Queen Victoria’s Jubilee : A Loyal Ode for Canada
By William Murray
Rise, Canadians, leal and loyal,
Sons of leal and loyal sires,
Rise and grandly greet the royal
Ruler of our hearts and lyres!
Herald her across the ocean,
‘Mid the universal glee,
Loving reverence and devotion
On her joyful jubilee.
Greet her as Queen of Britain,
As the Empress of the east,
She upon whose shield is written:
Power by virtue is increased.
Empress whose domains measure
More than Caesar could conceive,
And whose people at their pleasure
Wealth from the wilderness weave.
Whose renown as Queen and woman –
Was sagacious, good and great –
Rings and rolls wherever human
Songs or sighs reverberate.
While she’s held the mighty sceptre,
Ne’er by her to evil lent.
God the King of kings has kept her
People prosperous and content.
While she reigns no fear or fraction
E’er can hope to shake her throne,
While she lives in aim and action
British hearts will be her own.
Who in history can match her?
Or to what high soul serene
Can historians attach her
Peerless record as Queen?
As a woman, wife and mother –
All that renders home divine –
Who can point to such another
In earthly royal line?
Call from gracious heaven upon her
All that she may still require
To maintain the empire’s honor
‘Gainst revolt or foreign fire.
Nor, let this be e’er forgotten
‘Mid our charges and our cheers;
That the fields our fathers fought on –
Fought and won – in bygone years,
With fame in song and story
And the love which they allured,
Still are ours with all the glory
And the greatness they secured.
This remembrance, let Canadians –
English, Irish, Scotch and all,
Still united stand with radiance
Though the starry heavens should fall.
While Britannia’s glorious banner
Floats supreme o’er soul and sea,
Proud Canada’s in like manner
Shall forever flourish free.
Long may our lov’d Queen reign o’er us!
And with loyal hearts may we
Bravely face whate’er’s before us
Till the eternal jubilee!
- Hamilton, June 18, 1887
On March 21, 1887, a meeting was held in the Hamilton City Council Chambers to discuss how the city should celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne.
The city council decided to appoint a special committee to consider the question. At this initial gathering to consider what possibly could be done locally, members of the public and representatives from various city organizations were given the opportunity to express initial thoughts on the matter.
It was moved and carried that Mayor McKay chair the meeting. After remarking how pleased he was to see so many organizations represented, Mayor McKay turned the floor over to Mr. William Hancock, of the St. George’s Society.
Mr. Hancock reminded those gathered at the meeting that it was the St. George’s Society which had originated the idea of having a massive local celebration of the Queen Victoria’s fiftieth anniversary on the throne. He was glad that the idea had begun to take shape, and now wanted the city hall to provide the resources needed to carry off a demonstration worthy of Hamilton.
Mr. Hancock suggested that there be a grand parade of military, secret and national societies. Also, he liked the idea of a musical event to be held at the Crystal Palace.
Mr. Hover, of the Sons of England, the next speaker, felt the municipal government alone should not be responsible for all the expenses would be necessary to carry off the celebrations in proper style.
Hover suggested that a committee could be set up to solicit private subscriptions to help defray costs. Mr. W.H. Gillard strongly endorsed that idea, saying: “ we are, as Canadians, loyal to our Queen, and as loyal citizens, everybody should be willing to pay his share towards the celebration.” 1
1 “The Queen’s Jubilee : Steps Taken to Celebrate It in Hamilton” Hamilton Spectator. March 22, 1887
To decorate and out the Crystal Palace in shape for a concert, as well pay any costs for a military display, parade and regatta would involve a budget somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000.
Mr. Littlehales, of the Philharmonic Society, said that two pieces, The Creation and Sermon, had been selected for the Jubilee musical celebration. Also, Littlehales reported that initial plans had been made for a musical programme using a choir of about 1,000 children’s voices. Mr. Littlehales strongly pushed for the renovation of the Crystal Palace, saying: “There would be given there three concerts such as never have been heard before.”1
Alderman Peter Balicher’s speech to the meeting warned that, as chairman of the city of Hamilton’s finance committee, he wondered whether the city government could pay for a public demonstration :
“The finance committee, he was sorry to say, had many difficulties – even extravagances – to struggle against, and might not be able to do as well as some might expect. It was quite possible to go too far in the way of spending the people’s money for the purposes of rejoicing.”1
Alderman Mason agreed with his fellow member of city council regarding funding. He also felt that the celebration should last just one day, although he was of the opinion that there should be something substantial in Hamilton’s observation of the Queen’s Jubilee, not “mere empty enthusiasm.” He welcomed the idea of a monster musical event being the high point of the celebration.
Tuesday June 21, 1887 was a rainy day in the Hamilton area, but the inclement weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the thousands of people in the city ready to celebrate Victoria the Good’s fiftieth anniversary of her ascension to the throne.
The morning trains brought thousands of visitors to the city:
“By noon, the streets were crowded to such an extent as to prevent anybody going anywhere in a hurry.”2
2 “Jubilee in Hamilton : Celebrating the 50th Year of the Queen’s Reign” Hamilton Spectator. June 22, 1887.
The downtown streets had been lavishly decorated with flags, bunting and evergreens. The roofs of the large buildings were, in the words of a Spectator reporter, “a mass of fluttering ensigns of all descriptions, but the old Union Jack always waved above all the rest.”2
About 1 p.m., just as the monster procession was beginning to gather, a heavy rainstorm began, forcing the postponement of the start of the parade. After an hour and a half of steady rain, the skies finally started to clear and the rain ceased. A 3 o’clock starting time for the parade was then announced.
Led by Hamilton Police Chief Hugh McKinnon, riding “in front on a fiery barb.” The procession began by heading north on James Street to Cannon street.
The Thirteenth Battalion band, looking “exceedingly steady and soldier-like” led a contingent of veterans “ who had served their time at the grim trade of war.”2
The sailor veterans had constructed a miniature model of a man o’ war, which they displayed on the back of a wagon. The model was “surrounded by trophies of arms, and guarded by weather-beaten old salts, who regarded it with something akin to affection.”2
The old veterans on parade proved to be an inspiring sight as they were men “who had fought in nearly every part of the world, they marched
Along with heads erect and tread as firm as if, in imagination, they were once more young and in harness again.”2
The national societies turned out in large numbers for the parade, each man wearing a badge and other regalia denoting his affiliation:
“The uniformed societies executed difficult drill movements in remarkably good style.”2
The parade wound its way through several major downtown streets before ending up at the Crystal Palace grounds where it had been intended to hold a military display. However, the heavy rain of the early afternoon forced cancellations of the scheduled exhibition of the Thirteenth Battalion and the uniformed societies. The grounds were simply too wet and muddy to allow that portion of the day’s roster of events to proceed.
Around the band shell in the Crystal Palace grounds, a sizeable crowd gathered for a series of speeches by local dignitaries.
The first speaker was Hamilton Mayor Alex. McKay, “who was received with the great enthusiasm, which is manifested when he appears before the citizens of Hamilton.”
The mayor referred to Queen Victoria’s reign as “the brightest epoch in the history of the Empire as well as England.” After saying that he was delighted to see the “the enthusiastic displays of loving loyalty” which had characterized the celebration of the Queen’s jubilee in Hamilton, Mayor McKay introduced te keynote speaker of the day, Mr. Adam Brown.
The always-popular Mr. Brown received a rousing ovation as he approached the podium. He then proceeded, “in a fine-spirited voice” to trace the progress of both the Dominion of Canada and the British Empire during the fifty years since Victoria became queen.
The Spectator in recounting Adam Brown’s “splendid address” noted that it “frequently roused his great audience to applause:”
“Fifty years ago, (he said) Canada had few cities. Montreal was a monster of 50,000 inhabitants; Toronto had 10,870; Halifax, 14,000; St. John, 12,000; Charlottetown, 3,500; Hamilton, 14,000; while Winnipeg had Fort Garry and a few dozen whites; Quebec’s population was not taken separately from the surrounding country then. Nor in all Canada were there any cities of sufficient importance to warrant their separation from the surrounding country. Today the country is girded about by populous cities.”2
After delineating in great detail the advances made by Canada, Mr. Brown went on to talk of Queen Victoria’s influence as regards the relationship between the United States and the British Empire:
“Nothing had deepened this friendship more than the warm, anxious sympathy shown by the Queen when the president of the republic, a few years ago, struck down by an assassin’s bullet, was suffering the long illness which ended in his death Then the Queen sent under the ocean messages of sympathy and begged to be informed daily of the condition of the illustrious sufferer. And when the end came, no message of condolence to the bereaved widow was more full of tender sympathy than that of Queen Victoria. Her attitude at this time of national affliction had done more than anything else to strengthen the ties which bind the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race.”2
Adam Brown’s stirring address ended with him quoting from Lord Tennyson’s jubilee ode to her majesty:
“Fifty years of ever-broadening commerce!
Fifty years of ever-brightening science!
Fifty years of ever widening empire!
You, the mighty, the fortunate,
You, the lord – territorial,
You, the lord – manufacturer,
You, the hardy, laborious,
Patient children of Albion,
You, Canadian, Indian,
All your hearts be in harmony,
All your voices in unison,
Singing ‘Hail to the glorious
Golden year of her Jubilee!”
During the afternoon, the Crystal Palace was the scene of the school children’s concert:
“Rising tier above tier, from the floor of the platform nearly to the roof, were a thousand children, nearly all girls, and all but a few of the little misses dressed in white relieved by colored sashes and flowers. It was like a big and beautiful hanging garden – a hanging garden far more precious than the famous one of the ancient oriental queen, for each flower in it was a bright blossom of humanity.”2
The programme for the children’s concert consisted mainly of patriotic song, including the little-known song titled “May God Preserve Thee, Canada” written by Hamilton’s own R. S. Ambrose.
During the concert, as Mr. Courtney sang Rule Britannia sol, there was a near-panic situation caused by the collapse of a temporary platform on which a group of boys had gathered to get a better view of the performance:
“Nobody was hurt, but a great many were frightened.”
Professor G. W. Johnson, who was in charge of the music at the concert, came in for praise regarding how he handled the huge choir throughout the concert:
“He had the children under perfect control, and conducted them with an ease that bespoke a thorough understanding and mutual confidence on the part of chorus and conductor.”2
Later in the day, the Crystal Palace again was the location of a major musical event, the production of The Creation.
The interior of the Crystal Palace was profusely decorated:
“In front of the platform, on brackets attached to the pillars, were busts of Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart, Haydn in the center. Along the edge of the gallery (which was festooned with colored cloths) were hung framed portraits of Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Bach and Wagner, beside group pictures of German musicians.”2
As regards the performance itself, the four to five hundred singers performed more than satisfactorily :
“When it is remembered that the body of singers which sang last night was the largest and the ablest that has ever sung in this town, it will readily be understood that the choral work was delightful, inspiring and grandly effective.”2
Miss Louise Elliott made a noticeably good impression by her charming appearance, prompting the Spectator reporter to call her a “finished artiste who made free (perhaps too free) though not offensive use of the tremolo, but has sufficient good taste to discard it altogether when to use it would be a fault”2
The events of the second day of jubilee celebrations in Hamilton were carried off as smoothly as those of the first day.
Even though threatening weather prevailed early in the afternoon, the athletic tournament was largely attended. The event had been organized by Hamilton Police Chief McKinnon and was so successful that the Spectator reporter declared that :
“Yesterday afternoon, athletic sports entered upon a new era of popularity and are likely in the future to become of the institutions of the city.”3
3 “The Queen’s Jubilee : Second Day of the Grand Celebration” Hamilton Spectator. June 23, 1887
Police Chief McKinnon’s ambition was to make Hamilton the athletic center of North America. To that end, he completely reorganized the manner in which previous athletic tournaments had been conducted:
“Usually three or four different contests would be going on in as many different parts of the ground, and each would be hemmed in by a little crowd who kept themselves and everybody else from seeing, impeded the athletes and kept up such a crowding as to make it too uncomfortable for any but the most ardent to care to try to see them.”3
In the past, if a rope had been put around the field where competitions were held, the public would be effectively restrained from bothering the athletes, “but enough badge-bearers, referees and supernumeraries would be allowed in the ring to effectually obscure the view of outsiders, while the games themselves were carried on as if it was simply a business to be got through with, and quite oblivious to the fact that it would be more interesting to the public if some information regarding the personnel of the contests and the comparative results as the games proceeded were confided to them.”3
The ball ground at Dundurn Park was the site of the athletic tournament. A large section of the ground, in front of the two grandstands, was fenced off by wooden barriers which effectively kept out the crowds. Inside the wooden barriers, only the athletes and officials were allowed:
“This gave an arena as clear as the ball field is when a game is on, and as each competition began, the chief announced, in stentorian voice, the nature of the event, identified the contestants, and as the contest proceeded announced the results of each throw or jump, so that everyone could keep track of what was going on.”3
Among the events presented were foot races, hammer throwing, hop, step and jumping, shot-putting and pole-vaulting. While the athletic events took place, dancing exhibitions were given on a raised platform in the center of a fenced-off area:
“There were four or five Irish jig dancers in costume with bright, green stockings and tail coats, and the dancing was very good, although they danced to a Highland bagpipe.”3
The evening event of the second day of jubilee celebration included a production of the oratorio Samson by the Jubilee Festival Society. The production was successful from an artistic standpoint:
“There was hardly a flaw in the choral singing. All the magnificent choruses with which the work abounds were so sung that their grandeur and beauty must have been felt by the least impressionable listener.”3
From a financial standpoint, the second day’s musical event at the Crystal Palace was less successful than anticipated. Hardly more than one thousand people attended the concert:
“When it is considered what great expense has been incurred to make these concerts in every way worth of the great occasion in the celebration of which they were such important features, there seems to be good ground for complaint against the musical public of Hamilton for failing to patronize these, the most ambitious and artistically-pleasing successful concerts ever given in te city.”3
Perhaps a part of the reason for the disappointing attendance at the Crystal Palace convert was that, only a few blocks away, there was, at the same time, a free band concert, followed by an immense fireworks display put on at Dundurn Park by Hamilton’s own Professor Hand.
For two days, Hamiltonians and visitors from neighboring towns, villages and rural areas gathered together to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the much-beloved Queen Victoria.