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Celebrate our 150th in style starting with the Jan. 8 Mayor's Levee

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Laurel Beechey - The World is a Stage

Happy New Year! Happy Birthday Canada! It should be a fun year as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

It starts when The Tillsonburg Historical Society hosts the Mayor’s Levee January 8th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Annandale National Historic Site, in the program room. Our current mayor, Stephen Molnar, will be welcoming Canada’s first Prime Minister, John Alexander Macdonald, who is dropping in to kick off the Town’s celebrations.

Ah, you may well be thinking that he should be long gone and buried, and you would be correct, but the THS Pioneers persuaded him to come back this year for a couple of visits. Time travel like this is quite wonderful as he can come back as any age he chooses to be to in any time period her prefers! I believe his fiancée, Agnes Bernard, will be accompanying him on this occasion. She would become John’s second wife.

As all good Canadian school children learn, John A. was instrumental in persuading Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick together to form the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Granted, we are starting the celebrations a wee bit early, but being Canadian we like to party and we can extend the celebrations to last a whole year!

John was quite the interesting man. Like many politicians he started out as a lawyer with the reputation for ingenuity and quick-wittedness as a defence attorney and later corporate law. He was also a businessman in many land deals. He did not get into politics until 1843 when he was elected as an alderman in Kingston. From then on he moved upward with the Conservatives.

What he didn’t have was an easy family life. His first wife Isabella Clark, a cousin, developed an encumbering, enigmatic illness which came and went for thirteen years, ending in death. She had a son in 1847, John A. Jr., but he died at 13 months. A second followed in 1850 but he was brought up mostly by an aunt as his father was so heavily involved in politics. He later became premier of Manitoba.

John married Susan Agnes in February 1867 and she became Canada’s first, First Lady. Much hope for a happier life was dashed when their only child, Mary, was born with mental and physical deformities.

The now 'Sir John A.' tried to compensate his melancholy due to his difficult home life and financial problems with politics and drinking.

“Many Canadians seem willing to overlook, if not excuse, Macdonald’s drinking problem, viewing it as a human failing in a man weighted down by human tragedy. I kind of like the idea that the father of our Confederation wasn’t the guy who couldn’t tell a lie; he was the guy who liked to drink,” Canadian journalist and author Pierre Berton once told CBC television. (Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s Patriot Statesman at Library & Archives Canada.)

The Mayor’s levee will be your first chance to meet the Father of Canada.

As yet I don’t have a lot of information on what will be happening in Tillsonburg through the year, except for Annandale National Historic Site.

Confederation created the Dominion of Canada and you are invited to Dominion Days, a monthly series of lectures on Wednesdays that examine how Tillsonburg’s citizens celebrated the milestone years of Confederation. On the calendar are: Jan. 18th - 1st Dominion Day in Tillsonburg 1867; Feb. 15th - 25 years later 1892; March 15th - Our Golden Anniversary 1917; April 12th - 75 Years Young 1942; May 17th - 100 Years of Confederation 1967; and June 14th - Canada 125 1992.

These stories from the past will be at 2 p.m., presented by Patricia Phelps, the ANHS curator, followed by refreshments. There is limited seating so please reserve your seat in advance. Each talk is $10 or a series pass for $50.

What is your group, church, or even family planning to do to celebrate? Canadians created a spark of patriotism with the B.C. Olympics, which has sparkled occasionally since, but it is time to bring our patriotism to the forefront again for this big birthday party year. No one is a flashy as the U.S. with celebrations, but it is time we stood up to the plate to celebrate our country, our way.

‘Our way’ is up to you to determine, let’s see what we can do in Tillsonburg! 

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