Monday, August 13, 2018

Unfolding History

Picking up where we left off yesterday, the assassination of Thomas D'Arcy McGee is examined at this part of the Bytown Museum. McGee, a journalist, writer, politician, and Father of Confederation, was a close friend of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, and a fierce critic of Irish nationalism, a cause he had once been loyal to. The bust you see here is of Lady Agnes Macdonald, the PM's wife. She was as shocked as anyone else by the assassination.

He was shot in the back of the head while coming home from Parliament Hill to his boarding house late at night. Patrick James Whelan, a sympathizer to the Irish cause, was convicted and hung for the assassination, though there is cause to doubt his guilt. A plaster cast was made of McGee's hand. It rests here along with one of his books. Photographs mounted on the wall above show the scene of the crime and the streets of Montreal for the funeral of McGee, whose riding was based in that city. It is the only assassination of a federal politician in Canadian history.

The South African War, otherwise called the Boer War, bridged the 19th and 20th centuries and had an impact in the Ottawa Valley. This composite image was done by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, showing 193 local men who volunteered and served in the Royal Canadian Regiment, one of the Canadian units serving during that war. Twelve of those men died in action.

Several artifacts of that war are displayed close by- a canteen, helmet, pocket watch, medal, and bible, for instance. The bible itself saved the life of Private John Denmark, stopping a bullet fired on him during a fierce fight at a place called Hart's River.

The 1916 fire that destroyed the first Centre Block on Parliament Hill is also featured, with some artifacts taken from the wreckage of the fire, and a large scale photograph of the aftermath mounted on the wall. The First World War was of course going on at the time, and there were rumours that it was German sabotage. There are still unanswered questions about the fire and its cause to this day, though odds are that it can be chalked up to a cigar carelessly left about. The ruins of the original Centre Block were deemed unsafe, and the structure was completely rebuilt.

Outside the Museum, I stopped at the Celtic Cross on the east shore of the locks. It commemorates over a thousand men (and assorted family members) who died during the building of the Canal. Some of them died in workplace accidents, others of illnesses. Celtic symbols and other icons are engraved on it, with inscriptions in English, French, Gaelic, and a First Nations language.

Parks Canada had some display tables set up, and were offering bannock bread, a First Nations staple. The dough is wrapped around a stick and cooked over a fire.

Parks Canada was also giving out temporary tattoos. This is the one I chose to wear- a maple leaf and canoe oars. 

I leave off with these two views from the Canal. A giant inflatable beaver is always present for Colonel By Day, courtesy of Parks Canada. It's placed on the Chateau Laurier's side of the locks. Tomorrow we start looking at Buskerfest.


  1. The faces of Beavers are so comical and make me smile. The temporary tattoo looks real.

  2. You packed a lot of history in this post!! I think that you are a history buff!!

  3. Parks Canada seems to do an amazing job, and the beaver is such a touch of humor.


  4. ...beavers sure are BIG in Canada.

  5. cool tattoo. very cool history moments. ( ;

  6. @Rosemary: the real ones are remarkable animals.

    @Kate: I enjoy it, yes.

    @Janis: it is indeed.

    @Tom: definitely!

    @Beth: thanks!

  7. I like your tattoo and yes it sure looks real. That is one hefty beaver! :-)

  8. Hello, interesting story. I like the tattoo and beavers. Enjoy your day and new week ahead!

  9. I did not realize the bytown museum was so large. Good series.

  10. The giant beaver is so cute! And I like the temporary tattoo - very nice design :-)

  11. @DJan: it certainly is big!

    @Eileen: thank you.

    @Red: it's a good sized building.

    @Sharon: fortunately it came off easily.

    @Tamago: it is a good design. There were fifteen or so different choices.

  12. Nice tattoo William, maybe you should think about making it permanent, looks super cool! Chateau Laurier and giant inflatable beavers.. who would have thought 😀

  13. I like the tattoo you chose, William.

  14. I like the tat & the giant beaver!

  15. Love the Celtic Cross--and the big beaver!

  16. Seems like there's always something going on in Ottawa.

  17. Love seeing the artifacts from our history William. Thank you.

  18. @Grace: oh, I could never find myself going with a permanent tattoo, but it was interesting to have a temporary decoration.

    @Bill: I certainly thought so!

    @Marleen: thanks!

    @RedPat: so do I.

    @Norma: they're both good.

    @Catalyst: especially in the summer. There are events that go on that I simply don't have time to document, such as the various music festivals.

    @Marie: you're welcome.

  19. I went to D'Arcy McGee high school in Montreal and am Irish born.

  20. "...while coming home from Parliament Hill to his boarding house late at night."

    Those were such different times. Imagine a politician without security staying in a boarding house now. Would never happen.

  21. There is a Catholic elementary school named D'Arcy McGee in Toronto.
    I like your tattoos.

  22. Thanks for the tour. I wish I could say we'd only had one assassination of a federal politician in the U.S.
    Nice tattoo...and the best sort: temporary.

  23. Interesting history. But that huge beaver!!!!

  24. I enjoyed this way of learning history of which I’m woefully ignorant. Thank you for the informative tour.

  25. More great historical photos ~

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  26. Another great history lesson William, thank you! I bet the Bannock Bread tasted very good and I like your temporary tatoo.

  27. I like your choice of temporary tattoo.

    All the best Jan

  28. McGee's story is a sad and fascinating one. It looks like the museum does a wonderful job of telling the story and also sharing the artifacts of the time. Interesting about the Celtic cross.

  29. @Maywyn: a temporary tattoo is about the only way I'd have one.

    @Jackie: he left quite a legacy behind in Montreal.

    @Sandi: these days the ones who are in from out of town will lease apartments or homes as their second home when they're not in their ridings. And they tend to go home each weekend.

    @Catarina: that doesn't surprise me.

    @Kay: assassination here is rare.

    @Lady Fi: quite a sight to see.

    @Sallie: you're welcome.

    @Carol: thank you.

    @Denise: thanks!

    @Francisco: thanks.

    @Jan: I did too.

    @Jeanie: it does a fine job.

    @Klara: it suited me.