Wednesday, 11 January 2012

It's John A Macdonald's Birthday

John A is nearly 200 - 3 more years and he'll be there! In the meantime, he, I, and Richard Gwyn have had a great year.

Gwyn's 2nd volume of his biography of John A was released this year - as was my novel based around Confederation which features John A as one of the main characters (tricky, very tricky having a real person set in a real historical time - and fun to play with and explore).

In Today in Canadian History they have a wonderful 2 part interview with Gwyn. Before they speak with Gwyn they say the start of Canada was boring - I disagree with that! Read my novel; listen to Gwyn; just the plain facts tell us more than that.

Gwyn refers to Joseph Pope who became John A's secretary - and stayed in Wilfred Laurier's cabinet as he was so knowledgeable and so good at his job. Roy MacSkimming writes brilliantly of both Laurier and Pope in his novel Laurier in Love. For my part, I have a piece with Joseph Pope in To the Edge of the Sea - Joseph was the son of William Pope, one of the PEI delegates for Confederation, and the only one who went to meet the Fathers of Confederation on their steamship the Queen Victoria ... meanwhile, remember the circus was on ... Here is my fictional account of Joseph:

Joseph Pope sat in a tree in the yard, half way up and
hidden by the summer leaves, waiting for his father. He’d
been waiting two hours already. It didn’t matter anymore; the
show had started and still he waited. Today, he’d promised,
today they would go. Joseph took a twig and held it against
the trunk of the tree. Two black ants crawled onto the stick.
They walked up it and he pretended they were the acrobats. He
turned the stick upside down as the ants, unconcerned, went
up and down. He held it so that one ant crawled into his palm,
circled it, searching for what? Joseph sighed. He’d barely eaten
any lunch he was so excited and now it was nearly tea time.
     He shifted, the bark pressed uncomfortably against his
legs. He watched the ant on his palm, felt the slight tickling
of it as it walked. Joseph looked back at the road. Nothing,
no one coming. Holding the twig loosely in his other hand,
he watched the single ant crawl along it and then he held it
out over the open ground and dropped it. He watched as it
hit the ground, the acrobat falling, the crowd below gasping.
Joseph gasping too, as if it were real. Pretending to himself,
wanting the game. He looked back at his palm and reached
his finger out to touch the other ant. So small it tried to crawl
onto his finger. It struggled, then caught hold. With his thumb
he brushed against it, so small he could barely feel it, could
pretend it wasn’t there. He brushed harder, and then pressed
the ant between his finger and thumb. Opened his hand and
looked, only a smudge of black remaining.

Gwyn quotes Pope, "(Macdonald) knew every chord of the human heart."
Richard Gwyn will be reading and signing at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon this coming Mon Jan 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm.
Happy Birthday John A - and my Aunt Fran from Prince Edward Island, who sent me so much history on PEI and was a writer too.

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