by drowning of my cousin, Fredrick R.

Goodman, son of the late Hon. Geo. R. Goodman, at one time Surveyor of

Shipping for the Island "Fred" as he was called by those who knew him well,

was a great favorite with my father and mother. He was a fine looking,

gallant gentleman of the English type, and fond of sport. He loved hunting,

fishing and boatsailing and one of his favorite haunts was St. Peter's

Island. His last and fateful exploit took place when he left the latter

place for Charlottetown in a small sail boat, and accompanied by a Miss

Maloney who wished to go to the City. They set sail on a beautiful morning

on the 4th of August 1859 and before going far a terrific squall overtook

them too sudden to allow time to lower the sail. As Goodman endeavored to

do so, the waves engulfed the boat and both occupants were drowned. A

monument to his memory stands in the old Protestant Cemetery, with the

following inscription:

 

"Sacred to the memory of

Fredk. R. Goodman, Esq.,

Died

4th August, 1959

34 years".

 

The following lines in remembrance of the sad event are to be found in the

first volume of Mr. John LePage's book "The Island Minstrel":

 

Fast after night fled the twilight of morning,

Light were the bosoms that greeted the dawn,

Bright rose the sun in his splendour, adorning

Mountain and meadow, and forest, and lawn

Breathing no discord of sorrow or sadness,

Sweet swelled the music of cottage and grove,

Nature around us was vocal with gladness

Hope and affection, and duty and love.

 

Fair was the summer no feature distorted

Smiling and gay in maturity's pride,

Fresh were the zephyrs that playfully sported,

Kissing in ripples the Hillsborough tide!

Who that look'd out on that prospect so cheery,

Look'd at the landscape, the river and sky,

Could have foreseen that a tempest so dreary,

Wing'd for destruction, was ready to fly?

 

Dark rising clouds, rifting brightly asunder,

Mark in the distance the 'Hurricane's home".

Hark! In the west rolls the deeply - toned thunder,

Pealing along through the windfretted dome.

See! The proud "Stromking" to fury awaking,

Flapping his wings as he rides in the rain,

Bending the trees of the forest, or breaking,

Lashing to fury the waves of the main!

 

Boatman beware!tho' to peril no stranger

See'st thou not coming that skeleton form?

Frail is thy skiff in this crisis of danger,

Safely to swim through the terrible storm

Frail is thy skiffbut alas! Disappearing!

Over thy boat the wild waters are thrown,

Now I can see but the "Storm King" careering,

Riding the white crested billows alone!

 

Such honest Goodman - the muse will deplore thee

Such was thy destiny, yet in thy prime!

Such, lovely Ann, was the fate that clos'd o'er thee,

Such are the fatal mutations of time!

Hopeful and happy, the dawning ye greeted,

Look'd with delight on the air rippled wave,

But ere the sun had his journey completed,

Silent ye lay in a watery grave!

 

Who, as the morning awakes us to duty,

Looking abroad on this "greenmantled earth".

Blooming in summer and sunlight and beauty,

Who can divine what a day may bring forth!

Friendship and life are both sadly uncertain,

Morning with gladness may open our door.

But ere the evening lets fall her dark curtain,

Some we have loved may be living no more.

 

The Tenant League

 

I regret that I am unable to recall to my aid such data as I would like in

treating of the above subject. I was quite young at the time of the

inception of the League, and the details given here are mostly from memory,

but I believe that the following sketch is, in the main, correct.

 

For many years, the Land Question was an ever - recurring one with the tenant

farmers of P.E. Island. Repeated demands were being made for legislation

that would compel the absentee (as well as the local) landlords to sell the

estates occupied by those farmers. The habitual dread experienced by those

who had tilled the soil and improved their holdings under long lease, of

being dispossessed, if by chance or forgetfulness, they omitted to pay their

rent on time and the continued failure in securing legislation to ameliorate

their condition, let to the formation in the early sixties of the "Tenant

League", an organization for the peaceful resistance of rent paying. The

League had, as an organ for propagating its aims a newspaper known as

"Ross's Weekly", owned by the late Mr. John Ross, to which written

contributions, boosting the league, were made by some of Charlottetown's

aspiring young lawyers, who became in later years, prominent in Provincial

as well as Federal affairs - some holding high office in the latter. On the

collapse of the Tenant League and their organ, these same politicians

kicked away the ladder upon which they had ascended and thoroughly ignored

the claims of those who had helped them to political preferment. So much

for that.

 

The mode adopted by the leaguers for resistance to payment of rent was

somewhat like this: on the appearance of sheriff or deputy on the road

proceeding to serve a writ for non payment of rent, the event was heralded

by leaguers in the vicinity by the blowing of tin horns, when a large number

of leaguers would so block the road to the defaulter's premises as to make

it impossible for the officers of the law to get near their man. In the

meantime the one sought was in hiding and nowhere to be found, and the

bailiff had to give up the search.

 

This condition lasted for several months the officers of the law being

unable to serve the writs. Then was tried the calling out of the "posse

comitatus" by the sheriff. The one and only trial of this expedient turned

out to be a most ridiculous failure. But I am a little ahead of my story.

Some time previous to the calling of the "posse", a grand parade of the

League armed with tin horns, took place on the streets of Charlottetown and

carrying banners and mottoes. The "music" of the horns was loud and hoarse,

but the parade was orderly. The Deputy Sheriff, recognizing a man in the

ranks by the name of Fletcher, a rent resister, courageously attempted to

arrest him but instead of accomplishing his object he received a severe

mauling.

 

Then came next the calling of the "Posse Comitatus" by the High Sheriff,

which started out one fine morning - some walking, some driving, to cross the

Hillsborough for somewhere in Lot 49, where the "slippery" Fletcher lived,

in order to arrest him. On nearing the farm, the "posse" was welcomed by

the blare of hundreds of tin horns, and on arrival at the desired premises

were badly scared by what appeared to be a battery of heavy guns being

served by a ferocious - looking gunner. But the cannon turned out to be a lot

of stovepipe lengths and the gunner a straw man representing Fletcher, but

the latter was no where to be found. Disgusted the posse retraced their

steps to the city - some drunk, some hilarious, a few sober, but all realizing

their lamentable failure.

 

The story is dealt with in rhyme by Mr. John Lepage in his second volume of

the "Island Minstrel". I am giving but a few of the verses:

 

The Tenant League, with bold intrigue,

Rent paying unbelievers

To organize and raise supplies,

All winter worked like beavers.

 

They often met, their wits to whet;

And after consultation,

With one consent, to pay no rent

Came to determination!

St. Patrick's Day a long array

The Saint be praised whatever

From Southport shore, some twenty score,

Came tooting o'er the river.

 

Gus Herman's trade looked up a grade,

Which made the Prussian prouder,

For every hand a trumpet spanned,

And every blast was louder!

Warned 'mit dat sound' delinquents round

Would hide where none could find' em;

And bailiffs clear, like frightened deer,

Afraid to look behind 'em.

 

They, through the town march'd up and down

Their horns defiance abounding!

While overhead their banners spread,

With loyal words abounding!

 

Then came the rub, the Sheriff's sub

Essy'd the rash transaction,

To take a man, by legal plan,

From that lip loyal faction !

Essay'd in vain! With might and main

Their Prussian horns they sounded:

And, with their tins, brought to his pins,

The actin Sheriff, wounded.

 

By flags display'd and speeches made,

Their loyalty could utter,

But rudely snub the Sheriff's sub,

And tramp him in the gutter!

 

Said Johnny we must be quick

He holds the Sheriff's status

I'll call, said he, to go with me,

The Posse Comitatus!

Instead of ten, two hundred men

Shall snap rebellion's fibres;

And pleased or not, those rogues shall trot,

The Tenant League subscribers.

 

And there and then, he took his pen,

And wrote for the occasion,

His summonses to chosen men,

To meet him at his station;

Ready to fight, for law and right,

Laying aside pretenses,

To go with him, in marching trim,

And bear their own expenses!

 

It was just after the fiasco of the posse comitatus that the Island

government sent for troops from Halifax to help the sheriff's officers

enforce the law on the tenant leaguers. A part regiment of regulars, about

175 rank and file, arrived here in 1865, and after remaining in temporary

quarters for a time, were transferred to the New Barracks on the Brighton

road which, after the departure of the soldiers, were used as the Provincial

Poor House, until the new Infirmary was erected at Falconwood.

 

The troops remained here until the following year to protect the sheriff

and his deputies in the serving writs and until the dissolution of the

Tenant League.

 

Shortly after the island entered the Confederation, the Legislature passed

the bill which eventually compelled the landlords to sell their estates to

the Island government, after a fair valuation had been arranged by a

commission appointed by the Imperial Government.

 

The Muse of the Sixties

 

In the Halifax Herald of 30th of November 1929, I contributed over the

pseudonym of "Old Timer" a brief sketch regarding the late John Lepage, the

"Poet Laureate" of the Province, together with selections from his volume of

poems entitled: "The Island Minstrel". As will be observed, I have repeated

this sketch in the present series. Many of his effusions were written in

the fifties. In this series of "Memories" I have considerably amplified his

work, as will be seen in several of theses old time sketches.

 

I desire now to preserve recollection of a volume of poetry issued by a

talented lady, in the year 1866, Miss E.N. Lockerby, a native of Cavendish,

who, later on, resided in Charlottetown. It is worth while mentioning here

that she was a daughter of the late Mr. John Lockerby, who moved from

Cavendish to Charlottetown, and was for a number of years the senior Elder

of Zion Presbyterian Church, a highly respected citizen, who lived to a

remarkable age of, I think, one hundred and two. Shortly before he passed

away he was honored by a personal visit from their Excellencies Lord and

Lady Aberdeen, who at that time were the occupants of the viceregal

residence in Ottawa.

 

To return to the subject of the poems of Miss Lockerby with whom I was well

acquainted, being at the time of the printing of the volume a boy in the

office of my brother George Bremner from whose establishment the book was

issued, it might here be said that it received very flattering comments

from, not only Island newspapers, but several others issued from different

parts of the Lower Provinces as well as Upper Canada. The following from

the "Montreal Saturday Reader" of February 24th 1866 may be taken as a

specimen of the opinions of newspaper critics:

 

"We have just received a volume of Poems, the production of a young lady,

Miss Lockerby, who is now first introduced to the Literary Public. The

'Wild Brier' is a model of excellence coming as it does from our 'tight

little Island' on the seaboard. The printing and binding is neatly if not

elegantly done, and the work has been stereotyped too, and all on the

Island... The descriptive powers of Miss L. are considerable... Her

versification is pleasant and smooth. The book breathes a spirit of

religious quiet and contentment throughout … The fact that anything written

in the Lower Provinces at the present time, when we are probably on the

point of being united with them, ought to receive superior consideration and

welcome".

 

The title page of the book reads thus:

 

"The Wild Brier; or Lays by an Untaught Minstrel E.N.L. Charlottetown, P.E.I.., Geo. Bremner, Excelsior Printing Office, Prince Street, 1866".

 

The Volume was dedicated to Mrs. Dundas, wife of the Lieutenant Governor of

the Province.

A few samples of the contents are here given;

 

(on the opposite page is a small picture of Smarden's Corner then a note

that says to see page 75)

 

Introductory

 

"The fragrant blushing brier,

A modest wildling, grows

Beside the glassy river,

Where sunbeams seek repose,

 

And gives its grateful fragrance

To every passer by,

Its beauteous tints unfolding

To glad the weary eye.

 

So may this little casket

Of crude, untutor'd thought,

Like wildflower on the wayside,

By weary pilgrim sought,

 

Refresh the way worn spirit

Along life's thorny road;

And point each youthful trav'ler

To virtue's sweet abode".

 

The piece par excellence of the volume occupies nearly one third of the

entire book of nearly two hundred pages and is entitled George and Amanda

sketch from real life. The story, which is a love story, as well as a part

description of the terrible gale that destroyed over fifty fishing vessels,

mostly of the American fleet, off Cavendish Shoals in 1851, begins thus:

 

"Ye who have never drunk of sorrow's cup,

Nor felt the sting that disappointment brings,

Nor bow'd in meek submission to the voice

That bade you lay your lov'd ones in the dust,

Nor uttered the loud wail as ye consigned

Them to the cold, dark, mouldering clay from whence

They came; we ask you now to come around

Us, and a listening circle, sit and hear

A tale of fair Prince Edward Isle; a tale

By one who dwelt hard by its seabeat strand,

And watched its ceaseless waters rippling glide,

And play and dance beneath the early beams,

Meridian heat, and soft delining rays

Of heaven's all glorious orb; and rise in bright

And curling little eddies up and leap

upon the sparkling pebbles as they lay

all interspersed with pearls, ruby and amber

and divers colored stones and curious shells,

And seaweeds most minutely delicate;

Or chase each other up the golden beach,

Then back receding, hurry down, and rush

By gurgling haste to mingle once again

In ocean's placid depths.

Then come ye, too, who by hard trials pressed

On all sides round, found no escape, but yet

Resigned have raised your streaming eyes to heaven,

And said it was a Father's hand that dealt

The blow……….

Then lend a sympathizing ear, and for

A moment brief forget your own dark hours,

And listen to a wail for others' woe".

 

Then follows the story, which is told alternately in rhyme and blank verse.

 

Here is another little gem:

 

To Antoinette

 

"We met but once, at a festal board,

and light were our spirits then:

Thine eyes met mine:to thy murmured word

A sweet response in my heart was stirr'd,

A deep vibration swept its chord:

But oh! Shall we meet again?

 

There are hours that come - and the aching heart

Forgets, like a dream, its pain

When a gleam of joy, like the golden sum,

As he calmly sinks, when the day is done,

Illumes our path; and this was one:

But, say, shall we meet again?"

 

"Autumn" (written at the age of fourteen)

 

"O'er the dark waters of the troubled deep,

the billows tumble to and fro,

and o'er its heaving bosom, broad and blue,

the waves in wild confusion flow.

 

"See how they leap and play around yon rock;

then bound, the glistening pebbles o'er;

Hark! How they roar, with hoarse and hollow sound,

And dash upon the rocky shore.

 

All, all the sweets of Summer now are fled;

The wild flowers, blooming in their pride,

Are rudely swept by piping winds,

And eddying scatter far and wide.

 

Yet, joyous Spring's delightful gales shall blow,

And bud and blossom deck the bough:

And beauteous forms shall burst the darksome clods

That wrap their mouldering ashes now".

 

To Mrs W. W. Irving *

 

"From whom it was the writer's privilege to receive lessons in drawing".

 

"Hail noble artist! Brilliant genius

Is thy most precious dower;

Mementoes, these ** which bid defiance

To time's defacing power.

 

Fair artist! We would bid thee 'onward'!

Pursue thy glorious art,

Till thy loved name be deeply graven

On every gentle heart.

 

And we are come tonight, sweet lady,

And gather round thee now

To wreathe a garland - weave a chaplet

And bind it round thy brow

 

Then deem us not, dear friend, obtrusive:

But, from a pupil's hand,

Accept this humble proffered tribute

By fond affection plann'd".

 

These selections could be greatly extended, but space forbids. I desire

merely to put on record my appreciation of Miss Lockerby's excellent work.

 

* Grandmother of the three Misses Irving - Grafton Street.

** The "Monk", Ecce Homo and other celebrated paintings, executed in 1858.

 

Amateur Dramatics, Musicales, Etc.

 

"All the world's a stage, And all

the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts". My recollections of Musical and

Literary Entertainments, Plays, Operas, etc. in the Charlottetown Amateur

world do not extend very far back. The name of the earliest organization I

have heard of was long before my time, where anything verging on declamation

was attempted, being called "The Mechanics Institute" which was organized in

1836 and was intended to promote literary and scientific enlightenment among

the working people of the city, by means of lectures, debates, etc. The

institute held an annual Soiree, which consisted of a Tea, Addresses and a

concert. The names of a committee of management at one of these annual

festivals, were among wellknown citizens who were prominent in those days,

and who will be remembered by a few yet living. I give them as they

appeared in the local press in the early fifties: Silas Barnard, Watson

Duchemin, Benjamin Chappell, Mark Butcher, John Williams, W.E. Clark and

William Monk, Secretary of Committee. The institute must have died a

natural death during the fifties, as we did not hear much about it in my

earlier years.

 

It was followed by the "Charlottetown Debating Club", in

which several of the rising generation of business men, politicians and

lawyers displayed their qualifications to become public speakers. I can

recall that at least once a year the Club gave a Literary (and sometimes

Musical) entertainment in which selections from Shakespeare, Burns, Byron

and other poets were recited by several young men. Concerts, sacred and

secular, were frequently given by City choirs, in which at times, classical

music was well rendered, both vocal and instrumental. Occasionally a

comedy drama or farce was produced by a Dramatic Club. An annual festival

given by the Free masons was always eagerly looked forward to, the Market

Hall being generally secured for the entertainment, which consisted first of

a Tea, prepared by the wives, daughters and friends of the Masons, followed

by a concert, which in turn was followed by a dance. This was one of the

enjoyable events in the seventies and eighties. Then, beginning in the late

seventies, the Odd Fellows of the city started giving concerts and

entertainment which were always well patronized. Several of these literary

and musical entertainments contained a considerable sprinkling of the comic

element and when a Minstrel Show was on there was sure to be a packed house.

 

[Note from the editor: The references in the following passages to the “Minstrels” are from the original text of the book, and reflect the terminology and views of the times. In order to be faithful to the document, we will present them as originally written.]

 

As the curtain rose over the circle of colored gentlemen with the

interlocuter in the centre and "bones" and "Tambo" at the ends, the acclaim

from the audience was such as to greatly encourage the performers, and help

each one do his part to the delight of her hearers. Then "Mr. Johnsing",

the interlocuter would say"Gentlemen, be seated". The entertainment would

then open with a lively overture by the orchestra in which "Bones" and

"Tambo" would shew their skill in handling the bones and tambourine. Then

would follow a conundrum or a joke. Next perhaps a sentimental song, such

as "Hard Times, come again no more". Next, some further side splitting joke

or local hit, and so one. Some of the favorite songs were"Yo! Yah! Yo!"

"Ring de Banjo", "Carry me back", ect,. The comic song which made the

biggest hit in those days was an exceedingly lively one, without much sense,

however. It is almost forgotten now, except by a few, such as Mr.

S.N.Earle, who was Musical Director at the time. The first verse ran like

this: Tapioca; "When I used to work upon de levee, Many happy darkies dere

you see; Cotton comin' in so berry heaby Oh, golly! Dere's lots o work for

me. Black man a haulin in de cargo, Sun a berry hot upon de head; When he

done, he dance a jolly jargo Oh! Rum tum banjo, den to bed. Tapioca!

Tapijokum! Pompey, can't yeh pick a peck of oakum Yah! Yah! Golly, ain't de

levee nigger free. Workin in de Cotton Boatten shillin' a day Johnny, can

ye pick upon de banjo OH! Me, OH! My, Mammy, mammy, mammy don't yeh hear de

baby cry"! Of course it was all a bit of nonsense (as many of the Negro

"Spirituals" are today) but the lilt and happy action of the thing took with

the audience as it would yet - confirming the old adage: "a little nonsense

now and then is relished by the wisest men". Those were the days when

"Earle and Vinnicombe" were always in requisition. The former is still with

us, and quite as young in spirit as sixty years ago - the latter has passed to

the Great Beyond! There was a large degree of dramatic ability displayed by

several ladies and gentlemen who composed a tennis club about thirty five

years ago and presented some refined melodrama. The names of two of the

plays I remember as "A Russian Honeymoon" and "Esmeralda"; a prominent role

being taken by a charming lady of great talent in singing and acting.

 

I refer to the late Mrs. Malcom McLeod. The late Mr. Percy Pope was the

competent instructor in both plays The same can be said of the ability of

those who, about ten or fifteen years later composed "The Prince Edward

Dramatic Club" under the efficient management of Mr. W.J. Brown. I shall

not mention further names, but merely venture the opinion that excellent

plays, well interpreted were, between the years 1900 and 1915, produced by

its members. Later, and up to the present, splendid talent has been

evidenced in several comedies presented by young people on the Opera House

stage, in aid of charities. In musical circles we have amongst us

several talented members of church choirs who occasionally delight

Charlottetown audiences. I do not think we hear as many good vocalists now

though, as we did twenty five years ago. I shall say this, however, that

some of our vocalists of today, in my opinion, are farther ahead in musical

culture than the former ones, but their numbers are fewer. Some excel in

dramatics - others in musical ability, but it looks to me that there are not

nearly so many in evidence today that are good in both - that is, who could

successfully carry out their role in comic opera, such as "Pinafore",

"Pirates of Penzance", "Olivette", "Erminie", etc.

 

Twenty five years ago it was no trouble to get forty or fifty

young people who could be depended upon to bring such musical

comedies as those mentioned to a successful issue. There does not

appear to be the desire or ambition to attain to this work nowadays.

 

The reason may be attributed to "movies", "talkies", "bridge", or

"cars". It is a pity it should be so, for the study, rehearsal, and

performance of even these "light" operas, give a stimulus to the brain and

instill grace and dignity of carriage in the performer as well as the added

advantage of practice in correct English and pronunciation. Speaking of

movies (or talkies) I noted the following criticism lately in an American

magazine; "Very soon there will be a moving picture accent. I'm not saying

it will be admirable, but it will be uniform". In another place the same

critic says; "The popularity of talking pictures has dealt a death blow to

traveling theatrical companies. Accordingly, towns must provide their own

legitimate dramatic attractions or do without". So, that's that. I have

heard it remarked that among amateurs you will find greater intelligence in

the interpretation of plays than is to be found among the ranks of the

ordinary professionals. Whether this be so or not I imagine that a good,

clean play or opera, well presented by amateurs is, generally speaking, more

appreciated by the audience than the same one by professionals.

 

I can remember some years ago, being stopped on the street by a prominent

physician, who enjoyed entertainments such as I have mentioned and saying:

"I was in Boston a few days ago, and witnessed in one of the leading

theatres, a performance of "Pinafore", and I can tell you they weren't "in

it" as compared with you folks in Charlottetown. They emasculated it by

turning it into a love story, while you people made one think of the British

navy. The first complete presentation by amateurs of "HMS Pinafore" given

here was on the market Hall stage in April 1885 under the auspices of the

I.O.O.F. it has been repeated by many of the same cast several times since

and never failed to make a hit with the immense audiences that packed the

hall. What a spirit made when the curtain rose and discovered the sailors

manning the yards, coiling the ropes and singing: "We sail the ocean blue,

And our saucy ship's a beauty, We are sober men and true And attentive to

our duty. When the balls whistle free o'er the bright blue sea, We stand to

our guns all day; When at anchor we ride on the Portsmouth tide We've plenty

of time for play. Ahoy! Ahoy!", Etc. And further on, in the Boatswain's song:

"For he is an Englishman! For he himself hath said it. And its greatly to his

credit That he is an Englishman! For he might have been a Russian, A French,

or Turk, or Prussian, or, perhaps Italian! But, in spite of all

temptations to belong to other nations, He remains an Englishman!". In most

of the performances of "H.M.S. Pinafore", as well as the presentations of

"Pirates of Pinzance", and "Olivette", Prof. Earle was the Musical Director,

assisted by Prof. Vinnicombe's orchestra. Prof. Earle was indefatigable in

drilling the music of the solos and choruses into the ears and voices of the cast.

 

The gentleman who designed the setting of the deck and painted the

moonlight harbour scene, was the late Mr. Geo. W. Millner, a real artist in

declamation, as well as with the brush, and who is affectionately remembered

by several yet living. Here you have a little scrap of a song from

"Olivette", the opera which called forth such spontaneous applause, and was

spoken of as one of the best pieces of acting ever given on the

Charlottetown boards. "When in a state of exhilaration, You came home

late and dimly saw two ladies waiting an explanation - Your wedded wife and

your mother in law. That is the time for disappearing - Just take a

headerdown you go; And, when the sky above is clearing, Bob up serenely

from below. So should it be with the politician. When all his measures go

awry; With papers blaming his wrong ambition, And voters asking the

wherefore and why. That is the time for disappearing - Just take a

headerdown you go; And when the sky above is clearing, Bob up serenely

from below". In keeping with the sentiment of the last preceding stanza

following local political hit was given as an encore, and called forth a

tremendous and prolonged uproar of applause, given good naturedly by an

immense audience of every political faith: "What has become of the Tory

Party? That's what we want to know just now, Why, bless your heart! They're

hale and hearty And pretty soon they'll make their bow. They saw the time

for disappearing, Just for the present they're lying low, But when the

government raise the taxes The Tory Party will Bob up serenely from

below"! An extract or two from Gilbert and Sullivan's opera "The Pirates

of Penzance", musically directed by Mr. S.N. Earle, and taken part in by

several Charlottetown people, might prove interesting: The Song of the

Pirate King: "Oh, better far to live and die Under the brave black flag I

fly, Than play sanctimonious part with a pirate head and a pirate heart!

Away to the cheating world go you, Where pirates all are well to do, But

I'll be true to the song I sing, And live and die a Pirate King! Cho: for I

am a Pirate King! And it is, it is, a glorious thing To be a Pirate King!".

Song of the Major General: "I am the very pattern of a modern Major general;

I've information vegetable, animal and mineral; I know the Kings of England

and I quote the fights historical! From Marathon to Waterloo, in order

categorical. I'm very well acquainted too, with matters mathematical: I

understand equations, both the simple and quadratical: About binomial

theorem I'm teeming with a lot o'news, With many cheerful facts about the

square of the hypothenuse; Then I can hum a fugue, of which I've heard the

music's din afore, And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense,

Pinafore"!

 

Here follow a couple of extracts from the charming opera of

Erminie, directed by Prof. W. Harry Watts, and given by an amateur company

of sixty Charlottetown people: Thieves' Duet: "We're a philanthropic

couple, be it known, Light finger'd sticking to whate'er we touch; In the

interest of humanity alone, Of wealth relieving those who have too much. The

sour old gent, whose worship vile is dross, We hate to see a wallowing

intin; It ain't cos gain to us to him is loss, We eases him 'cos avarice is

sin. When the masher's on the spree we often prig. From pocket ev'ry

stive; nothing less; He would only drink and fight and go the rig, His

constitution ruin by excess: His rings, and things and finery we expect, For

stuck up pride in such things isn't good, And when his watch we carefully

annex, Tis only 'cos we know the bobby would". The Lullaby Song: "Dear

Mother! In dreams I see her, with lov'd face sweet and calm, And hear her

voice with love rejoice when nestling on her arm, I think how she softly

pressed me, of the tears in each glistening eye, As her watch she'd keep,

when she rocke'd to sleep her child with this lullaby "Bye, Bye drowsiness

o'er taking, pretty little eyelids sleep"", etc.

 

This sketch is more lenthy

than I had originally intended, yet I cannot close without mentioning the

names of gentlemen who deserve credit for helping to make these performances

so successful. Of course, there is Mr. Earle, already spoken of, the late

Mr. Vinnicombe, the leading violinist, the late Mr. Percy Pope, to whose

untiring efforts as a constructive critic and whose instructions to the cast

resulted in making the presentation of versatile and talented Prof. Harry

Watts, for his great work as the proper interpretation of the libretto and

music, and in evolving the splendid scheme of scenery, costumes and drill,

which made "Erminie" the crowing musical and dramatic success in histrionic

art presented here up to that time.

 

After penning the foregoing on

"Dramatics", etc., there came under my observation the following from the

editorial page of the "Montreal Star". As it looks to me to be apropos to

the present subject I am giving it in full. Uncle Tom's Cabin after a

phenomenally long life, Solomon Legree, Uncle Tom, Little Eva and the rest

of the family have finally passed on. Uncle Tom's cabin no longer stands,

and as for the bloodhounds, not even the memory of their baying is left.

 

There are very few people alive today who can recall the first performance

of the famous old melodrama based upon Harriet Beecher Stowe's historical

novel. But there are also very few people living today who have not seen at

some time or another a performance of this play. It has probably brought

more tears to the human eye than any other public performance known to

humanity. Indeed, it is on record that the first time Little Eva died and

was taken up by attendant angels, seventy - eight years ago, many people in

the audience fell off their seats into the aisles weeping bitterly, and that

they were still mopping their eyes when the same little Eva tripped gaily

down the aisles selling pictures of herself, as mementoes of the occasion.

From the time when John L. Sullivan, retired pugilist, made it too hot for

no fewer than eight Uncle Toms by the vigour of his lashing in the

villainous role of Legree, down to the past year, this play has literally

drawn millions of people to the theatres. It is the only play in the

history of the drama that has been presented by companies varying in number

from seven to seventy. But its appeal has at last failed, and now there is

no company presenting it in public anywhere. Doubtless the explanation

given that a new generation has arisen that cares not for sentimental

melodrama, is a correct one. Yet one is tempted to wonder whether that

sentimental melodrama is not to be preferred to the unwholesome, disturbing

sex stuff that is ladled out as drama today. Our film theatre screens

crowded by racketeers, mobsters, hijackers, rum runners, and their lurid

following; with the few legitimate theatres remaining on the continent fed

in the main with such wretched pabulum as "Diamond Lil" and similar

degrading material; with the appeal of screen and stage almost wholly

directed towards the luridly sensational and the morbid and the degenerate,

the obvious artificialities of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" may well seem fine by

comparison. Doubtless there will finally emerge from the present turgid

conditions a state of theatre that will be inspiring and uplifting; but one

has to be somewhat of a heroic optimist to believe it today. Also:

Censorship and the Films! Truth (London): "The Americans", says a character

in one of John Galsworth's plays: "are a great nation with a strong sense

of moral turpitude in others" ... In the debate on the censorship in the

American Senate, some of the Senators in their desire to keep untouched the

purity of Chicago, Seattle, and New York itself, demanded that the most

stringent measures should be introduced to exclude from the American home

'the fragrant poison European literature ... We are so certain of the

Senatorial sincerity that we take it for granted that Americans will not

protest if we take steps to exclude from our homes the poisonous stench that

floats across to Europe from Hollywood. It is high time that we did so, for

films get more and more emphatic as the years go on".


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