Sunday, 11 August 2013

1885 - Governor-General's Visit

“Though Lord Landsdowne’s visit to Hamilton is unofficial, and he comes as the guest of a private citizen, His Excellency’s reception last night lacked none of the elements of a public demonstration, excepting that he did not have to listen to the addresses which are inevitable on such occasions.”1
1 “Our Vice-Royal Visitor : The Governor-General in Hamilton”
Hamilton Spectator. August 11, 1885
Word had got around Hamilton that Canada’s Governor-General was to arrive at the Grand Trunk Railway on the 6:30 p.m. train from the west.
Long before the scheduled arrival, the area in and around the Stuart Street railway station was packed with interested citizens eager to see Canada’s official head of state:
“By the time the train arrived, the main platform was so thronged that people were shoved off when the crowd, in their excitement and eagerness to catch a glimpse of even the locomotive that carried vice-royalty, swayed to and fro.”1
Security for the governor-general and crowd control responsibilities fell to members of the local militia, the Thirteenth Battalion :
“The non-commissioned officers had a hard time to keep the crowd from pressing in around the two red lines and trespassing upon the small, scared space reserved for the prominent citizens.
“There was one especially – a swarthy, black-eyed sergeant with a husky voice and a cockney accent – made himself extremely warm and miserable by hustling people about whether they were or were not in the way. For about half an hour, he was the busiest man in Hamilton. He hadn’t a minute to himself.”1
 It was pretty warm for everyone gathered to see the governor-general, it was a hot, long wait:
“It was pretty warm, waiting there in the sun, and the train was half an hour late, and a good many people had been waiting in the sun for an hour.
“The crowd began to grow a little impatient, when the whistle of the approaching train was heard. The train moved slowly in, and the passengers at the windows stared in amazement at the crowd, and the soldiers, and evidently didn’t understand what the fuss was about. They were not aware in what distinguished company they had been travelling.”1
There had been some sort of missed communication among those responsible in directing the long-anticipated train to the appropriate track for the reception:
“To the chagrin of the gentlemen waiting to receive His Excellency, the train did not come in on the first track, as had been expected, but on the second track and they were obliged to descend to the indignity of hurrying across the track to the second platform and pushing their way through crowd, which had rushed over towards the car which contained the governor-general.”1
The unexpected change in track for the arrival set off a scene of pandemonium with the soldiers and others struggling to restore order.
Eventually, the governor-general and entourage were safely escorted to a waiting carriage. The soldiers’ hopes for a peaceful conclusion to the reception at the train station were dashed however. Their effort was hampered by a loud and unruly citizen:
“Just before the procession started, an incident occurred which only attracted attention of those who stood quite near. An elderly Irishman, very much the worse for liquor, clung to one of carriage wheels, and, looking up at Lord Landsdowne said : ‘Where are your Kerry tenants? What about those Kerry tenants of yours? What have you done wid’em anyhow? Tell us about them Kerry tenants?’
“Mayor Mason looked uncomfortable, fidgeted in his seat, and scowled at the man. Lord Landsdowne must have heard him, but he did not turn his head in that direction, and the look of imperturbable good humor did not vanish for an instant from his face.”1
What the reception to Lord Landsdowne was not filled with long, wordy speeches, such was not the case on the following day.
When the governor-general made an appearance at the Wentworth County Court House, he had to politely listen to four formal addresses.
 The Hamilton City Council’s address was read aloud by the mayor.
Part of Lord Landowne’s reply included the following : “You have reminded me of the prominence of Hamilton as the headquarters of some of our most important industries. The position which the city has won for itself in this respect needs no testimony of mine. Its steady and uninterrupted progress has been, by universal consent, one of the most conspicuous illustrations of the energy and enterprise which the British race has displayed upon this continent. Of the unrivalled beauty of its situation, I have already seen enough to make me understand that its inhabitants are just proud of it.”2
2  “Vice-Royal Reception : Lord Landsdowne Receives Four Addresses: Hamilton Spectator. August 12, 1885.
That same day, the Oddfellows organization, the national organization of which was meeting in Hamilton, had hired Dundurn Park for their members to enjoy:
“Dundurn was alive with people. Seldom has it held such a crowd. They filled the grandstand, bordered the baseball field a dozen deep, swarmed on the lawns, rode on the roller coaster, flirted beneath the trees, bought cigars at the beer stand, flew through the air on swings, played catch, and kept up an incessant conversational hum with a chorus of happy laughter that well nigh drowned the shrieks of the mighty engines on the adjacent railway tracks. And it takes a somewhat extensive crowd to do that.”3
3 “The Annual Conclave : Men of the Triple Link in Session.” Hamilton Spectator. August 13, 1885
A highlight of that afternoon in Dundurn Park was the baseball game. As the governor-general was staying with his friend Donald McInness at Dundurn Castle, he ventured over to the game:
“His Excellency viewed part of the game – and it was probably the first time he had ever seen a baseball match played. He was accompanied by several prominent citizens, and Mayor Mason was observed giving him pointers on base hits, strikes, called balls and other little features of the struggle on the diamond. His Worship (Mayor Mason) is an old-time tosser, and he still maintains a lively affection for the game. Very few matches are played in the city that his genial face does not smile upon from the grandstand; and what he doesn’t know about baseball as is played today, can be put in a very small scrapbook.”3
The following morning, in a somewhat quieter atmosphere than that which attended his arrival, the governor-general was back at the Grand Trunk Railway station to catch a train back to his home in Ottawa.

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