Archive for the ‘History’ Category

A Very Vivid Childhood Memory

Posted: November 20, 2013 in History, Personal
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Even when our family went through it’s toughest times I never saw my father scared other than when he was facing cancer. Worried? Yes.  Scared… no.

Except for November 22nd, 1963.

I will never forget watching my parents on the sofa in our house on Guelph Street watching the news on our television. My mother was clutching my father’s arm so hard at one point he had to ask her to let go because it was hurting him. When she started crying I asked what was wrong.

My father called me over by his side, lifted my onto the couch and tried his best to help a 9 year old understand the significance of the fact the president of the United States had been shot. He tried hard to explain assassination in terms I could understand, and further to explain communism, capitalism, and the whole gamut of world politics. He failed of course; I was only 9. But then again he didn’t fail… entirely.

No, the 9 year old Dennis took a few weeks to figure it out. His grade school teachers struggled almost as much as my father to explain it to us. As the drama unfolded on television and radio the full impact  of the event became clearer. We could hardly help it, it was all there was to watch a lot of the time. Even the other kids in my class talked back and forth about it at recess and on the way to and from school, mostly just echoing what we overheard or parents saying.

Kennedy

Official White House web site photo of America’s 35th President.

But there was one thing I understood right from the start. It was abundantly clear to me that this was a big deal. A very big deal; one that mattered more than I could possibly imagine. I understood how big it was because of my father.

It was the only time I ever saw him truly scared!

It’s been a while since I have written a history post and with Canada Day upon us I figured it was a good time to do so; especially since today is an anniversary with a solid connection to my home town.

Bishop Macdonell (image courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

On this date, July 29th, in 1786 over 500 highlanders left the shores of Scotland for Upper Canada to establish a new settlement in Glengarry County. They were the remains of the Glengarry Fencibles, the last Catholic regiment in Britain at the time. When the regiment was disbanded after the Treaty of Amiens had been signed, their chaplain appealed to the government for a tract of land in Canada where they could settle. That chaplain was one Alexander Macdonell, who accompanied the group to their new home. The following year Macdonell would be ordained and made priest of the parish. It seemed for all the world that his military career was over;  but such was not exactly the case.

In December of 1811, when it became clear that war with the United States was pretty much a done deal, Sir George Prevost wrote to Lord Liverpool, the Colonial Secretary:

I have sent Capt. Macdonell, of the King’s Regiment, into the townships where the Glengarry emigrants are settled in Upper Canada, to ascertain their ability to form a regiment of light infantry. Capt. Macdonell is selected for his zeal, ability and intelligence, with a name and national character acceptable to them, and the same religious persuasion, as they are all Roman Catholics.”1

That captain was not our friend Alexander, but rather bright young fellow named George. However, while George was in Glengarry County he collaborated with Father Macdonell, who proved to be a valuable ally in the formation of the regiment, once again referred to as the Glengarry Fencibles. In return for his efforts Macdonell was once again named the regimental chaplain with the understanding that he would never have to accompany them into battle.

After the war, in 1815, Alexander began his service as a Roman Catholic Bishop at St. Raphael’s Parish. In 1819 he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Upper Canada, a position that was elevated to a bishopric in 1826, making Alexander Macdonell the first Bishop of Upper Canada.

It was during this time that the Bishop became involved in supporting the work of his friend John Galt, a novelist working for the Canada Company, in establishing new settlements throughout what is now southern Ontario. To express his gratitude for the Bishop’s assistance Galt chose a prime hilltop in the centre of the new settlement of Guelph which he “reserved for the Catholics, in compliment to my friend, Bishop Macdonell, for his advice in the formation of the Company.” It was Galt’s hope that his friend would move the seat of the bishopric to Guelph. The road leading up to the hill was named Macdonell Street and in the autumn of 1827 Bishop Macdonell was one of the first visitors to the “Royal City” (okay, at this point it was more like ‘Royal Village’). The monumental, gothic-style Church of Our Lady Immaculate would subsequently be erected on the hill where it still stands today; undeniably the most prominent landmark in the city.

To pay further tribute to the Bishop, in 1962, Notre Dame Catholic High School and the Loretto Academy for Girls, located on that same hill, were collectively renamed Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School (locally referred to as simply Bishop Mac). The two buildings were joined into one in 1967, and the school was moved to its new location in the south end of the city in 2004. The original building has been demolished.

Church of our Lady Immaculate

Looking up Macdonell Street at the Church of our Lady Immaculate in Guelph

So, there you have it. If you moved to Guelph recently and have wondered who Bishop Macdonell was and why he had a school and a street named after him, now you know.

Why so many people constantly mispronounce Macdonell Street as ‘MacDonald’ however, remains a mystery.

Till next time… Shalom.

——

1. From Glengarry Light Infantry web site (http://glengarrylightinfantry.ca/index.php)

“I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge — a truth we’ve long known but couldn’t instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity — collaborative and contentious, often at the same time — is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.

“This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it’s because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That’s why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that’s the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more “natural.” ”

– “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World” by Rebecca J. Rosen, January 5, 2012.

First published by The Atlantic.

via Google Reader.

There’s a new book out by Israeli professor of engineering at Ben Gurion University, Haim Shore, called “Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew” that I think I’m going to see if I can get a digital download for my reader. In it Shore examines a number of remarkable instances of ancient Jewish sages contemplating notions passed down through their scriptures and traditions that lead them to some remarkably accurate scientific conclusions. And they did it all without experimentation or even clinical observation hundreds and even thousands of years before scientific discipline caught up with them.

Author Adam Jacobs give an intriguing review of the book in the following article for The Algemeiner. You can check out Jacobs’ review at the following link…

The Scientific Foreknowledge of the Jewish Sages.

My thanks to Dr. Claude Mariottini for bringing the article to my attention.

In Canada, Martin Luther King Day is all but ignored. Oh, it is mentioned on talk radio and on the news; but it is rarely forefront in our collective consciousness because it is, after all, a U.S. holiday. With it falling on a Sunday this year, yesterday I barely noticed it, being wrapped up in my duties surrounding two morning services at Kortright Church.

I am grateful then for this article by Jarrod McKenna on Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians blog. It is my hope that I will be deeply considering his message for some time to come.

Red Letter Christians » What Would MLK Do? Christians and Climate Change.

A great many things have happened on December 6th over the centuries, but for audio buffs the world over one event stands out above the rest. It was on this date in 1877 that the first audio recording was made by Thomas Edison. Previously, April 12th was considered to be the anniversary based on a date Edison wrote on a sketch of his device made in 1917; but subsequent research has revealed that Edison had misremembered the date and now many historians accept December 6th as the date of record. (pun intended)

Edison with phonograph (1877)

Edison with Phonograph in 1877. (Photograph by Matthew Brady - Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

That first recording was made with the assistance of Charles Batchelor and John Kruesi. Working under the Edison’s direction they created the first phonograph consisting of a cylinder with a sheet of tinfoil wrapped around it.  Sound was received through a funnel, which was connected to a diaphragm. Yelling into the funnel caused sound waves to vibrate the diaphragm, which in turn vibrated a small stylus (needle) that was attached to it. The stylus pressed the pattern of the sound waves onto the tinfoil as the cylinder was turned by a hand crank.

The indented tinfoil sheet then was moved to another, nearly identical, device that had a stylus attached to the diaphragm with a delicate spring. As the hand crank was turned this time the stylus was passed over the indents on the tinfoil. The indentations caused the stylus and thus the diaphragm to vibrate in the same manner as when the original words were spoken. The vibrations of the diaphragm were amplified by another funnel and, if one listened closely, the recording was  heard.

Kreusi, who actually built the device from Edison’s sketches, is credited with the first review of an audio recording. His response? “Gott in Himmel!” (God in Heaven!)

The tricky part was turning the crank at the exact same speed as when recorded so the sounds could be recognized. Those early tinfoil recordings were quite fragile and could be played only a couple of times before they would become damaged and be lost forever. In later, more commercial models, wax and other materials would replace the tinfoil.

And what was that original recording you ask? It was Thomas Edison himself reciting the childhood classic “Mary Had a Little Lamb“. As already mentioned, those tinfoil recordings were fragile and the 1877 original is lost forever, but the following link will let you listen to a re-enactment made by Edison at the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Phonograph made in 1927.

http://www.archive.org/details/EDIS-SCD-02

Today, 134 years later, quality recording technology is readily available to almost anyone. You probably have one in your pocket or purse right now. Few inventions have contributed to the shaping of culture and society world-wide as the ability to record and distribute the human voice.

In celebration of this world changing event I leave you with my favorite recording of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I know, the title of this post reads like a newspaper headline, but it’s truly how I feel about last night. Canada is different place this morning and for a number of reasons.   When this election started I was very much of the opinion that it was unneeded and would turn out to be a waste of time. I, like many people, felt we would likely just get more of the same, a Conservative minority government.

However; as you have likely noticed even if you didn’t stay up till 2 am to see the final results as I did, the face of the nation underwent a significant facelift last night.

The Conservatives have their majority mandate, largely centred in the west but with significant presence in Ontario. Harper’s place in history is secured with three Conservative victories in a row.

Jack Layton’s place in history is confirmed as well, leading the NDP to it’s most prominent place in Parliament ever – Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. He has good reason to feel proud this morning. With its base in Quebec it is a historic accomplishment. It will be interesting to see how he performs in this situation.

Micheal Ignatieff is more than just a footnote as well. He must wear forever the mantle of being the leader who took the Liberal party to the back benches for the first time in its long history. I’ve read two of his books and was impressed with his writing. I wonder what the title of his next book will be.

Giles Duceppe likely has the most to answer for. He not only lost the election but the Bloc has lost official party status. We will not be hearing from them in Parliament any time soon. The question now is will the voters of Quebec compensate for this massive turn by putting the Parti Québécois back in power provincially.

And for the fifth change in a single election, unprecedented in any previous election at any level of government, Elizabeth May has won the Green Party’s first seat in Parliament, earning her party a limited voice and a seat at the debates four years from now, provided the media types don’t change the rules in the meantime.

But there is one more change that took place last night that cannot be seen in the popular vote, the number of seats, or who does or does not have official party status. In previous elections, as the night wore on, I would find myself sitting in front of the TV set watching the results come in essentially by myself as Roberta dosed off on the couch beside me. But last night I had company.

Sarah, and Carlo, and Darby, and Brian and a host of others were watching right along with me. We commented and cajoled, lamented and wept, cheered and boasted back and forth without even being in the same room together. Through the medium of Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Messenger I was able to watch the results and converse about them with over a dozen friends and strangers from all across Ontario, from Guelph to Ottawa; across the nation from New Brunswick to B.C.; and even heard from friends in the United States and as far away as the British Isles in real times, only a few key clicks away.

It will change the face of Canadian elections forever, as it has done in other jurisdictions. Last night the major broadcasters followed the rules and refrained from sending out results across the nation until the polls were closed, but Canadians did not. From the beginning Tweeters and Facebookers sent out the word 140 characters at a time. As soon as the first ballot box was counted in Goose Bay, people in Vancouver knew the result.

Broadcasters, pollsters, political parties, Elections Canada even everyday Canadians are all going to have to spend the next four years figuring out how to conduct an election under this new reality. This new level of connectivity has the potential to make strategic voting a tactic that will skew and slant election results even more than our antiquated first-past-the-post Westminster model of government does already.

The results last night do, I believe, demonstrate the need for electoral reform. An 8% increase in the popular vote garnered the Conservatives and additional 13% of the seats in Parliament. An 11% drop in the popular vote in the GTA cost the Liberals nearly half the seats in Toronto. There does seem to be a valid reason to seriously consider proportional representation.

But what isn’t known yet, and won’t be known until the statistical analysts have had time to crunch all the numbers, is how much did Tweeted results from Charlottetown affect voter response in Burnaby. How much was the slight increase in voter turnout from 2008 inspired by the Social Voting movement and how much was due to Frank in Kingston screaming on Facebook, “Harper’s winning! Get your ass out there and VOTE!”

The pundits will pontificate for months on why we have the results we do. Did Harper get his majority because Canadians care more about the economy than they do about honesty and transparency? Or did he get it because we hate elections and punished Ignatieff for forcing one? Did Jack gain in Quebec because his attack on Micheal’s attendance record hit home? Or because he bloom has fallen off the Separatist rose? I’m not certain we’ll ever truly know for sure.

But what we do know is this, for better or for worse the people have spoken and we are going to have to live with it for the next four years. And I am fairly certain that last night’s results will change the way elections are conducted in this country, one way or another.