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
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
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
"Sacred to the memory of
Fredk. R. Goodman, Esq.,
4th August, 1959
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
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
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
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
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
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)
"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
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:
"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
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,
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".