Memories of Long Ago by Benjamin Bremner

This file has been typed into a word processor by Eileen Bremner - 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 6

A Few Chestnuts



Before the ballot act was passed, there was open voting at

elections, and the candidates were expected to make their speeches on

Nomination day from the hustings, which was erected in front of the

Court House or some other public place on the square. There was

generally a colorful time on those occasions, when throngs would

assemble to listen to the speeches. The orators had often to submit

to some severe heckling from individuals in the crowd, and funny

interjections made it difficult for the speakers to proceed.



Occasionally there would be a free fight, the diversion sometimes

putting a temporary stop to the proceedings. Mostly it would end

good-naturally, especially when some one would shout: "Come boys, and

have a drink!" when could be heard the response from --- "An angel

spoke!", whereupon the two sides would repair to the nearest place of

refreshment, there to get ready for another sortie



A yarn that I have heard, having done service for some years before

and after Confederation, was caused by the appearance of a gentleman

on the hustings, well dressed and with a pair of knee boots, well

polished to the tops. Being bad weather, the long boots were

necessary. In addressing "the gentlemen electors" he opened his

speech with: "I'm opposed to Confederation on any terms whatever."

Whereupon, a noted Irishman in the crowd shouted: "Who made yer

boots?" This caused a lull in the proceedings, while a friend of the

Irishman said: "Ye shouldn't say that, because he's on our side." The

other then shouted: "Doesn't matter a d---, who made yer boots?" This

seemed unanswerable, and the candidate was non - plussed for a time.



Another story was of an elderly, humble-looking clergyman of the old

school, and a business man, who happened to be standing near each

other while listening to the candidates' speeches, when one of the two

took exception to a remark of the speaker. This caused an argument

between the two listeners, which led to a heated discussion, and

eventually caused the business man to shout at the other: "If It

wasn't for your age, I'd smash your face." Whereupon the meek and

mild old clergyman, answered, while starting to remove his clerical

coat: "We shall waive the matter of age, and proceed to discuss the

subject on its true merits." The other man quickly disappeared!



I mentioned, in the opening chapter, the name of Col. Cumberland, a

kindly Christian gentleman. He was very fond of gardening, and took

great pride in having a well cultivated garden. He regularly held

family worship, at which the household, including the servants, were

expected to attend. A story is told of him, that when the household

was assembled for devotion one beautiful summer morning - the window

being wide open, overlooking the garden, some pigs were heard, below

the window, grunting and rooting around. The Colonel was finishing the

prayer, when he heard the provoking noise outside. After saying

"Amen," he exclaimed: "D----- those pigs!" Human nature, I presume.



Just prior to the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860, the National

Anthem was being rehearsed in one of the Sunday schools, and the

question arising - how should "Albert" be pronounced - "Albert" or

"Allbert"? A gentleman present, who was generally ready to give

advice, suggested: "if there was another "hell" it would be"Hallbert."

That settled it.



The Fenian Raid of 1866 caused quite a stir in Canada at the time,

and it was considered necessary in P.E. Island to put the Militia Act

into full operation by requiring every able-bodied male from the ages

of 16 to 60 to join up with the Volunteers, or be drafted into the

Militia. Those from 45 to 60 who were drafted were called the

"Sedentary Militia," and had to attend drill, and were liable to be

called out in case of hostilities. The latter never materialized, but

many amusing scenes were witnessed on Rochford Square during the

drills of the "awkward squad." The drill instructors had quite a

trying time endeavoring to bring order out of chaos with these older

"citizen soldiers." One can imagine the rhythm of step when the order

was given to "mark time" or "forward" as the case may be, when rarely

two men would step together. The roars of laughter from the onlookers

did not improve matters either. As the instructor would

shout - "Dress by your right," the line would be about as straight as

the proverbial "Ram's horn." One old Irishman, in particular, seemed

to give the drill sergeant a deal of trouble. The latter lost

patience and yelled - "Come into line there, Mr. O'Toole, what are you

here for?" the old chap replied quite casually, "Oh! I suppose to

free Ireland!" Further howls from the crowd!



Prior to the establishment of Stipendiary Magistrates' Courts, cases

of petty offences were tried before Justices of the Peace or ordinary

magistrates. In Charlottetown, two magistrates would sometimes sit on

a case of petty larceny or drunkenness, the evidence being frequently

given by a police constable, and sentence pronounced on the one found




A story has been told of a celebrated character of old times who was

frequently brought before the court in Charlottetown charged with

being a nuisance, owing to a too free indulgence in the contents of

the "flowing bowl." On one occasion before receiving sentence he was

asked by the court if he had any defence to make, when he thus

addressed one of the magistrates:---"J----B.-----S.-----, ye

delapidated scion of a rotten aristocracy, I despise ye!" Then

addressing the other magistrate, who had been rather friendly and

lenient to him in the past, he said: - "and Tom, it's little ye care,

when toastin' ye shins and sipping brandy in front of yer comfortable

fire, of poor Jim, whom you incarcerated within the walls of the

common jail!" "Three months."



Those who traveled regularly on the P.E. Island railway in the days

before autos came into frequent use, will not forget the quick-witted

and warm-hearted Irish conductor, who for a long period, ran the

western train. Several of his witticisms and caustic replies to "Smart

Alecs" still ring in the ears of those who were privileged to travel

under his guidance, and many of his sayings have almost become

"classics" of a sort. I shall try to reproduce some of his sallies,

as nearly as possible. (He ran the Murray Harbor train also for a

short time.)



Old Lady. "Conductor, can't you go any faster than this?"

Cond. "Oh! yes, ma'am, but I have to stay by the train."



Timid old Lady. "Conductor, what end of the car shall I get of at?"

Cond. "It doesn't matter, Missus, both ends stop."



Smart Woman, (coming up the platform, and just back from Boston)

"Conductor, are there any seats left in the first-class car? Conn.

"They were all there, ma'am, when I left."



Smart Alec. (having been in Boston for a few months, and professing

ignorance of his own village) "How far is it to Bloomfield, George?"

Conn. (on his dignity). "How did you know my name was George?"

Smart Alec. "Oh! I just guessed it."

Conn"Since you're so d--- smart at

guessin', you can guess how far it is to Bloomfield."



Smart girl (just returned, after having spent a year in the States,

and approaching her flag station).

Conductor, will there be a cab waiting at the depot?"

Conn. "I don't think so, Miss."

Smart girl "How then, am I to get home?"

Conn. "Oh! I suppose in the same old

truck-wagon you came in before when you left."



One of the best stories about this conductor I have heard was a very

laconic reply he made to an inquisitive Yankee in the smoker, who was

pestering him with foolish questions when he was extremely busy. In

reply to the final question---"I say Conductor, how often do you kill

a man on this road?"

The reply came instantaneously - "Once!!!"

There were no further questions.



His good-natured reply to a question asked by a visiting Catholic

Clergyman from a neighboring province will not soon be forgotten. On

arriving at a way-station the agent met him with a telegram and said:

"Will you give this telegram to Doctor Sweeney, who is on the train?"

The conductor took the message and on seeing a stranger in

conversation with an Island priest, came up and asked: "Are you the

Rev. Dr. Sweeney, sir?" The stranger replied in the affirmative and

after delivering the telegram our Irish friend turned to go, when Dr.

Sweeney, who was fond of a joke and seeing the conductor was an

Irishman, called him back and asked:"Are you in the habit of asking

people their names as you pass through the train?" The reply quickly:

"No sir, but I have to keep my eyes open for suspicious looking

characters!" Needless to say, both priests roared with laughter, and

the joke on Sweeney was repeated by them for a long time after.



A fine old Highland farmer dropped into a shoe shop not long ago to

purchase a pair of shoes for his boy. When asked what size he

required, he said "Well now, I never thought of that, and he wants

them for next Sabbath." What's his age?" asked the shopkeeper. The

farmer scratched his head, and said: "Let me think now, there's Alec,

and Sandy, and Donald, and Hector, - Oh! I know now, he's in the 4th book."



Another hospitable soul said; "Mind now, you come and see the Missus

and me when you're out our way." The friend thus invited when

fulfilling his promise, thought it would please his host to bring a

bottle of something to cheer him. Placing the bottle on the table the

host looked pleased, but rather glum when his visitor asked for some

water. However, the water was produced and the guest poured some of

it into his own glass to mix with the cordial. The latter then asked

his host if he wouldn't have some in his as well, but the latter

replied: "No water for me, I'll take mine as the Lord made it!"



A celebrated Island character was Timothy ----, but, being rather

bibulous in his habits, caused great concern to his friend, the Parish

Priest of the locality, who was, by the way, a very sincere temperance

man. Timothy was frequently admonished by father ---- about his drinking

propensities and as frequently made good resolutions which,

unfortunately, were as often broken.



One beautiful morning in early summer, the priest and Timothy were

walking together on the country road and inhaling the aroma from the

clover and timothy fields, as the breeze gently wafted the odors

towards them. Our friend Timothy, whose breath was rather fragrant

from recent imbibings, walked on the leeward side of his Reverence.


The latter was enjoying the smell of the clover and would often

exclaim: "Oh! the clover! Isn't it delicious?" "Yes your Reverence,"

replied the other. Presently they turned the corner, and the wind

then came from Timothy's quarter and wafted a different odor. The

priest then exclaimed "but what do I smell now?" the other promptly

replied:"Timothy, your Reverence."



Talking of fishing: I remember when quite young of being in a boat

with two older people, fishing off trout Point. One of my companions

had just landed a beauty and was so excited as he shewed it to his

friends, that after removing the hook, he deliberately threw the fish

overboard, and dropped the flies into the basket! How is that for a

fish story? true, though for I was an eye witness.



A relative of mine, while in a friend's house, was looking at a

picture on the wall, of one of England's famous battles. He was a man

of artistic trend and was studying the picture with the artist's eye,

when the old servant approaching, took more particular notice of an

officer, in part of the picture , with an uplifted sword in deadly

encounter. The old man was not considering the artistic merits of the

picture, but exclaimed, "My!" my!" choppin h'off is 'ead with a

sword!"" The other replied solemnly and with a long face: "Yes,

Mr.------ he must have done something very wrong to merit such

punishment as that !"



Which reminds me of the appreciation by a young woman who, for the

first time, saw the grandeur of Niagara Falls, she apparently did not

take in the majesty of the scene, for she remarked: "Isn't it cute?"



Much more could be told of the celebrities of the long ago in

Charlottetown who helped to make life more cheerful by their witticisms

and eccentricities, but I realize that the foregoing series of sketches

and sayings is sufficient for the present. In fact, it has been

extended far beyond my original intention, so I shall end like the

crier, with








The engraving on the opposite page represents the bronze plaque to

be seen in the Legislative council chamber at Charlottetown. This

bronze is in commemoration of the Union of the Provinces now forming

the Dominion of Canada. I am particularly indebted to H.R. Stewart,

Esquire, Deputy Provincial Secretary, for the following very

interesting and scholarly sketch, descriptive of this tablet of

historic value:-



In the Legislative Council Chamber of the fine old Colonial Building

at Charlottetown, wherein was held the Charlottetown Conference on

September 1st, 1864, there is a mural bronze commemorating the event,

also on historic table around which the Fathers of Confederation sat.



The bronze is the work of one Hamilton McCarthy, a distinguished

Canadian sculptor, residing in Ottawa. Mr. McCarthy was not

commissioned to do this work until June 1st 1914, and the completed

tablet was in position on August 10th following.


A wealth of historic detail is contained in the design of the

tablet. On each corner there is a crest of one of the uniting

Provinces: top right - Quebec; lower right - New Brunswick; lower left

- Nova Scotia; top left - Ontario. At the top centre resting on the

folds of the Union Jack is the Imperial Coat of Arms, showing the

Great Oak of Britain and the small sapling representing the colony.

The Latin inscription reads "Parva sub Ingenti," - "Small under

Great." At the bottom centre is the Canadian Coat of Arms; on the

right appears the herald announcing the birth of the new union. The

inscription is the King's English at its best. The line reading

"Providence being their guide," is from Milton's Paradise Lost and

"They builded better than they knew" is from Emerson - Old and New

World writers, centuries apart, but in combination the words describe

accurately the result of the Conference.



The names of the delegates attending the Conference appear on the

ribbon in the margin. The five figures at the left represent Sir John

A. MacDonald from Ontario; Sir Georges Cartier from Quebec; Sir

Leonard Tilley from New Brunswick; Colonel Hamilton Gray, Chairman of

the conference, from Prince Edward Island, and Sir Charles Tupper from

Nova Scotia. Sir Charles is holding a pickaxe and his foot is a fish

representing the chief basic industries of Nova Scotia - mining and

fishing. He is pointing as if saying "Unity is strength." Colonel

Gray, the chairman, holds the Roman symbol of unity, - four staves

bound together, representing four Provinces united through the medium

of the Conference.



Sir Leonard Tilley holds a scroll bearing the word "Dominion" as

according to a tradition he quotes the Scriptures "Thy Dominion shall

extend from sea to sea."



At that time there was some uncertainty as to what to call the new

Union, whether it should be the "Kingdom of Canada," the Union of

Canada", the "Confederation of Canada," etc. Just prior to a

conference in London Sir Leonard had been reading the Scriptures and

came across the passage reading, "Thy Dominion shall extend from sea

to sea." He is also holding in his left hand the old flail for

threshing. "The torch and the sword of justice" is held by Sir

Georges Cartier, thereby indicating that much of the civil law in

Quebec to-day is French law. Sir John A MacDonald holds the symbol of

medicine in his left hand and in his right hand a scythe. There also

appears a sheaf of wheat and a locomotive, indicating the onward march

of civilization across the new country.



To the visitor the Confederation Room contains an atmosphere of much

interest to the student and the historian




Within one of the spacious chambers of the Colonial Building, the

Chamber now known as "The Confederation Room," the first conference of

delegates was held on September 1, 1864, to consider the proposal of

the union of the different British Colonies in North America, which

eventually led to the formation of what is now known as the "Dominion

of Canada".



The engraving on the opposite page shews the members of the above

mentioned delegation, at the time of their paying a formal call on the

Lieutenant Governor - His Excellency George Dundas, Esquire, at

historic Government House.




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Last Updated: 4/27/98 5:00:18 PM
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