Sunday, March 29, 2015

Photos of Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, March 28, 2015

Yesterday I made my annual trek to Elmira, Ontario for the maple syrup festival.  It was a sunny but cool Saturday and I enjoyed the festivities.  This year marked the 51st occasion that the town of Elmira has hosted the event, the largest one-day maple syrup festival in the entire world. This year, for the first time, I took the sugar bush tour.  Participants head out to a sugar shack.  They ride part of the way on a school bus and then complete the journey on a hay wagon pulled by a tractor.

sugar shack

making popcorn



There is an antique show at the local hockey arena, the Woolwich Memorial Centre, home of the their Junior B hockey team, Elmira Sugar Kings of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.  Below are photos of a display of antique cars and an antique fire trucks at the antique show.



- Joanne

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day: Toasts, Musings and Special Irish Men and Women


Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland.
Here's to toasting to his health,
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

A Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all and especially to all those who live in the beautiful Emerald Isle.  I don't have any Irish ancestry, but I still celebrate the day.  I always wear green and I always watch The Quiet Man, the 1952 film starring Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne.


Likely born on the west coast of Britain, St. Patrick was a 5th century Christian missionary and bishop of Ireland.  His father, Calpornius, was a Romanized Briton who served as a deacon. Although from a Christian family and the son of a deacon, Patrick was not religious in his early years.

Some of St. Patrick's writings, such as the Confessio (Confession) and the Letter to Coroticus, survive.  According the the Confessio, when Patrick was about 16 years old, he was abducted from the villa of his father by Irish raiders.  He was sold into slavery in Ireland and forced to work the land as a sheepherder.  After six years of captivity, he escaped and returned home.

The experience changed him profoundly and he discovered a new sense of spirituality.  After becoming a Christian cleric, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary, preaching to many and baptizing many.  He became the revered patron saint and national apostle of Ireland.

The year of St. Patrick's birth and his death are unknown, but he is thought to have died on March 17th, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.


* There is a legend that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.  This is highly improbable because it is unlikely there were ever any snakes there.  However, the story may be allegorical, a reference to the driving out of evil, with the snake or serpent symbolizing evil.

Here, in no particular order, are my favourite Irish men and women of note.


James Joyce, Irish novelist and poet
Born: February 2, 1882: Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland
Died: January 13, 1941, aged 58, Zurich, Switzerland


George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
Born: July 26, 1856, Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 2, 1950, aged 94, Ayot St Lawrence, England


Left to right: Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton, The Edge, Bono

U2, Irish rock band, formed in 1976
Members: Bono (Paul Hewson), Adam Clayton, The Edge (David Howell Evans), Larry Mullen, Jr.    



Bono (Birth name: Paul David Hewson), musician, songwriter, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2
Born: May 10, 1960, Dubln, Ireland


Maeve Binchy (Born Anne Maeve Binchy), Irish journalist, writer, novelist
Born: May 28, 1940 (1939 according to the biography Maeve Binchy, by Piers Dudgeon), Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland
Died: July 30, 2012, aged 73, Dublin, Ireland


Maureen O'Hara (Birth name: Maureen FitzSimons), Irish-American actress
Born: August 17, 1920, Ranelagh, Dublin, Ireland


Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, Irish author, playwright and poet
Born: October 16, 1854, Dublin, Ireland
Died:  November 30, 1900, aged 46, Paris, France


Thomas Moore, Irish poet, singer, songwriter
Born: May 28, 1779, Dublin, Ireland
Died: February 25, 1852, aged 72, Bromham, Wiltshire, England


Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist, writer and cleric
Born: Dublin, Ireland, November 30, 1667
Died: October 19, 1745, aged 77, Dublin, Ireland


William Butler Yeats: Irish poet
Born: June 13, 1865, aged 73, Sandymount, Ireland (a coastal suburb of Dublin)
Died: January 28, 1939, Menton, France

May the sound of happy music, and the lilt of Irish laughter, fill your heart with gladness, that stops forever after.

- Joanne

Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day - Ahead of their time: John Stuart Mill and Sir John A. Macdonald

Since today is International Women's Day, I thought it would be interesting to focus on two 19th century men who were ahead of their time in supporting women's rights and upholding the notion of female equality.  One of them was British, the other was a Canadian.  Their ideas regarding the equality of the sexes were truly revolutionary for men of their era.


John Stuart Mill

. . . That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes - the legal subordination of one sex to the other - is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other. The legal subordination of one sex to another - is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.

- John Stuart Mill 

From The Subjection of Women

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was an eminent English philosopher and political economist.  He was born in London on May 20, 1806, the eldest son of James Mill (1773-1836), a Scottish philosopher, historian and economist . Mill learned Greek and Latin at an early age and was an extremely precocious child. He was educated under the watchful eyes of his father, a strict disciplinarian, and studied the works of Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith and others.

As a teenager, Mill became a Utilitarian, a follower of the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), whose work he greatly admired.  Simply put, Utilitarian holds that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of right and wrong.  Mill argued that the equality of women was beneficial to both males and females and to society as a whole.

In 1851, John Stuart Mill married Harriet Taylor (née Harriet Hardy), a philosopher and proponent of women's rights.  An ardent suffragette, she addressed the issue of domestic violence in her writings. She is best known as the author of  an essay, "The Enfranchisement of Women," published in The Westminster Review in 1859.  "The Enfranchisement of Women" not only put forth the case for giving women the vote, it also argued for "equality in all rights, political, civil, and social, with the male citizens of the community”

Harriet Taylor Mill

Harriet died on November 3, 1858 at Avignon, France.  Her husband's essay, The Subjection of Women, which he composed in 1861, was greatly influenced by her line of thought.  The essay first appeared as a pamphlet in 1869, not long after John Stuart Mill had ended a three-year term as the member of the British parliament for Westminster.

In 1866, while still holding a seat in Parliament, Mill put forward a petition for women's suffrage and on May 20, 1867, he made a plea in the House of Commons for female enfranchisement.

. . . the time is now come when, unless women are raised to the level of men, men will be pulled down to theirs. The women of a man's family are either a stimulus and a support to his highest aspirations, or a drag upon them. You may keep them ignorant of politics, but you cannot prevent them from concerning themselves with the least respectable part of politics - its personalities . . .(Hansard, 822)

In 1868, John Stuart Mill supported the Married Women's Property Bill which called for women, rather than their husbands, to be the legal owners of the money they earned and the property they inherited.  That same year, however, an election was held and Mill lost his seat in Parliament. Still, the Married Women's Property Act became law in 1870.

After leaving public office, Mill had the time to make changes to his early draft of "The Subjection of Women" and his work was published in 1869.  In "The Subjection of Women" he was very critical of the Victorian attitude toward marriage, which he likened to female slavery under the dominance of a husband.

With his views on the equality of women and his unwavering support of women's suffrage, John Stuart Mill went against the grain of conventional thinking during the Victorian era.  He bravely challenged the fundamental beliefs of a patriarchal society.  Below is an 1873 caricature of J.S. Mill in Vanity Fair.  The caption reads "A Feminine Philosopher."


Sir John A. Macdonald

Sir John Alexander Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1815,  When he was a boy, he and his family immigrated to the colony of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario).  They settled in Kingston, where John later opened his own law practice and began a political career as a member of the legislature of Upper Canada.

Macdonald was the leading figure in bringing about Canadian Confederation and on July 1, 1867, he was designated first prime minister of the newly created Dominion of Canada.  In the 1880s, he became an advocate for female suffrage at a time when no country allowed women to vote.
In his book Nation Maker, author Richard Gwyn writes that Sir John A. was "the first national leader in the world to attempt to grant women the vote."  According to Gwyn, Macdonald stated it was "merely a matter of time" before change with regard to women's rights would take place.

In 1883, Sir John put forth the first of three suffrage bills in the Canadian House of Commons. Early in 1885, Macdonald proclaimed, that Canada "should have the honour of first placing woman in the position that she is certain, after centuries of oppression, to obtain."  - that is "completely establishing her equality as a human being and as a member of society with man."  Alas, it was not be because all three bills were defeated.

Indeed, it was not until 1918 (33 years after Macdonald's bold proclamation) that royal assent was finally given to a bill that granted the right to vote in federal elections to all Canadian women 21 years of age and over, provided they were not foreign born and met property requirements in certain provinces.

New Zealand holds the distinction of being the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893, although Sweden allowed conditional women's suffrage between 1718 and 1771 to taxpaying women who were listed as "professionals."  American women won the right to vote in 1920 after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

- Joanne