Gilliandr's Blog

Random Historical, Social and Cultural Moments

The Dirge of the Ex-Vacationist, Wiarton, 1935

The Canadian Echo – Wiarton, 25 July 1935

The Dirge of the Ex-Vactionist

I’ve just got back from Howdenvale where I holidayed last week;

My arms are brown, my nose Is red, and I look a perfect freak.

My dainty frocks seem far too small, I fear I’ll thro’ them burst

My skirt clings tightly to my legs- I’d shed it if I durst


I swear I’ll never go again – coming back is such a bore,

My mind’s not on accounts and codes – but seagulls on the shore.

I do not care that stocks are up, nor streamline cars are swish

The only line that interests me is the one that gets the fish.


The pavements hot and dusty tease my callous and my corn,

I long to run along the sands in the cool of early morn.

I hate the noise of street cars that go through the town pell mell,

There is no music half so sweet as the Boarding house cow bell.


I love the Cedar Waxwings that on the berries light,

And the orioles in the orchard showing orange in their flight.

The whip-poor-wills sang me to sleep – though I didn’t need a thing,

But now I’m back where sparrows roost and starlings have their fling.


I loved to search in fragrant woods where beauty spots are found,

Where lady slippers pitcher plants and lilies red abound.

I loved to watch the sunset glow, and the moon so calm and clear,

Far from the cities’ sounds and scents and Hydro’s electrolier.


I grumble as I get to work, then wipe my blinkin’ eye

I just had a bright idea that I think I will give a try

I’ll put away a sum each week out of my blooming kale

And next year have far longer up there at Howdenvale.

Reflections on Identity and DNA testing, 2017

Ancestry in its numerous television commercials presents people who after taking the company’s DNA test take on new identities. Take for example the man who traded his lederhosen for a kilt, or the man who starts eating spaghetti instead of haggis – they find out something from the DNA test and fully embrace new identities. The main thrust of these advertisements besides the selling their testing service, is that we get our identity from our DNA, that our identity is contingent on our “deep ancestry.”

As a historian who works on issues of identity, I have had cause to reflect on how people identify as a particular identity in an immigration context, and how their expressions and relationships with these identities are manifested.  I have also given a great deal of thought to my own identities []

Several months ago I decided to take an Ancestry DNA test, mostly out of curiosity.  And I must admit that it came with surprising results.  With passing of time I can evaluate how I feel about who I am and how I identify myself in light of these revelations.

My DNA results gave me the following results: 43% Irish (Celtic); 27% British; 11% Scandinavian; 8% Eastern European; 7% Iberian; 2% Western European; 2% European Jewish and 1% Asian South.  A very interesting mix, but I will be honest; I won’t be purchasing any cultural costumes, or changing my dietary habits to suit these new groups on my Ancestry pie chart. My sense of identity remains rooted in the way I was raised, where I was raised, and who raised me.  With an English-born mother and an Anglo-Montreal father I am enmeshed in their cultures, as I am enmeshed in the Canadian culture I was born into, and in the region in which I live. I also identify strongly with my father’s Irish and Scottish roots, mainly because Dad identified with them so strongly.  While I am curious as to how and when these different peoples entered my family mix, and would like to know more about them, it does not alter my sense of self.

A have noticed that a lot of the criticisms of these Ancestry commercials are directed at the commercial which features a woman who discovers that she was 26% Native American.  Does this make her native?  Most argue that it doesn’t, and as that person admits to not having known about it previous to the testing results, I would have to agree.  But it is an important question that I think that many find hard to answer.

At the heart of the prickly question of identity is what makes a person Aboriginal or any other group for that matter?  Is it in the blood?  Or is it in the context they were raised?  And it is a tricky thing to answer.  Identity can tie into our blood relations – we get our first sense of self from a sense of belonging into a family, parents, grandparents, etc.  We are a part of the family and we have inherited a number of characteristics from the family notably our appearance.  We also have the influence of the family in terms of heritage and culture, traditions which bind the family group together.  These also bind us to a community.  But to be a part of a community we don’t necessarily have to be related to it, but rather to be a part of it, participate in it, and celebrate it.

But there is also the aspect that perhaps we are missing from the categorical denying of identity based on DNA testing, and that is the feeling of those who do take the tests and find out new information on their families’ history.  Perhaps they feel cheated because they were raised so differently than their genetic inheritance would indicate.  Decisions made by their forbearers to identify in a different way have denied them access to a rich heritage and culture.  Their results from the testing provide them with a reason to embrace and celebrate their history with identities which were likely hidden for reasons of racism or economics.

Ultimately identity is both fluid and multiple.  We feel who we are from a number of relationships and contexts to our community, family, social and economic networks, and experience. And while I find that the Ancestry commercials rather annoying and simplistic, there is something to finding out more of our personal and family histories.  Perhaps it should be framed differently, rather than throwing out one identity for another we should be seeing the DNA testing as a way to embrace more.  If my DNA ethnic mix is an indication, we are all a multicultural people.  What an opportunity it is to understand that we are more than our DNA and are more than our cultural upbringing alone.

The Perfect Secretary, 1922/37

Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage by Emily Post, New York and London, Funk & Wagnalls Co, 1922/37.


The perfect secretary should forget that she is a human being and be the most completely efficient aid at all times and on all subjects.  Her object is to coordinate with her employer’s endeavour, and not make any intrusions, which would be much more likely to affect him as hurdles than as helps.

Queen’s Birthday, Montreal, 1844

Montreal Gazette, 25 May 1844, page 2

Yesterday, being Her Majesty’s birthday, the whole of the military in this garrison, consisting of the Royal Artillery, and the 89th and 93rd Regiments were reviewed on the Old Race Course. The weather was rather unfavourable; but a large concourse of citizens attended, though several, like ourselves, were disappointed, in consequence of the troops having left the ground sooner than was expected.  As we mentioned before, the public offices and and [sic] banks were closed, and all the ships in the harbour were decked out with flags in honour of the day.

Bust of Prince to adorn Parliament, Ottawa, 1919

Montreal Daily Star, 12 November 1919, page 4

Bust of Prince to Adorn Parliament

Erected as mark of country’s appreciation of Royal Visit

Ottawa – Nov 12 – To commemorate the placing of the corner stone in the peace tower by the Prince of Wales and as a small token of the country’s appreciation of the royal visit, a marble bust and pedestal of the Prince will be erected in the new parliament building.

The model already completed out of white clay, was exhibited in the hall of the Commons on Saturday and Sunday and was greatly admired. The Prince is shown dressed in military style and his expression though dignified is tinged with a slight smile that lights up his whole face. On the frieze of the pedestal are the Prince of Wales crests.  The whole is done in heroic size and is a striking resemblance of the Prince.

The artists responsible for the work are Messrs G Grandells and F Caracchio both of New York, and the work was done in collaboration with Mr J Pearson, the architect in charge of the construction of the parliament buildings. The New York artists are widely known and are responsible for many famous artistic creations, among them being the flagpole for the New York Public Library, some 500 grotesque figures for the college of the City of New York won by competition special room for the famous Commodore Hotel, New York, and two big groups done in Terra Cotta representing Justice and Light for Harrisburg Penn and many other works of art.

Why not be independent? 1919

Montreal Daily Star, 27 November 1919, page 4


Common Sense – why be so foolishly dependent on this coal-man when you have all you need, and more, beneath your own cellar floor only waiting you to get it?4ds27nov1919

Children at dinners – advice

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



If you are a mother, you will be wise never to let your children make their appearance at dessert when you entertain friends at dinner.  Children are out of place on these occasions.  Your guests only tolerate them through politeness; their presence interrupts the genial flow of after-dinner conversation; and you may rely upon it that, with the exception of yourself, and perhaps your husband, there is not a person at table who does not wish them in the nursery.

Drinking for Ladies – Advice

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


Young ladies seldom drink more than three glasses of wine at dinner; but married ladies, professional ladies, and those accustomed to society and habits of affluence, will habitually take five or even six, whether in their own homes or at the tables of their friends.


Lady Charged with Marrying a Second Time, London, 1919

Montreal Standard, 26 July 1919, page 1

Lady Charged with Marrying a Second Time

Gave herself up after finding that she had been deceived

Gave $500 to secure divorce

Second husband introduced to first as paying guest

London – July 24 – A remarkable story was told at Brantford police-court when a fashionably dressed woman named Elsie Lillian Wernham aged 32, was charged with bigamously marrying Lawrence Ferneaux.

Detective-inspector Prothero stated that the defendant called at Twickenham police station and gave herself up.  She made a statement in which she said that Ferneaux came to stay at her boarding house she kept.  He represented himself as the son of a barrister who was very wealthy and personally acquainted with Mr Justice Darling.  He persuaded her that he could obtain a divorce for her in Canada so that it could be kept quiet. She gave Ferneaux £100 to secure a divorce. Later he assured her he had done so, so she married him.  Subsequently she found out that he had never taken any steps and she gave herself up.

Mr Wernham, the defendant’s husband said that he was living apart from his wife, and had done so since 1917.  In 1918 he went to her house, and then met Ferneaux who was wearing officer’s uniform, and asked witness if he would let him get a divorce on behalf of his wife, as Ferneaux wished to marry her.

About three months later witnesses again visited his wife’s house, when she astonished him by saying that he had been divorced from her.  He replied, “That is absolutely news to me.”  His wife then related the whole story, and added that Ferneaux had told her that he (witness) had been sent to prison for seven years for bigamy and that their child had been put in a convent.

Later in the proceedings he gave evidence and said that Mrs Warnham assured him she had obtained a divorce, and he believed her.

Both Mrs Wernham and Ferneaux were committed for trial, the former being admitted to bail.

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