Gilliandr's Blog

Random Historical, Social and Cultural Moments


Social commentary

When We Are Ruled by Lady MPs, 1919

Montreal Daily Star, 2 December 1919, page 4



Male visitor to House of Commons – Dear me! Why are the members irrespective of party, slapping, scratching and screaming at the leader of the Government?

His Membress (showing him around) – Oh! Because the mean thing has just proposed the closure to make them stop talking.

War reparations, 1919

Montreal Standard, 15 March 1919, page 12




“Think of our poor war-weary people, heart broken, hungry, in debt!  Think how they have suffered!!!”

“Gosh! Think what it must be in devastated France.”

League of Nations cartoon, 1919

Montreal Standard, 2 August 1919, page 17


Quo Vadis?

Historic Plaque at Rasco’s Hotel, Montreal – Missing


In 1985 the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal was celebrating its 150th anniversary.  In honour of its anniversary and to commemorate its history in Old Montreal the society placed a historic plaque on the corner of the building which was Rasco’s Hotel, 281-295 rue St-Paul.

The plaque says this: [English portion]

The St Andrew’s Society of Montreal was founded in February 1835 to give aid to fellow Scots in distress.  The founding and subsequent regular meetings were held in Rasco’s Hotel.  It was in this building that the first St Andrew’s Day celebrations sponsored by the Society took place on November 30, 1835, under the chairmanship of the Society’s first president, the Hon Peter McGill, who later became Mayor of Montreal.

I was wandering around the streets of Old Montreal yesterday and went to my favourite haunts including Hotel Rasco.  And surprise – the plaque had been removed.



As archivist for the St Andrew’s Society of Montreal I was surprised.  You would imagine that the removal of our plaque would have been preceded by a phone call or email.  We are rather easy to find.  No such contact was made.

Questions, questions, questions. 

The most important of all – where is the plaque?  By fortune, luck, whatever, I was able to find it, while searching out other favourite spots.

I went to 443 St Vincent, which is about 3 blocks away from Rasco’s to the site of the Hotel Richelieu, where Sarah Bernhardt stayed in 1880.  And there it was, placed atop the historic plaque which said the hotel was built in 1861, and the part about Sarah Bernhardt.

It looks most peculiar; the plaque has nothing to do with the location, and the events it commemorated took place 26 years prior to its construction. The Society never met there, nor had events there.  It is completely out of place and context.


Who moved the plaque?  Why?  And why there?

In Defence of our Libraries, 2017


In Defence of our Libraries…..

The recent furore over the renovations of the Trent University has highlighted the severe disconnect between those who use libraries and those who have been charged to administer and fund them.  Trent will be closing its library building for a much needed renovation, for an entire year. This has brought up two main issues: first what are students to do in the meantime, and second, who will the new library function afterwards.

Mixed up within these issues is the fact that the university officials seem to be oblivious as to how students and staff use these facilities.  As was stated by a number of Trent students and staff in interviews with the media since the story broke, the library stacks are an important way in which they access information.  Sure, the library has an electronic catalogue where users can look up the location of specific books, but ultimately it is the shelf where it is located that informs them of the breadth on the topic.

Computer catalogues are useful tools, of that there is no doubt, but they are not designed for browsing.  The programming is not able to replicate the ways in which individuals locate information.

During the renovations the library seems to be offering an “Amazon” type experience, where the student orders a book, and has it delivered to some location on campus, and then they take it back to wherever to read. It has been pointed out by many that this system ignores the fact that libraries are a place to read books, a quiet place to study with easy access to the important sources of information.

While the renovations to the building were no doubt needed, questions have been raised as to the changes being made to it.  It seems that those who planned it are very keen to build a library of the future.  The thing is we live in the present, and perhaps by looking so far forward they ignore how we currently access, process and use information, and the rate that technological change is actually incorporated into our social and professional lives.

I cannot but think of the sales of digital books.  A few years ago all were touting the benefits and future of digital books.  It was said that their popularity would replace the physical book.  And for a while digital sales were booming.  Digital books currently account for 20% of sales [ ]


The Bata Research & Innovation Cluster will be a part of the changes to the library, and was described as “The funding received from the federal and provincial governments, combined with commitments from the library and generous donors, will revolutionize the research and collaborations that take place at the Bata Library as it becomes a third millennium research, innovation, and entrepreneurship hub.” And while I think the centre sounds like a lovely idea, I am wondering why it needs to be in a library?  Why cannot the library be a place for books and study?


Because to accommodate this new “cluster” the library is having to purge 50% of its collection.  The university assures the public that the 50% being eliminated will be carefully chosen, but such a high number of books being lost cannot but mean that some essentials will be lost.   I am sure the librarian are not making their decisions lightly as to what stays and goes, but there is no one who can convince me that a librarian actually embraces the loss of half of their collection.  There was mention of the increase of digital content which would free up spaces in the library, but there are no guarantees that what you have eliminated in paper will miraculously appear in e-books.  Trent President Leo Groake was quoted in the local Peterborough Examiner as saying libraries cannot just be “museums for old paper” (PE, Oct 12, 2016). []  I cannot even imagine what he was thinking when he said that.  Libraries have never just been “museums for old paper,” but living breathing places of study, knowledge and reflection.


I am not trying to pick on Trent University specifically, although I call on them to rethink what they are doing to their library, and how they are handicapping their students by limiting their access to a well-stocked research library.  I will say that this is part of a worrying trend, where people who clearly do not actually use libraries decide to limit or eliminate libraries and their collections.  Books are the window to our world, the past, the present and the future.  Paper books are still the most favoured way to access information, and while I believe that libraries should embrace new technologies, they shouldn’t eliminate the old ones in a bid to appear modern or on-trend.


Please read Neil Gaiman’s words about the importance of libraries here:

Advice on talking to ladies, 19C

Gentlewomen Aim to Please: Edited from Victorian Manuels of Etiquette, Jerrard Tickell, London: George Routledge & Sons, 1933.


Do not use a classical quotation in the presence of ladies without apologizing for it, translating it.  Even this should only been done when no other phrase would so aptly express your meaning.  Whether in the presence of ladies or gentlemen, much display of learning is pedantic and out of place.

What to wear on your honeymoon, 19C

Gentlewomen Aim to Please: Edited from Victorian Manuels of Etiquette, Jerrard Tickell, London: George Routledge & Sons, 1933.


The dress of the bride during the honeymoon should be characterized by modesty, an attractive simplicity, and scrupulous neatness.  The slightest approach to slatternliness in costume, when all should be exquisitely trim from chevelure to chassure, would be an abomination, and assuredly beget a most unpleasant impression on the susceptible feelings of the husband.

[Because on your honeymoon it would be very bad to hurt the susceptible feelings of your husband with immodesty – after all honeymoons are all about being modest!]


For the Bachelor Girl – Montreal, 1919

Montreal Standard, 8 March 1919, page 10


Tested Kitchenette Equipment

For the batchelor girl, especially the one who wants comfort and cleanliness in cooking in her tiny kitchenette, and at the same time wishes to spend very little money, the proper tools are needed. The Standard Institute has tested out scores of appliances of all sorts, sizes and prices adapted for this use, and this service is “At Your Service,” if individual housekeeping is your lot in life. The appliances can be easily adapted for two, and a good meal can be bought for the coin you give the waiter, which leaves a margin on the daily food budget for savings, recreation, or the patronizing of better classes when you are too tired or hurried to be your own chef.

If you have not got an electric coffee pot or urn, then one of the percolating pots that can sit on the small electric heater will be found very suitable, especially if not too large to heat up quickly.

Either an electric chafing dish with an extra pan or too [sic] for its serviceable electric that it might be used, or the three-storied grill shewn in the picture, which permits of toasting, baking, poaching or even frying, all on the one tiny stove.  Even delectable corn pone or muffins may be baked in the little tin when placed over the coil and covered with one of the other pans. The pan can be uncovered and slipped beneath the heat – for browning when the bread is done.

The toaster shown is the king of toasters, because it automatically reverses the bread – no futile dabs be being made at the hot slice with the fingers. On letting down the side the toast accommodatingly slides down and turns itself.

If tea is wanted instead of coffee there is a most convenient tea infuser, which is merely a large teaspoon with a perforated top, and is just the thing for the solitary drinker of tea.

If the bachelor girl aspires to the last word in economy, and is enterprising enough to put up her lunch instead of buying it, there is a scholarly lunch box of distinguished appearance that will collaborate with her.  Besides the tin case for sandwiches, fruit and cake, there is a thermos bottle to keep soup, chocolate, tea or coffee hot, or lemonade, tea or milk cold, as season or taste may dictate. The thermos bottle idea relieves the “carried luncheon” from the usual criticism.  There is nothing dry or unattractive about such a luncheon with an appetizing hot or cold liquid accompaniment. And there is much more relaxation in eating such a meal quietly, with a magazine or book for company, than in seeking it amid the clamor and rush of the average lunch room that a girl with a salary of $15 a week can afford.

Bad Patriotic Poetry, 1803

Morning Post, 13 August 1803, p 3


Bonaparte’s Answer to John Bull’s Card, Inviting him to England, with a Few Lines concerning his Brothers Taffy, Sawney and Paddy.


Tune “Here we go up, up, up”


My dear Johnny Bull, the last mail

Brought over your kind invitation,

And strongly it tempts us to sail

In our boats, to your flourishing nation,

But prudence she whispers, “Beware,

Don’t you see, that his fleets are in motion;

He’ll play you some d—d Ruse de Guerre,

If he catches you out on the ocean”



Our fears they mount up, up, up,

Our bapers they sink down-y down-y,

Our hearts they beat backwards and forwards,

Our beads they turn round-y round-y.


You say that pot-luck shall be mine,

Fe n’chiens pas ces mots, Monsieur Bull;

But think I can guess your design,

When you talk of a good belly-full.

I have promis’d my men, with rich food,

Their courage and faith reward;

I tell them your puddings are good,

Tho’ your dumplings are rather too bard.


O my Johny, my Johnny,

And O my Johnny, my deary,

Let a few of us come over,

To taste your beet and beer-y.


I’ve read, and I’ve heard much of Wales;

Its mines, its meadows, and fountains,

Of black cattle fed in the vales,

And goats skipping wild on the mountains.

Were I but once safe landed there,

What improvements I’d make in the place!

I’d prattle and kiss with the fair,

Give the men the fraternal embrace.


O my Taffy, my Taffy,

Soon I’ll come, if it please ye,

To riot on delicate mutton,

Good ale, and toasted cheese-y.


Caledonia I long to see,

And if the stout fleet in the North

Will let me go by quietly,

Then I’ll sail up the Firth of Forth,

Her sons, I must own, they are dashing,

Yet Johnny, between me and you,

I owe them a grudge for the thrashing

They gave that poor devil Menou.


O my Sawney, my Sawney

Your bagpipes will make us all friskey,

We’ll dance with your lasses so bonny,

Eat haggis, and tipple your whiskey.


Hibernia’s another snug place,

I hope to get there too some day,

Tho’ our ships they get into disgrace,

With Warren, near Donegall Bay;

Tho’ my good friends at Vinegar-Hill,

They fail’d; be assured, Jack of all this,

I’ll give them French Liberty still,

As I have to the Dutch and the Swiss.


O my Paddie, my paddies,

You are all of you honest creatures,

Art I long to be with you at Cork,

To sup upon fish and potatoes.


A fair wind and thirty-six hours, &

Would bring us all over from Brest,

Tell your ships to let alone ours,

And we’ll manage all the rest.

Adieu! My dear boy, ‘till we meet;

Take care of your gold, my honey,

And, when I reach Threadneedle Street,

I’ll help you to count over your money.


But my fears they mount up, up, up,

And my hopes they sink, down-y, down-y

My heart it beats backwards and forwards,

My head it runs round-y, round-y



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