Swiss Miss and the Bright Spirit Legacy

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Monday 10 February 2021

A day is what we make it.

For many of us one day blends into another with no real distinction one from the other, but if history teaches us anything at all, each day can be remembered for something of significance.

But significance must be noticed, must be noted.

Otherwise, change will occur without our noticing it.

Until it is too late to do anything about it.

Take, for example, the fall of Baghdad.

No, not the Iraqi War (9 April 2003), further back.

In a span of less than 200 years (1206 – 1405), horsemen swept across Eurasia from Mongolia to Poland in the west, to Korea in the southeast, creating history’s largest contiguous empire, spreading the bubonic plague across much of the recorded world, and killing as many as 57 million people in continuous conquest, including battles, sieges, early biological warfare, and massacres.

In a span of less than two weeks (29 January to 10 February 1258), the Siege of Baghdad, laid by Mongol forces and allied troops, surrounded, captured, and sacked Baghdad, which was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate at that time.

The Mongols were under the command of Hulagu Khan who had been instructed by his brother Möngke to further extend his rule into Mesopotamia but not to directly overthrow the Caliphate.

Möngke, however, had instructed Hulagu to attack Baghdad if the Caliph Al-Musta’sim refused Mongol demands for his continued submission to the khagan and the payment of tribute in the form of military support for Mongol forces in Persia.

Hulagu marched on Baghdad, demanding that Al-Musta’sim accede to the terms imposed by Möngke on the Abbasids.

Although the Abbasids had failed to prepare for the invasion, the Caliph believed that Baghdad could not fall to invading forces and refused to surrender.

Hulagu subsequently besieged the city, which surrendered after 12 days.

During the next week, the Mongols sacked Baghdad, committing numerous atrocities.

There is debate among historians about the level of destruction of library books and the Abbasids’ vast libraries.

The Mongols executed Al-Musta’sim and massacred many residents of the city, which was left greatly depopulated.

The siege is considered to mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age (8th century to the 14th century), during which the caliphs had extended their rule from the Iberian Peninsula to Pakistan, and which was also marked by many cultural achievements in diverse fields.

If the Siege of Baghdad has anything to teach us at all, it is that nothing lasts forever.


Even today, the nations of the world are convinced that they cannot fail, they cannot fall, that they are all-powerful, but short of total nuclear annihiliation where nobody wins, even the greatest nations can be defeated by enemies that one cannot seriously believe could beat us.

We prepare for enemies we see as equals and disregard those who in desperation will fight against all odds for that which they believe in.

How soon we forget how Vietnam stood up against the French, the Americans and the Chinese.

Flag of Vietnam

Above: Flag of Vietnam

How soon we forget how Afghanistan has been invaded by the British, the Russians and the Americans, and has never truly surrendered and never truly will.

Flag of Afghanistan
Above: Flag of Afghanistan

If this day in history has anything to teach us, it is that bloodshed can arise from the most minor of incidents.

The St Scholastica Day riot took place in Oxford, England, on 10 February 1355, Saint Scholastica’s Day. 

The disturbance began when two students from the University of Oxford complained about the quality of wine served to them in the Swindlestock Tavern, which stood in the centre of the town.

The students quarrelled with the taverner.

The argument quickly escalated to blows.

The inn’s customers joined in on both sides, and the resulting melee turned into a riot.

The violence started by the bar brawl continued over three days, with armed gangs coming in from the countryside to assist the townspeople.

University halls and students’ accommodation were raided and the inhabitants murdered.

There were some reports of clerics being scalped.

Around 30 townsfolk were killed, as were up to 63 members of the university.

Artists impression of two groups of individuals fighting; a black flag is flying above one group, and some people are bearing cudgels

I think of my experience as a student and of how quickly violence could erupt among us.

I think of my career as a teacher and I recall moments of anger that arose without any warning at all from students suddenly disgruntled over one thing or another, usually trivialities like the use of mobile phones in class or the quality of photocopies received or homework assignments not completed.

Could anger erupt in the school where I teach in Eskisehir (1 March to 1 September 2021)?

Above: Bridge over the Porsuk River, Eskisehir

Certainly, I have already borne witness to challenging students forever dissatisfied and sensitive staff one needs to navigate one’s way around.

What sparks tempers?

Often and simply, a bad day, finally frustrating to a point of no return where a person can no longer keep silent, no longer remain calm and uncomplaining.

Could anger turn violent?

We believe this is highly unlikely.

But then it was once believed that Rome will never be conquered, Constantinople will never fall, Baghdad will never burn.

Rome Montage 2017.png
Above: Images of modern Rome (Italy)

We are diplomatic, patient and passionate professionals, and it is assumed that those who choose to pay hard-earned money for instruction in English are not the type to react in rage to those moments of disappointment that we may unconsciously fuel.

Hagia Sophia
Above: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) (Turkey)

And yet all it takes is something as trivial as a glass of bad wine and one complaint too many and the spark is lit…..

Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, Kadhmain Shrine
Above: the Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, Baghdad (Iraq)

From Ungava Bay in northern Québec to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia, the French dominated the North American continent.

The British held a strip of land, a mere Thirteen Colonies, along the American Eastern Seaboard, from Maine to Georgia.

The Spanish, who held the Americas from Chile to Kansas, including Florida and the Caribbean, would be a matter for another day, another series of wars.

It was a war between a swimmer and a swordsman.

The French, with their powerful army, preferred fighting in Europe and then devoting their resources to their oversea possessions.

The British, with their almighty navy, preferred fighting abroad to clashing on the Continent.

Again, arrogance would be the downfall.

French and indian war map.svg

The French never imagined that this day would come when they would cede their mighty empire to the maudit Anglais in the Treaty of Paris of 10 February 1763.

The British never imagined that a mere Thirteen Colonies would defy the mighty Empire in a bid for independence only a decade later.

If history teaches us anything it is that life is rarely what we think it will be.

When Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) married her beloved Prince Albert (1819 – 1861), on 10 February 1840, little did she imagine that she would outlive him by nearly another half century.

Above: Victoria and Albert

When Jefferson Davis (1808 – 1889) accepted the Presidency of the Confederate States of America on 10 February 1861, little did he imagine that the South would lose the Civil War a mere four years and massive numbers of deaths later.

Above: Jefferson Davis

Little did the French realize that their brutal suppression of the failed Yen Bai Mutiny of 10 February 1930 designed to prevent further insurrection would eventually be the pyre upon which their colonial ambitions in Vietnam would burn two decades later.

Flag of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Army.svg
Above: The flag of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Army, used in Yen Bay mutiny (1930).

Early in 1953, the French asked US President Eisenhower (1890 – 1969) for help in French Indochina against the Communists, supplied from China, who were fighting the First Indochina War.

Eisenhower sent Lt. General John W. “Iron Mike” O’Daniel (1894 – 1975) to Vietnam to study and assess the French forces there.

John W. O'Daniel.jpg
Above: John W. O’Daniel

Chief of Staff Matthew Ridgway (1895 – 1993) dissuaded the President from intervening by presenting a comprehensive estimate of the massive military deployment that would be necessary.

Matthew B. Ridgway.jpg
Above: Matthew Ridgway

Eisenhower warned against American intervention in Vietnam stated prophetically on 10 February 1954 that “this war would absorb our troops by divisions.

He was right.

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Above: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ultimately, estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed were 3,812,000.

The conflict resulted in 58,318 US fatalities.

Above: Images of the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975)

Between 1953 and 1975, the United States was estimated to have spent $168 billion on the war (equivalent to $1.38 trillion in 2019).

This resulted in a large federal budget deficit.

Other figures point to $138.9 billion from 1965 to 1974 (not inflation-adjusted),10 times all education spending in the US and 50 times more than housing and community development spending within that time period.

General record-keeping was reported to have been sloppy for government spending during the war.

It was stated that war-spending could have paid off every mortgage in the US at that time, with money leftover.

Flag of the United States
Above: Flag of the United States of America

More than 3 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, some 1.5 million of whom actually saw combat in Vietnam.

James E. Westheider wrote that:

At the height of American involvement in 1968, for example, 543,000 American military personnel were stationed in Vietnam, but only 80,000 were considered combat troops.

Conscription in the United States had been controlled by the President since World War II, but ended in 1973.

As of 2013, the US government is paying Vietnam veterans and their families or survivors more than $22 billion a year in war-related claims.

The Vietnam War by James E. Westheider

By the war’s end, 58,220 American soldiers had been killed, more than 150,000 had been wounded, and at least 21,000 had been permanently disabled.

The average age of the US troops killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years.

According to Dale Kueter:

“Of those killed in combat, 86.3% were white, 12.5% were black and the remainder from other races.”

Vietnam Sons: For some the war never Ended by Dale Kueter, Paperback |  Barnes & Noble®

Approximately 830,000 Vietnam veterans suffered some degree of posttraumatic stress disorder (“shell shock“)(PTSD).

Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD in unprecedented numbers, as many as 15.2% of Vietnam veterans, because the US military had routinely provided heavy psychoactive drugs, including amphetamines, to American servicemen, which left them unable to process adequately their traumas at the time.

An estimated 125,000 Americans left for Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft, and approximately 50,000 American servicemen deserted.

In 1977, US President Jimmy Carter granted a full and unconditional pardon to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers with Proclamation 4483.

Official portrait, 1977
Above: Jimmy Carter

As the Vietnam War continued inconclusively and became more unpopular with the American public, morale declined and disciplinary problems grew among American enlisted men and junior, non-career officers.

Drug use, racial tensions, and the growing incidence of fragging—attempting to kill unpopular officers and non-commissioned officers with grenades or other weapons—created severe problems for the US military and impacted its capability of undertaking combat operations.

By 1971, a US Army colonel writing in the Armed Forces Journal declared:

By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and non commissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.

The morale, discipline, and battle-worthiness of the US Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.”

Armed Forces Journal cover July August 2013.jpg

Between 1969 and 1971 the US Army recorded more than 900 attacks by troops on their own officers and NCOs with 99 killed.

Mark of the United States Army.svg

The Vietnam War called into question the US Army doctrine.

Marine Corps General Victor H. Krulak heavily criticised Westmoreland’s attrition strategy, calling it “wasteful of American lives with small likelihood of a successful outcome.

In addition, doubts surfaced about the ability of the military to train foreign forces.

Furthermore, throughout the war there was found to be considerable flaws and dishonesty by officers and commanders due to promotions being tied to the body count system touted by Westmoreland and McNamara.

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Above: Victor Krulak (1913 – 2008)

And behind the scenes Secretary of Defense McNamara wrote in a memo to President Johnson his doubts about the war:

The picture of the world’s greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.

Robert McNamara official portrait.jpg
Above: Robert McNamara (1916 – 2009)

Failure of the war is often placed at different institutions and levels.

Some have suggested that the failure of the war was due to political failures of US leadership. 

Above: The White House, Washington DC (USA)

The official history of the US Army noted that:

Tactics have often seemed to exist apart from larger issues, strategies, and objectives.

Yet in Vietnam the Army experienced tactical success and strategic failure.

Success rests not only on military progress but on correctly analysing the nature of the particular conflict, understanding the enemy’s strategy, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of allies.

A new humility and a new sophistication may form the best parts of a complex heritage left to the Army by the long, bitter war in Vietnam.

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Others point to a failure of US military doctrine.

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Above: The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia (USA)

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated that:

The achievement of a military victory by US forces in Vietnam was indeed a dangerous illusion.

The inability to bring Hanoi to the bargaining table by bombing also illustrated another US miscalculation, and demonstrated the limitations of US military abilities in achieving political goals.


As Army Chief of Staff Harold Keith Johnson noted:

If anything came out of Vietnam, it was that air power couldn’t do the job.

Above: Harold Keith Johnson (1912 – 1983)

Even General William Westmoreland admitted that the bombing had been ineffective.

As he remarked:

I still doubt that the North Vietnamese would have relented.” 

Gen William C Westmoreland.jpg
Above: William Westmoreland (1914 – 2005)

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a secret memo to President Gerald Ford that:

In terms of military tactics, we cannot help draw the conclusion that our armed forces are not suited to this kind of war.

Even the Special Forces who had been designed for it could not prevail.”

Henry A. Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, 1973-1977.jpg
Above: Henry Kissinger

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Above: Gerald Ford (1913 – 2006)

Hanoi had persistently sought unification of the country since the Geneva Accords, and the effects of US bombings had negligible impact on the goals of the North Vietnamese government.

The effects of US bombing campaigns had mobilised the people throughout North Vietnam and mobilised international support for North Vietnam due to the perception of a superpower attempting to bomb a significantly smaller, agrarian society into submission.

The Vietnam War POW /MIA issue, concerning the fate of US service personnel listed as missing in action, persisted for many years after the war’s conclusion.

The costs of the war loom large in American popular consciousness.

A 1990 poll showed that the public incorrectly believed that more Americans lost their lives in Vietnam than in World War II.

President Ronald Reagan coined the term “Vietnam Syndrome” to describe the reluctance of the American public and politicians to support further military interventions abroad after Vietnam.

Ronald Reagan's presidential portrait, 1981
Above: Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004)

According to a 2004 Gallup poll, 62% of Americans believed it was an unjust war.

US public polling in 1978 revealed that nearly 72% of Americans believed the war was “fundamentally wrong and immoral.”

Nearly a decade later, the number fell to 66%.

In the past three decades, surveys have consistently shown that only around 35% of Americans believe that the war was fundamentally wrong and immoral.

When surveyed in 2000, one third of Americans believed that the war was a noble cause.

Logo Gallup.svg

The Vietnam stab-in-the-back myth asserts that the United States’ defeat in the Vietnam War was caused by various American groups, such as civilian policymakers, the media, anti-war protesters, the US Congress, political liberals, or the Democratic Party.

Used primarily by right-wing warhawks, the name “stab-in-the-back” is analogous to the German stab-in-the-back myth, which claims that internal forces caused the German defeat in World War I.

Unlike the German myth, the American variant lacks an antisemitic aspect.

Jeffrey Kimball wrote that the US defeat “produced a powerful myth of betrayal that was analogous to the archetypal Dolchstoss legend of post-World War I Germany“.

To Reason Why: The Debate about the Causes of U.S. Involvement in the  Vietnam War: Kimball, Jeffrey P.: 9781597523875: Books

The myth was a “stronger version of the argument that antiwar protest encouraged the enemy, suggested that the antiwar movement might in the end commit the ultimate act of treachery, causing the loss of an otherwise winnable war“.

During the War, hearings were held in the US Senate regarding the progress of the War.

At hearings of the Senate Preparedness Investigating Subcommittee (SPIS), generals testified that the failure of the War in 1967 was caused by excessive civilian restraint on target selection during the bombing of North Vietnam, which the subcommittee agreed with.

Joseph A. Fry contends that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and SPIS, by blaming the media and antiwar protesters for misrepresenting the war, cultivated the stab-in-the-back myth.

Coat of arms or logo

Although much of the American public had never supported the War, General William Westmoreland blamed the American media for turning the country against the war after the 1968 Tet Offensive.

That narrative was followed by later writers such as Guenther Lewy and Norman Podhoretz.

One study estimated that until the Offensive, American pundits supported their government’s war policy four to one and afterward, they switched to being two to one against it.

Many history textbooks state that the Offensive was followed by public opinion turning against the War, and some accounts mention media coverage.

Tet Offensive map.png

Another element of the myth relates to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords in which the stab-in-the-back interpretation holds that obstruction in Congress prevented the United States from enforcing the accords.

According to Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, that interpretation of the accords has “more or less been rejected by most scholars in the field,” but it is alive in popular discourse.

Vietnam Peace Treaty 1973.jpg

In 1978 and 1979, Nixon and Kissinger respectively published best-selling memoirs based on access to still-classified documents that suppressed the decent interval theory and “propped up the Dolchstoßlegende,” according to the historian Ken Hughes.

Fatal Politics: The Nixon Tapes, the Vietnam War, and the Casualties of  Reelection (Miller Center Studies on the Presidency): Hughes, Ken:  9780813939353: Books

In 1982, Harry G. Summers Jr. wrote that the idea that internal forces caused the defeat in Vietnam was “one of the more simplistic explanations for our failure… this evasion is rare among Army officers.

A stab-in-the-back syndrome never developed after Vietnam.

American Strategy in Vietnam eBook by Col. Harry G Summers Jr. -  9780486121550 | Rakuten Kobo United States

However, according to Ben Buley, Summers’ book is actually one of the most significant exponents of the myth although Summers proposes a more subtle version in which the military is criticized, but the primary responsibility for the defeat lies with civilian policymakers.

The New American Way of War

In his 1998 book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam, Jerry Lembcke compared the stab-in-the-back myth with the myth that returning veterans were spat upon by and insulted by antiwar protesters, but no spitting incident has ever been proven to have occurred.

According to Lembcke, the stab-in-the-back myth was more popular during the war, and the spitting myth gained prominence only in the 1980s.

By Jerry Lembcke - The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of  Vietnam: 1st (first) Edition: Jerry Lembcke: 8580000995657:  Books

In his 2001 book The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning and Recovery, Wolfgang Schivelbusch denied the existence of a Vietnam stab-in-the-back myth comparable to the German one.

Although he wrote that some US rhetoric was “quite similar to that voiced by right-wing Germans during the Weimar Republic,” he argued that the Vietnam War “did not entail national collapse, was not followed by a humiliation like that of the Versailles Treaty, and did not polarize the nation or lead to civil war“.

The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery by Wolfgang  Schivelbusch

Jeffrey Kimball wrote that Schivelbusch “was incorrect on virtually every count.”

To Reason Why by Jeffrey P. Kimball 9780075571322 | eBay

Kimball writes that the stab-in-the-back charge was resurrected in the 2004 US presidential campaign as the Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, was criticized for opposing the war after he had returned from Vietnam.

John Kerry official Secretary of State portrait.jpg
Above: John Kerry

In 2004, Charles Krauthammer wrote in The New Republic that broadcaster Walter Cronkite had caused the US to be defeated:

“Once said to be lost, it was.”

Charles Krauthammer.jpg
Above: Charles Krauthammer (1950 – 2018)

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Above: Walter Cronkite (1916 – 2009)

In 2017, David Mikics wrote that “the Vietnam stab-in-the-back argument is now largely dead.”

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age: Mikics, David: Fremdsprachige  Bücher

Personally, I think all warhawks should be immediately placed at the front of the battlelines with nothing more than the protection afforded to the civilian population of the place they wish to see invaded.

I think the resulting war will be one of the shortest ever seen.

Datei:War Hawk.svg – Wikipedia

In the post-war era, Americans have struggled to absorb the lessons of the military intervention.

As General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the war, noted:

First, we didn’t know ourselves.

We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country.

Secondly, we didn’t know our South Vietnamese allies.

And we knew less about North Vietnam.

Who was Ho Chi Minh?

Nobody really knew.

So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we’d better keep out of this kind of dirty business.

It’s very dangerous.

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Above: Maxwell Taylor (1901 – 1987)

Eskisehir, Turkey, Thursday 1 April 2021

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Above: Eskisehir station

As followers of my Facebook posts know, on Saturday 20 March 2021, I made a daytrip to the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Clockwise, from top: Söğütözü skyline, Anıtkabir, Gençlik Parkı, Kızılay Square, Kocatepe Mosque, Atakule
Above: Images of Ankara

And, without planning to, I visited the Anit Kabir – the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881 – 1938) Mausoleum.

Atatürk’s monumental mausoleum sits high above the city with an abundance of marble and an air of veneration and sanctity.

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Above: The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), lies in the Anıtkabir Mausoleum

The memorial straddles a hill in a park about 1.2 km south of Tandogan, the closest Ankaray-line metro station to the entrance.

It is said that there is a free shuttle that regularly zips up and down the hill from the entrance, but I didn’t see it.

I ended up walking from the main train station to Anit Kabir and later took a cab from there to the city quarter of Gaziosmanpasa.

Above: Arjantin Caddesi, a street in Gaziosmanpaşa

The main entrance to the Anit Kabir complex, after you are scanned for explosives and weaponry and all unnecessary gear is locked away for safekeeping by security, and after a short walk along the sole access avenue allowed, is via the Lion Road, a 262-metre walkway lined with 24 lion statues – Hittite symbols of power used to strength of the Turkish nation (or at least its government).

The path leads to a massive courtyard, framed by colonnaded walkways, with steps leading up to the huge tomb on the left.

Road Of Lions In Anitkabir, Ankara Editorial Image - Image of mustafa,  ataturk: 83447735

To the right of the tomb, the extensive museum is said to display Atatürk memorablia, personal effects, gifts from famous admirers, and recreations of his childhood home in Salonika, Greece, and school in Bitola, North Macedonia (both then part of the Ottoman Empire).

It is said that just as revealing as all the rich artefacts are his simple rowing machine and huge multilingual library, which includes tomes he wrote.

Above: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Downstairs, in the Museum, it is said, there are extensive exhibits about the Turkish War of Independence (1919 – 1922) and the formation of the Republic, moving from battlefield murals with sounnd effects to overdetailed explanations (in English and Turkish) of post-1921 reforms.

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Above: Images of the Turkish War of Independence (1919 – 1922)

(I write “it is said” as the Museum, like much of Turkey’s tourist infrastructure, remains closed during these pandemic times.)

Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 virion

(Atatürk initiated a rigorous program of political, economic, and cultural reforms with the ultimate aim of building a modern, progressive and secular nation-state.

He made primary education free and compulsory, opening thousands of new schools all over the country.

He also introduced the Latin-based Turkish alphabet, replacing the old Ottoman Turkish alphabet.

Turkish women received equal civil and political rights during Atatürk’s presidency.

In particular, women were given voting rights in local elections by Act #1580 on 3 April 1930 and a few years later, in 1934, full universal suffrage.

His government carried out a policy of Turkification, trying to create a homogeneous and unified nation.

Under Atatürk, non-Turkish minorities were pressured to speak Turkish in public, while non-Turkish toponyms (names) and last names of minorities had to be changed to Turkish renditions.)

Flag of Turkey
Above: Flag of Turkey

(I wonder what my Turkified name would be…..Adem Solak?

Kerr, a Scottish clan toponym, means “left-handed” in the original Gaelic, which is in Turkish “solak“.)

Above: The Clan Kerr tartan

As you approach the tomb itself, to the left and right are gilded inscriptions, which are quotations from Atatürk’s 1932 speech celebrating the Republic’s 10th anniversary.

Local Guides Connect - Anıtkabir in Çankaya, Ankara, Turkey - Local Guides  Connect

(Another speech, his five-day address on the Turkish War of Independence, in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey between the 15th and the 20th of October 1927, is available in English at the gift shop to the right of the tomb as one leaves the courtyard.)

A Speech: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: 9786052957776: Books

The visitors remove their hats as they enter this Holy of Holies and necks bend to view the ceiling of the lofty hall, lined in marble and sparingly decorated with 15th and 16th-century Ottoman mosaics.

At the northern end of the hall stands a mighty marble cenotaph, cut from a single piece of stone weighing 40 tonnes.

The actual tomb is in a chamber beneath it.

May be an image of indoor

Like myself, many Western travellers remark on the Turks’ devotion to Atatürk.

In response, the Turks reply that the Turkish state is a result of his energy and vision.

Without him there would be no Turkey.

From the era of Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini, Atatürk stands as a beacon of statesmanship and proves that radical reform, deftly handled, can be hugely successful.

The Turks’ gratitude to Atatürk manifests itself throughout the country, including in Eskesehir and other places I have visited in Turkey.

He appears on stamps, banknotes and statues across the country.

His name is affixed to innumerable bridges, airports and highways.

And seemingly every house in which he spent a night from the southern Aegean to the Black Sea is now a museum.

Turkish schoolchildren learn by rote and can dutifully recite Atatürk’s life story.

I have already had students quote something he has said to me.

But might his history be more complex than the reality of who he was?

For example, though he was an avowed champion of Turkish culture, he preferred opera to Turkish music.

The problem is the reality of the man and the strength of the legend are a fine line to tread, a balancing act requiring great dexterity, for foreigners like me, where one must be extremely sensitive and cautious to not create the slightest perceived insult to his memory or legacy.

In fact, any shadow upon his visage is considered not only inappropriate but can also be judged by the authorities as illegal.

I have mentioned my visit to Anit Kabir and my cautious attempts to comprehend this father of revolution as Heidi Hoi found herself in a similar delicate balancing act trying to comprehend another legendary personage…..

Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday 19 March 2019

Heidi comes from Switzerland and is young enough to be my daughter.

This means that she comes from a nation that has not been directly involved in a military conflict since Napoleonic times and being born a half century after the Vietnam War this conflict has no real resonance with her except for being a war with a well-known name because the Americans were involved.

Flag of Switzerland
Above: Flag of Switzerland

(Americans are blessed and cursed with the ability to publicize themselves perhaps better than any other nation on the planet.)

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Above: Madison Avenue, New York City (USA)

As followers of my blog know, I have been recounting the ongoing travel adventures of Heidi Hoi aka Swiss Miss for quite some time.

So far, I have written of her travels in Myanmar and Sri Lanka and I have recently begun a series of her travels in Vietnam.

When we last met up with our hardy heroine she was exploring the wonders and mysteries of Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital…..

Above: Hanoi skyline

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Standing 40 metres high, the central flag tower is the most recognizable feature of the Imperial Citadel and is often used as a symbol of Hanoi.

This was the centre of ancient Hanoi and served as the political centre for eight centuries.

Located in Ba Dinh, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is close to many other tourist attractions.

The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, is an intriguing relic of Vietnam’s history and, signifying its historical and cultural importance, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Also known as the Hanoi Citadel, many artefacts and items dating back to between the 6th and 20th centuries were excavated in 2004, including foundations of old palaces, ancient roads, ponds and wells.

On top of these discoveries, archaeologists also found bronze coins, ceramics and pottery from China and many places in Asia, all of which demonstrate a close trading relationship in the area.

Visitors should head for the display room that features interesting excavated items and mock-ups of the citadel itself.

Main Gate - Citadel of Hanoi.jpg
Above: Main gate of the Citadel of Hanoi

Perhaps because both Heidi and I have travelled the globe our views regarding nationalism may differ from folks with little travelling experience.

I think it is normal and healthy to have a love of country, a heart for your homeland, because the land that raised you normally remains significant to your life.

Heidi is Swiss and Switzerland is her home.

I am Canadian and will always think of Canada as home.

A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.
Above: Flag of Canada

Where nationalistic fervor fails is when love of country is used to justify any and all actions committed in the name of a nation.

The attitude that bellows at persons of conscience to “love it or leave it” when they object to what a government is doing.

Love It or Leave It': Resurrecting the Worst of America's Political Legacy  | by David Hinckley | Medium

It seems so perverse that a person is condemned as unpatriotic when they insist that their nation act in a manner that is morally correct while those who march to the beat of jingoistic rheotric that screams “my country right or wrong” are hailed as heroes.

If you love your country, shouldn’t you expect the government of that country to act in a moral and responsible way that makes a person proud to be from that country?

Carl Schurz quote: Tis not, 'my country right or wrong'; tis, 'my country...

Being patriotic does not mean blindly whitewashing all the nation’s mistakes of the past, but instead it means taking responsibility for those errors and learning from them for the benefit of everyone.

There is not one single nation that doesn’t have blood on its hands for one reason or another.


Canada’s past, though perhaps not as bloody as many other nations, has had moments of shame to atone for: its treatment of First Nations, its involvement in questionable military conflicts, its spotty environmental record….

A projection of North America with Canada highlighted in green

Switzerland’s past as well is not blemish-free despite its neutrality stance: the caches of questionable monies from nations hiding the source of their inquitious gains, the sale and manufacture of arms to nations whose morality has been less than admirable at times, its questionable compliance with the policies of certain WW2 atrocities…..

Location of Switzerland (green) in Europe (green and dark grey)

I find myself feeling more and more cynical about a nation when its enthusiasm for flag-waving is blatantly exuberant.

Too many flags seems to me to be too little thought of the significance of a nation’s actions.

When a flag becomes more significant than the people it is supposed to represent than that flag loses its significance.

For example, when standing at attention when the flag is flown and the national anthem is sung becomes more important than the lives and rights of its citizens than that flag and that anthem do not represent its people as they should.

What Colin Kaepernick Started - The New York Times
Above: Colin Kaepernick US national anthem protest

In national capitals one does expect a certain amount of flag-waving if for no other reason than they are capitals of nations.

I expect to see more American flags per square mile in Washington DC than I do in Washington State.

So, it is no wonder that the tallest flag in Vietnam is in Hanoi.

Above: Flag Tower of Hanoi

The Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long (Vietnamese: Hoàng thành Thăng Long) is a complex of historic imperial buildings located in the centre of Hanoi, first constructed in 1011 under the reign of Emperor Ly Thai To of the Ly dynasty.

The royal enclosure was first built during the Ly dynasty (1010) and subsequently expanded by the Tran, Lê and Nguyen dynasties.

It remained the seat of the Vietnamese court until 1810, when the Nguyen dynasty chose to move the capital to Hué.

The ruins roughly coincide with the Hanoi Citadel today.

The royal palaces and most of the structures in Thăng Long were in varying states of disrepair by the late 19th century with the upheaval of the French conquest of Hanoi.

By the 20th century many of the remaining structures were torn down.

Only in the 21st century are the ruin foundations of Thăng Long Imperial City systematically excavated.

In mid-1945 the Citadel was used by the Imperial Japanese Army to imprison over 4,000 French colonial soldiers captured during the  Japanese coup d’état in French Indochina in March 1945.

The central sector of the imperial citadel was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site on 31 July 2010 at its session in Brazil, as “The Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long – Hanoi”.

The royal palaces and edifices were largely destroyed in the late 19th century.

The few remaining structures within the royal compound are the Doan Mon Gate, marking the southern entrance to the royal palace, the Flag Tower, the steps of Kinh Thiên Palace and the Hậu Lâu (Princess’ Palace).

Remains of the Imperial City were discovered on the site of the former  Ba Dinh Hall when the structure was torn down in 2008 to make way for a new parliament building.

Various archaeological remains unearthed were brought to the National Museum to be exhibited.

Thus far only a small fraction of Thăng Long has been excavated.

Among the structures related to the Imperial City is the Flag Tower of Hanoi (Cột cờ Hà Nội).

Rising to a height of 33.4 m (41 m with the flag), it is frequently used as a symbol of the city.

Built in 1812 during the Nguyên dynasty, the tower, unlike many other structures in Hanoi, was spared during the French colonial rule (1885–1954) as it was used as a military post.

The Flag Tower (Cột cờ) is composed of three tiers and a pyramid-shaped tower with a spiral staircase leading to the top inside it.

The first tier is 42.5 m wide and 3.1 m high; the second – 25 m wide and 3.7 m high and the third – 12.8 m wide and 5.1 m high.

The second tier has four doors.

The words “Nghênh Húc” (English: “To welcome dawn’s sunlight“) are inscribed on the eastern door, the words “Hồi Quang” (“To reflect light“) – on the western door and “Hướng Minh” (“Directed to the sunlight“) – on the southern door.

The tower is lighted by 36 flower-shaped and 6 fan-shaped windows.

The national flag of Vietnam is on top of the tower.

Emblem of Vietnam
Above: National emblem of Vietnam

From 1954 to 1975, the People’s Army of Vietnam, had its headquarters within the Citadel, coded D67.

A connecting tunnel allowed for emergency evacuation in case of an attack.

The house and tunnel are situated to the north of Kinh Thien Hall.

To visit this historic site, tourists need to buy an entrance ticket of VND 30,000.

Students and elderly people pay VND 15,000.

D67 house was built in 1967, with modern architectural style, 60-centimeter wall and good soundproofing system.

At this place, exhibits are tools that comrades in the Politburo and the Central Military Commission, the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff used in the resistance war against the US.

Above: The D67 building, Hanoi Citadel

Another issue that causes world travellers a conundrum in trying to decide the proper attitude to display is the notion of a nation’s military and its proper role. in protecting its people.

We read of headlines of Myanmar’s military coup and wonder at the motivations of those who have taken power from those who had democratically been chosen by the people.

Are these soldiers truly defending their country from the corruption of leaders who failed in their duty to serve their country, or is the military simply using the excuse of corruption to seize control of a nation powerless to resist them?

Flag of Myanmar
Above: Flag of Myanmar

We think of nations that came into being because of a revolution – even Switzerland revolted against the Hapsburgs to become the Confederation it is today – and we wonder whether reform is even possible without the violence and bloodshed of a military solution.

Could Atatürk have become the Father of Turkey without his military skills?

Would Turkey have existed without Atatürk?

Could Ho Chi Minh have become the Father of Vietnam without his violent resistance?

Would Vietnam have existed without Uncle Ho?

French Revolution

The One Pillar Pagoda is a modest temple is constructed from wood based on a single stone pillar crafted into the shape of a lotus blossom and has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1955 when the base was destroyed during the French evacuation.

The pagoda is often used as a symbol for Hanoi and remains one of the city’s most revered sights in a beautifully tranquil garden setting with benches provided for comfortable contemplation.

The shrine inside the pagoda is dedicated to the Vietnamese Buddhist deity Quan Am with her effigy nestled inside the tiny three square metres temple.

Rising from one pillar in the centre of an elegantly square shaped lotus pond, the One Pillar Pagoda is said to represent a lotus flower growing up out of the water.

Built between the years of 1028 and1054 during the reign of Emperor Ly Thai Tong of the Ly Dynasty, the One Pillar Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most iconic temples.

Chua Mot Cot.jpg

The One Pillar Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Một Cột) formally belongs to an architecture complex called Diên Hựu tự  (Extended Blessing Pagoda).

The pagoda is a historic Buddhist temple in the central Ba Dinh district (near the Thang Long Citadel).

The most famous part of this architecture complex is Liên Hoa Đài (Lotus Station), a temple with special structure: a building laid on one pillar.

The original pagoda was built in 1049, had some additions and was perfected in 1105. 

It is regarded alongside the Perfume Temple, as one of Vietnam’s two most iconic temples.

Thiên Trù Pagoda.jpg
Above: Thiên Trù Pagoda (The Perfume Temple), Hanoi

The One Pillar Pagoda was built by Emperor Ly Thái Tóng (1000 – 1054), who ruled from 1028 to 1054.

According to the court records, Lý Thái Tông was childless and dreamt that he met the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who handed him a baby son while seated on a lotus flower.

Khasarpana Lokesvara.jpg
Above: Avalokiteśvara holding a lotus flower

Lý Thái Tông then married a peasant girl that he had met and she bore him a son.

The Emperor constructed the temple in gratitude for this in 1049, having been told by a monk named Thiền Tuệ to build the temple, by erecting a pillar in the middle of a lotus pond, similar to the one he saw in the dream.

Above: A statue of emperor Lý Thái Tông

The temple was located in what was then the Tây Cấm Garden in Thạch Bảo, Vĩnh Thuận district in the capital Thăng Long (now known as Hanoi).

Before the pagoda was opened, prayers were held for the longevity of the monarch.

Above: Small shrine devoted to Avalokitesvara Boddhisatva inside the pagoda

During the Lý dynasty era, the temple was the site of an annual royal ceremony on the occasion of Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha (480 – 400BC).

A Buddha-bathing ceremony was held annually by the monarch, attracting monks and laymen alike to the ceremony.

The monarch would then free a bird, which was followed by the people.

Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra).jpg

The temple was renovated in 1105 by Emperor Ly Nhân Tông (1066 – 1128), a bell was cast, and an installation was attempted in 1109.

Lý Nhân Tông.JPG
Above: Statue of Ly Nhân Tông

However, the bell, which was regarded as one of the four major capital works of Vietnam at the time, was much too large and heavy, and could not be installed.

Since it could not be tolled while left on the ground, it was moved into the countryside and deposited in farmland adjacent to Nhất Trụ Temple.

This land was widely inhabited by turtles, so the bell came to be known as Chuông Quy Điền, which means Bell of the Turtle Farmland.

An Nam tứ đại khí là gì?

At the start of the 15th century, Vietnam was invaded and occupied by China’s Ming dynasty.

Ming China in 1415 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor

In 1426, the future Emperor Lê Loi attacked and dispersed the Chinese forces, and while the Ming were in retreat and low on weapons, their commanding general ordered that the bell be smelted, so that the copper could be used for manufacturing weaponry.

Le Loi statue.JPG

During the Nguyên dynasty, the pagoda was restored and rebuilt in 1850 and 1922.

In 1954, the French destroyed the pagoda.

In 1955, the Ministry of Culture of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam restored the pagoda and the Lotus Station based on the architectural style that the Nguyên dynasty had left.

More puzzling for travellers to ponder are questions that revolve around religion and the importance of it in people’s lives.

I believe that for all its human failings religion does serve the function of lending significance to the important stages of individuals: birth, maturity, marriage, death.

The symbolism and the ceremony that religion lends to these events make these moments meaningful.

Religion, if a faith is truly followed as its tenets were meant to be, makes us reflect on the morality of our actions and advocates proper respect and reverence for all of Creation and for one another.

Those who kill in the name of faith are not faithful to their faith at all.

Religion is the foundation of law and order and justice, but part of the conflict that religion poses is whether adherence to the tenets of faith should be compelled upon our citizens to ensure their correct and moral behaviour.

And here is where the water gets murky.

Above: The Buddha, Laozi and Confucius in a Ming Dynasty painting

For faith is a personal belief, an individual’s choice.

And one must wonder how real a person’s faith is when it is compelled rather than chosen.

Above: “Three laughs at Tiger Brook“, a Song dynasty (12th century) painting portraying three men representing Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism) and Buddhism laughing together.

This question lurks beneath the surface of many a nation’s politics and can be seen muddying the waters of US affairs, dividing opinions across Turkey and eroding away personal liberty in theocracies like Iran.

Even nations who shie away from identification as religious rest stops still cannot deny their peoples’ rights to practice (or not) a faith that matters to them.

Canada is in no way as blatant in professing religious zeal as our American cousins claim to be, but to deny the presence and strength of religion in Canada is to deny much of the compassion and courtesy that is part of the Canadian character.

Switzerland too, despite its reputation as a land of silent banking gnomes, is tolerant of differing denominations of Christianity within its borders and struggles with its national insecurities as to how accepting it should be of faiths outside the Christian Church, a church, whether Reformed or Roman Catholic, that still matters to many.

Vietnam, as Communist in practice as democracy in America is, should be all accounts void of religion, as love of nation should not be superseded by love of notions of hope beyond ourselves.

And yet here, even in the capital, temples and pagodas and shrines still matter to the people.

Ba Đình Square (Vietnamese: Quảng trường Ba Đình) is the name of the square in Hanoi where President Hô Chi Minh read the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on 2 September 1945.

It is named after the Ba Dinh Uprising, an anti-French rebellion that occurred in Vietnam in 1886–1887 as part of the Cân Vuong movement.

When Hô Chi Minh died, the granite Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum was built here to display his embalmed body.

It remains a major site of tourism and pilgrimage.

Ba Dinh Square is in the center of the Ba Dinh district, with several important buildings located around it, including the President’s Palace, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and the National Assembly Building.

Above: Ba Dinh Square panorama

Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square is one of the most visited attractions in Hanoi.

It is the final resting place of Hô Chi Minh, the most iconic and popular leader of Vietnam, known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’.

His body is preserved here in a glass case at the Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum in central Hanoi (albeit against his wishes).

Flag of Vietnam in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum.jpg

Security is tight and visitors should dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts and miniskirts) and everyone has to deposit their bags and cameras before getting in.

For visitors, a trip to Uncle Hô’s final resting place can be an extraordinary experience as it is not just an average attraction:

It’s a part of a unique history.

Above: Changing of the Guards, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

(I saw a similar Changing of the Guards at Anit Kabir.)

Started in 1973, the construction of the mausoleum was modeled on Lenin’s Mausoleum in Russia and was first open to the public in 1975.

Mauzoleumlenina (cropped).jpeg
Above: Lenin’s Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow (Russia)

The granite building means a great deal for many locals as it ensures that their beloved leader ‘lives on forever’.

Security is tight and visitors should dress with respect (no shorts, sleeveless shirts and miniskirts) and everyone has to deposit their bags and cameras before getting in.

Visitors are not allowed to stop and hold the constant queue up as the place is constantly busy.

Uncle Hô’s remains are sent yearly to Russia for maintenance, therefore the mausoleum is closed usually from October onwards.

It’s best to recheck with your hotel tour desk before visiting.

Admission is free but donations are accepted.


Though it was inspired by its Russian predecessor, Uncle Hô’s Mausoleum incorporates distinct Vietnamese architectural elements, such as the sloping roof.

The exterior is made of grey granite, while the interior is grey, black and red polished stone.

The Mausoleum’s portico has the words “Chủ tịch Hồ-Chí-Minh” (President Hô Chi Minh) inscribed across it.

The banner beside says “Nước Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam Muôn Năm” (“Long live the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam“).

Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh, Hà Nội.jpeg

The structure is 21.6 meters (70.9 feet) high and 41.2 meters (135.2 feet) wide.

Flanking the Mausoleum are two platforms with seven steps for parade viewing.

The plaza in front of the Mausoleum is divided into 240 green squares separated by pathways.

The gardens surrounding the mausoleum have nearly 250 different species of plants and flowers, all from different regions of Vietnam.

The materials that constitute the building, from exterior granite to interior wood, were contributed by people from all over the country.

Even the garden that surrounded the Mausoleum has a collection of plants and bonsais donated from all regions in Vietnam.

This shows the Vietnamese’s wish to forever keep their dear father/grandfather company.

In fact, the construction of the Mausoleum was against Ho Chi Minh’s will. As he passed away, he wished to be cremated and his cremation to be scattered all over the country, so that land can be saved for agricultural production.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: How to visit the sacred site in Vietnam | CNN Travel

Despite his wishes, the embalmed body of President Hô Chi Minh is preserved in the cooler, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honour guard.

The body lies in a glass case with dim lights.

The mausoleum is generally open to the public.

Arriving at the Mausoleum, Heidi is surprised to find a line up to hundreds of metres long with thousands queuing to pay their respects.

Meanwhile, tour buses of Westerners began arriving from the big hotels in Hanoi to be ushered into the Mausoleum by immaculately presented guards in white uniforms, gloves and braided caps.

An elderly father in poor health wishes to see the resting place of Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader who fought for the unification of Vietnam and died before it was realised.

Looking around, Heidi sees other elderly and frail people leaning on the arms of a son or daughter, some being pushed in village-made wheelchairs.

For war veterans it means a lot to visit Ho Chi Minh before infirmity overtakes them.

For many it is their first time visiting the capital city.

A security guard patrolling the queue comes over to usher her to the front of the file.

Foreigners are not expected to stand in the sun for hours as the rural poor have to.

Many elderly people travel to pay their respects at the mausoleum

By then, Heidi had caught the mood.

This was more than a tourist jaunt.

It needs to be done authentically by queuing in sun or rain, with relatives or strangers, sharing food and stories.

Queuing is a small price to pay for this privilege.

It is an experience not to rushed, but to be sensed and remembered while memory lasts.

The queue of people whose lives had been spent toiling in paddy fields and factories, under the rule of foreign powers, have come to pay respect to the man who had led them to change all that.

What were two hours queuing in the heat compared to that?

The line shuffles forwards, while veterans share mangoes and drinks with one another.

For two hours no one queue-jumps as tour groups do.  

At the entrance everyone is instructed to walk briskly around the humidity-controlled glass cabinet Uncle Ho lies in, not to talk or make any noise, no hands in pockets, no photography, phones turned off.

Reverently under subdued lighting, the visitors walk around Uncle Ho for one silent minute.

Emerging into the bright sunlight is seen older citizens with tears on their cheeks.

Some have saved for years, travelled two days and queued two hours to pay their respects and be in his presence for that one silent minute, and then a rush to catch the night train back to their villages.

It is difficult for a Canadian or a Swiss to fully comprehend such reverence paid to a person one probably never met in person.

I wonder:

Would I queue for hours to view the embalmed bodies of John A. Macdonald (Canada’s first Prime Minister) or Terry Fox (the marathon runner who ran across half of Canada on an artificial leg, ultimately sacificing his life to raise money for cancer research)?

Photograph of Macdonald circa 1875 by George Lancefield.
Above: John A. Macdonald (1815 – 1891)

A young man with short, curly hair and an artificial right leg runs down a street. He wears shorts and a T-shirt that reads "Marathon of Hope"
Above: Terry Fox (1958 – 1981)

Would Heidi patiently line up for hours to catch a glimpse of Swiss folk hero William Tell?

Above: William Tell is arrested for not saluting Duke Albrecht Gessler’s hat

I wonder why the Russians and the Vietnamese insist that the bodies of their great leaders be on display.

Is the love and reverence that Turks have for Atatürk somehow diminished by his body being hidden from public view?

Is the idea behind this morbid display of mortal remains to remind people that Lenin and Uncle Ho actually existed?

Is there a notion that seeing their bodies means that their spirits continue to guide and guard their homelands?

Above: Lenin’s Mausoleum

Hồ Chí Minh (1890 – 1969), né Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyễn Tất ThànhNguyễn Ái QuốcBác Hồ, or simply Bác (‘Uncle‘) was a Vietnamese revolutionary and politician.

He served as Prime Minister of North Vietnam (1945 -1955) and President (1945 – 1969).

Ideologically a Marxist-Leninist, he served as Chairman and First Secretary of the Workers’s Party of Vietnam.

Hồ Chí Minh led the Viêt Minh independence movement from 1941 onward, establishing the Communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 and defeating the French Union in 1954 at the Battle of Diên Biên Phú, ending the First Indochina War.

He was a key figure in the People’s Army Of Vietnam and the Viêt Công during the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1955 to 1975.

The Democratic Republic of Vietnam was victorious against the United States and the Republic of Vietnam, reunified with the Republic of South Vietnam in 1976.

Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Ming City in his honour.

Ho officially stepped down from power in 1965 due to health problems, and died in 1969.

Ho Chi Minh 1946.jpg
Above: Ho Chi Minh, 1946

The details of Hồ Chí Minh’s life before he came to power in Vietnam are uncertain.

He is known to have used between 50 and 200 pseudonyms. 

Information on his birth and early life is ambiguous and subject to academic debate.

At least four existing official biographies vary on names, dates, places and other hard facts while unofficial biographies vary even more widely.

Above: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at night

Aside from being a politician, Hô was also a writer, a poet and a journalist.

He wrote several books, articles and poems in Chinese, French and Vietnamese.


Far away across the ocean
Far beyond the sea’s eastern rim
Lives a man who is father of the Indochinese people
And his name, it is Ho Chi Minh

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

Lời dịch - The Ballad Of Ho Chi Minh - Ewan MacColl

Hồ Chí Minh was born as Nguyễn Sinh Cung in 1890 in the village of Hoàng Trù (the name of the local temple near Làng Sen), his mother’s village.

Although 1890 is generally accepted as his birth year, at various times he used four other birth years: 1891, 1892, 1894 and 1895.

From 1895, he grew up in his father Nguyên Sinh Sac‘s village of Làng Sen, Kim Liên, Nam Dàn and Nghê An Province.

Tượng Nguyễn Sinh Sắc.jpg

He had three siblings:

  • his sister Bạch Liên (Nguyễn Thị Thanh), a clerk in the French Army
  • his brother Nguyên Sinh Khiêm, a geomancer and traditional herbalist 
  • another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận), who died in infancy.

Above: Kim Lien Monuments Park

As a young child, Cung (Hô) studied with his father before more formal classes with a scholar named Vuong Thuc Do.

He quickly mastered Chinese writing, a prerequisite for any serious study of Confucianism, while honing his colloquial Vietnamese writing.

Chinese characters

In addition to his studies, he was fond of adventure and loved to fly kites and go fishing.

Following Confucian tradition, his father gave him a new name at the age of 10: 

  • Nguyễn Tất Thành (“Nguyễn the Accomplished“).

天將以夫子爲木鐸, "Heaven will instruct the master like a wooden-clapper bell (to awaken everyone to the Way)" — Analects 3.24.
Above: Symbol of Confucianism – “Heaven will instruct the master like a wooden-clapper bell (to awaken everyone to the Way).” Analects of Confucius 3:24.

His father was a Confucian scholar and teacher and later an imperial magistrate in the small remote district of Binh Khe (Qui Nhon).

He was demoted for abuse of power after an influential local figure died several days after having received 102 strokes of the cane as punishment for an infraction.

His father was eligible to serve in the imperial bureaucracy, but he refused because it meant serving the French.

Quy Nhơn
Above: Quy Nhon

This exposed Thành (Hô) to rebellion at a young age and seemed to be the norm for the province.

Nevertheless, he received a French education, attending the Collège Quôc Hoc in Huê.

His disciples, Pham Van Dông and Vo Nguyên Giáp, also attended the school, as did Ngô Dinh Diêm, the future President of South Vietnam (and political rival).

Above: Quoc Hoc main building

From the Viet Bac to the Saigon Delta
From the mountains and the plains below
Young and old workers, peasants and the toiling tenant farmers
Fight for freedom with Uncle Ho

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh


Because his father had been dismissed, he no longer had any hope for a governmental scholarship and went southward, taking a position at Dục Thanh school in Phan Thiêt for about six months, then traveled to Saigon.

"Phan Thiết Water Tower": symbol of Phan Thiết
Above: Images of Phan Thiet

He worked as a kitchen helper on a French steamer, the Admiral de Latouche-Tréville, using the alias Văn Ba.

The steamer departed on 5 June 1911 and arrived in Marseille on 5 July 1911.

The ship then left for Le Havre and Dunkirk, returning to Marseille in mid-September.

Above: Model of the Admiral de Latouche-Tréville

There, he applied for the French Colonial Administrative School, but his application was rejected.

He instead decided to begin traveling the world by working on ships and visited many countries from 1911 to 1917.

While working as the cook’s helper on a ship in 1912, Thành (Hô) traveled to the United States.

USA orthographic.svg

[Verse 3]
Ho Chi Minh was a deep sea sailor
He served his time out on the seven seas
Work and hardship were part of his early education
Exploitation, his ABC

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

Above: The Admiral Latouche-Tréville

From 1912 to 1913, he may have lived in New York City (Harlem) and Boston, where he claimed to have worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel.

The only evidence that he was in the United States is a letter to French colonial administrators dated 15 December 1912 and postmarked New York City (he gave as his address Poste Restante in Le Havre and his occupation as a sailor) and a postcard to Phan Chu Trinh in Paris where he mentioned working at the Parker House Hotel.

Inquiries to the Parker House management revealed no records of his ever having worked there.

Boston Omni Parker House Hotel,Boston:Photos,Reviews,Deals
Above: Parker House Hotel, Boston (USA)

Among a series of menial jobs, he claimed to have worked for a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918 and for General Motors as a line manager.

General Motors 2021 gloss.svg

It is believed that while in the US he made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that developed his political outlook.

Sophie Quinn-Judge states that this is “in the realm of conjecture“.

Ho Chi Minh: The Missing Years: Quinn-Judge, Sophie:  Fremdsprachige Bücher

Some documents in the French and Russian archives show that during his time living in the United States, Nguyen Tat Thanh came to hear Marcus Garvey give a speech in New York Ciyt’s Harlem district and consult with activists for Korean independence.

Marcus Garvey 1924-08-05.jpg
Above: Marcus Garvey (1887 – 1940)

(Garvey was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, the UNIA-ACL, commonly known as the UNIA.

Emphasising unity between Africans and the African diaspora, he campaigned for an end to European colonial rule across Africa and the political unification of the continent, and was committed to the belief that black people needed to secure financial independence from white-dominant society.)

At various points between 1913 and 1919, Thành (Hô) claimed to have lived in London’s West Ealing and later in Crouch End, Hornsey.

He reportedly worked as either a chef or dishwasher (reports vary) at the Drayton Court Hotel in West Ealing.

The Drayton Court Hotel - Fuller's Pub and Hotel in Ealing
Above: Drayton Court Hotel, Ealing (London)

Claims that he trained as a pastry chef under Auguste Escoffier at the Carlton Hotel in Haymarket, Westminster are not supported by documentary evidence.

The wall of New Zealand House, home of the New Zealand High Commission which now stands on the site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a blue plaque.

During 1913, Thành was also employed as a pastry chef on the Newhaven–Dieppe ferry route.

Ferries from Newhaven to Dieppe | Ferries to France | DFDS

From 1919 to 1923, Thành (Hô) began to show an interest in politics while living in France, being influenced by his friend and Socialist Party of France comrade Marcel Cachin.

Marcel Cachin b Meurisse 1918.jpg
Above: Marcel Cachin (1869 – 1958)

Thành claimed to have arrived in Paris from London in 1917, but the French police only had documents recording his arrival in June 1919.

In Paris he joined the Groupe des Patriotes Annamites (the Group of Vietnamese Patriots) that included Phan Chu Trinh and Nguyên An Ninh.

They had been publishing newspaper articles advocating for Vietnamese independence under the pseudonym Nguyễn Ái Quốc (“Nguyễn the Patriot“) prior to Thành’s arrival in Paris.

La Tour Eiffel vue de la Tour Saint-Jacques, Paris août 2014 (2).jpg
Above: Paris

The group petitioned for recognition of the civil rights of the Vietnamese people in French Indochina to the Western powers at the Versailles peace talks, but they were ignored.

Citing the principle of self-determination outlined prior to the peace accords, they requested the allied powers to end French colonial rule of Vietnam and ensure the formation of an independent government.

Prior to the conference, the group sent their letter to allied leaders, including Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and President Woodrow Wilson.

They were unable to obtain consideration at Versailles, but the episode would later help establish the future Hồ Chí Minh as the symbolic leader of the anti-colonial movement at home in Vietnam.

Georges Clemenceau par Nadar.jpg
Above: Georges Clemenceau (1841 – 1929)

Since Thành was the public face behind the publication of the document (although it was written by Phan Văn Trường), he soon became known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, and first used the name in September during an interview with a Chinese newspaper correspondent.

Many authors have stated that 1919 was a lost “Wilsonian moment“, where the future Hồ Chí Minh could have adopted a pro-American and less radical position if only President Wilson had received him.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Harris & Ewing bw photo portrait, 1919.jpg
Above: Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924)

However, at the time of the Versailles Conference, Hồ Chí Minh was committed to a socialist program.

While the conference was ongoing, Nguyễn Ái Quốc was already delivering speeches on the prospects of Bolshevism in Asia and was attempting to persuade French socialists to join Lenin’s Communist International (Comintern).

Comintern Logo.svg

In December 1920, Quốc (Hô) became a representative to the Congress of Tours of the Socialist Party of France, voted for the Third International and was a founding member of the French Communist Party.

Logo – Parti communiste français (2018).svg

Taking a position in the Colonial Committee of the party, he tried to draw his comrades’ attention towards people in French colonies including Indochina, but his efforts were often unsuccessful.

While living in Paris, he reportedly had a relationship with a dressmaker named Marie Brière.

Above: Copper plaque attached at house No. 9 Compoint Alley, District 17, Paris: “Here, from 1921 to 1923, Nguyen Ai Quoc lived and fought for the independence and freedom of the people of Vietnam and oppressed peoples“.

As discovered in 2018, Quốc also had relations with the members of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea like Kim Kyu-sik while in Paris.

Kim Kyu-sik.JPG
Above: Kim Kyu-sik (1881 – 1950)

During this period, he began to write journal articles and short stories as well as running his Vietnamese nationalist group.

Above: Ho Chi Minh, 1921

In May 1922, he wrote an article for a French magazine criticizing the use of English words by French sportswriters.

The article implored Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré to outlaw such Franglais as le managerle round and le knock-out.

Raymond Poincaré officiel (cropped).jpg
Above: Raymond Poincaré (1860 – 1934)

His articles and speeches caught the attention of Dmitry Manuilsky, who would soon sponsor his trip to the Soviet Union and under whose tutelage he would become a high-ranking member of the Soviet Comintern.

Dmitry Manuilsky.PNG
Above: Dmitry Manuilsky (1883 – 1959)

In 1923, Quốc (Hô) left Paris for Moscow carrying a passport with the name Chen Vang, a Chinese merchant, where he was employed by the Comintern, studied at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East and participated in the Fifth Comintern Congress in June 1924 before arriving in Canton (present-day Guanghhou), China in November 1924 using the name Ly Thuy.

Above: Ho Chi Minh, 1923

In 1925 – 1926, he organized “Youth Education Classes” and occasionally gave socialist lectures to Vietnamese revolutionary young people living in Canton at the Whampoa Military Academy.

Above: Main gate of the Whampoa Military Academy

These young people would become the seeds of a new revolutionary, pro-communist movement in Vietnam several years later.

Above: The book of lectures, The Line of Destiny (Revolutionary Road), Ho Chi Minh

According to William Duiker, he lived with a Chinese woman, Zeng Xueming, whom he married on 18 October 1926.

When his comrades objected to the match, he told them:

“I will get married despite your disapproval because I need a woman to teach me the language and keep house”.

Zeng Xueming in the 1920s
Above: Zeng Xueming

She was 21 and he was 36.

They married in the same place where Zhou Enlai had married earlier and then lived in the residence of a Comintern agent, Mikhail Borodin.

Above: Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of China (1898 – 1976)

Mikhail Borodin portrait.jpg
Above: Mikhail Borodin (1884 – 1951)

Hoâng Van Chi argued that in June 1925 Ho betrayed Phan Bôi Châu, the famous leader of a rival revolutionary faction and his father’s old friend, to French Secret Service agents in Shanghai for 100,000 piastres. 

Above: Hoang Van Chi (1913 – 1988)

A source states that he later claimed he did it because he expected Châu’s trial to stir up anti-French sentiment and because he needed the money to establish a communist organization.

PhanBoiChau memory.JPG
Above: Phan Bôi Châu (1867 – 1940)

In Hô Chi Minh: A Life, William Duiker considered this hypothesis, but ultimately rejected it.

Other sources claim that Nguyễn Thượng Huyện was responsible for Chau’s capture.

Chau, sentenced to lifetime house arrest, never denounced Quốc.

Ho Chi Minh: A Life: Duiker, William J: Fremdsprachige Bücher

After Chiang Kai-shek’s 1927 anti-Communist coup, Quốc (Hô) left Canton again in April 1927 and returned to Moscow, spending part of the summer of 1927 recuperating from tuberculosis in the Crimea before returning to Paris once more in November.

He then returned to Asia by way of Brussels, Berlin, Switzerland and Italy, where he sailed to Bangkok, arriving in July 1928.

Although we have been separated for almost a year, our feelings for each other do not have to be said to be felt“, he reassured Minh in an intercepted letter.

In this period, he served as a senior agent undertaking Comintern activities in Southeast Asia.

Chiang Kai-shek(蔣中正).jpg
Above: Chiang Kai-shek (1887 – 1975)

Quốc (Hô) remained in Thailand, staying in the Thai village of Nachok until late 1929, when he moved on to India and then Shanghai.

Above: The house in Ban Nachok, Nakhon Phanom (Thailand) where Ho Chi Minh used to live

In Hong Kong in early 1930, he chaired a meeting with representatives from two Vietnamese Communist parties to merge them into a unified organization, the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Emblem of Vietnam Communist Party.png

In June 1931, he was arrested by British Colonial Authorities in Hong Kong, with a likelihood of being deported back to Vietnam and sentenced to death.

However, he was approached by left-wing British solicitor Frank Loseby who defended his case.

Eventually, after appeals to the Privy Council in London, Quốc (Ho) was reported as dead in 1932 and it was ruled that, though he would be deported as an undesirable, it would not be to a French destination port.

Quốc (Hô) was eventually released and, disguised as a Chinese scholar, boards a ship to Shanghai.

He subsequently returned to the Soviet Union and in Moscow studied and taught at the Lenin Institute. 

Above: Lenin Institute, Moscow

In this period he reportedly lost his positions in the Comintern because of a concern that he had betrayed the organization.

However, according to Ton That Thien’s research, he was a member of the inner circle of the Comintern, a protégé of Dmitry Manuilsky and a member in good standing of the Comintern throughout the Great Purge.

Above: People looking for relatives among repressed in Vinnytsia

(The Great Purge or the Great Terror (Russian: Большой террор), also known as the Year of ’37 (37-ой год, Tridtsat sedmoi god) and the Yezhovschina (‘period of Yezhov’), was Stalin’s campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union that occurred from 1936 to 1938. 

It involved a large-scale repression of relatively wealthy peasants (kulaks); ethnic cleansing operations against ethnic minorities; a purge of the Communist Party of government officials, and of the Red Army leadership; widespread police surveillance; suspicion of saboteurs; counter-revolutionaries; imprisonment; and arbitrary executions.[7] 

Historians estimate the total number of deaths due to Stalinist repression in 1937 – 1938 to be 1.2 million.

The “Kulak Operation” and the targeting of national minorities were the main components of the Great Terror.

Together these two actions accounted for nine-tenths of the death sentences and three-quarters of Gulag prison camp sentences.)

In 1938, Quốc (Ho) returned to China and served as an advisor to the Chinese Communist armed forces.

He was also the senior Comintern agent in charge of Asian affairs.

He worked extensively in Chungking and travelled to Guiyang, Kunming and Guilin.

He was using the name Hồ Quang during this period.

Clockwise from top: Yuzhong District skyline, Chongqing Rail Transit Line 2 running along Jialing River, bridges under construction in Fengdu County, Chongqing Art Museum, and Hongya Cave (洪崖洞)
Above: Images of modern Chungking

In 1941, Hồ Chí Minh returned to Vietnam to lead the Viêt Minh independence movement.

Above: The Viêt Minh flag (later that of North Vietnam, then Vietnam)

The Japanese occupation of Indochina that year, the first step toward invasion of the rest of Southeast Asia, created an opportunity for patriotic Vietnamese.

The “men in black” were a 10,000 member guerrilla force that operated with the Việt Minh.

Hô oversaw many successful military actions against the Vichy France and Japanese occupation of Vietnam during World War II, supported closely yet clandestinely by the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and later against the French bid to reoccupy the country (1946–1954).

Emblem of Vichy France
Above: Emblem of Vichy (Nazi-occupied) France

Japanese Empire (orthographic projection).svg
Above: Japanese Empire at its peak, 1942

Office of Strategic Services Insignia.svg
Above: Logo of the OSS

He was jailed in China by Chiang Kai-shek’s local authorities before being rescued by Chinese Communists.

Following his release in 1943, he returned to Vietnam.

Flag of China
Above: Flag of the Republic of China (1928 – 1948)

[Verse 4]
Ho Chi Minh came back from sailing
And he looked on his native land
Saw the want and the hunger of the Indochinese people
Foreign soldiers on every hand

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

It was during this time that he began regularly using the name Hồ Chí Minh, a Vietnamese name combining a common Vietnamese surname (Hồ) with a given name meaning “Bright spirit” or “Clear will“. 

His new name was a tribute to General Hou Zhiming, Chief Commissar of the 4th Military Region of the National Revolutionary Army, who helped releasing him from KMT prison in 1943.

A red rectangle with a smaller blue rectangle inside it. Inside the blue rectangle centered squarely is a white circle with small white triangles emanating from it.
Above: Army Flag of the Republic of China

In April 1945, he met with OSS agent Archimedes Patti and offered to provide intelligence, asking only for “a line of communication” between his Viet Minh and the Allies.

The OSS agreed to this and later sent a military team of OSS members to train his men and Hồ Chí Minh himself was treated for malaria and dysentery by an OSS doctor.

What were Archimedes Patti's major accomplishments? - Quora
Above: Archimedes Patti (centre foreground)

Above: Hồ Chí Minh (third from left, standing) with the OSS in 1945

Following the August Revolution (1945) organized by the Việt Minh, Hồ Chí Minh became Chairman of the Provisional Government (Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and issued a Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Above: The uprising in Hanoi on 19 August 1945

(The August Revolution (Vietnamese: Cách mạng tháng Tám), also known as the August General Uprising (Vietnamese: Tổng Khởi nghĩa tháng Tám), was a revolution launched by Ho Chi Minh’s Viêt Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) against French and Japanese Empire colonial rule in Vietnam, on 14 August 1945.

Within two weeks, forces under the Việt Minh had seized control of most rural villages and cities throughout the North, Central and South Vietnam, including Hanoi, where President Ho Chi Minh announced the formation of the Provisional Democratic Republic, Hué, Saigon, exception in townships Móng Cái, Vĩnh Yên, Hà Giang, Lào Cai, Lai Châu.

However, according to Vietnamese documents, the Việt Minh had, in fact, seized control of Vietnam.)

On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnamese Independence.

The text of the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam:

Compatriots of the entire nation assembled:

All people are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

Among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776.

United States Declaration of Independence.jpg

In a broader sense, this means:

All the peoples on the Earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Blue Marble photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of the French Revolution made in 1791 also states: 

All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than 80 years, the French imperialists, in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow citizens.

They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws.

They have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, Center, and South of Vietnam in order to destroy our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools.

They have mercilessly slaughtered our patriots.

They have drowned our uprisings in bloodbaths.

They have fettered public opinion.

They have practiced obscurantism against our people.

Flag of French Indochina
Above: Flag of France

(Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise, abstruse manner designed to limit further inquiry and understanding.)

To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our ricefields, our mines, our forests and our raw materials.

Vietnam's mining sector is hitting GDP

Viet Nam's Vow for Forest Protection - UN-REDD Programme Collaborative  Online Workspace

They have monopolized the issuing of banknotes and the export trade.

Vietnamese Dong, Money and Costs - Ho Chi Minh City Highlights

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie.

They have mercilessly exploited our workers.

In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists violated indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.

Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese.

Their sufferings and miseries increased.

The result was that, from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri Province to northern Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow citizens died from starvation.

On 9 March 1945, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese.

The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

On several occasions before 9 March, the Viêt Minh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese.

Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Việt Minh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bai and Cao Bang.

Notwithstanding all this, our fellow citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude.

Even after the Japanese Putsch of March 1945, the Việt Minh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Above: Japanese foreign affairs minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (1887 – 1957) signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri as General Richard K. Sutherland (1893 – 1966) watches, 2 September 1945

The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.

The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated.

Above: Emperor Bao Dai (1913 – 1997)

Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland.

Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries.

In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.

For these reasons, we, the members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France.

We repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Viet-Nam, and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.

The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer the country.

We are convinced that the Allied nations, which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.

Tehran Conference, 1943.jpg
Above: “The Big Three” (Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill) at the Tehran Conference (28 November – 1 December 1943)

UN charter logo.png
Above: The United Nations Charter Logo from the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), commonly known as the San Francisco Conference (25 April to 26 June 1945)

A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent!

For these reasons, we, the members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that:

Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact it is so already. And thus the entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.

Above: The Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

The August Revolution sought to create a Việt Minh unified regime for the entire country.

Although he convinced Emperor Báo Dai to abdicate, his government was not recognized by any country.

He repeatedly petitioned President Harry S. Truman for support for Vietnamese independence, citing the Atlantic Charter, but Truman never responded.

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Above: Harry S. Truman (1884 – 1972)

(The Atlantic Charter was a statement issued on 14 August 1941 that set out American and British goals for the world after the end of World War II (1939 – 1945).

President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill seated on the quarterdeck of HMS PRINCE OF WALES for a Sunday service during the Atlantic Conference, 10 August 1941. A4816.jpg
Above: Roosevelt and Churchill seated on the quarterdeck of HMS Prince of Wales for a Sunday service during the Atlantic Conference, 10 August 1941, off the coast of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland

The joint statement, later dubbed the Atlantic Charter, outlined the aims of the US and the UK for the postwar world as follows: no territorial aggrandizement, no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people (self-determination), restoration of self-government to those deprived of it, reduction of trade restrictions, global co-operation to secure better economic and social conditions for all, freedom from fear and want, freedom of the seas, and abandonment of the use of force, and disarmament of aggressor nations.

The charter’s adherents signed the Declaration of the United Nations on 1 January 1942, which was the basis for the modern United Nations.

Flag of United Nations Arabic: منظمة الأمم المتحدة‎ Chinese: 联合国 French: Organisation des Nations unies Russian: Организация Объединённых Наций Spanish: Organización de las Naciones Unidas
Above: Flag of the United Nations

The charter inspired several other international agreements and events that followed the end of the War.

The dismantling of the British Empire, the formation of NATO, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) all derived from the Atlantic Charter.

(GATT is a legal agreement, a multilateral treaty, between many countries, whose overall purpose was to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas, signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on 30 October 1947.) 

The British Empire.png
Above: The former British Empire

NATO OTAN landscape logo.svg
Above: Logo of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

In 1946, future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Hồ Chí Minh became acquainted when they stayed at the same hotel in Paris.

He offered Ben-Gurion a Jewish home-in-exile in Vietnam.

Ben-Gurion declined, telling him:

I am certain we shall be able to establish a Jewish government in Palestine“.

David Ben-Gurion (D597-087).jpg
Above: David Ben-Gurion (1886 – 1973)

In 1946, when Hô traveled outside of the country, his subordinates imprisoned 2,500 non-Communist nationalists and forced 6,000 others to flee.

Hundreds of political opponents were jailed or exiled in July 1946, notably members of the Nationalist Party of Vietnam and the Dai Viet National Party after a failed attempt to raise a coup against the Viet Minh government.

Flag of VNQDD.svg
Above: Flag of the Nationalist Party of Vietnam

All rival political parties were hereafter banned and local governments were purged to minimize opposition later on.

However, it was noted that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s first Congress had over two-thirds of its members come from non-Việt Minh political factions, some without an election.

Nationalist Party of Vietnam leader Nguyên Hãi Thân was named vice president.

They also held four out of ten ministerial positions.

Lâm-thời Liên-hiệp Chính-phủ Việt-nam Dân-chủ Cộng-hòa ra mắt Quốc-hội ngày 02 tháng 03 năm 1946.jpg
Above: The National People’s Congress in Hanoi on 2 March 1946. From left: Truong Dinh Tri, Dang Thai Mai, Chu Ba Phuong, Nguyen Tuong Tam, Huynh Thuc Khang, Ho Chi Minh, Vinh Thuy, Le Van Hien, Phan Anh, Vu Dinh Hoè, Tran Dang Khoa, Bo Xuan Luat.

Following Emperor Bảo Đại’s abdication on 2 September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh read the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam under the name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Above: Hồ Chí Minh (right) with Vo Nguyen Giáp (left) in Hanoi, 1945

(Võ Nguyên Giáp (1911 – 2013) was an army general in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician.

Võ Nguyên Giáp has been called one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century.)

In Saigon, with violence between rival Vietnamese factions and French forces increasing, the British commander, General Sir Douglas Gracey, declared martial law.

On 24 September, the Việt Minh leaders responded with a call for a general strike.

Gracey Douglas David.jpg
Above: Douglas Gracey (1894 – 1964)

In September 1945, a force of 200,000 Republic of China Army troops arrived in Hanoi to accept the surrender of the Japanese occupiers in northern Indochina.

Republic of China Army (ROCA) Logo.svg
Above: Emblem of the Army of the Republic of China

Hồ Chí Minh made a compromise with their general, Lu Han, to dissolve the Communist Party and to hold an election which would yield a coalition government.

Lu Han.jpg
Above: General Lu Han (1895 – 1974)

When Chiang forced the French to give the French concessions in Shanghai back to China in exchange for withdrawing from northern Indochina, he had no choice but to sign an agreement with France on 6 March 1946 in which Vietnam would be recognized as an autonomous state in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union.

Seal of Shanghai French Concession
Above: Seal of the Shanghai French Concession (1849 – 1943)

National emblem of French Union
Above: Emblem of the French Union (1946 – 1958)

The agreement soon broke down.

The purpose of the agreement, for both the French and the Viet Minh, was for Chiang’s army to leave North Vietnam.

Fighting broke out in the North soon after the Chinese left.

Historian Professor Liam Kelley of the University of Hawaii at Manoa on his Le Minh Khai’s SE Asian History Blog challenged the authenticity of the alleged quote where Hồ Chí Minh said he “would rather smell French shit for five years than eat Chinese shit for a thousand,” noting that Stanley Karnow provided no source for the extended quote attributed to him in his 1983 Vietnam: A History and that the original quote was most likely forged by the Frenchman Paul Mus in his 1952 book Vietnam: Sociologie d’une Guerre.

Vietnam: A History: Karnow, Stanley: 9780670746040: Books

Viêt-Nam: Sociologie D'Une Guerre by Paul Mus

Mus was a supporter of French colonialism in Vietnam and Hồ Chí Minh believed there was no danger of Chinese troops staying in Vietnam (although this was the time when China invaded Tibet).

The Vietnamese at the time were busy spreading anti-French propaganda as evidence of French atrocities in Vietnam emerged while Hồ Chí Minh showed no qualms about accepting Chinese aid after 1949.

The Việt Minh then collaborated with French colonial forces to massacre supporters of the Vietnamese nationalist movements in 1945–1946, and of the Trotskyists. 

photographs of Trotsky from the 1920s
Above: Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940)

Trotskyism in Vietnam did not rival the Party outside of the major cities, but particularly in the South, in Saigon-Cochinchina, they had been a challenge.

From the outset, they had called for armed resistance to a French restoration and for an immediate transfer of industry to workers and land to peasants.

Above: Flag of the Trotskyist Struggle Group

The French Socialist leader Daniel Guerin recalls that when in Paris in 1946 he asked Hồ Chí Minh about the fate of the Trotskyist leader Ta Thu Thâu, Hồ Chí Minh had replied, “with unfeigned emotion,” that “Thâu was a great patriot and we mourn him“, but then a moment later added in a steady voice “All those who do not follow the line which I have laid down will be broken.

Above: Ta Thu Thau (1906 – 1945)

The Communists eventually suppressed all non-Communist parties, but they failed to secure a peace deal with France.

Daniel Guerin.png
Above: Daniel Guerin (1904 – 1988)

In the final days of 1946, after a year of diplomatic failure and many concessions in agreements, such as the Dalat and Fontainebleau Conferences, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam government found that war was inevitable.

Above: Ho Chi Minh and Marius Moutet shaking hands after signing the Fontainebleau Agreements

The bombardment of Haiphong by French forces at Hanoi only strengthened the belief that France had no intention of allowing an autonomous, independent state in Vietnam.

The bombardment of Haiphong reportedly killed more than 6000 Vietnamese civilians.

Haiphong incident | Military Wiki | Fandom

French forces marched into Hanoi, now the capital city of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

(The Haiphong Incident or the Haiphong Massacre occurred on 23 November 1946, when the French cruiser Suffren bombarded the Vietnamese coastal city of Haiphong, killing some 6,000 Vietnamese people.

The incident, also known as the Shelling of Haiphong, is thought of as the first armed clash in a series of events that would lead to the Battle of Hanoi (19 December 1946 to 18 February 1947), and with it the official outbreak of the First Indochina War.)

French heavy cruiser Suffren in Hampton Roads on 15 October 1931.jpg
Above: The Suffren

On 19 December 1946, after the Haiphong Incident, Ho Chi Minh declared war against the French Union, marking the beginning of the Indochina War.

The Vietnam National Army, mostly armed with machetes and muskets immediately attacked.

They assaulted the French positions, smoking them out with straw bundled with chili pepper, destroying armored vehicles with “lunge mines” (a hollow-charge warhead on the end of a pole, detonated by thrusting the charge against the side of a tank; typically a suicide weapon) and Molotov cocktails, holding off attackers by using roadblocks, landmines and gravel.

After two months of fighting, the exhausted Việt Minh forces withdrew after systematically destroying any valuable infrastructure.

Vietnamese soldier holding the Lunge Mine at Hàng Đậu Street on December 1946.jpg

Hô was reported to be captured by a group of French soldiers led by Jean-Étienne Valluy at Viêt Bac in Operation Lea.

The person in question turned out to be a Việt Minh advisor who was killed trying to escape.

Above: Jean Étieene Valluy (1899 – 1970)

[Verse 5]
Ho Chi Minh went to the mountains
And he formed a determined band
Heroes all sworn to free the Indochinese people
Drive invaders from the land

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

Above: Hồ Chí Minh holding his god-daughter, baby Elizabeth (Babette) Aubrac, with Elizabeth’s mother, Lucie (1912 – 2007), 1946

According to journalist Bernard Fall, Hô decided to negotiate a truce after fighting the French for several years.

When the French negotiators arrived at the meeting site, they found a mud hut with a thatched roof.

Inside they found a long table with chairs.

In one corner of the room, a silver ice bucket contained ice and a bottle of good champagne, indicating that Ho expected the negotiations to succeed.

Street without Joy : Bernard Fall : 9780811736541

One demand by the French was the return to French custody of a number of Japanese military officers (who had been helping the Vietnamese armed forces by training them in the use of weapons of Japanese origin) for them to stand trial for war crimes committed during World War II.

Hồ Chí Minh replied that the Japanese officers were allies and friends whom he could not betray, therefore he walked out to seven more years of war.

Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle
Above: Flag of Japana

In February 1950, after the successful removal of the French border blockade, Hô met with Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong in Moscow after the Soviet Union recognized his government.

They all agreed that China would be responsible for backing the Việt Minh.

Stalin Full Image.jpg
Above: Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953)

Mao Zedong’s emissary to Moscow stated in August that China planned to train 60,000–70,000 Viet Minh in the near future.

The road to the outside world was open for Việt Minh forces to receive additional supplies which would allow them to escalate the fight against the French regime throughout Indochina.

Mao Zedong in 1959 (cropped).jpg
Above: Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976)

At the outset of the conflict, Ho reportedly told a French visitor:

You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win“. 

First Indochina War COLLAGE.jpg
Above: Images of the First Indochina War (1946 – 1954)

[Verse 6]
Forty men became a hundred
A hundred thousand and Ho Chi Minh
Forged and tempered the army of the Indochinese people
Freedom’s Army of Viet Minh

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

[Verse 7]

Every soldier is a farmer

Comes the evening, he grabs his hoe

Comes the morning, he swings his rifle on his shoulder

That’s the army of Uncle Ho

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

[Verse 8]
From the mountains and the jungles
From the rice lands and the Plain of Reeds
March the men and the women of the Indochinese Army
Planting freedom with victory seeds

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh

[Verse 9]
From the Viet Bac to the Saigon Delta
Marched the armies of Viet Minh
And the wind stirs the banners of the Indochinese people
Peace and freedom and Ho Chi Minh

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh


In 1954, the First Indochina War came to an end after the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu, where more than 10,000 French soldiers surrendered to the Viet Minh.

Victory in Battle of Dien Bien Phu.jpg
Above: Victory in Battle of Dien Bien Phu

The subsequent Geneva Accords peace process partitioned North Vietnam at the 17th parallel.

Arthur Dommen estimates that the Việt Minh assassinated 100,000 civilians during the war.

Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans: Nationalism and  Communism in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam: Dommen, Arthur J.:  Fremdsprachige Bücher

By comparison to Dommen’s calculation, Benjamin Valentino estimates that the French were responsible for 250,000 civilian deaths. Benjamin A. Valentino: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks,  Kindle

The 1954 Geneva Accords concluded between France and the Việt Minh, allowing the latter’s forces to regroup in the North whilst anti-Communist groups settled in the South.

His Democratic Republic of Vietnam relocated to Hanoi and became the government of North Vietnam, a Communist-led one-party.

Above: The Geneva Accords Conference (26 April to 20 July 1954)

Following the Geneva Accords, there was to be a 300-day period in which people could freely move between the two regions of Vietnam, later known as South Vietnam and North Vietnam.

During the 300 days, Diệm and CIA adviser Colonel Edward Lansdale staged a campaign to convince people to move to South Vietnam.

The campaign was particularly focused on Vietnam’s Catholics, who were to provide Diệm’s power base in his later years, with the use of the slogan “God has gone south“.

1,000,000 people migrated to the South, mostly Catholics.

Above: Edward Lansdale (1908 – 1987)

At the start of 1955, French Indochina was dissolved, leaving Diệm in temporary control of the South.

All the parties at Geneva called for reunification elections, but they could not agree on the details.

Recently appointed Việt Minh acting foreign minister Pham Van Dong proposed elections under the supervision of “local commissions“.

Phạm Văn Đồng 1972.jpg
Above: Pham Van Dong (1906 – 2000)

The United States, with the support of Britain and the Associated States of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, suggested United Nations supervision.

This plan was rejected by Soviet representative Vyacheslav Molotov, who argued for a commission composed of an equal number of communist and non-communist members, which could determine “important” issues only by unanimous agreement.

The negotiators were unable to agree on a date for the elections for reunification.

North Vietnam argued that the elections should be held within six months of the ceasefire while the Western allies sought to have no deadline.

Molotov proposed June 1955, then later softened this to any time in 1955 and finally July 1956.

Vyacheslav Molotov Anefo2.jpg
Above: Vyacheslav Molotov (1890 – 1986)

The Diem government supported reunification elections, but only with effective international supervision, arguing that genuinely free elections were otherwise impossible in the totalitarian North.

By the afternoon of 20 July, the remaining outstanding issues were resolved as the parties agreed that the partition line should be at the 17th parallel and the elections for a reunified government should be held in July 1956, two years after the ceasefire.

The Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam was only signed by the French and Việt Minh military commands, with no participation or consultation of the State of Vietnam.


Based on a proposal by Chinese delegation head Zhou Enlai, an International Control Commission (ICC) chaired by India, with Canada and Poland as members, was placed in charge of supervising the ceasefire.

Above: Zhou Enlai (1898 – 1976)

Because issues were to be decided unanimously, Poland’s presence in the ICC provided the Communists with effective veto power over supervision of the treaty.

Forces in Philately: 1968 International control Commission overprinted ICC

The unsigned Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference called for reunification elections, which the majority of delegates expected to be supervised by the ICC.

The Việt Minh never accepted ICC authority over such elections, insisting that the ICC’s “competence was to be limited to the supervision and control of the implementation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities by both parties“.

Of the nine nations represented, only the United States and the State of Vietnam refused to accept the declaration.

Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith delivered a “unilateral declaration” of the United States position, reiterating:

We shall seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to ensure that they are conducted fairly“.

Three-quarter length portrait of seated man in uniform. He is bare-headed and wearing his medal ribbons. He is wearing the SHAEF shoulder sleeve insignia.
Above: Walter Bedell Smith (1895 – 1961)

Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including “rent reduction” and “land reform“, which were accompanied by significant political repression.

During the land reform, testimonies by North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which if extrapolated would indicate a nationwide total of nearly 100,000 executions.

Because the campaign was mainly concentrated in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions was widely accepted by scholars at the time.

However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although it was likely greater than 13,500.

Above: House No. 54 where President Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954 to 1958

As early as June 1956 the idea of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government was presented at a politburo meeting.

North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975.

In 1959, Hồ Chí Minh began urging the Politburo to send aid to the Viêt Công in South Vietnam and a “people’s war” on the South was approved at a session in January 1959 and this decision was confirmed by the Politburo in March.

North Vietnam invaded Laos in July 1959 aided by the Pathet Lao and used 30,000 men to build a network of supply and reinforcement routes running through Laos and Cambodia that became known as the Hô Chi Minh Trail.

Above: The Ho Chi Minh Trail from the very beginning was using Vietnamese and Laotian people as seen in a captured Vietcong’s photo, circa 1959

It allowed the North to send manpower and material to the Việt Cộng with much less exposure to South Vietnamese forces, achieving a considerable advantage.

To counter the accusation that North Vietnam was violating the Geneva Accord, the independence of the Việt Cộng was stressed in Communist propaganda.


North Vietnam created the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam in December 1960 as a “united front“, or political branch of the Viet Cong intended to encourage the participation of non-Communists.

At the end of 1959, conscious that the national election would never be held and that Diem intended to purge opposing forces (mostly ex Việt Minh) from the South Vietnamese society, Hồ Chí Minh informally chose Lê Duân to become the next party leader.

Mr. Le Duan.jpg
Above: Le Duan (1907 – 1986)

This was interpreted by Western analysts as a loss of influence for Hồ, who was said to actually have preferred the more moderate Võ Nguyên Giáp for the position.

From 1959 onward, the elderly Hô became increasingly worried about the prospect of his death, and that year he wrote down his will.

Lê Duẩn was officially named party leader in 1960, leaving Hồ to function in a secondary role as head of state and member of the Politburo.

He nevertheless maintained considerable influence in the government.

Lê Duẩn, Tô Hiru, Truõng Chinh and Pham Van Dông often shared dinner with Hồ, and all of them remained key figures throughout and after the war.

To Huu.jpg
Above: To Huu (1920 – 2002)

Above: Truong Chinh (1907 – 1988)

In the early 1960s, the North Vietnamese Politburo was divided the “North first” faction who favored focusing on the economic development of North Vietnam, and the “South first” faction, who favored a guerrilla war in South Vietnam to reunite Vietnam in the near future.

Between 1961 and 1963, 40,000 Communist soldiers infiltrated into South Vietnam from the North.

In 1963, Hồ purportedly corresponded with South Vietnamese President Diem in hopes of achieving a negotiated peace. 

Ngo Dinh Diem - Thumbnail - ARC 542189.png
Above: Ngo Dinh Diem (1901 – 1963)

During the “Maneli Affair” of 1963, a French diplomatic initiative was launched with the aim of achieving a federation of the two Vietnams, which would be neutral in the Cold War.

The four principle diplomats involved in the “Maneli affair” were:

  • Ramchundar Goburdhun, the Indian Chief Commissioner of the ICC
  • Mieczyslaw Maneli, the Polish Commissioner to the ICC
  • Roger Lalouette, the French ambassador to South Vietnam
  • Giovanni d’Orlandi, the Italian ambassador to South Vietnam

Maneli reported that Hô was very interested in the signs of a split between President Diem and President Kennedy and that his attitude was:

Our real enemies are the Americans.

Get rid them, and we can cope with Diem and Nhu afterward“.

John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg
Above: John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)

At a meeting in Hanoi held in French, Hô told Goburdhun that Diem was “in his own way a patriot“, noting that Diem had opposed French rule over Vietnam, and ended the meeting saying that the next time Goburdhun met Diem “shake hands with him for me“.

The North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dông, speaking on behalf of Hô, told Maneli he was interested in the peace plan, saying that just as long as the American advisers left South Vietnam “we can come to an agreement with any Vietnamese“.

On 2 September 1963, Maneli met with Ngô Dinh Nhu, the younger brother and right-hand man to Diem to discuss the French peace plan.

Above: Ngo Dinh Nhu (1910 – 1963)

It remains unclear if the Ngo brothers were serious about the French peace plan or were merely using the possibility of accepting it to blackmail the United States into supporting them at a time when the Buddhist crisis had seriously strained relations between Saigon and Washington. 

Supporting the latter theory is the fact that Nhu promptly leaked his meeting with Maneli to the American columnist Joseph Alsop, who publicized it in a column entitled “Very Ugly Stuff“.

Joseph Alsop 1974-12-17.jpg
Above: Joseph Alsop (1910 – 1989)

The mere possibility that the Ngo brothers might accept the peace plan helped persuade the Kennedy administration to support the coup against them. 

Mieczyslaw Maneli: Người Ba Lan suýt ngăn được Cuộc chiến VN - Tài liệu -  Nhật Báo Văn Hóa Online

On 1 November 1963, a coup overthrew Diem, who was killed the next day together with his brother.

Diem had followed a policy of “deconstructing the state” by creating a number of overlapping agencies and departments who were encouraged to feud with one another in order to disorganize the South Vietnamese state to such an extent that he hoped that it would make a coup against him impossible.

When Diem was overthrown and killed, without any kind of arbiter between the rival arms of the South Vietnamese state, South Vietnam promptly disintegrated.

The American Defense Secretary Robert McNamara reported after visiting South Vietnam in December 1963 that “there is no organized government worthy of the name” in Saigon.

Above: A pew in the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church is marked with a small plaque identifying the spot where President Ngo Dinh Diem was seized after taking refuge here with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu on 2 November 1963, after fleeing the Presidential Palace.

At a meeting of the plenum of the Politburo in December 1963, Lê’ Duẩn’s “South first” faction triumphed with the Politburo passing a resolution calling for North Vietnam to complete the overthrow of the regime in Saigon as soon as possible while the members of the “North first” faction were dismissed.

As South Vietnam descended into chaos, whatever interest Hô might had in the French peace plan ended as it become clear it was possible for the Viet Cong to overthrow the government in Saigon.

Flag of South Vietnam
Above: Flag of South Vietnam (1955 – 1975)

A CIA report from 1964 stated the factionalism in South Vietnam had reached “almost the point of anarchy” as various South Vietnamese leaders fought one another, making any sort of effort against the Viet Cong impossible, which was rapidly taking over much of the South Vietnamese countryside.

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency.svg

As South Vietnam collapsed into factionalism and in-fighting while the Viet Cong continued to win the war, it became increasingly apparent to President Lyndon Johnson that only American military intervention could save South Vietnam.

Though Johnson did not wish to commit American forces until he had won the 1964 election, he decided to make his intentions clear to Hanoi.

37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg
Above: Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973)

In June 1964, the “Seaborn Mission” began as J. Blair Seaborn, the Canadian commissioner to the ICC, arrived in Hanoi with a message from Johnson offering billions of American economic aid and diplomatic recognition in exchange for which North Vietnam would cease trying to overthrow the government of South Vietnam.

Seaborn also warned that North Vietnam would suffer the “greatest devastation” from American bombing, saying that Johnson was seriously considering a strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam.

Little came of the back channel of the “Seaborn Mission” as the North Vietnamese distrusted Seaborn, who pointedly was never allowed to meet Hô.

Canadian diplomat Blair Seaborn carried out a secret mission during the  Vietnam War - The Globe and Mail
Above: J. Blair Seaborn (1924 – 2019)

In late 1964, People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) combat troops were sent southwest into officially neutral Laos and Cambodia.

Flag of the People's Army of Vietnam.svg
Above: Flag of the People’s Army of Vietnam

By March 1965, American combat troops began arriving in South Vietnam, first to protect the airbases around Chu Lai and Da Nang  later to take on most of the fight as “more and more American troops were put in to replace Saigon troops who could not, or would not, get involved in the fighting“.

As fighting escalated, widespread aerial and artillery bombardment all over North Vietnam by the United States Air Force and Navy began with Operation Rolling Thunder.

On 8 – 9 April 1965, Hô made a secret visit to Beijing to meet Mao Zedong.

It was agreed that no Chinese combat troops would enter North Vietnam unless the United States invaded North Vietnam, but that China would send support troops to North Vietnam to help maintain the infrastructure damaged by American bombing.

There was a deep distrust and fear of China within the North Vietnamese Politburo, and the suggestion that Chinese troops, even support troops, be allowed into North Vietnam, caused outrage in the Politburo.

Hô had to use all his moral authority to obtain the Politburo’s approval.

Flag of China
Above: Flag of China

According to Chen Jian, during the mid-to-late 1960s, Lê Duẩn permitted 320,000 Chinese volunteers into North Vietnam to help build infrastructure for the country, thereby freeing a similar number of PAVN personnel to go south.

There are no sources from Vietnam, the United States, or the Soviet Union that confirm the number of Chinese troops stationed in North Vietnam.

However, the Chinese government later admitted to sending 320,000 Chinese soldiers to Vietnam during the 1960s and spent over $20 billion to support Hanoi’s regular North Vietnamese Army and Việt Cộng guerrilla units. Mao's China and the Cold War (The New Cold War History)  (9780807849323): Chen, Jian: Books

To counter the American bombing, the entire population of North Vietnam was mobilized for the war effort with vast teams of women being used to repair the damage done by the bombers, often at a speed that astonished the Americans.

The bombing of North Vietnam proved to be the principle obstacle to opening peace talks as Hô repeatedly stated that no peace talks would be possible unless the United States unconditionally ceased bombing North Vietnam.

Like many of the other leaders of the newly independent states of Asia and Africa, Hô was extremely sensitive about threats, whatever perceived or real, to his nation’s independence and sovereignty.

Hô regarded the American bombing as a violation of North Vietnam’s sovereignty, and he felt that to negotiate with the Americans reserving the right to bomb North Vietnam should he not behave as they wanted him to do, would diminish North Vietnam’s independence.

In March 1966, Canadian diplomat Chester Ronning arrived in Hanoi with an offer to use his “good offices” to begin peace talks.

However, the Ronning mission foundered upon the bombing issue, as the North Vietnamese demanded an unconditional halt to the bombing, an undertaking that Johnson refused to give.

Folio: New Augustana centre honours Chester Ronning | March 31, 2006
Above: Chester Ronning (1894 – 1994)

In June 1966, Janusz Lewandowski, the Polish Commissioner to the ICC, was able, via d’Orlandi. to see Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, the American ambassador to South Vietnam, with an offer from Hô.

Cabot Lodge (1964).jpg
Above: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (1902 – 1985)

Hô’s offer for a “political compromise” as transmitted by Lewandowski included allowing South Vietnam to maintain its alliance with the US instead of becoming neutral, having the Viet Cong “take part” in negotiations for a coalition government, instead being allowed to automatically enter a coalition government, and allowing a “reasonable calendar” for the withdrawal of American troops instead of an immediate withdrawal. 

Operation Marigold as the Lewandowski channel came to be code-named almost led to American-North Vietnamese talks in Warsaw in December 1966, but collapsed over the bombing issue.

Janusz Lewandowski (@J_Lewandowski) | Twitter
Above: Janusz Lewandowski (1931 – 2013)

In January 1967, General Nguyên Chí Thanh, the commander of the forces in South Vietnam, returned to Hanoi, to present a plan that became the genesis of the Tet Offensive a year later.

Thanh expressed much concern about the Americans invading Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and to preempt this possibility, urged an all-out offensive to win the war with a sudden blow.

Lê’ Duẩn supported Thanh’s plans, which were stoutly opposed by the Defense Minister, General Võ Nguyên Giáp, who preferred to continue with a guerrilla war, arguing that the superior American firepower would ensure the failure of Thanh’s proposed offensive.

With the Politburo divided, it was agreed to study and debate the issue more.

Above: Nguyen Chi Thanh (1914 – 1967) (hand on map)

In July 1967, Hồ Chí Minh and most of the Politburo of the Communist Party met in a high-profile conference where they concluded the war had fallen into a stalemate.

The American military presence forced the PAVN to expend the majority of their resources on maintaining the Hồ Chí Minh trail rather than reinforcing their comrade’s ranks in the South.

Hô seems to have agreed to Thanh’s offensive because he wanted to see Vietnam reunified within his lifetime, and the increasingly ailing Hô was painfully aware that he did not have much time left.

Political Map of Vietnam - Nations Online Project

With Hô’s permission, the Việt Cộng planned a massive Tet Offensive that would commence on 31 January 1968, with the aim of taking much of the South by force and dealing a heavy blow to the American military.

The offensive was executed at great cost and with heavy casualties on Việt Cộng’s political branches and armed forces.

The scope of the action shocked the world, which until then had been assured that the Communists were “on the ropes“.

The optimistic spin that the American military command had sustained for years was no longer credible.

The bombing of North Vietnam and the Hồ Chí Minh trail was halted, and American and Vietnamese negotiators held discussions on how the war might be ended.

Tet Offensive map.png

From then on, Hồ Chí Minh and his government’s strategy, based on the idea of avoiding conventional warfare and facing the might of the United States Army, which would wear them down eventually while merely prolonging the conflict, would lead to eventual acceptance of Hanoi’s terms materialized.

Field flag of the United States Army.svg
Above: Field flag of the US Army

In early 1969, Hô suffered a heart attack and was in increasingly bad health for the rest of the year. 

Above: Hồ Chí Minh watching a football game in his favorite fashion, with his closest comrade Prime Minister Pham Van Dong seated to Ho’s left 

In July 1969, Jean Sainteny, a former French official in Vietnam who knew Hô secretly transmitted a letter to him from President Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s letter proposed working together to end this “tragic war“, but also warned that if North Vietnam made no concessions at the peace talks in Paris by 1 November, Nixon would resort to “measures of great consequence and force“.

Hô’s reply, which Nixon received on 30 August 1969 made no concessions, as Nixon’s threats apparently made no impression on him.

Richard Nixon presidential portrait.jpg
Above: Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994)

In addition to being a politician, Hồ Chí Minh was also a writer, journalist, poet and polyglot.

His father was a scholar and teacher who received a high degree in the Nguyên dynasty imperial examination.

Hồ was taught to master classical Chinese at a young age.

Before the August Revolution, he often wrote poetry in Chù Hán (the Vietnamese name for the Chinese writing system).

One of those is Poems from the Prison Diary, written when he was imprisoned by the police of the Republic of China.

This poetry chronicle is Vietnam National Treasure #10 and was translated into many languages.

It is used in Vietnamese high schools.

The Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh by Hồ Chí Minh

After Vietnam gained independence from France, the new government exclusively promoted Ch`Quôc Ngu (Vietnamese writing system in Latin characters) to eliminate illiteracy.

Hồ started to create more poems in the modern Vietnamese language for dissemination to a wider range of readers.

From when he became President until the appearance of serious health problems, a short poem of his was regularly published in the newspaper Nhân Dân Têt (Lunar New Year) edition to encourage his people in working, studying or fighting Americans in the New Year.


Because he was in exile for nearly 30 years, Hồ could speak fluently as well as read and write professionally in French, English, Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin as well as his mother tongue Vietnamese.

In addition, he was reported to speak conversational Esperanto.

File:Unua Libro ru 1st ed.pdf
Above: The first Esperanto book, by L. L. Zamenhof, published in 1887 in the Russian language

In the 1920s, Ho was bureau chief/editor of many newspapers which he established to criticize French colonial government of Indochina and serving Communist propaganda purposes.

Examples are Le Paria (The Pariah) first published in Paris 1922 or Thanh Nien (Youth) first published on 21 June 1925.

(21 June was named by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam government as Vietnam Revolutionary Journalism Day).

Thanh Niên logo.svg

In many state official visits to Soviet Union and China, Hô often talked directly to Communist leaders without interpreters especially about top secret information.

While being interviewed by Western journalists, he used French. 

His Vietnamese had a strong accent from his birthplace in the central province of Nghê An, but could be widely understood throughout the country.

Beach of Cửa Lò
Above: Beach of Cửa Lò, Nghé An Province

As President, he held formal receptions for foreign heads of state and ambassadors at the Presidential Palace, but he personally did not live there.

He ordered the building of a stilt house at the back of the palace, which is today known as the Presidential Place Historical Site.

Above: Ho Chi Minh stilt house

Above: Dining room of Ho Chi Minh’s house attached to the Presidential Palace

Above: Bedroom of Ho Chi Minh’s house attached to the Presidential Palace

His hobbies (according to his secretary Vu Ky) included reading, gardening, feeding fish, and visiting schools and children’s homes.

He is believed by some to have married Zeng Xueming, although only being able to live with her for less than a year.

Hồ Chí Minh remained in Hanoi during his final years, demanding the unconditional withdrawal of all non-Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.

Above: Vu Ky (1921 – 2005)

By 1969, with negotiations still dragging on, his health began to deteriorate from multiple health problems, including diabetes which prevented him from participating in further active politics.

However, he insisted that his forces in the South continue fighting until all of Vietnam was reunited regardless of the length of time that it might take, believing that time was on his side.

Emblem of North Vietnam (Cộng Sản)

With the outcome of the Vietnam War still in question, Hồ Chí Minh died of heart failure at his home in Hanoi at 9:47 on the morning of 2 September 1969.

He was 79 years old.

His embalmed body is currently on display in a mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi despite his will which stated that he wanted to be cremated.

Wer eine Mumie live sehen will .. - Ho-Chi-Minh-Mausoleum, Hanoi  Reisebewertungen - Tripadvisor

The North Vietnamese government originally announced Hô’s death as 3 September.

A week of mourning for his death was decreed nationwide in North Vietnam from 4 to 11 September 1969.

His funeral was attended by about 250,000 people and 5,000 official guests, which included many international mourners.

Representatives from 40 countries and regions were also presented.

During the mourning period, North Vietnam received more than 22,000 condolences letters from 20 organizations and 110 countries across the world, such as France, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia, Cuba, Zambia and many others, mostly Socialist countries.

It was said that Hô’s body was hidden, and carried a long way among forests and rivers in a special-designed coffin until the Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum was built.

State funeral held for legendary general of Hồ Chí Minh Trail - VietNamNet

Hô was not initially replaced as President.

Instead a “collective leadership” composed of several ministers and military leaders took over, known as the Politburo.

During North Vietnam’s final campaign, a famous song written by composer Huy Thuc was often sung by PAVN soldiers:

Bác vẫn cùng chúng cháu hành quân” (“You are still marching with us, Uncle Ho“).

Bác đang cùng chúng cháu hành quân (Có lời) Nhạc cách mạng hay - YouTube

During the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, several PAVN tanks displayed a poster with those same words on it.

The day after the battle ended, on 1 May, veteran Australian journalist Denis Warner reported:

When the North Vietnamese marched into Saigon yesterday, they were led by a man who wasn’t there”.

Above: A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street, 29 April 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

Ho Chi Minh remains a major figure in modern contemporary history.

The Vietnamese Socialist Republic has sustained the personality cult of Uncle Ho (Bác Hồ), the Bringer of Light (Chí Minh).

It is comparable in many ways to that of Mao Zedong in China and of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in North Korea.

There is the embalmed body on view in a massive mausoleum, the ubiquity of his image featured in every public building and schoolroom, and other displays of reverence, some unofficial, that verge on “worship“.

(Ho Chi Minh’s image appears on some family altars, and there is at least one temple dedicated to him, built in then-Viêt Công-controlled Vinh Long shortly after his death in 1970).

In The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (1982) Duiker suggests that the cult of Ho Chi Minh is indicative of a larger legacy, one that drew on “elements traditional to the exercise of control and authority in Vietnamese society.”

Duiker is drawn to an “irresistible and persuasive” comparison with China.

The Communist Road To Power In Vietnam: Second Edition Nations of the  Modern World : Asia: Duiker, William J: Fremdsprachige Bücher

As in China, leading party cadres were “most likely to be intellectuals descended [like Ho Chi Minh] from rural scholar-gentry families” in the interior (the protectorates of Annam and Tonkin).

Conversely, the pioneers of constitutional nationalism tended to be from the more “Westernised” coastal south (Saigon and surrounding French direct-rule Cochinchina) and to be from “commercial families without a traditional Confucian background“.

In Vietnam, as in China, Communism presented itself as a root and branch rejection of  Confucianism, condemned for its ritualism, inherent conservatism and resistance to change.

Once in power, the Vietnamese Communists may not have fought Confucianism “as bitterly as did their Chinese counterparts“, but its social prestige was “essentially destroyed.

In the political sphere, the puppet son of heaven (which had been weakly represented by the Bâo Dai) was replaced by the people’s republic.

Orthodox materialism accorded no place to heaven, gods, or other supernatural forces.

Socialist collectivism undermined the tradition of the Confucian family leader (gia truong).

The socialist conception of social equality destroyed the Confucian views of class.

Yet Duiker argues many were to find the new ideology “congenial” precisely because of its similarities with the teachings of the old Master: “the belief in one truth, embodied in quasi-sacred texts“; in “an anointed elite, trained in an all-embracing doctrine and responsible for leading the broad masses and indoctrinating them in proper thought and behaviour“; in “the subordination of the individual to the community“; and in the perfectibility, through corrective action, of human nature.

All of this, Duiker suggests, was in some manner present in the aura of the new Master, Chi Minh, “the bringer of light,” “Uncle Hô” to whom “all the desirable qualities of Confucian ethics” are ascribed.

A to Z of Vietnam (Taschenbuch), Bruce M Lockhart, William J Duiker

Under Ho Chi Minh, Vietnamese Marxism developed, in effect, as a kind of “reformed Confucianism” revised to meet “the challenges of the modern era” and, not least among these, of “total mobilisation in the struggle for national independence and state power.”

This “congeniality” with Confucian tradition was remarked on by Nguyen Khac Vien, a leading Hanoi intellectual of the 1960 and 70s.

In Confucianism and Marxism in Vietnam Nguyen Khac Vien, saw definite parallels between Confucian and party discipline, between the traditional scholar gentry and Ho Chi Minh’s party cadres.

Nguyễn Khắc Viện, chân dung một con người - Văn Học Sài Gòn
Above: Nguyen Khac Vien (1913 – 1997)

A completely different form of the cult of Hồ Chí Minh (and one tolerated by the government with some uneasiness) is his identification in Vietnamese folk religion with the Jade Emperor, who supposedly incarnated again on earth as Hồ Chí Minh.

Today Hồ Chí Minh as the Jade Emperor is supposed to speak from the spirit world through spiritualist mediums.

Jade Emperor. Ming Dynasty.jpg

The first such medium was one Madam Lang in the 1990s, but the cult acquired a significant number of followers through another medium, Madam Xoan.

She established on 1 January 2001 Đạo Ngọc Phật Hồ Chí Minh (the Way of Hồ Chí Minh as the Jade Buddha) also known as Đạo Bác Hồ (the Way of Uncle Hồ) at đền Hòa Bình (the Peace Temple) in Chí Linh-Sao Đỏ district of Hai Duong province.

She then founded the Peace Society of Heavenly Mediums (Đoàn đồng thiên Hòa Bình). Reportedly, by 2014 the movement had around 24,000 followers.

Cái gọi là đạo Ngọc Phật Hồ Chí Minh - YouTube
Above: Madam Lang

Yet even when the Vietnamese government’s attempt to immortalize Ho Chi Minh was also met with significant controversies and opposition.

The regime is sensitive to anything that might question the official hagiography.

This includes references to Hô Chi Minh’s personal life that might detract from the image of the dedicated “the father of the revolution“, the “celibate married only to the cause of revolution“.

Ho Chi Minh Thought - Wikiwand

William Duiker’s Hô Chi Minh: A Life (2000) was candid on the matter of Hô Chi Minh’s liaisons.

The government sought cuts in a Vietnamese translation and banned distribution of an issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review (1946 – 2009) which carried a small item about the controversy.

Far Eastern Economic Review - Wikipedia

Hồ Chí Minh is considered one of the most influential leaders in the world. 

Time magazine listed him in the list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century in 1998.

His thought and revolution inspired many leaders and people on a global scale in Asia, Africa and Latin America during the decolonization movement which occurred after World War II.

TIME Magazine Cover: Ho Chi Minh - Nov. 22, 1954 - Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam

As a Communist, he was one of the international figures who were highly praised in the Communist world.

Various places, boulevards and squares are named after him around the world, especially in Socialist states and former Communist states.

In Russia, there is a Hô Chi Minh Square and monument in Moscow, Hô Chi Minh Boulevard in St. Petersburg and Hồ Chí Minh square in Ulvanovsk (the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin, a sister city of Vinh, the birthplace of Hồ Chí Minh).

Памятник Хо Ши Мину в Москве
Above: Ho Chi Minh Monument, Moscow

Webcam at the intersection of Prosvescheniya Avenue and Ho Chi Minh Street  in St. Petersburg
Above: Intersection of Prosvescheniya Avenue and Ho Chi Minh Street in St. Petersburg (Russia)

Uncle Ho's statue inaugurates in Lenin's hometown | Vietnam Times
Above: Ho Chi Minh Monument, Ulyanovsky (Russia)

During the Vietnam / American War, the then West Bengal government renamed Harrington Street to Hô Chi Minh Sarani, which is also the location of the Consulate General of the United States of America in Kolkata.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affiars, as many as 20 countries across Asia, Europe, America and Africa have erected statues in remembrance of President Hồ Chí Minh.

Busts, statues and memorial plaques and exhibitions are displayed in destinations on his extensive world journey in exile from 1911 to 1941, including France, Great Britain, Russia, China and Thailand.

Above: Ho Chi Minh Bust, Kolkata (India)

Many activists and musicians wrote songs about Hồ Chí Minh and his revolution in different languages during the Vietnam War to demonstrate against the United States.

Spanish songs were composed by Félix Pita Rodriguez, Carlos Puebla and Ali Primera.

Félix Pita.jpg
Above: Félix Pita Rodriguez (1909 – 1990)

Carlos Puebla.jpg
Above: Portrait of Carlos Puebla (1917 – 1989)

Above: Alí Primera (1942 – 1985) Monument, Caujarao, Venezuela

In addition, the Chilean folk singer Victor Jara referenced Hồ Chí Minh in his anit-war song “El derecho de vivir en paz” (“The right to live in peace“).

Víctor Jara.jpg
Above: Victor Jara (1932 – 1973)

In English, Ewan MacColl wrote “The Ballad of Hồ Chí Minh” and Pete Seeger wrote “Teacher Uncle Ho”.

Portrait photograph of Ewan MacColl.jpg
Above: Ewan MacColl (1915 – 1989)

Pete Seeger playing the banjo in 1955
Above: Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014)

Russian songs about him were written by Vladimir Fere and German songs about him were written by Kurt Demmler.

Above: Vladimir Fere (1902 – 1971)

Above: Kurt Demmler (1933 – 2009)

In 1987, UNESCO officially recommended that its member states “join in the commemoration of the centenary of the birth of President Hồ Chí Minh by organizing various events as a tribute to his memory“, considering “the important and many-sided contributions of President Hồ Chí Minh to the fields of culture, education and the arts” who “devoted his whole life to the national liberation of the Vietnamese people, contributing to the common struggle of peoples for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress“.

UNESCO logo English.svg

The Presidential Palace, established in 1900 by French architect Auguste Henri Vildieu, was intended to be Hô Chi Minh’s official residence but the Vietnamese leader had opted for a traditional Vietnamese stilt-house instead.

The three-storey, mustard yellow building features 30 rooms built in colonial French architectural style, an orchard, carp pond, and a 91-metre long boulevard surrounded by lush gardens.

As political gatherings are still held at the Presidential Palace, visitors are only allowed to explore the gardens and Ho Chi Minh’s stilt home.

The three-storey, mustard yellow building features 30 rooms built in colonial French architectural style, an orchard, carp pond, and a 91-metre long boulevard surrounded by lush gardens.

As political gatherings are still held at the Presidential Palace, visitors are only allowed to explore the gardens and Hô Chi Minh’s stilt home with an entrance fee of VND 25,000.

Above: Ho Chi Minh House

The peaceful grounds surrounding the palace are home to well-kept botanical gardens and lush fruit groves, making it an ideal place for those looking to escape the bustling Old Quarter during their holiday.

Located in Ba Ding District, the Presidential Palace is about 15 minutes from Hanoi Old Quarter via taxi.

Like most French colonial architecture, the palace is pointedly European.

The only visual cues that it is located in Vietnam at all are mango trees growing on the grounds.

The yellow palace stands behind wrought iron gates flanked by sentry boxes.

It incorporates elements of Italian Renaissance design, including:

  • aedicules
  • a formal piano nobile reached by a grand staircase 
  • broken pediments
  • classical columns
  • quoins

When Vietnam achieved independence in 1954, Hô Chi Minh was claimed to have refused to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons, although he still received state guests there, he eventually built a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and carp pond on the grounds.

Presidential Palace of Vietnam.jpg

His house and the grounds were made into the Presidential Palace Historical Site in 1975.

The palace hosts government meetings.

It is not open to the public, although one may walk around the grounds for a fee.

Above: Carp pond, Presidential Palace grounds

I began this post by reminding you, gentle readers, that it is difficult to predict the future, that the decisions we make have consequences and that ultimately our character sometimes determines our fate but not always.

I then discussed the cult of personality, how noteworthy men have been held up not only in esteem but often in adoration as incorruptible paragons of how we mere mortals should be guided by their untarnishable examples.

Religion takes this adoration of personality to the point of assigning divinity to humanity (making gods out of men) or assigning humanity to divinity (making gods more like men).

The Abrahamic religions insist that man was made in the image of God, but in my darkest hours of doubt I find myself wondering if these human authors of these holy writs actually made God in the image of man to make religion more relatable, more palatable for those they wished to dominate through their fears of death and their hopes of meaning to life.

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Muhammad, (peace be upon him), though mortal as a man, is forbidden to be pictured as a man, but only as an idea or an ideal.

The Prophet, a mortal such as we, is never mentioned as capable of being fallible and error-prone as the rest of us, for if this were so, would he then be worthy of our respect?

Quran opened, resting on a stand

The One adored by the Jews was for centuries never mentioned directly by name as if the very name was too glorious for mere men to mutter and yet mere men determined what that name is and granted themselves the authority to destroy those committing the same sacrilege of naming the divine.

Christians have struggled for centuries over the question of how Christ is to be portrayed.

It is astonishing to me that the portrayal of Christ is seldom as Aramic-looking as an ancient Jew would have appeared at the time when it is said that the divine assumed human form.

It is also a source of puzzlement that those who claim association with the divine seem divinely more Photoshopped in description than the rest of us.

Is a holy man less divine if he has warts, scars, physical imperfections, handicaps and human failings?

Isn’t the whole point of religion that we can rise from who and what we are to become better than we are?

Adobe Photoshop CC icon.svg

Consider the Hindus, for whom the gods are aspects of the characteristics of the ultimately divine.

Somehow, the line between ancient paganism and modern practices does not always seem as thin as pretense suggests.

And let us take up the cause of men who have never sought to be venerated.

phat catholic apologetics: Hearing and Praying to God | Quotes about god,  Inspirational quotes, Spiritual quotes

The Buddha never sought to be more than a teacher and never intended to be worshipped as his followers do.

Atatürk never claimed to be infallible nor sought to be a source of constant gaze throughout the Turkish realm.

His successors elevated his life from noteworthy to untouchable and inviolate.

Ho Chi Minh had wanted his body to be cremated and not put on display for the entire existence of the Vietnamese nation.

Ho Chi Minh 1946.jpg

I am in no way suggesting that religion is without value.

Religion acknowledges that there is much that is beyond human control and that our human responses are choices that we make and that there are consequences with those choices.

Religion offers the solace of tradition and consolation that the choice to be decent human beings with Creation and one another gives our lives and deaths meaning.

The respect shown to those who have risen above their origins and inspired people by their vision and determination to become more than they were is a respect well-deserved.

But I believe that esteem should not be taken to extremes, for when we raise mere men to levels of incorruptability, when we suggest that they were and shall always be our betters, then we deny the possibility of progress in ourselves and we allow the unscrupulous to use our role models to restrain our enthusiasm for independent thought and development.

I am in no way suggesting that good names should be besmirched, but neither should they be denied the fallibility, the humanity, that these mere men rose above to create the reputations by which they are now known.

These remarkable men should not be remarkable because they were perfect, but rather because they weren’t, but nonetheless achieved remarkable accomplishments.

These mere men remind us that we as mere men can be more than we are, that we too as mere men can make our world (the dimensions of which we draw) a better place for our having existed.

Outdoor Sculpture Bronze Self Made Man Statue Sculpture - Buy Bronze  Eigenbau Mann Statue,Selbst Gemacht Mann Skulptur,Selbst Gemacht Mann Statue  Product on

I find myself wondering how Atatürk and Ho would have handled a pandemic had it struck Turkey and Vietnam during their reigns.

Certainly, there is little doubt that the reputations that they had would have shown themselves in responsible reactions to such a crisis.

But, here’s the thing…..

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Atatürk isn’t here anymore.

Ho’s body may be lingering, but his ability to command has been silenced.

We need to look to ourselves for the world that we wish to live in.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World | by Malak Taieb | Medium

We seek examples of Atatürk in today’s Ankara, and, Inshallah, perhaps Atatürk’s example may inspire the leadership needed to survive this pandemic by the Turkish nation.

Location of Turkey

We seek examples of Uncle Ho in today’s Hanoi and it is hoped that there remains a legacy of wisdom needed to combat Covid-19 across Vietnam.

Vietnam (orthographic projection).svg

I am not in Ankara nor is Heidi in Hanoi.

Above: Turkish Parliament, Ankara

Vietnamese National Assembly in Hanoi / gmp architekten | ArchDaily
Above: Vietnamese National Assembly, Hanoi

I am in Eskisehir and Heidi is in St. Gallen (Switzerland).

Above: Streets of Odunpazan (Ottoman Quarter), Eskisehir

Above: Old houses of St. Gallen

No one in Ankara is calling for my advice.

Türk Telekom logo.svg

No one in Bern (the Swiss capital) is calling Heidi for hers.

Bundeshaus Bern 2009, Flooffy.jpg
Above: Federal Palace, Bern

We have to believe that those chosen to reign over us have more knowledge, more experience in dealing with matters of a national nature than I a teacher and Heidi a student have.

But neither Heidi nor I have any illusions about the uncertainty of this belief, for we know that the powers that be, as well-intended as they may be, are as human, as fallible, as error-prone, as anyone, for they, despite their pretense and protestations to the contrary, are as we are.

It is my hope that they look to their better natures as the great men before them did, as Heidi and I look to our better natures to be the best that we can be.

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying – Running Through Grief

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Vietnam / Lonely Planet Turkey

Canada Slim and the Place of Problem Perception

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Monday 8 February 2021

Sometimes the words pour out off of my fingertips into the keyboard of my computer like raging rivers that shrug their shoulders impervious to any notion of resistance.

Other times they seep slowly out of an unremitting rock steadfast set against release.

This latter condition is my present plight as I attempt to weave a tapestry of images between events of the past and present moments.

As always I seek a theme, a common skein, that runs through times and places universally intertwined with the human condition.

Some dates and destinations write themselves.

Others require coaxing, prodding, prising from beneath a surface of amphorous lack of definition.

Tapestries are not easy to weave and the first threads do not immediately reveal the tableau complete.

Above: A portion of the Bayeux Tapestry

He who would write a symphony must first hear the music from within.

I can only hope I strike the proper chords as the tune is coaxed into composition.

Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Above: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

As I did my research of this day and sought to graft it to the Canadian town I am trying to evoke for you, my gentle reader, the common denominator upon which what follows seemed to rest is the idea of perception, the notion that we see something the way we are determined to see it and not necessarily the reality of what something truly is.

Take, for example, two commemorations that are traditionally celebrated on this calendar date.

Propose Day is celebrated in India on 8 February as a day to propose to your significant other, a day when large numbers of young people give roses to propose to their prospective girlfriend or boyfriend.

It is the second day of Valentines Week.

Although Valentine’s Day (14 February) is celebrated across the whole world, Valentines Week is something celebrated in India only, marked by various festivities across India.

Perception is everything on Propose Day, for how your prospective life partner is perceived determines the outcome of the proposal.

Perhaps a more apt description might be “misperception“, seeing what we want to see and denying the real evidence before us.

To further complicate appearances is the distortion that time plays upon the surface of images.

How something is seen today might not be how that same something is seen tomorrow.

Travel in your mind’s eye with me to another place, another time.

Prešeren Day (Slovene: Prešernov dan), full name Prešeren Day, the Slovene Cultural Holiday (Slovene: Prešernov dan, slovenski kulturni praznik), is a public holiday celebrated in Slovenia on 8 February.

It is marking the anniversary of the death of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren on 8 February 1849 and is the celebration of the Slovenian culture. 

It was established in 1945 to raise the cultural consciousness and the self-confidence of the Slovene nation, and declared a work-free day in 1991.

On 7 February, the eve of the holiday, the Prešeren Awards and the Prešeren Fund Awards, the highest Slovenian recognitions for cultural achievements, are conferred.

Prešeren Day continues to be one of the most widely celebrated Slovene holidays.

During the holiday all state and municipal museums and galleries offer free entry, and various other cultural events are held.

The holiday is celebrated not only in Slovenia, but also by Slovene communities all around the world.

Ivan Grohar - Portrait of France Preseren.jpg

Above: France Prešeren (1800 – 1849)

The anniversary of Prešeren’s death first became a prominent date during World War II in 1941, when 7 February was celebrated as the day of all-Slavic unity.

The proposal to celebrate 8 February as the Slovene cultural holiday was put forward in January 1945, in Crnomeli by the Slovene Liberation Front’s cultural worker Bogomil Gerlanc.

It was officially proclaimed a cultural holiday with a decree passed by the Presidency of the Slovne national Liberation Council on 28 January 1945 and published in the newspaper Slovenski porocevalec on 1 February 1945.

It remained a public holiday during the era of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia within the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia and was celebrated also by the Carinthian Slovenes (living in the Austrian state of Carinthia) and Slovenes in Italy (many near Venice).

It was marked with many cultural festivals and remembrances and with school excursions to culturally significant institutions.

The declaration of Prešeren Day as a work-free day in 1991 was opposed by many, claiming it would bring the banalisation of a holiday designed to be dedicated to cultural events.

As a result, 3 December, the anniversary of the poet’s birth, has also become widely celebrated as an alternative holiday.

Today both days are almost equally celebrated, with no antagonism between the two, although only Prešeren Day in February is officially recognised as a national holiday.

Since it became a work-free day, it has become even more highly valued.

But what of the man for whom this day was named?

Why is he perceived as pride in Slovene heritage?

Flag of Slovenia

Above: Flag of Slovenia

France Prešeren (3 December 1800 – 8 February 1849) was a 19th-century Romantic Slovene poet whose poems have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Slovak, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bengali, as well as to all the languages of former Yugoslavia, and in 2013 a complete collection of his Poezije (Poems) was translated into French.

He has been generally acknowledged as the greatest Slovene classical poet and has inspired virtually all later Slovene literature.

He wrote some high quality epic poetry, for example the first Slovene ballad and the first Slovene epic.

After his death, he became the leading name of the Slovene literary canon.

He tied together the motifs of his own unhappy love with that of an unhappy, subjugated homeland.

Especially after World War II in the Slovene lands, one of Prešeren’s motifs, the “hostile fortune“, has been adopted by Slovenes as a national myth, and Prešeren has been described being as ubiquitous as the air in Slovene culture.

During his lifetime, Prešeren lived in conflict with both the civil and religious establishment, as well as with the provincial bourgeoisie of Ljubljana.

He fell victim to severe drinking problems and tried to take his own life on at least two occasions, facing rejections and seeing most of his closest friends die tragically.

His lyric poetry dealt with the love towards his homeland, the suffering humanity, as well as his unfulfilled love towards his muse, Julija Primic.

Prešeren, 1850 oil portrait[i]

Above: France Prešeren

France Prešeren was born in the village of Vrba, Slovenia, as the third of eight children and the first son in the family of a well-off farmer and an ambitious and better educated mother who taught her children to write and read and soon sent them to their uncles who were Roman Catholic priests.

Already as a child, France showed considerable talent, and so his parents decided to provide him with a good education.

Above: Preseren’s birthplace, Vrba

At the age of eight, he was sent to elementary schools in Grosuplje and Ribnica, run by the local Roman Catholic clergy.

Above: Ribnica

In 1812, he moved to Ljubljana, where he attended the State Gymnasium (high school).

Already at a very young age, he learned Latin, Ancient Greek, and German, which was then the language of education, administration, and high culture in most areas inhabited by Slovenes.

Counterclockwise from top: Ljubljana Castle in the background and Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in the foreground; Kazina Palace at Congress Square; one of the Dragons on the Dragon Bridge; Visitation of Mary Church on Rožnik Hill; Ljubljana City Hall; Ljubljanica with the Triple Bridge in distance
Above: Images of modern Ljubljana

In Ljubljana, Prešeren’s talent was spotted by the poet Valentin Vodnik, who encouraged him to develop his literary skills in Slovene.

Franz Kurz zum Thurn und Goldenstein - Valentin Vodnik (cropped).jpg
Above: Valentin Vodnik (1758 – 1819)

As a high school student, Prešeren became friends with the future philologist (a person who studies literary texts) Matija Cop, who would have an extremely important influence on the development of Prešeren’s poetry.

Above: Matija Kop (1797 – 1835)

In 1821, Prešeren enrolled at the University of Vienna, where he studied law, against the wishes of his mother, who wanted him to become a priest.

In Vienna, he became acquainted with the western canon from Homer (800 – 701 BC) to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), but he was most fascinated by Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321) and the Italian trecentists (of the 14th century), especially Petrarch (1304 – 1374) and Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 1375).

He also read contemporary Romantic poets.

He was even fired from a teaching post at missionary Joseph von Klinkowström (1813 – 1876)’s Jesuit institute for having loaned a booklet of banned poetry to his friend Anastasius Grün (1806 – 1876).


Uni wien siegel.svg.png

Above: Logo of the University of Vienna

Prešeren’s first serious poetic attempts date from his student years in Vienna.

In 1824, he wrote some of his most popular poems, still under the influence of Valentin Vodnik and the rich tradition of Slovene folk poetry.

In 1825, he completed a collection of Carniolan poems, which he showed to the philologist Jernej Kopitar (1780 – 1844).

Kopitar was very critical of the young man’s literary attempts, and so Prešeren destroyed the entire collection.

Kopitar’s rejection hindered the development of Prešeren’s creativity.

Coat of arms of Carniola

Above: Coat of arms of Carniola

Preseren did not publish anything more until 1827, when his satirical poem Dekletom (To Maidens) was published by the German language journal Illyrisches Blatt (Illyrian Paper).

After acquiring a law degree in 1828, he returned to Ljubljana, where he was employed as an assistant in the firm of the lawyer Leopold Baumgartner.

He constantly strove to become an independent lawyer, filing as many as six applications, but he was not successful.

In 1828, Prešeren wrote his first important poem, “A Farewell to Youth“.

However, it was published only in 1830, in the literary almanac Krajinska cbelica (The Carniolan Bee), established the same year by the librarian Miha Kastelic in Ljubljana.

The journal published another well-known poem by Prešeren that year, the first Slovene ballad.

It was titled “Povodni moz” (the water man) and was a narration about Urška, a flirt from Ljubljana that ended in the hands of a handsome man who happened to be a water man (a male water spirit).

In 1830, his friend from high school, Matija Čop, returned to Ljubljana and re-established contacts with Prešeren.

Čop soon recognized his friend’s poetic talent and persuaded him to adopt Romantic poetic forms.

Following Čop’s advice, Prešeren would soon become a master of the sonnet.

His poems were noticed by the Czech scholar Frantisek Celakovsky, who published several highly positive critiques of it. Čelakovský’s praise was extremely important for Prešeren’s self-esteem and gave him the strength to continue in the path on which Čop had orientated him.

Portrait of František Ladislav Čelakovský by Jan Vilímek

Above. František Ladislav Čelakovský (1799 – 1852)

In 1832, Preseren briefly moved to Klagenfurt in the hope of furthering his career, but returned to Ljubljana after less than a year.

Above: Klagenfurt

In the spring of 1833, he met Julija Primic, the daughter of a rich merchant, who would become the unfulfilled love of his life.

Above: Julija Primic

In 1833, Preserin became a member of the Ljubljana high society’s social club, called the Casino Society (Slovene: Kazinsko društvo, German: Casino-Gesellschaft), and met Julija in 1834 and 1835 at the theatre and at the dances in Kazina, but did not have the courage to directly show her his feelings towards her.

Above: Casino Building, Ljubljana

In 1834, he began working as an assistant to his friend Blaž Crobath, who gave Prešeren enough free time to engage in his literary activities.

In the same year, he met the Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha (1810 – 1836) and the Slovene-born Croatian poet Stanko Vraz (1810 – 1851) and had long and fruitful discussions on poetry with them.

Karel Hynek Mácha

Between 1830 and 1835, Prešeren composed his esthetically most accomplished poems, which were inspired by the setbacks in his personal life, especially by his unrequited love for Julija Primic.

Prešeren followed Čop’s advice and transformed Julija into a poetic figure, reminiscent of Dante’s Beatrice and Petrarch’s Laura.

Sonetni venec (A Wreath of Sonnets) is Prešeren’s most important poem from his early period.

It is a crown of 15 sonnets.

It was published on 22 February 1834 in the Illyrisches Blatt.

In it, Prešeren tied together the motifs of his own unhappy love with that of an unhappy, subjugated homeland.

File:France Prešeren - Sonetni venez.pdf

The poem was recognized as a masterpiece by Matija Čop, but it did not gain much recognition beyond the small circle around the journal Krajnska čbelica.

Moreover, Julija was unimpressed.

Understandably, Prešeren moved to more bitter verses.

Another important work from this period are the Sonetje nesreče (sonnets of misfortune), which were first drafted already in 1832, but were published in the 4th volume of Krajnska čbelica only in July 1834, with some changes.

They are the most pessimistic of Prešeren’s works.

This is a group of six (initially seven) sonnets expressing the poet’s despair over life.

In the first sonnet, titled “O Vrba“, Prešeren reflects on what his life could have been like, had he never left his home village.

The other sonnets from the circle have not gained such a widespread popularity, but are still considered by scholars to be among Prešeren’s most genuine and profound works.

1835 was Prešeren’s annus horribilis.

His closest friend Matija Čop drowned while swimming in the Sava River, Julija Primic married a wealthy merchant, and Prešeren became alienated from his friend and editor of the literary journal Krajnska čbelica, Miha Kastelic.

Sava river in Belgrade, view from Kalemegdan fortress.jpg
Above: Sava River, Belgrade

Following his best friend’s death, Prešeren wrote the epic-lyric poem Krst pri Savici (the baptism on the Savica), dedicating it to Čop.

Set during the forced Christianization of the predecessors of Slovenes, the Carantanians, in the late 8th century, the poem addresses the issues of collective identity and faithfulness to the ancestors’ ways, as well as the issue of individual and his hope and resignation.

The philosopher Slavoj Zizek interpreted the poem as an example of the emergence of modern subjectivity.

Slavoj Zizek in Liverpool cropped.jpg
Above: Slavoj Zizek

Around 1836, Prešeren finally realized that his love for Julija would never become mutual (she had married another man the previous year).

The same year, he met Ana Jelovšek, with whom he entered into a permanent relationship.

They had three children, but never married.

Prešeren supported Ana financially and treated her as his rightful mate, but engaged in several other love affairs at the same time.

He also spent a lot of time travelling throughout Carniola, especially to Lake Bled, from the scenery of which he drew inspiration for his poems.

Lake Bled from the Mountain.jpg

Above: Lake Bled

In 1837, Prešeren met Emil Korytko, a Polish political activist from Galicia, confined by the Austrian authorities to Ljubljana.

Korytko introduced to Prešeren the work of Adam Mickiewicz, which had an important influence on his later works.

The two even jointly translated one of Mickiewicz’s poems (“Resygnacja“) from Polish to Slovene and started collecting Slovene folk songs in Carniola and Lower Styria.

Adam Mickiewicz według dagerotypu paryskiego z 1842 roku.jpg
Above: Adam Mickiewicz (1798 – 1855)

In 1839, Korytko died, leaving Prešeren without an important interlocutor after Čop’s death.

Above: The gravestone of Emil Korytko at Navje, with the German verses written by France Prešeren

In the autumn of the same year, Andrej Smole, one of Prešeren’s friends from his youth, returned home after many years of living and travelling abroad.

Smole was a relatively rich young intellectual from a well-established merchant family, who supported the development of Slovene culture.

The two spent much of the winter of 1839 – 1840 on Smole’s estate in Lower Carniola, where they planned several cultural and literary projects, including the establishment of a daily newspaper in the Slovene language and the publishing of Anton Tomaz Linhart’s comedy Matiček’s Wedding which had been prohibited as “politically inappropriate” in 1790, due to the outbreak of the French Revolution.

Above: Prezek Castle, where the friends often met

Both projects failed:

The planned journal Ilirske novice was blocked by the Viennese censorship, and Linhart’s play would be staged only in 1848, without Prešeren’s assistance.

Above: Anton Tomaz Linhart (1756 – 1795)

Smole died suddenly in 1840, literally in Prešeren’s arms, while celebrating his 40th birthday. Prešeren dedicated a touching, yet unexpectedly cheerful and vitalist poem to his late friend.

After 1840, Prešeren was left without any interlocutor who could appreciate his works, but continued to write poetry, although much less than in the 1830s.

Above: Andrej Smole (1800 – 1840)

Preseren gradually departed from the typical romantic trend, adopting an increasingly diverse and innovative style.

In 1843, an important breakthrough for Prešeren happened: 

Janez Bleiweis started publishing a new daily journal in the Slovene language and invited Prešeren to participate in its cultural section.

The two men came from rather different backgrounds:

Bleiweis was a moderate conservative and staunch supporter of the ecclesiastical and imperial establishments and alien to the Romantic culture.

He nevertheless established a fair relationship with the poet.

Prešeren’s participation in Bleiweis’ editorial project was the closest he would come to public recognition during his lifetime.

Above: Janez Bleiweis (1808 – 1881)

In 1844, Preseren wrote the patriotic poem “Zdravlijca” (A Toast), the most important achievement of his late period.

In 1847, a volume of his collected poems was published under the simple title Poezije Dr. Franceta Prešerna (Poems of Dr. France Prešeren).

Slika:France Prešeren - Poezije.pdf

In 1846, Prešeren was finally allowed to open his own law firm and moved to Kranj with his family.

Prešeren spent the last two years of his life occupied with private life and his new job as a lawyer in Kranj.

According to some accounts, he was planning several literary projects, including a novel in the realistic style and an experimental play, but he was struck with liver disease caused by his excessive drinking in prior years.

The revolution of 1848 left him rather indifferent, although it was carried out by the young generation who already saw him as an idol of democratic and national ideals.

Before his death, he did however redact his Zdravljica, which was left out from the 1847 volume of poems, and made some minor adjustments for a new edition of his collected poems.

He died in Kranj on 8 February 1849.

Upon his deathbed he confessed that he had never forgotten Julija.

In general, Prešeren’s life was an unhappy one.

View of Kranj with St. Cantianus and Companions Parish Church (left) and Our Lady of the Rosary Church (right)
Above: Kranj

Today, Prešeren is still considered one of the leading poets of Slovene literature, acclaimed not only nationally or regionally, but also according to the standards of developed European literature.

Prešeren was one of the greatest European Romanticists.

His fervent, heartfelt lyrics, intensely emotional but never merely sentimental, have made him the chief representative of the Romantic school in Slovenia.

Nevertheless, recognition came slowly after his death.

It was not before 1866 that a real breakthrough in the reception of his role in Slovene culture took place.

In that year, Josip Jurcic and Josip Stritar published a new edition of Prešeren’s collection of poems.

In the preface, Stritar published an essay which is still considered one of the most influential essays in Slovene history.

In it, he showed the aesthetic value of Prešeren’s work by placing him in the wider European context.

From then on, his reputation as the greatest poet in the Slovene language was never endangered.

Prešeren’s legacy in Slovene culture is enormous.

He is generally regarded as the national poet.

In 1905, his monument was placed at the central square in Ljubljana, now called Preseren Square.

By the early 1920s, all his surviving work had been catalogued and numerous critical editions of his works had been published.

Several scholars were already dealing exclusively with the analysis of his work and little was left unknown about his life.

In 1945, the anniversary of his death, called Preseren Day, was declared as the Slovene cultural holiday.

In 1989, his Zdravljica was declared the national anthem of Slovenia, replacing the old Naprej zastava slave.

In 1992, his effigy was portrayed on the Slovene 1000 tolar banknote, and since 2007, his image is on the Slovene €2 coin.

The highest Slovene prize for artistic achievements, the Preseren Award, is named after him.

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By many standards, Preseren had a good life and yet his perception of his life was anything but positive.

He defined his life, his nation, his sense of self, through his failed relationship with Julija, granting her power over him that she neither sought nor deserved.

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Fast forward with me to another time, another place, another life.

Neal Leon Cassady (8 February 1926 – 4 February 1968) was a major figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic and counterculture movements of the 1960s.

He was prominently featured as himself in the “scroll” (first draft) version of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, and served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in the 1957 version of that book.

In many of Kerouac’s later books, Cassady is represented by the character Cody Pomeray.

Cassady also appeared in Allen Ginsberg’s poems, and in several other works of literature by other writers.

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Above: Neal Cassady

Cassady was born to Maude Jean (née Scheuer) and Neal Marshall Cassady in Salt Lake City, Utah.

His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Colorado.

Cassady spent much of his youth either living on the streets of skid row, with his father, or in reform school.

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Above: Neal’s Skid Row

As a youth, Cassady was repeatedly involved in petty crime.

He was arrested for car theft when he was 14, for shoplifting and car theft when he was 15, and for car theft and fencing stolen property when he was 16.

In 1941, the 15-year-old Cassady met Justin W. Brierly, a prominent Denver educator.

Brierly was well known as a mentor of promising young men and was impressed by Cassady’s intelligence.

Over the next few years, Brierly took an active role in Cassady’s life. Brierly helped admit Cassady to East High School where he taught Cassady as a student, encouraged and supervised his reading, and found employment for him.

Cassady continued his criminal activities, however, and was repeatedly arrested from 1942 to 1944; on at least one of these occasions, he was released by law enforcement into Brierly’s safekeeping.

In June 1944, Cassady was arrested for possession of stolen goods and served 11 months of a one-year prison sentence.

Brierly and he actively exchanged letters during this period, even through Cassady’s intermittent incarcerations.

This correspondence represents Cassady’s earliest surviving letters.

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In October 1945, after being released from prison, Cassady married 16-year-old Lu Anne Henderson.

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Above: Luanne Henderson Cassady

In 1946, the couple traveled to New York City to visit their friend, Hal Chase, another protégé of Brierly’s.

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Above: Hal Chase (aka Chad King)

While visiting Chase at Columbia University, Cassady met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Although Cassady did not attend Columbia, he soon became friends with them and their acquaintances, some of whom later became members of the Beat Generation.

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Above: Logo of Columbia University

While in New York, Cassady persuaded Kerouac to teach him to write fiction.

Cassady’s second wife, Carolyn, has stated:

“Neal, having been raised in the slums of Denver amongst the world’s lost men, was determined to make more of himself, to become somebody, to be worthy and respected.

His genius mind absorbed every book he could find, whether literature, philosophy, or science.

Jack had a formal education, which Neal envied, but intellectually he was more than a match for Jack, and they enjoyed long discussions on every subject.”

Jack Kerouac by Tom Palumbo circa 1956
Above: Jack Kerouac (1922 – 1969)

Carolyn Robinson met Cassady in 1947, while she was studying for her master’s in theater arts at the University of Denver.

Five weeks after Lu Anne’s departure, Neal got an annulment from Lu Anne and married Carolyn, on 1 April 1948.

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Above: Carolyn Robinson Cassady (1923- 2013)

Carolyn’s book, Off the Road: Twenty Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg (1990), details her marriage to Cassady and recalls him as, “the archetype of the American man“.

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Cassady’s sexual relationship with Ginsberg lasted off and on for the next 20 years.

During this period, Cassady worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and kept in touch with his “Beat” acquaintances, even as they became increasingly different philosophically.

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The couple eventually had three children and settled down in a ranch house in Monte Sereno, California, 50 miles south of San Francisco, where Kerouac and Ginsberg sometimes visited.

This home, built in 1954 with money from a settlement from Southern Pacific Railroad for a train-related accident, was demolished in August 1997.

In 1950, Cassady entered into a bigamous marriage with Diane Hansen, a young model who was pregnant with his child, Curtis Hansen.

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Above: Diane Hansen and Neal Cassady

Cassady traveled cross-country with both Kerouac and Ginsberg on multiple occasions, including the trips documented in Kerouac’s On the Road.


Following an arrest in 1958 for offering to share a small amount of marijuana with an undercover agent at a San Francisco nightclub, Cassady served a two-year sentence at California’s San Quentin State Prison in Marin County.

After his release in June 1960, he struggled to meet family obligations, and Carolyn divorced him when his parole period expired in 1963.

Above: San Quentin State Prison

Carolyn stated that she was looking to relieve Cassady of the burden of supporting a family, but “this was a mistake and removed the last pillar of his self-esteem“.

After the divorce, in 1963, Cassady shared an apartment with Allen Ginsberg and Beat poet Charles Plymell, at 1403 Gough Street, San Francisco.

Ginsberg in 1979
Above: Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)

Plymell, 2017
Above: Charles Plymell

Cassady first met author Ken Kesey during the summer of 1962.

Ken Kesey
Above: Ken Kesey (1935 – 2001)

Cassady eventually became one of the Merry Pranksters, a group that formed around Kesey in 1964, who were vocal proponents of the use of psychedelic drugs.

During 1964, Cassady served as the main driver of the bus named Furthur on the iconic first half of the journey from San Francisco to New York, which was immortalized by Tom Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968).

Cassady appears at length in a documentary film about the Merry Pranksters and their cross-country trip, Magic Trip (2011), directed by Alex Gibney.

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a 1968 nonfiction book by Tom Wolfe.

The book is a popular example of the New Journalism literary style.

Wolfe presents a firsthand account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who travelled across America in a colorfully painted school bus, the Furthur, whose name was painted on the destination sign, indicating the general ethos of the Pranksters.

Kesey and the Pranksters became famous for their use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD in order to achieve expansion of their consciousness.

The book chronicles the Acid Tests (parties with LSD-laced Kool-Aid), encounters with notable figures of the time (Hells Angels, the Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg) and describes Kesey’s exile to Mexico and his arrests.

KoolAid 1stUSEd front.jpg

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is remembered as an accurate and “essential” book depicting the roots and growth of the hippie movement.

The use of New Journalism yielded two primary responses:

Amazement or disagreement.

While The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was not the original standard for New Journalism, it is the work most often cited as an example for the revolutionary style.

Wolfe’s descriptions and accounts of Kesey’s travel managed to captivate readers and permitted them to read the book as a fiction piece rather than a news story.

Those who saw the book as a literary work worthy of praise were amazed by the way Wolfe maintains control.

Despite being fully engulfed in the movement and aligned with the Prankster’s philosophy, Wolfe manages to distinguish between the realities of the Pranksters and Kesey’s experiences and the experiences triggered by their paranoia and acid trips.

Wolfe is in some key ways different from the Pranksters, because despite his appreciation for the spiritual experiences offered by the psychedelic, he also accepts the importance of the physical world.

The Pranksters see their trips as a breach of their physical worlds and realities.

Throughout the book Wolfe focuses on placing the Pranksters and Kesey within the context of their environment.

Where the Pranksters see ideas, Wolfe sees Real World objects.

As proponents of fiction and orthodox nonfiction continued to question the validity of New Journalism, Wolfe stood by the growing discipline.

Wolfe realized that this method of writing transformed the subjects of newspapers and articles into people with whom audiences could relate and sympathize.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test received praise from some outlets.

Others were not as open to its effects.

A review in The Harvard Crimson identified the effects of the book, but did so without offering praise.


The review, written by Jay Cantor, who went on to literary prominence himself, provides a more moderate description of Kesey and his Pranksters.

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Above: The Merry Pranksters

Cantor challenges Wolfe’s messiah-like depiction of Kesey, concluding that:

“In the end the Christ-like robes Wolfe fashioned for Kesey are much too large.

We are left with another acid-head and a bunch of kooky kids who did a few krazy things.”

Cantor explains how Kesey was offered the opportunity by a judge to speak to the masses and curb the use of LSD.

Kesey, who Wolfe idolizes for starting the movement, is left powerless in his opportunity to alter the movement.

Cantor is also critical of Wolfe’s praise for the rampant abuse of LSD.

Cantor admits the impact of Kesey in this scenario, stating that the drug was in fact widespread by 1969, when he wrote his criticism.

He questions the glorification of such drug use however, challenging the ethical attributes of reliance on such a drug, and further asserts that:

“LSD is no respecter of persons, of individuality”.

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Above: Tom Wolfe (1930 – 2018)

In January 1967, Cassady traveled to Mexico with fellow prankster George “Barely Visible” Walker and Cassady’s longtime girlfriend Anne Murphy.

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Above: Anne Murphy and George Walker

In a beachside house just south of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, they were joined by Barbara Wilson and Walter Cox.

All-night storytelling, speed drives in Walker’s Lotus Elan, and the use of LSD made for a classic Cassady performance — “like a trained bear,” Carolyn Cassady once said.

Cassady was beloved for his ability to inspire others to love life, yet at rare times he was known to express regret over his wild life, especially as it affected his family.

At one point, Cassady took Cox, then 19, aside and told him:

Twenty years of fast living — there’s just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up.

Don’t do what I have done.

Magic Trip.jpg

During the next year, Cassady’s life became less stable, and the pace of his travels more frenetic.

He left Mexico in May, travelling to San Francisco, Denver, New York City, and points in between.

Cassady then returned to Mexico in September and October (stopping in San Antonio, on the way to visit his oldest daughter, who had just given birth to his first grandchild), visited Ken Kesey’s Oregon farm in December, and spent the New Year with Carolyn at a friend’s house near San Francisco.

Finally, in late January 1968, Cassady returned to Mexico once again.

Flag of Mexico
Above: Flag of Mexico

On 3 February 1968, Cassady attended a wedding party in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

From top to bottom: Left: - Inmaculada Concepcion Temple - San Miguel de Allende Cathedral Right: - Panorama view of Cathedral and downtown San Miguel de Allende - Angela Peralta Teather - Allende Garden Park - San Miguel de Allende Historic Museum
Above: Images of San Miguel de Allende

After the party, he went walking along a railroad track to reach the next town, but passed out in the cold and rainy night wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans.

In the morning, he was found in a coma by the tracks, reportedly by Anton Black, later a professor at El Paso Community College, who carried Cassady over his shoulders to the local post office building.

Cassady was then transported to the closest hospital, where he died a few hours later on 4 February, four days short of his 42nd birthday.

The exact cause of Cassady’s death remains uncertain.

Those who attended the wedding party confirm that he took an unknown quantity of secobarbital, a powerful barbiturate sold under the brand name Seconal.

The physician who performed the autopsy wrote simply, “general congestion in all systems.”

When interviewed later, the physician stated that he was unable to give an accurate report because Cassady was a foreigner and there were drugs involved.

Exposure” is commonly cited as his cause of death, although his widow believes he may have died of kidney failure.

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Cassady is credited with helping Kerouac break with his Thomas Wolfe-influenced sentimental style, as seen in The Town and the City (1950).


After reading Cassady’s letters, Kerouac was inspired to write his story in Cassady’s communication style:

“In a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation”.

This fluid writing style, reading more like a stream of consciousness or hypermanic rapid-fire conversation than written prose, is best demonstrated within Cassady’s letters to family and friends.

In a letter to Kerouac from 1953, Cassady begins with the following fervent sentence:

Well, it’s about time you wrote, I was fearing you farted out on top that mean mountain or slid under while pissing in Pismo, beach of flowers, food and foolishness, but I knew the fear was ill-founded, for balancing it in my thoughts of you, much stronger and valid if you weren’t dead, was a realization of the experiences you would be having down there, rail, home, and the most important, climate, by a remembrance of my own feelings and thoughts (former low, or more exactly, nostalgic and unreal, latter high) as, for example, I too seemed to spend time looking out upper floor windows at sparse, especially night times, traffic in females — old or young.

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On the Road became a sensation.

By capturing Cassady’s voice, Kerouac discovered a unique style of his own that he called “spontaneous prose“, a stream of consciousness prose form.

Cassady’s own written work was never formally published in his lifetime, and he left behind only a half-written manuscript and a number of personal letters.

Cassady admitted to Kerouac in a letter from 1948:

“My prose has no individual style as such, but is rather an unspoken and still unexpressed groping toward the personal.

There is something there that wants to come out.

Something of my own that must be said.

Yet, perhaps, words are not the way for me.” 

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Above: Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac

I am in no way condoning nor condemning the use of recreational drugs, though I never relished the notion of experimenting with substances I could not predict.

I cannot claim to comprehend the Beat Generation nor its epitome Neal Cassady.

On some levels, Cassady inspired others.

On other levels, he was the antithesis of what a good man could be.

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As is inevitable when writing of the lives of those such as Preseren and Cassady, my mind compares my life with theirs.

Unlike Preseren, I don’t want to be reduced to relying on the good graces of a relationship to define who I am.

Unlike Cassady and Kesey, I appreciate the spiritual within the Real World without feeling the need to escape from the latter in a Quixotic quest for the former.

I confess that writing in a stream of consciousness is not something that appeals to me, for within myself there runs a conservative cautious man who, though unafraid of what others may think of him (or so I tell myself), senses the power of prose to influence others and does not see the value in illuminating the darker nature of my thoughts.

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I try to write as I try to teach:

  • life-affirming and compassionate
  • welcoming people on their merits, regardless of their sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, religious, or political and personal beliefs, even if they differ from my own
  • to support, motivate, advise, and never judge or criticize, unless harm is being done to others
  • respecting the significant investment made by others to assimilate what I might wish to impart

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There is a certain appeal for me in the type of New Journalism that Wolfe espouses, but intermingled with a kind of reflective travel writing where I try to humanize the places I describe.

It is this mix that I am trying to emulate in this year’s blogposts, though the works that, as yet, have seen no other eyes but my own, seek to express myself in other ways.

As I sit myself down at my laptop computer and seek to capture the essence of yet another place encountered in my travels, I find myself wondering how Preseren and Cassady might have perceived them…..

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St. Thomas, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monday 13 January 2020

Another day, another station, a halt between where I was and where I wanted to be.

Another town that is at first glance like any other town, seen by a man who at first glance appears to be a man like any other man.

The traveller, that brave intrepid soul with courage to spontaneously disembark, looks around and wonders where to begin.

There is no inkling of what might be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched, known, enjoyed and felt.

Guelph (population 131,794) is just another city in southwestern Ontario.

Like Kingston or Regina or Victoria or any number of Anglo communities in Canada, Guelph is a Royal City, roughly 28 km (17 mi) east of Kitchener and 100 km (62 mi) west of downtown Toronto, at the convergence of Highway 6, Highway 7 and Wellington County Road 124.

It is the seat of Wellington County, but is politically independent of it, which already hints that there may be something different about the place.

The city is built on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Downtown Guelph from the air
Above: Modern downtown Guelph aerial view

Naming a First Nation “Credit” seems as uninspiring as naming a community “Guelph“, for neither “Credit” nor “Guelph” evoke any images that excite the imagination.

Flag of Guelph
Above: Flag of Guelph

Guelph” comes through the Italian Guelfo from the Bavarian-Germanic Welf, in reference to the House of Welf and chosen to honour King George IV — the reigning British monarch at the time of the city’s founding—whose family, the Hanoverians, descended from the Welfs.

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Above: Coat of arms of the House of Welf (Brunswick-Lüneburg)

George IV depicted wearing coronation robes and four collars of chivalric orders: the Golden Fleece, Royal Guelphic, Bath and Garter
Above: George IV (1762 – 1830)

It is for this reason that the city has the nickname The Royal City.

The only “royals” to actually visit were John Campbell, the Marquis of Lorne, and his wife was Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, one of Queen Victoria’s daughters.

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Above: John Campbell (1845 -1914)

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Above: Princess Louise (1848 – 1939)

Downtown Guelph is situated above the confluence of the Speed River and the Eramosa River, which have numerous tributaries.

The Speed River enters from the north and the Eramosa River from the east.

The two rivers meet below downtown and continue southwest, where they merge with the Grand River.

There are also many creeks and smaller rivers creating large tracts of densely forested ravines, providing ideal sites for parks and recreational trails.

The city is built on several drumlins and buried waterways, the most notable being an underground creek flowing below the Albion Hotel, once the source of water used to brew beer. 

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This region of Ontario has cold winters and warm, humid summers.

It is generally a couple of degrees cooler here than in lower elevation regions on the Great Lakes shorelines, especially so in winter.

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Above: Speed River, Guelph

Eramosa River in Guelph Ontario early spring.jpg
Above: Eramosa River, Guelph

By European standards south of Scandanavia or beneath Alpine heights, Guelph has cold winters.

By much of the standards of the rest of Canada, Guelph’s complaints of the cold are laughable.

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Above: Guelph in winter

Before colonization, the area was considered by the surrounding indigenous communities to be a “neutral zone” and was inhabited by the Neutral Nation.

According to the University of Guelph, “the area was home to a First Nations community called the Attawandaron who lived in longhouses surrounded by fields of corn“.

The majority of this Nation, about 4,000 people, lived in a village near what is now the Badenoch area of Puslinch, near Morriston, just south of downtown Guelph.

There is an odd mindset regarding the First Nations that all was love and roses amongst these peoples before white Europeans came along like serpents in Eden to create an animosity that had not previously existed.

I don’t subscribe to this point of view.

I think that rivalries existed before the white man came a-knockin’ and that their arrival simply intensified pre-existing conflicts.

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Above: Indigenous peoples in modern Canada and the US

A remarkable man would begin to colonize this remarkable place.

John Galt (1779 – 1839) was a Scottish novelist, entrepreneur, and political and social commentator.

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Above: John Galt

Galt has been called the first political novelist in the English language, due to being the first novelist to deal with issues of the Industrial Revolution.

Galt was the first superintendent of the Canada Company (1826-1829).

The company had been formed to populate a part of what is now southern Ontario (then known as Upper Canada) in the first half of the 19th century.

It was later called “the most important single attempt at settlement in Canadian history“.

In 1829, Galt was recalled to Great Britain for mismanagement of the Canada Company (particularly incompetent bookkeeping), and was later jailed for failing to pay his son’s tuition.

Galt’s Autobiography, published in London in 1833, includes a discussion of his life and work in Upper Canada.

Above: Bust of John Galt, downtown Guelph

There is another equally bizarre mindset among too many European-descended North Americans that this land is their land and should be defended against foreign usurpers.

The obvious irony of this belief is never acknowledged.

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Born in Irvine, in Ayrshire, Scotland, Galt was the son of a naval captain involved in the West Indies trade.

John was educated at Irvine Grammar School.

Galt spent a few months with the Greenock Custom House, at age 17, then became an apprentice and junior clerk under his uncle, Mr. Ewing, also writing essays and stories for local journals in his spare time.

River Irvine
Above: Irvine, Scotland

He moved to London in 1804 to join his father and seek his fortune.

In 1809 he began studying law at Lincoln’s Inn (one of the four Inns of Court in London to which barristers (lawyers) of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar).

Above: New Hall, Lincoln’s Inn, London

During a subsequent trip to Europe, Galt met and befriended Lord Byron in Gibraltar.

He travelled with Byron and his companion, John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton to Malta.

He met them again in Greece.

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Above: John Hobhouse (1786 – 1869)

Lord Byron is one of those individuals for whom I have difficulty knowing how to evaluate him, in the sense that I appreciate the talent but I am uncertain if I would have liked the person.

As he himself described:

I am such a strange mélange of good and evil that it would be difficult to describe me.

I have no opinion about his bisexuality, but a casual glance at his life seems to suggest he went through people’s lives like a scythe through chaff.

Certainly I sympathize with his club foot and his early death, but I find myself pondering why so many artists find it difficult to live more upright lives than they do.

We admire their courage to be themselves and yet we disparage their character for having the audacity of being different.

Portrait of Byron
Above: Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)

Parting company, Galt continued alone to Constantinople (Istanbul), Adrianople (Edirne) and then Sophia (Sofia).

He returned to his family home in Greenock (Scotland) via Ireland.

He then embarked to London to pursue business plans, but these did not come to fruition and he took to writing.

Galt wrote an account of his travels, (Voyages and Travels, 1812) which met with moderate success.

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Can the world and humanity be ever understood without exploring as much of them as we can?

The Blue Marble photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 mission. The Arabian peninsula, Africa and Madagascar lie in the upper half of the disc, whereas Antarctica is at the bottom.

Decades later, Galt would also publish the first full biography of Lord Byron (The Life of Lord Byron, 1830).

He also published the first biography of the painter Benjamin West, The Life and Studies of Benjamin West (1820).

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In 1813, Galt attempted to establish a Gibraltaran trading company, in order to circumvent Napoleon’s embargo on British trade.

However, Wellington’s victory in Spain made this no longer necessary.

Above: Aerial view of Gibraltar

I think Galt was attracted to the lives of self-determining men.

West, for example, succeeded as an artist even though he was entirely self-taught.

Above: Self-portrait, Benjamin West (1738 – 1820)

Galt then returned to London and married Elizabeth Tilloch.

They had three boys.

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Above: Covent Garden, London, 1820

Let me cautiously wonder whether getting married automatically makes for a good spouse or whether being a father or mother automatically ensures being good parents.

See the source image

In 1815, Galt became Secretary of the Royal Caledonian Asylum in London.

He also privately consulted in several business ventures.

Above: Royal Caledonian Asylum, 1828

The way Wikipedia places Galt’s asylum position in the same context as his other business ventures makes me wonder if the electronic encyclopedia is suggesting that Galt’s motives as asylum secretary were more mercantile than humanitarian.

An incomplete sphere made of large, white, jigsaw puzzle pieces. Each puzzle piece contains one glyph from a different writing system, with each glyph written in black.
Above: Logo of Wikipedia

Galt started to submit articles to Blackwood’s Magazine in late 1819, and in March 1829 he sent Blackwood the publishers the plan for The Ayrshire Legatees.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine XXV 1829.jpg

See the source image

Concentrating on his writing for the next several years, Galt lived at times in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere, writing fiction and a number of school texts under the pseudonym Reverend T. Clark.

See the source image

Pseudonyms puzzle me.

I can understand the need for noms de plume when wishing to express opinions that run contrary to the politics or morals of the reigning classes, but I wonder if writers such as Mark Twain would have been any less popular had their own names, like Samuel Clemens, been used to market their works.

Twain in 1907
Above: Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) (1835 – 1910)

Around 1821, Galt moved his family from Greenock to Eskgrove near Musselburgh.

In addition to moving his residence frequently during this period, he also switched publishers several times, moving from Blackwood’s Magazine to Oliver and Boyd and then back again.

In 1821 Annals of the Parish was published as were two installments of The Steam Boat and he started work on the novel Sir André Wylie

Annals of the Parish established Galt’s reputation overnight. 

See the source image

Few folks achieve the fame of Shakespeare or Goethe beyond their lifetimes.

Few writers see the entirety of their works garner fame within their lifetimes.

Above: William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

Goethe in 1828, by Joseph Karl Stieler
Above: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

Annals of the Parish (full title: Annals of the parish: or, The chronicle of Dalmailing; during the ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, written by himself) is an 1821 novel of Scottish country life by John Galt.

Micah Balwhidder, considered to be the finest character created by Galt, reveals himself in the fictional first-person account to have human failings including conceit and vanity, as well as a keen interest in how the economy prospers.

The book provides a humorous and realistic account of a typical parish minister of the late 18th and early 19th century, the way of life in rural Scotland, and the social changes of the Industrial Revolution.

As Balwhidder proudly notes in his introduction, the Annals begin with Balwhidder’s appointment as minister on 25 October 1760, the same day that King George III came to the throne, and end with 1810 when the King “was set by as a precious vessel which had received a crack or a flaw, and could only be serviceable in the way of an ornament”, and Balwhidder’s ministry ends.

Annals of the Parish, written in Scots and English, is part of a series of Scottish stories written by Galt in the 1820s, which he referred to as ‘theoretical histories’ or ‘Tales of the West’.

Perhaps the success of Galt’s Annals of the Parish can be attributed to that human need to see ourselves in the literature we read?

See the source image

In his entry for 1793, Balwhidder recalls having a remarkable dream on the first night of the year, in which dead nobles and commoners rose from a graveyard to witness a mighty battle, the scene of the fighting then changing to a wasteland with a distant city around a tower with the fiery letters “Public Opinion“, a perplexing vision which appeared prophetic when he heard of the execution of Louis XVI (1754 – 1793).

In 1794, people of the parish favouring radical Jacobins emulating the reforms of the French Revolution become insolent and divided from the gentry, whose pride prevented them from showing any affability to these democrats.

Above: The execution of King Louis XVI, 21 January 1793

Revolutions have always been difficult for me to embrace, for so much bloodshed and destruction is done in the name of freedom while the tyrants toppled are often merely replaced by equally repugnant successors.

French Revolution

Concerned by this division, Balwhidder noted:

A bruit and a sound about universal benevolence, philanthropy, utility, and all the other disguises with which an infidel philosophy appropriated to itself the charity, brotherly love, and welldoing inculcated by our holy religion“.

He preached to his congregation that he “thought they had more sense than to secede from Christianity to become Utilitarians, for that it would be a confession of ignorance of the faith they deserved, seeing that it was the main duty inculcated by our religion to do all in morals and manners to which the new-fangled doctrine of utility pretended.

The term utilitarian was taken up by John Stuart Mill, whose 1861 book Utilitarianism included a footnote that, though “believing himself to be the first person who brought the word utilitarian into use, he did not invent the term, but adopted it from a passing expression in Mr. Galt’s Annals of the Parish.”

John Stuart Mill by London Stereoscopic Company, c1870.jpg
Above: John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873)

Taking the notion of utilitarianism to its extreme, dare we ask whether God made man or man made God, for dark designs under the heavens?

Michelangelo - Creation of Adam (cropped).jpg

Sir Andrew Wylie was published in 1822.

See the source image

In 1824, Galt was appointed Secretary of the Canada Company, a charter company established to aid in the colonization of the Huron Tract in Upper Canada along the eastern shore of Lake Huron.

Above: Canada Company Office, 1834

Even in days of yore the notion of escape to a better life was used as a lure to generate profits.

See the source image

The area, known as the Huron Tract on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, was 1,100,000 acres (4,500 km2) in size and had been acquired from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) by the British government.

The company surveyed and subdivided this massive area, built roads, mills, and schools and advertised it at affordable prices to buyers in Europe.

The company then assisted in the migration of new settlers, bringing them to the area by means of a boat, which the company also owned. 

Above: The Huron Tract (in yellow)

New World hopes, Old World greed?

See the source image

After the Canada Company was incorporated by royal charter on 19 August 1826, Galt traveled across the Atlantic on the man-of-war HMS Romney, arriving at New York City and then travelling by road.

Sadly, soon after arriving, word was sent that his mother had suffered a stroke.

He returned to her (in Musselburgh) in 1826.

She died a few months later.

He returned to Canada in 1826.

While in Canada, Galt lived in York in Upper Canada, but located the headquarters of the Canada Company at Guelph, a town he founded in 1827.

Later that year, he co-founded the town of Goderich with Tiger Dunlop. 

Above: Goderich, 1941

Tiger Dunlop Portrait.jpg
Above: William “Tiger” Dunlop (1792 – 1848)

The community of Galt (ON) was named after him.

Above: Old Post Office, Galt (now Cambridge)

No one seems to found communities anymore.

See the source image

Galt’s three sons played prominent roles in Canadian politics:

One of them, Alexander, later became one of the ‘Fathers of Confederation‘, and Canada’s first Minister of Finance.

Sir Alexander Galt.jpg
Above: Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt (1817 – 1893)

Think of Canada as a North American British United Provinces.

Today it is difficult to imagine Canada and the United States not being the identities they are today instead of the hodge-podge of territories they once were.

Above: Map of the Eastern British Provinces in North America at the time of Canadian Confederation, 1867

During his tenure with the Canada Company, Galt ran afoul of several colonial authorities.

He was heavily criticised by his employers for his lack of basic accounting skills and failure to carry out their established policies.

This resulted in his dismissal and recall to Great Britain in 1829.

Soon after his return to Great Britain, he spent several months in King’s Bench Prison (London) for failure to pay his debts.

Kings Bench Prison Microcosm edited.jpg
Above: Kings Bench Prison

One of Galt’s last novels, The Member, has political corruption as its central theme.

john galt - autobiography - First Edition - AbeBooks

It remains saddening to me that the value of a man is still too often judged by the size of his assets and his management of them, rather than his character or accomplishments beyond his financial acumen.

Bank statement - Wikipedia

In 1831, Galt moved to Barn Cottage in Old Brompton (London).

Despite failing health (following a trip over a tree root whilst in Canada), Galt was involved in another colonial business venture, the British American Land Company, which was formed to develop lands in the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada (Québec).

Galt served as secretary but was forced to resign in December 1832 because of his health.

By this stage his spinal injury was not only crippling him but also affecting his speech and handwriting.

In 1834, he moved to Edinburgh following the publishing of his two-volume Autobiography in 1833.

The Autobiography of John Galt by John Galt: Very Good (1833) 1st Edition.  | Tarrington Books

It is an obsession with us mere mortals in that we wished to be remembered beyond the span of our lives.

The reality is, despite all our efforts, that if most of us are remembered at all, it shan’t be for long.

See the source image

Galt here met the travel writer Harriet Pigott (1775 – 1846).

Pigott persuaded Galt to edit her Records of Real Life in the Palace and the Cottage.

She received some criticism for this as it was suspected that she was just taking advantage of Galt.

However, her unfinished biography of him which is in the Bodleian Library (Oxford) implies that it was more of mutual respect than her critics allowed. 

Records of Real Life in the Palace and the Cottage had an introduction by Galt, and this three-volume work was published in 1839.

Records of Real Life in the Palace and the Cottage, Revised by J. Galt: Pigott, Harriet Henriette: 9781149788370: Books

Sadly, Pigott is better remembered for suspiciously seeking Galt’s help than for the quality work she produced.

Harriet Pigott - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia
Above: Harriet Pigott

Galt retired to his old home in Greenock in August 1834 following the departure of three of his sons to Canada.

Finding the accommodation unsuitable he lived temporarily in Gourock before returning to a more comfortable house in December 1834.

Galt died on 11 April 1839.

He was buried in the family tomb of his parents in the New Burying Ground in Greenock (now called the Inverkip Street Cemetery).

Above: Final resting place of John Galt

It is an odd hobby for some to seek out the final resting places of the celebrated deceased.

Honestly, I cannot decide what respect, if any, is truly manifested by a visit to a gravesite of someone who never knew you.

And yet untold numbers flock to ghostly Gracelands and tumbledown tombs seeking some symbiosis with the Zeitgeist of the past by standing on the graves of the senseless dead.

Above: The Old Greenock Cemetery

Galt designed the town to attract settlers and farmers to the surrounding countryside.

His design intended the town to resemble a European city centre, complete with squares, broad main streets and narrow side streets, resulting in a variety of block sizes and shapes which are still in place today. 

The street plan was laid out in a radial street and grid system that branches out from downtown, a technique which was also employed in other planned towns of this era, such as Buffalo, New York.

Sepia map of an old waterfront village plan.
Above: Map of Buffalo, 1854 (Inset: 1804)

I have never been a fan of the grid or the radial planning of a place.

Perhaps this is what lured me out of North America:

The random chaos of the evolving Eurasian community.

Certainly there is a fear and a danger in the uncertainty of winding ways and archaic alleys, but this same fear, this same risk, offers an excitement and a serendipity that no organized metropolis can ever truly emulate.

15 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe | She Wanders Abroad
Above: Paris

Galt constructed what was one of the first buildings in the community to house early settlers and the Canada Company office, “The Priory” (built 1828), located on the banks of the Speed River near the current River Run Centre for Performing Arts and could house up to 100 people.

The Fate of the Priory — Guelph Historical Society
Above: The Priory

The building eventually became the Canadian Pacific Railway Priory Station on the Guelph Junction Railway before it was eventually torn down and removed.

A historical plaque commemorates John Galt’s role.

Guelph Railway Station 2015.jpg
Above: Guelph Railway Station

I would never classify myself as a train spotter, but I cannot deny that there is within me a great affection for train stations that no bus terminal has ever successfully imitated.

Above: Liverpool Lime Street Station’s frontage resembles a château and is the world’s oldest used terminus

The Guelph Junction Railway is a shortline railway owned by the City of Guelph and serves the city’s northwest industrial park.

The railway was the first federally chartered railway in the Commonwealth of Nations to be owned by a municipality.

It is one of only two in all of Canada, the other being the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway in Manitoba.

It never ceases to amuse me how we view the modern world as something that always was and always will be.

So many of us cannot imagine a world without highways carving swathes across the landscape.

So many of us cannot imagine a world before and without computers.

Perhaps this inability to picture the past handicaps our ability to imagine the future?

From the Past, I Seek the Future! : zardoz

By the fall of 1827, 70 houses had been built, though some were primitive.

In that year, the community had hired its first police constable.

The first police station would be opened in 1856 at the Town Hall.

It was moved in 1900 to the Annex building behind the Court House. 

Above: Old Town Hall, Guelph

There is a question that I, as a Canadian living abroad, am often asked:

That of what distinguishes Canadians from Americans.

Of the many long and ponderous distinctions that I could list, one that stands out revolves around law and order.

From this Canadian’s perspective, when I view how “the West was won” in our distinct nations, American settlers expanded out and the law followed, while in Canada the law went out first and settlement followed.

This one distinction, coupled with the idea of revolution versus evolution wherein the US revolted against Britain while Canada over time evolved its own self-determination, might explain our different values and attitudes towards law and order and government.

Is Canada Bigger Than the United States? - WorldAtlas

Also in 1827, the first Guelph Farmers’ Market was built.

The Market House was located in the downtown area.

The Guelph Farmers’ Market has served as a cultural and commercial anchor in downtown Guelph since the first Market House was built in 1827.

After 180 years it is still going strong and remains a popular stop on Saturday mornings for both locals and visitors.

The Guelph Farmers’ Market’s website proclaims “Buy Local – Buy Fresh“, reflecting the growing trend to “eat where you live” which is supported by local, national, international organizations and popular opinion.

The Farmers Market occupies a single building and surrounding outdoor space, housing approximately 60 vendors in winter, with numbers swelling to over 120 vendors during the summer and early fall.

Vendors at the market offer a variety of products and services, including fresh produce, baked goods, crafts, personal care products, clothing, photography and a collection of works by local artists.

The venue also plays host to a number of charitable events throughout the year.

The market currently stands at the corner of Gordon St and Waterloo Ave in what was previously the show horse barn.

It was relocated to this location in 1968.

A setup of coffee and bath/body products inside the market.

I like farmers’ markets and bazaars, for there is something far more communal than any modern shopping mall or supermarket can offer.

As I write these words here in Eskisehir, Turkey (18 – 26 March 2021), I smile at one aspect of the little street where I have been living these past three weeks.

Every Monday, from dawn to dusk, my wee street is transformed into a farmers’ market, necessitating my squeezing between market stalls to exit my apartment building as I once again walk to work.

A two-block length is filled with the cacophony and clamour of vendors hawking their wares.

I do not know, because of my present inability to converse in Turkish, whether or not buyers and sellers barter and bargain over the prices on display.

May be an image of one or more people and fruit
Above: My street’s Monday market, Esksehir, Turkey

Nonetheless, there is a sense of the primal and the pleasurable in seeing fruit and vegetables stacked upon unsteady wooden tables that evokes pleasant memories of other farmers’ markets I have seen, from that of Lachute (Québec) where I spent much of my youth to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul visited in the summer of a Turkish wedding four years ago.

Vintage Antique Shows & Markets: Lachute Flea Market
Above: Lachute Market

Above: Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

In my Canadian trip of 2020 I would later find myself visiting one of Canada’s largest malls, the (in)famous West Edmonton Shopping Mall, and I remember how sterile, how inhuman, everything felt.

West Edmonton Mall logo

I am no “Robin Sparkles” of How I Met Your Mother fame.

I will never sing “Let’s Go to the Mall“.

Robin Sparkles - Let's go to the Mall OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO *HQ* - YouTube
Above: Cobie Smulders (centre) (as Robin Sparkles)

There is a shopping mall (ES Park), a mere five minutes’ walk away from my apartment, I frequent, as little language fluency in Turkish is required to shop at the Migros supermarket there and where the Hürriyet Daily News is the only English language daily I can find in Eskisehir.

But I visit ES Park as an engineer visits a hardware store.

I go in, I find my desired purchase, I go out.

My curiosity is not drawn to the latest or the newest wares on display.

I linger not in the valley of the shadow of consumerism, for I do not feel that it is there where I belong.

Above: ES Park Shopping Mall, Eskisehir

Founded in 1827, James Hodgert’s brewery was managed by John Sleeman until he bought a property and opened the Silver Creek Brewery in 1851.

(In 1843, there were nine breweries serving the 700 people living in Guelph.)


Here begins a quirk about Guelph that becomes curiouser and curiouser over time.

One would think that a place with so many breweries would be a far more turbulent town than it has been and yet Guelph unexpectedly defies this kind of preconception.

StoneHammer Brewing .jpg
Above: Stone Hammer Brewing (1995 – 2018

The first Board of Commerce also started in 1827, to stimulate economic growth.

In 1866, it would be renamed the Board of Trade, and in 1919, it became the Chamber of Commerce.

In order to eliminate the need for farmers to take their grain to Galt or Dundas for grinding, the Canada Company built the first grist mill.

The Guelph Mill was sold to William Allen in 1832. 

Above: The Spring Mill Distellery, part of Allan’s Mill, Guelph

Waxing poetic about a mill is a skill I have yet to acquire.

The Mills of the Gods by Ada Alden | Charm by Ada… | Poetry Magazine

Allan’s Mill was a mill located on both banks of the Speed River in Guelph.

Part of the site is now listed under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The first industrial establishment in Guelph, the original wooden mill was built in 1830 for the Canada Company by Horace Perry, who sited it on the west (right) bank of the Speed River.

Allan's Mill Ruins: Ontario's Old Mills | Nature Notes
Above: Allan’s Mill

(Lest there be confusion, let us not imagine that the Speed River is a misplaced Parisian Seine!)

Guelph's Speed River may turn pink amid testing: city - Guelph |
Above: Speed River, Guelph

The mill was sold to William Allan in 1832, who operated it as a grist and flour mill.

By 1836, the mill complex was expanded on both sides of the river to include a distillery, a brewery, and a woolcarding house operated by William and his son David Allan.

Around 1850, the original wooden structure was removed and replaced with one made of limestone, and a bridge was added across the river, connecting the two halves of the mill.

Old reports state that the new grist mill building had cylindrical turrets, such as those found in Scotland.

The distillery sold large quantities of whisky and other spirits.

Around 1877, the Allan family sold the mill to David Spence of Brantford.

It remained in operation as a flour mill until a series of fires gutted the building.

File:Allan's mill, Guelph, historic plaque.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Everything burns.

Allan's Mill Ruins: Ontario's Old Mills | Nature Notes

The site on the west bank of the River later became home to several industries, including the Flexible Conduit Company (later the Dalyte Electric Co.) which occupied the site between 1909 and 1929.

In the 1960s, the site was home to a feed and seed business and a plastics firm, until the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1966.

The ruins of the stone building are now a part of Guelph’s Heritage Park.

Allan's Mill Ruins: Ontario's Old Mills | Nature Notes

Yes, everything burns.

Everything burns. : u/momed081

On the east bank of the river, the Arthur Street building which had previously housed the distillery became home to a variety of companies:

It first housed the McCrae Woollen Company until 1900 when the A.R. Woodyatt (later Taylor-Forbes) foundry purchased the site.

Taylor-Forbes occupied the site until its 1955 bankruptcy.

The site was sold to the W. C. Wood Company and was then used to manufacture appliances until the business was shut down in 2010.

After a period of brownfield restoration, construction began in 2014 on The Metalworks, a new condominium apartment complex on the site of the old W. C. Wood factory.

In 2019, as part of the Metalworks development, the Spring Mill Distillery was opened on the site, occupying the same building originally built for the Allan Distillery nearly two centuries before.

Historic designation sought for Guelph's first industrial site -

A sawmill was erected in 1833 by Charles Julius Mickle, originally from Scotland, on the Marden Creek which runs into the Speed River.

Its ruin survives today.

The Mickle family also built a home nearby, a year earlier.

Both properties were off what is now Highway 6, an area that was Guelph Township at the time.

Rural Routes - City of Guelph (Single Tier Wellington)

In 1831, Guelph had approximately 800 residents.

For several years, the economy of the village suffered and some residents moved away.

Relief came in the form of wealthy immigrants from England and Ireland who arrived in 1832.

The Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 indicates that the town had a jail and court house made of cut stone, a weekly newspaper, five churches/chapels and a population of 1,240 – most were from England and Scotland with a few from Ireland.

In addition to many tradesmen, the community had 15 stores, seven taverns, and some industry, tanneries, breweries, distilleries and a starch factory.

The Post Office was receiving mail daily.

Smith's Canadian gazetteer : comprising statistical and general information  respecting all parts of the upper province, or Canada West ... With a map  of the upper province

And now we live in an age where the Post Office is becoming increasingly obsolete.

Canada Post logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG

Guelph was incorporated as a town in 1855 and the first mayor elected was John Smith.

Poets of 19th century Guelph | Historically Guelph
Above: Mayor John Smith?

Despite optimism, the population growth was very slow until the Grand Trunk Railway reached it from Toronto, en route to Sarnia, in 1856.

Grand Trunk Railway System herald.jpg

The town was also served soon thereafter by the Great Western Railway branch from Harrisburg.

Great Western Railway of Canada: Southern Ontario's Pioneer Railway: Guay,  David R.P.: 9781459732827: Books

Above: Map of Guelph, 1855

It is pure folly the way the name of John Smith makes me think of David Tennant’s time as the BBC Doctor Who character, especially the episodes where he travels to Scotland of Queen Victoria’s day and England just prior to WW1 (Tooth and Claw / Human NatureThe Family of Blood).

John Smith was often the Tenth Doctor’s alias.

I can somehow picture Tennant as the Town of Guelph’s first mayor.

Tenth Doctor (Doctor Who).jpg
Above: David Tennant as the Doctor

In 1856, the village of Guelph became a town.

Two years later, the population was estimated at 4,500, up from 2,000 in 1853.

The first city hall, now called the Old City Hall, was built in 1856 of Guelph stone.

The building contained a market house, offices and an assembly hall.

Modifications were made in 1870, 1875 and 1961.

The building is now used as the Provincial Offences Courthouse, which handles matters such as traffic tickets, trespassing and liquor license violations.

Above: Guelph City Hall, 1920

The new Guelph City Hall opened in 2009 beside the older building, which was declared a National Historic Site in 1984.

The national document refers to the historic building as being “in the Italian Renaissance Revival style“.

City of Guelph lays off 601 employees amid coronavirus pressure
Above: New City Hall, Guelph

Two very successful major mills operated in Guelph for many years in the 1800s.

The first was the aforementioned Allan’s Mill. 

In 2019, the current John Sleeman reinstated the Spring Mill Distillery on the site which also includes a condominium apartment complex.

SPRING MILL DISTILLERY - 39 Photos - Distilleries - 43 Arthur Street S,  Guelph, ON - Phone Number

Though my days of drinking gluten-laden beer are past me now, I still vividly and warmly recall the taste of a Sleeman’s beer.

Sleeman | Just Beer

The more recent business, a sawmill known as the Goldie Mill, was also on the Speed.

This building was constructed in 1866 by James Goldie, replacing an earlier mill known as the Wellington Mill and later as the People’s Mill.

Goldie Mill Guelph | Hiking the GTA

The property, a ruin, was listed on the Canadian Register as a historic place in 2009.

Goldie was a perennial Conservative candidate for the riding of Wellington South and his son Thomas Goldie was mayor of Guelph from 1891 to 1892.

James Goldie (1824-1912) - Find A Grave Memorial
Above: James Goldie (1824 – 1912)

The limestone Goldie mill structure was damaged by fire in 1953 and a part of it was removed in 1969.

The remaining part still stands today, in Goldie Mill Park at Cardigan Street and London Road East.

The ruins, owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority, were stabilized in 2020 to solve a problem created by sinkholes.

Goldie Mill Guelph | Hiking the GTA
Above: Goldie Mill Ruins

Nature is always baying at the door.

Goldie Mill — Guelph Heritage

The Grand River provided transportation, water supply, and waterpower attracting settlement to the valley in the 19th century.

The combined deforestation and urban settlement aggravated flood and drought conditions.

Map Your Property - Grand River Conservation Authority

Perhaps as man creates his own hell, there is also hope that he may one day create his own heaven?

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin US promotional single.png

A main part of the Grand River’s course flows through the Carolinian life zone, which contains a southern type of forest that is found only in this area of Canada.

A wide variety of rare plants and animals are found here.

Above: Canada warbler (Cardellina canadensis) who use the Carolinian forests as their breeding grounds.

Which mostly go unnoticed as we rush past them in our automobiles and train wagons….

Growth for Guelph Junction Railway - Railway Age

The water quality in the river started to deteriorate to the point where it was a major public health concern.

To deal with these problems, a group of eight municipalities came together in 1934 to form the Grand River Conservation Commission.

Grand River Conservation Authority.svg

The Commission completed the Shand Dam, the first multi-purpose dam in Canada, in 1942.

It was built for flood control and the low flow augmentation to improve water quality during the dry summer months.

The Shand Dam | Hiking the GTA

The Commission also started planting trees to re-vegetate the landscape along the river.

Prior to World War II, renewable natural resources were exploited to encourage economic and industrial expansion and growth.

As a result of public concern over the state of the environment in Ontario, the Province passed the Conservation Authorities Act, 1946.

The Act was based on three main principles:

  • Initiative for the establishment and support of a conservation authority must come from the local people (all watershed municipalities).
  • The best unit for dealing with renewable resource conservation is the watershed.
  • If initiative and support were shown locally, the Ontario government would provide technical advice and financial assistance in the form of grants.

The Grand River Conservation Authority is a corporate body established to enable municipalities to jointly undertake water and natural resource management on a watershed basis – for the benefit of all.

The broad goal of all conservation authorities in Ontario is specified in Section 20 of the Conservation Authorities Act:

The objects of the Authority are to establish and undertake in the area over which it has jurisdiction, a program designed to further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources other than gas, oil, coal and minerals.

Under the terms of the Act, the Grand Valley Conservation Authority was formed in 1948.

This allowed all watershed municipalities to work collaboratively to address a broad range of resource management issues.

The practicality of two conservation organizations operating in the same watershed was closely scrutinized in the 1960s.

To avoid potential conflict over roles and responsibilities and to eliminate duplication of programs the Grand River Conservation Authority was established in 1966 through the amalgamation of the Grand River Conservation Commission and the Grand Valley Conservation Authority.

Maps and data - Grand River Conservation Authority

I am reminded of the 1990s Canadian group Moxy Früvous’s song River Valley:

Moxy Früvous, 1993 (left to right: Dave Matheson, Jian Ghomeshi, Murray Foster, Mike Ford)
Above: Moxy Früvous (1989 – 2001) (left to right: Dave Matheson, Jian Ghomeshi, Murray Foster, Mike Ford)

Who will save the river valley? That’s my drinking water
This was once a sacred place, now look at what we’ve got here
I’ll pretend there isn’t any problem, just do my job
And if I don’t like the standard of living, go move to Russia

Me and Pete went swimming last night, he’s my friend from Boy Scouts
All the fish were floating upright, we got scared, and we got out
Mother says don’t play down where your father does his job
He’s got to make a living, or move to Russia

This is my world, this is my world, don’t let it go away
Is it a crime, spending my time, dreaming of yesterday?

Meet me in the river valley, you can tell me stories
‘Bout a time before pinstripe suits, dippers, Grits and Tories

My mother sang the songs her mother taught her
And we’d be swimming off in cool, cool water
And when she’d call us from the yard
Running home it felt like God

This is my world
Don’t take it away

Is your favourite place controlled by developing ambitions?
Do you think you’ll have some power signing a petition?
Are you fine with your surroundings? Are they gonna crumble?
I’m living in the river valley, come and join me for a tumble

High up above, see the cars up on the viaduct
From sunrise to the last call – they push their luck
And that would be fine
If the world was yours, and you were mine

Who will save the river valley? (this is my world)
Who will save the river valley? (this is my world)
Who will save the river valley? (this is my world)

Who will save the river valley?


The board of the Guelph General Hospital was incorporated in 1861, with James Massie as the chairman.

The building was completed in 1875, at the cost of $9,869, and opened on August 16, 1875, with 2 beds, a small infectious room and a dispensary.

Guelph General Hospital is a medical care facility, a 165-bed facility employing 224 doctors among a total staff of about 1,200.

Prior to cutbacks in the 2008/2009 fiscal year, the hospital operated 181 beds.

This hospital rated as one of the safest in Canada in terms of the hospital standardized mortality ratio (the lower the better) at 78 in 2017, compared to the national average of 91.

By comparison, Cambridge Memorial Hospital had a score of 95.

Also in 2017, the facility was among the best in Ontario in terms of wait times at the emergency department.

Vaccination plans for Guelph General Hospital staff stalled due to Pfizer  shortage -

Which, of course, begs the question why is the Guelph General Hospital so much safer than other hospitals?

The Question Is What Happened to the Question Mark? - Proof That Blog

St. Joseph’s Health Centre was previously a hospital, but is now a 240-bed long-term care home with a 91-bed specialty unit for complex continuing, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Various outpatient services are also provided at this facility.

St. Joseph's Hospital, Guelph, Ont. : Digital Archive : Toronto Public  Library

Another major facility, Homewood Health Centre offers treatment for mental health and addiction issues.

The facility was founded in 1883 by the Homewood Retreat Association of Guelph as “a private asylum for the Insane and an Asylum for Inebriates” on a 19-acre property which included the Donald Guthrie house.

The first patients were admitted in December of that year.

Homewood grew to a 312-bed mental and behavioural health facility and also formed a partnership with R.B. Schlegel Holdings operate Oakwood Retirement Communities Inc., a long-term care facility.

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Guelph's Homewood Health Centre - Guelph |

Keep this mental health and addiction info in your mind…..


The Gothic Revival style Roman Catholic church on Norfolk Street, called the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate since 8 December 2014, was built between 1876 and 1888.

When John Galt founded Guelph on 23 April 1827, he allocated the highest point in the centre of the newly founded town to Roman Catholics as a compliment to his friend, Bishop Alexander Macdonell, who had given him advice in the formation of the Canada Company.

Alexander Macdonell.jpg
Above: Bishop Alexander Macdonell (1762 – 1840)

A road was also later cleared leading up to the hill and named after the Bishop, called Macdonell Street.

According to the Guelph Public Library archives, Galt wrote the following statement in the deed transferring the land on which the Church of Our Lady would one day stand:

“On this hill would one day rise a church to rival St. Peter’s in Rome.”

Above: Church of Our Lady, Guelph

Is there a prize for such a competiton?

Less time spent in Purgatory?

Better mansions in Heaven if better churches on Earth?

Above: Inscription on the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome: Indulgentia plenaria perpetua quotidiana toties quoties pro vivis et defunctis (“Perpetual everyday plenary indulgence on every occasion for the living and the dead“)

The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Immaculate is the 3rd church to stand on this site, high above the streetscape, overlooking the city of Guelph.

The first church, a framed wooden church named St. Patrick’s, had been built on the hill by 1835 and was the first structure in Guelph that was painted on both its interior and exterior.

It burned to the ground on 10 October 1844.

Construction on St. Bartholomew’s Church began shortly after St. Patrick’s was destroyed.

The new building was completed in 1846.

Church Of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario.jpg

The following inscription appeared on the cornerstone of St. Bartholomew’s Church:

“To God, the best and greatest.

The faithful of Guelph, of the diocese of Toronto have built this new Church, in honour of the blessed Apostle Bartholomew, the first church having been consumed in flames.”

Construction of the new church, based on the Cologne Cathedral, was accomplished between 1876 and 1888 by architect Joseph Connolly and is considered Connolly’s best work.

The monumental church contains decorative carving and stained glass executed by skilled craftsmen.

The design was inspired by the medieval cathedrals of France, and includes twin towers, a large rose window, pointed windows and an interior design where the chapels radiate from the polygonal apse.

Matthew Bell, a well-known Guelph artisan, was responsible for some of the carvings on the exterior as well as on the interior pillars of the church.

He died in 1883 as a result of injuries sustained in a fall while working on the building.

In 1888, almost 12 years after construction commenced, the church was dedicated to Our Lady Immaculate.

The twin towers, which rise to a height of over 200 feet (61 m), were not completed until 13 November 1926.

The completed church stands at the head of MacDonell Street as an imposing view terminus.

In 1958, the parish added a new entrance from Macdonell Street, but aside from this, the exterior appearance has changed little since 1926.

The complete construction of the church took more than 50 years, probably qualifying it as the longest construction project in the city’s history.

The 100th anniversary was celebrated on 10 October 1988. 

The Church of Our Lady is one of the 122 parishes in the Diocese of Hamilton and currently has 2,600 families in the congregation.

In 1990, the Church was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Pope Francis designated the Church a Basilica on 8 December 2014.

Pope Francis South Korea 2014.png
Above: Pope Francis

I confess to some confusion.

If God created the heavens and the Earth in all their majesty, then isn’t it a wee bit arrogant to believe that God can be contained within a manmade structure regardless of its garishness?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth | Devotions

The city of Guelph is mostly Christian (61.8%), almost evenly split among Protestants and Roman Catholics.

The largest non-Christian religion is Islam (2.6%), followed by Buddhism (1.9%), Hinduism (1.5%) and Sikhism (1.0%).

In 2017, Scientology Canada announced it would move its Canadian headquarters to Guelph.

Some residents protested the plan.

The facility was opened in the autumn of the year at 40 Baker Street.


Scientology is a set of beliefs and practices invented by American science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, and an associated movement.

L. Ron Hubbard in 1950 (cropped).jpg
Above: L. (Lafayette) Ron Hubbard (1911 – 1986)

It has been variously defined as a cult, a business and a new religious movement.

Hubbard initially developed a set of ideas, which he represented as a form of therapy, called Dianetics.

This he promoted through various publications, and through the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation, which he established in 1950.

The foundation soon entered bankruptcy, and Hubbard lost the rights to his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1952.

He then recharacterized the subject as a religion and renamed it Scientology, retaining the terminology, doctrines, and the practice of “auditing” (a process whereby the auditor takes an individual through times in their current or past lives with the purpose of ridding the individual of negative influences from past events or behaviours).


I agree with Canadian comedian Lorne Elliot who found it fascinating that those who claim to be descended from or previously lived former lives tend to say that they are descended from royalty, while no one rushes to claim their genetic or spiritual heritage as that as Clive the Goat Boy or Karen the Camp Follower of the War Of Jenkin’s Ear.

Do we really need relics of the past to define who we are today?

Lorne Elliot's folk-style comedy career is no joke | The Star
Above: Lorne Elliott

Within a year, Hubbard regained the rights to Dianetics and retained both subjects under the umbrella of the Church of Scientology.

Scientology followers believe that a human is an immortal, spiritual being (Thetan) that is resident in a physical body.

The Thetan has had innumerable past lives and it is observed in advanced (and – within the movement – secret) Scientology texts that lives preceding the Thetan’s arrival on Earth were lived in extraterrestrial cultures.

Above: The Founding Church of Scientology, Washington DC

Is this really more far-fetched than the Christian notion of Heaven and Hell or the Indian idea of reincarnation?

Above: Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above

Above: Illustration of reincarnation in Hindu art

Scientology doctrine states that any Scientologist undergoing auditing will eventually come across and recount a common series of events.

Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain Avenue.jpg
Above: Church of Scientology, Los Angeles

Perhaps the idea that we all share a common humanity?

Rosa Parks: I believe there is only one race - the human race. - rosa  parks, civil rights activist | Race quotes, Rosa parks quotes, Park quotes

Hubbard described the etymology of the word “Scientology” as coming from the Latin word scio, meaning “know or distinguish“, and the Greek word logos, meaning “the word or outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known“.

Hubbard wrote that “Scientology means knowing about knowing, or the science of knowledge“.

Above: Scientology Mexico

Sadly, I don’t know what it is that I don’t know.

Socrates quote: You don't know what you don't know.

From soon after their formation, Hubbard’s groups have generated considerable opposition and controversy, in some instances due to their illegal activities.

In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners brought proceedings against the Dianetic Research Foundation on the charge of teaching medicine without a license.

During the 1970s Hubbard’s followers engaged in a program of criminal infiltration of the US government, resulting in several executives of the organization being convicted and imprisoned for multiple offenses by a US Federal Court.

In 1992, a court in Canada convicted the Scientology organization in Toronto of spying on law enforcement and government agencies, and criminal breach of trust, later upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The Church of Scientology was convicted of fraud by a French court in 2009, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013.

The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgements as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business

Germany classifies Scientology groups as an “anti-constitutional sect“, while in France the government classify the group as a dangerous cult.

Above: Hubbard conducting a Dianetics seminar in Los Angeles in 1950

Apparently, it is easier to found a religion than a community these days.

I cannot say that I have ever been remotely curious about Scientology, but I think I can comprehend a community’s reluctance to have this contentious congregation as part of its religious ranks.

Guelph quest: Scientology sets up temporary shop in Canadian town and faces  stiff opposition | The Underground Bunker
Above: Scientology Canada HQ, Guelph

For those keeping track, we have an inordinate amount of breweries, mentally unwell and addicts, and Scientologists in Guelph…..

Guelph, Ontario is a mighty fine looking city : canada
Above: Guelph

By 1869, the community’s manufacturing companies were served by both the Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Western Railway.

The first section of the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway, between Guelph and Elora, opened in 1870.

The line would eventually run as far as Southampton (ON), with stations in communities such as Palmerston, Harriston, Listowel and Wingham.

The company was not very successful, and never did reach Owen Sound as planned, partly because of stiff competition from the Northern Railway of Canada as well as the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway.

By the mid 1870s, the Wellington, Grey & Bruce Railway was in financial trouble.

It eventually became part of the Grand Trunk system, and later, the Canadian National Railway.

CN Railway logo.svg

By January 1871, some residents of the town had access to gas, provided by the Guelph Gas Company via pipes, initially to about 100 homes.

Electricity would not become commonly available until the early 1900s, from the Guelph Light and Heat Commission.

Image from page 93 of "Electrical news and engineering" (1… | Flickr

An 1877 plan to start the Guelph Street Railway, using horse-drawn vehicles to deliver freight and passengers within Guelph, never came to fruition.

Transit History of Guelph, Ontario

How the world forgets that the railroad was once an amazing innovation in its day before the automobile became part and parcel of our civilization!

Caboolture Railway Station, Queensland, Aug 2012.JPG

A poor house with a farm, the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge, opened in December 1877 in a rural area near Guelph.

Many orphans from Guelph were admitted.

The building still stands, as the Wellington County Museum and Archives.

Wellington County Museum and Archives - Guelph Arts Council
Above: Wellington County Museum and Archives, Guelph

Along with breweries, Scientologists, the mentally ill and the addicted, Guelph has also had the destitute and the orphan, and yet…..

City of Guelph - City of Guelph
Above: Guelph

Guelph was incorporated as a city in 1879 with a Special Act of the Ontario Legislature.

At this time, Guelph became politically separated from Wellington County and was no longer represented on the Wellington County Council.

At separation, the population was about 10,000. 

Coat of arms of Guelph
Above: Coat of arms of Guelph

Another Guelphian quirk:

The seat of the County is in the City, which is not considered part of the County.

Official seal of Wellington County

By 1886, telephones were quite common in the city.

An April news article described the situation as follows.

“Telephones are rapidly being introduced into private homes, where they prove a great convenience.

Ladies order their groceries, consult their medical advisers, call their husbands home from the club and gossip with their friends by telephone.”

The evolution of telephones - CBS News

Some things change over time, some things do not.

Woman talking on mobile phone at home ⬇ Video by © ridofranz Stock Footage  #84190314

In 1903 the City purchased the Guelph Light & Power Company, and four years later created the Board of Light and Heat Commissioners.

Guelph was one of 13 municipalities that helped to create the provincial entity that became Ontario Hydro.

Ontario Hydro logo.svg
Above: Logo of Ontario Hydro (1906 – 1999)

Let there be light!

Old-fashioned light bulbs could be set for comeback after 'light recycling'  breakthrough | The Independent | The Independent

The Canadian Communist Party began as an illegal organization in a barn behind a farmhouse on Metcalfe Street in Guelph in 1921.

CommunistPartyofCanadalogo 2018.png
Above: Logo of the Communist Party of Canada

The Communist Party of Canada (French: Parti communiste du Canada) is a communist party in Canada founded in 1921 under conditions of illegality.

Although it is now a federal political party without any parliamentary representation, the party’s candidates have been elected to the Parliament of Canada, the Ontario Legislature, the Manitoba Legislature and various municipal governments across the country.

The party has also contributed significantly to trade union organizing and labour history in Canada, peace and anti-war activism, and many other social movements.

House of Commons of Canada sits in the West Block in Ottawa until 2029
Above: Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The Communist Party of Canada is the second oldest active party after the Liberal Party of Canada.

In 1993 the party was de-registered and had its assets seized, forcing it to begin a successful thirteen-year political and legal battle to maintain registration of small political parties in Canada.

The campaign culminated with the final decision of Figueroa v. Canada, changing the legal definition of a political party in Canada.

Despite its continued presence as a registered political party, the CPC places the vast majority of its emphasis on extra-parliamentary activity that it calls “the labour and people’s movements“, as reflected in its programme “Canada’s future is socialism“.

A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.

The Canadian Communist Party began as an illegal organization in a barn behind a farmhouse (owned by Elizabeth Farley) at Metcalf Street, then in the “outskirts” of the city of Guelph, during meetings held between 23 May and 25 May 1921.

An RCMP officer, working undercover, attended the meetings.

His report states that delegates attended from “Winnipeg, Vancouver, Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal, Sudbury and Regina” and that Russia had offered to provide funding for the group.

In addition to Guelph resident Fred Farley, a member of the United Communist Party of America, the attendees named in the RCMP report included Thomas J. Bell (a lithographer born in Ireland), Lorne Cunningham (an alderman), Trevor Maguire (one of the few in the group who was born in Canada) and Florence Custance (a teacher from Toronto).

The group was “incessantly praising the Soviet government of Russia, and urging the overthrow of the government of Canada“, according to the police report.

Communist Party of Canada founded at secret convention in Guelph barn 99  years ago
Above: The first meeting place of the Communist Party of Canada

Many of its founding members had worked as labour organizers and as anti-war activists and had belonged to groups such as the Socialist Party of Canada, One Big Union, the Socialist Labour Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, and other socialist, Marxist or Labour parties or clubs and organizations.

Russian Revolution - Causes, Timeline & Definition - HISTORY

The first members felt inspired by the Russian Revolution, and radicalized by the negative aftermath of World War I and the fight to improve living standards and labour rights, including the experience of the Winnipeg General Strike (15 May – 26 June 1919).

Above: Winnipeg General Strike, 21 June 1919

The Comintern accepted the party affiliation as its Canadian section in December 1921, and thus it adopted a similar organizational structure and policy to Communist parties around the world.

The party alternated between legality and illegality during the 1920s and 1930s.

Because of the War Measures Act in effect at its time of creation, the party operated as the “Workers’ Party of Canada” in February 1922 as its public face, and in March began publication of a newspaper, The Worker.

When Parliament allowed the War Measures Act to lapse in 1924, the underground organization was dissolved and the party’s name was changed to the Communist Party of Canada.

Comintern Logo.svg
Above: Logo of the Comintern

The party’s first actions included establishing a youth organization, the Young Communist League of Canada, and solidarity efforts with the Soviet Union.

Young Communist League of Canada logo.png
Above: Logo of the Young Communist League of Canada

Flag of the Soviet Union
Above: Flag of the Soviet Union / USSR (1955 – 1991)

By 1923 the party had raised over $64,000 for the Russian Red Cross, a very large sum of money at that time.

It also initiated a Canadian component of the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) which quickly became an organic part of the labour movement with active groups in 16 of 60 labour councils and in mining and logging camps.

Above: March 1923 issue of The Labor Herald, official organ of the Trade Union Educational League

By 1925 party membership stood at around 4,500 people, composed mainly of miners and lumber workers, and of railway, farm, and garment workers.

Most of these people came from immigrant communities like Finns and Ukrainians.

The party, working with the TUEL, played a role in many bitter strikes and difficult organizing drives, and in support of militant industrial unionism.

From 1922 to 1929, the provincial wings of the WPC/CPC also affiliated with the Canadian Labour Party, another expression of the CPC’s “united front” strategy.

The CLP operated as a federated labour party.

The CPC came to lead the CLP organization in several regions of the country, including Quebec, and did not run candidates during elections.

Labour Party Canada (@LabourCanada) | Twitter
Above: Logo of the Canadian Labour Party

 The CLP itself, however, never became an effective national organization.

The Communists withdrew from the CLP in 1929 following a shift in Comintern policy, as the organization folded.

From 1927 to 1929, the party went through a series of policy debates and internal ideological struggles in which advocates of the ideas of Leon Trotsky, as well as proponents of what the party called “North American Exceptionism“, were expelled.

photographs of Trotsky from the 1920s
Above: Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940)

Expellees included Maurice Spector, the editor of the party’s paper The Worker and party chairman, and Jack MacDonald (who had supported Spector’s expulsion) who resigned as the party’s general secretary for factionalism, and was expelled. 

Maurice Spector, James P. Cannon, and the Origins of Canadian Trotskyism
Above: Maurice Spector (1898 – 1968)

Jack MacDonald (Communist) : Emory Christer : 9786138272120

The Secretary of the Women’s Bureau and later, general editor of the Woman Worker (1926–1929) Florence Custance was only saved from expulsion from the Party due to her untimely death in 1929.

Her feminism and advocacy of birth control, for example, were well known to the mainstream press, but her radical contemporaries questioned her political sympathies and gave her few chances to shine.

The Woman Worker - Athabasca University Press | Athabasca University Press

MacDonald, also sympathetic to Trotskyist ideas, joined Spector in founding the International Left Opposition (Trotskyist) Canada, which formed part of Trotsky’s so-called Fourth International Left Opposition.

The party also expelled supporters of Nikolai Bukharin and of Jay Lovestone’s Right Opposition, such as William Moriarity (1890 – 1936).

Above: Nikolai Bukharin (1888 – 1938)

Above: Jay Lovestone (1897 – 1990)

The communists disagreed over strategy, tactics, the socialist identity of the Soviet Union, and over Canada’s status as an imperialist power.

While some communists like J.B. Salsberg  expressed sympathy with these positions, after debates that dominated party conventions for a couple of years by the early 1930s, the vast majority of members had decided to continue with the party.

J.B. Salsberg's life explored in Tulchinsky's First-Class Biography –  SHELDON KIRSHNER JOURNAL

The stock market crash in late 1929 signalled the beginning of a long and protracted economic crisis in Canada and internationally.

Crowd outside nyse.jpg
Above: A solemn crowd gathers outside the New York Stock Exchange after the crash, 25 October 1929

The crisis quickly led to widespread unemployment, poverty, destitution, and suffering among working families and farmers.

Above: Unemployed men march in Toronto

The general election of 1930 brought to power the R.B. Bennett Conservative government who attacked the labour movement and established “relief camps” for young unemployed men.

Richard Bedford Bennett.jpg
Above: Richard Bedford (R.B.) Bennett (1870 – 1947)

The CPC was the only party to make a systemic critique of the Depression as an alleged crisis of capitalism.

It was also the first political party in Canada to call for the introduction of unemployment insurance, a national health insurance scheme, making education universally accessible, social and employment assistance to youth, labour legislation including health and safety regulations, regulation of the working day and holidays, a minimum wage for women and youth, and state-run crop insurance and price control for farmers.

In 1931, eight of the CPC’s leaders were arrested and imprisoned under Section 98 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which outlawed advocacy of force or violence to bring about political change.

The party continued to exist, but was under the constant threat of legal harassment, and was for all intents and purposes an underground organization.

In 1934 a massive campaign pushed back against the imprisonment, which many characterized as political repression of the party.

The prisoners were released.

On the release of Tim Buck (1891 – 1973) from prison, a mass rally attended by an overflow crowd of over 17,000 supporters and sympathizers was held in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens.

Above: Tim Buck (left) and others, Dominion Communist – Labour Total War Committee meeting, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, 13 October 1942

Although the party was banned, it organized large mass organizations such as the Workers’ Unity League (WUL), and the Canadian Labour Defence League that played an important role in historic strikes like that of miners in Estevan, Saskatchewan.

Raising the Workers' Flag: The Workers' Unity League of Canada, 1930-1936  eBook: Endicott, Stephen: Kindle Store

From 1933 to 1936, the WUL led 90% of the strikes in Canada.

1929 – “Workers' Unity League formed” | evelyn hart

Already, conditions had taught social democrats, reformists, and the communists important lessons of cooperation.

In 1934, in accordance with the re-examined position of the Comintern, the CPC adopted a strategy and tactics based on a united front against fascism.

Above: The fasces – a symbol of fascism

In the prairies, Communists organized the Farmers Unity League, which mobilized against farm evictions.

They rallied hundreds or thousands of farmers into demonstration Hunger Marches that encountered police brutality.

Hunger marches - Wikipedia

In 1936, James Litterick was elected as an MLA for Winnipeg, the first CPC member to be elected to Manitoba’s legislature.

James Litterick.jpg
Above: James Litterick (1901 – 1943?)

Party members were also active in the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (CIO) attempt to unionize the auto and other industrial sectors including Steelworkers, the Canadian Seamen’s Union, the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union, the International Woodworkers of America, and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

CIO logo.gif

Among the poor and unemployed, Communists organized groups like the left-wing Workers Sports Association, one of the few ways that working-class youth had access to recreational programmes.

The Relief Camp Workers’ Union and the National Unemployed Workers Association played significant roles in organizing the unskilled and the unemployed in protest marches and demonstrations and campaigns, such as the “On to Ottawa Trek” and the 1938 Vancouver Post Office sit-down strike.

Above: Relief Projects No. 62: Road construction at Kimberly-Wasa, British Columbia

Above: Strikers of the On-to-Ottawa Trek

File:Post Office 1938.jpg - Wikipedia
Above: 1938 Vancouver Post Office Sit-Down Strike

Internationally, the party initiated the mobilization of the over 1,500-person Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (1937 – 1938) to fight in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) as part of the International Brigade.

Above: Mackenzie – Papineau Battalion Monument, Ottawa

Collage guerra civile spagnola.png
Above: Images of the Spanish Civil War

Emblem of the International Brigades.svg
Above: Emblem of the International Brigades

Among the leading Canadian Communists involved in that effort was Dr. Norman Bethune (1890 – 1939), who is known for his invention of a mobile blood transfusion unit, early advocacy of Medicare in Canada, and work with the Communist Party of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 – 1945).

Above: Dr. Norman Bethune (left) in China

Above: Canadian Blood Transfusion Unit which operated during the Spanish Civil War. Dr Norman Bethune is to the right 

Solidarity efforts for the Spanish Civil War and many labour and social struggles during the Depression resulted in much cooperation between members of the CPC and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation logo.png

After 1935, the CPC advocated electoral alliances and unity with the CCF on key issues.

The proposal was debated in the CCF, with the 1936 BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan conventions generally supporting cooperation while the Ontario convention opposed.

While the motion was defeated at that Parties third federal convention, the Communists continued to call for a united front.

The call was particularly urgent in Quebec, where in 1937 the Duplessis government passed “an act to protect Québec against communist propaganda” giving the police the power to padlock any premises used by “communists” (which was undefined in the legislation).

Maurice Duplessis.jpg
Above: Maurice Duplessis (1890 – 1959)

Although the Communist Party had worked hard to warn Canadians about what it considered to be a growing fascist danger, after some debate the Party saw the opening of World War II not as an anti-fascist war but a battle between capitalist nations.

Most likely this conclusion was supported by the policies of the big powers.

Many voices in the British establishment, for example, called loudly for support of Adolf Hitler against the USSR.

Hitler portrait crop.jpg
Above: Adolf Hitler

Meanwhile, having failed in reaching agreement with Britain and other world powers, the USSR signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, to bide time before an inevitable war between the two.

Above: Russia’s Vyacheslav Molotov and Germany’s Joachim von Ribbentrop after the Pact was signed, 23 August 1939

The Communist Party’s opposition to World War II led to it being banned under the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act in 1940 shortly after Canada entered into the war.

In many cases Communist leaders were interned in camps, long before fascists.

As growing numbers of Communist Party leaders were interned, some members went underground or exile in the United States.

Conditions in the camps were harsh.

A civil rights campaign was launched by the wives of many of the interned men for family visits and their release.

Internment in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia

With Germany’s 1941 invasion of the USSR and the collapse of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the party argued that the nature of the war had changed to a genuine anti-fascist struggle.

The CPC reversed its opposition to the war and argued the danger to the working class on the international level superseded its interests nationally.

During the Conscription Crisis of 1944, the banned CPC set up “Tim Buck Plebiscite Committees” across the country to campaign for a “yes” vote in the national referendum on conscription.

Following the vote, the committees were renamed the Dominion Communist-Labour Total War Committee and urged full support for the war effort, a no-strike pledge for the duration of the war and increased industrial production.

Tim Buck - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

The National Council for Democratic Rights was also established with A.E. Smith as chair in order to rally for the legalization of the Communist Party and the release of Communists and anti-fascists from internment.

Above: Albert Edward (A.E.) Smith (1871 – 1947)

The party’s first elected Member of Parliament (MP) was Dorise Nielsen (1902 – 1980).

Nielsen was elected in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1940 under the popular front Progressive Unity label, with the support of many CCF individuals.

Nielsen kept her membership in the party a secret until 1943.

Dorise Nielsen – Active History

The Communist Party remained banned, but with the entry of the Soviet Union into the war and the eventual release of the Canadian party’s interned leaders, Canadian Communists founded the Labour-Progressive Party (LPP) in 1943 as a legal front and thereafter ran candidates under that name until 1959.

At its height in the mid-1940s, the party had 14 sitting elected officials at the federal, provincial and municipal level. 

Socialist History Project

In 1945, Igor Gouzenko (1919 – 1982), a cipher clerk at the Soviet Embassy, defected to Canada alleging several Canadian communists were operating a spy ring which provided the Soviet Union with top secret information.

Remembering Gouzenko, the defector who triggered the Cold War |

The (Justice Roy) Kellock- (Justice Robert) Taschereau Commission was called by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to investigate the matter.

This led to the convictions of Fred Rose and other communists.

R.L. Kellock ~ Canada's Human Rights History
Above: Roy Kellock (1893 – 1975)

Robert Taschereau.png
Above: Robert Tascherau (1896 – 1970)

Above: William Lyon Mackenzie King (1875 – 1950)

Fred Rose standing.jpg
Above: Fred Rose (1907 – 1983)

Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 Secret Speech exposing the crimes of Joseph Stalin and the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary shook the faith of many Communists around the world.

Above: Nikita Khrushchev (1894 – 1971) on Time 1953 magazine cover

Above: O kulcie jednostki i jego następstwach (On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences), Warsaw, March 1956, first edition of “the Secret Speech“, published for the inner use in the Polish United Workers Party. CIA Director Allen Dulles remembered how “the speech, never published in the USSR., was of great importance for the Free World. Eventually the text was found – but many miles from Moscow, where it had been delivered.  I have always viewed this as one of the major coups of my tour of duty in intelligence.”

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Above: Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953)

Above: Soviet tanks in Budapest, 31 October 1956

As well, the party was riven by a crisis following the return of prominent party member J.B. Salsberg from a trip to the Soviet Union where he found rampant party-sponsored antisemitism.

Salsberg reported his findings but they were rejected by the party, which suspended him from its leading bodies.

The crisis resulted in the departure of the United Jewish Peoples’ Order (UJPO), Salsberg, Robert Laxer and most of the party’s Jewish members in 1956.

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Many, perhaps most, members of the Canadian party left, including a number of prominent party members.

In the mid-1960s the US State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 3,500.

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The Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia caused more people to leave the Canadian Communist Party.

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Above: During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning tank in Prague, 1 January 1968

Many women were likewise deterred from engaging with Canadian Communism as the Party was somewhat resistant to their politics.

The Party may have countered that the discussions of sex, gender, and women’s politics held the potential to veer away from the overarching goal of class revolution, for example, many radical women recalled the hypocrisy of Party men who refused to discuss sex despite carrying on numerous extramarital affairs.

The party was also active in indigenous people’s struggles.

For example, James P. Brady and Malcom Norris were founders of the Metis Associations of Saskatchewan and Alberta in the 1940s and 1950s.

Métis Nation - Saskatchewan Takes Legal Action Against the Province of  Saskatchewan

Métis Nation Alberta (@AlbertaMetis) | Twitter

In common with most communist parties, the CPC went through a crisis after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and subsequently split.

Under then general secretary George Hewison (1988–1991), the leadership of the CPC and a segment of its general membership began to abandon Marxism–Leninism as the basis of the Party’s revolutionary perspective, and ultimately moved to liquidate the Party itself, seeking to replace it with a left, social democratic entity.

George Hewison speaking at the 1982 UFAWU (United Fishermen and Allied  Workers Union) Convention] | SFU Digitized Collections
Above: George Hewison

The protracted ideological and political crisis created much confusion and disorientation within the ranks of the Party, and paralysed both its independent and united front work for over two years.

The Hewison-led majority in the Central Committee (CC) of the party voted to abandon Marxism–Leninism.

An orthodox minority in the CC, led by Miguel Figueroa, Elizabeth Rowley and former leader William Kashtan, resisted this effort.

At the 28th Convention in the fall of 1990, the Hewison group managed to maintain its control of the Central Committee of the CPC, but by the spring of 1991, the membership began to turn more and more against the reformist policies and orientation of the Hewison leadership.

Above: Miguel Figueroa

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Above: Elizabeth Rowley

Above: William Kashtan (1909 – 1993)

Key provincial conventions were held in 1991 in the two main provincial bases of the CPC — British Columbia and Ontario.

At the BC convention, delegates threw out Fred Wilson, one of the main leaders of the Hewison group.

A few months later in June 1991, Ontario delegates rejected a concerted campaign by Hewison and his supporters, and overwhelmingly reelected provincial leader Elizabeth Rowley and other supporters of the Marxist–Leninist current to the Ontario Committee and Executive.

The Hewison group moved on 27 August 1991 to expel 11 of the key leaders of the opposition, including Rowley, Emil Bjarnason, and former central organizer John Bizzell.

The Hewison-controlled Central Executive also dismissed the Ontario provincial committee.

The vast majority of local clubs and committees of the CPC opposed the expulsions, and called instead for an extraordinary convention of the party to resolve the deepening crisis in a democratic manner.

There were loud protests at the CC’s October 1991 meeting, but an extraordinary convention was not convened.

With few remaining options, Rowley and the other expelled members threatened to take the Hewison group to court.

After several months of negotiations between the Hewison group and the opposition “All-Canada Negotiating Committee“, an out-of-court settlement resulted in the Hewison leadership agreeing to leave the CPC and relinquish any claim to the party’s name, while taking most of the party’s assets to the Cecil-Ross Society, a publishing and educational foundation previously associated with the party.

Following the departure of the Hewison-led group, a convention was held in December 1992 at which delegates agreed to continue the Communist Party (thus the meeting was titled the 30th CPC Convention).

Delegates rejected the reformist policies instituted by the Hewison group and instead reaffirmed the CPC as a Marxist–Leninist organization.

Since most of the old party’s assets were now the property of the Hewison-led Cecil Ross Society, the CPC convention decided to launch a new newspaper, the People’s Voice (“the news the corporate media won’t print“), to replace the old Canadian Tribune.

Logo of the biweekly newspaper "People's Voice"

The convention elected a new central committee with Figueroa as Party Leader.

The convention also amended the party constitution to grant more membership control and lessen the arbitrary powers of the Central Committee, while maintaining democratic centralism as its organizational principle.

Meanwhile, the former Communists retained the Cecil-Ross Society as a political foundation to continue their political efforts.

They also sold off the party’s headquarters at 24 Cecil Street, having earlier liquidated various party-related business such as Eveready Printers (the party printshop) and Progress Publishers.

The name of the Cecil-Ross Society comes from the intersection of Cecil Street and Ross Street in Toronto where the headquarters of the party was located.

Above: 24 Cecil Street, Toronto

The Cecil-Ross Society took with it the rights to the Canadian Tribune, which had been the party’s weekly newspaper for decades, as well as roughly half of the party’s assets.

The Cecil-Ross Society ended publication of the Canadian Tribune and attempted to launch a new broad-left magazine, New Times which failed after a few issues and then Ginger which was only published twice.

The renovated party, although with a much smaller membership and resources (such as the former headquarters at 24 Cecil Street in Toronto and party printing press) now faced further challenges and threats to its existence.

Changes to the Canada Elections Act, introduced by the Mulroney Conservative government and passed by Parliament in the spring of 1993, required that any political party which failed to field 50 candidates in a general federal election would be automatically de-registered and its assets seized.

Above: Brian Mulroney

The CPC was not in a position to run 50 candidates in the 1993 federal election (it fielded only eight candidates during that election), and therefore its assets were seized and the party was de-registered.

The CPC had sought an interim injunction to prevent its imminent de-registration, but this legal action failed.

A prolonged ten-year political and legal battle, Figueroa v. Canada ensued, which won the support of widespread popular opinion, reflected in a number of members of parliament openly supporting the challenge and other small political parties joining the case, most notably the Green Party.

Never before had a single court challenge resulted in legislative action on three separate occasions to amend a standing law.

Bill C-2 (2000) amended the Canada Elections Act to (among other things) remove the unconstitutional seizure of party assets for failure to field 50 candidates in a general election and provided for the full refund of candidates’ deposits.

The party had its deregistration overturned and its seized assets restored.

Bill C-9 (2001) reduced the threshold from 50 to 12 candidates for the party identifier to appear on the ballot.

After the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to strike down the 50-candidate threshold as unconstitutional, the Chretien government was forced to introduce and pass Bill C-3 (2003), which scrapped the rule altogether for party registration.

This victory was celebrated by many of the other small parties – regardless of political differences – on the principle that it was a victory for the people’s right to democratic choice.

(Even if that choice is sometimes the wrong one…..)

Supreme Court of Canada
Above: The Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa

During this time the CPC began to publish a fortnightly newspaper called People’s Voice.

Its Quebec section, le Parti communiste du Québec (PCQ), was reorganized.

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The CPC also began periodically publishing a theoretical/discussion journal Spark!.

In 2001 the party adopted a comprehensive update to its party programme and renamed it “Canada’s future is socialism“.

The CPC re-invigorated its long-standing involvement in and contribution to the labour movement and support of trade union organizing and campaigns, in the civic reform movement, and in a number of social justice, anti-war and international solidarity groups and coalitions.

Reform and Class Struggle - MLToday

Communism (Latin: communis, ‘common, universal’) is a philosophical, social, political and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Communism includes a variety of schools of thought which broadly include Marxism and anarcho-communism as well as the political ideologies grouped around both, all of which share the analysis that the current order of society stems from capitalism, its economic system and mode of production, namely that in this system there are two major social classes, conflict between these two classes is the root of all problems in society and this situation can only ultimately be resolved through a social revolution.

The two classes are the proletariat (the working class), who make up the majority of the population within society and must work to survive; and the bourgeoisie (the capitalist class), a small minority who derives profit from employing the working class through private ownership of the means of production.

According to this analysis, revolution would put the working class in power and in turn establish social ownership of the means of production which is the primary element in the transformation of society towards communism.

Along with social democracy, communism became the dominant political tendency within the international socialist movement by the 1920s.

The emergence of the Soviet Union as the world’s first nominally communist state led to communism’s widespread association with Marxism – Leninism and the Soveit economic model.

Almost all communist governments in the 20th century espoused Marxism–Leninism or a variation of it.

Some economists and intellectuals argue that, in practice, the model under which these nominally communist states operated was in fact a form of state capitalism or a non-planned administrative or command economy and not an actual communist economic model in accordance with most accepted definitions of “communism” as an economic theory.

If communism the theory could actually work creating a harmonious society where everyone was equal I believe there are aspects of it worth considering, but like some dictatorships add the name “Democratic” to their nation’s title creating a place that is anything but a democracy, the same can be said about so-called Communist nations.

Just as I have never been and nor shall ever likely be a believer in Scientology, I have never been and nor shall ever be a Communist.

But even those we disagree with have, on occasion, an idea or two worth listening to that may contain a kernel of wisdom we can use.

Communism – an equality of everyone – may sound great in theory, but is impracticable in practice, but the notions of human rights and human dignity regardless of economic status that communism claims to espouse are worth considering and adapting to our own imbalanced systems.

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Above: UN Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms

Breweries, the mentally unwell, addicts, orphans, the destitute, Scientologists and the birthplace of Canadian communism, Guelph clearly cannot be called conventional, and yet…..

4,818 Guelph Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images
Above: Guelph

Guelph was the home of North America’s first cable TV system.

Fredrick T. Metcalf created MacLean Hunter Television (now part of Rogers Communications) and their first broadcast was Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.

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Above: Official Coronation photo of Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Philip, 2 June 1953

Cable television is a system of delivering TV programmes to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fibre optic cables.

This contrasts with broadcast television (also known as terrestrial television), in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a TV antenna attached to the TV; or satellite television, in which the TV signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves from a communications satellite orbiting the Earth, and received by a satellite dish antenna on the roof. 

FM radio programming, high speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. 

Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.

A “cable channel” (sometimes known as a “cable network“) is a television network available via cable television.

When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers, this is referred to as a “satellite channel“.

Alternative terms include “non-broadcast channel” or “programming service“, the latter being mainly used in legal contexts.

Examples of cable/satellite channels/cable networks available in many countries are HBO, Cinemax, MTV, Cartoon Network, AXN, E!, FX, Discovery Channel, Canal+, Eurosport, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, PBS Sports, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, CNN International, PSN and ESPN.

The abbreviation CATV is often used for cable television.

It originally stood for Community Access Television or Community Antenna Television, from cable television’s origins in 1948.

In areas where over-the-air TV reception was limited by distance from transmitters or mountainous terrain, large “community antennas” were constructed, and cable was run from them to individual homes.

In 1968, 6.4% of Americans had cable television.

The number increased to 7.5% in 1978.

By 1988, 52.8% of all households were using cable.

The number further increased to 62.4% in 1994.

Rogers logo.svg

If you had
One shot
To sit on your lazy butt
And watch all the TV you ever wanted
Until your brain turned to mush
Would you go for it?
Or just let it slip?

Weird Al Yankovic - Couch Potato - YouTube
Above: “Weird” Al Yankovic

Remote is ready
Eyes wide, palms are sweaty
There’s Flintstones on the TV already
Wilma ‘n’ Betty
No virgin to channel surfin’
And I’m HD-ready
So I flip
Garbage is all I’m getting

The Flintstones TV Review

Above: The Flintstones

“You’re gonna lose your mind watchin’ TV” They told me, they’d scold me
But I’d still tune in every show (show)
My cable gets C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The Travel Channel, Discovery, and Lifetime (yo)

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HBO logo.svg

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“You’re gonna lose your mind watchin’ TV”
They told me, cajoled me, “Turn off those music videos” (no)
I’m gonna watch C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The History Channel and QVC and Lifetime (yo)

QVC logo 2019.svg

“You’re gonna lose your mind watching TV”
They told me, they’d scold me
But I’d still tune in every show (show)
My cable gets C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The Disney Channel and A&E and Lifetime (yo)

2019 Disney Channel logo.svg

A&E Network logo.svg

“You’re gonna lose your mind watching TV”
They told me, cajoled me
But I still love Lisa Kudrow (drow)
I’m looking at C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The Playboy Channel and Court TV and Lifetime (yo)

Lisa Kudrow at TIFF 2009.jpg
Above: Lisa Kudrow

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I love shows with or without a plot
I’ll stare ’til my legs are numb, my eyes bloodshot
Because I only have got
One brain to rot
I’m gonna spend my life watching television a lot

Watching Spanish TV Online: The Couch Potato's Guide to Fluency

“You’re gonna lose your mind watching TV”
They told me, they’d scold me
But I’d still tune in every show (show)
My cable gets C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The Sci-Fi Channel and AMC and Lifetime (yo)


AMC logo 2019.svg

“You’re gonna lose your mind watching TV”
They told me, cajoled me, “Turn off that Oprah Winfrey show” (no)
I got it on C-SPAN, TV-Land, and HBO
The Learning Channel and MTV and Lifetime (yo)

The Oprah Winfrey Show logo.png
Above: Logo of the Oprah Winfrey Show (1986 – 2011)

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You can watch anything you want to, man

A man is standing in the middle of a subway car, wearing a suit. He is surrounded by seemingly normal people (e.g. commuters); however, the man has a poodle sitting atop his head.

Add couch pototoes to the already ecletic Guelph list…..

Knowledge and innovation excellence: Guelph Ontario - Perspective
Above: Guelph

Other news-making items include the fact that the jockstrap was invented here, in 1922, by the Guelph Elastic Hosiery Company and that the man who invented five pin bowling in 1909, Tom Ryan, was originally from Guelph.

2014.65.2.1 - Supporter

jockstrap (also known as a jock, strap, cup, groin guard, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment for protecting the testes and penis during contact sports, or other vigorous physical activity.

A jockstrap consists of a waistband (usually elastic) with a support pouch for the genitalia and two elastic straps affixed to the base of the pouch and to the left and right sides of the waistband at the hip.

The pouch, in some varieties, may be fitted with a pocket to hold an abdominal guard (impact resistant cup, box) to protect the testicles and the penis from injury.

The word jockstrap has purportedly been in use at least since 1891, a likely contraction of “jockey strap“, as the garment was first designed for bicycle-riding messengers and deliverymen, or ‘bike jockeys‘.

The Bike Jockey Strap was the first jockstrap manufactured in America in 1874.

Jockey meaning ‘rider’, primarily a race horse rider, has been in use since 1670.

Jockey itself is the diminutive form of the Scots nickname Jock (for John) as Jackie is for the English nickname Jack.

The nicknames Jack and Jackie, Jock and Jockey have been used generically for ‘man, fellow, boy, common man‘.

From 1650 to 1850, ‘jock’ was used as slang for penis.

The more recent American slang term ‘jock‘, meaning an athlete, is traced to 1959 and is itself derived from ‘jockstrap‘.

The Americans claim it is they who invented the jockstrap, in 1874 by C. F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys working the cobblestone streets of Boston.

In 1897, Bennett’s newly-formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap.

The Bike Web Company later became known as the Bike Company.

(I wonder how long it took for them to come up with the name.)

Bike, until 2003, was a stand-alone company.

In that year, the company and its trademarks were purchased by Russell Athletic.

Russell Athletic continued to produce jockstraps using the Bike brand and logos until 2017 when they retired the brand.

Russell had become a Fruit-of-the-Loom subsidiary, and Fruit-of-the-Loom is owned by and part of Berkshire Hathaway.

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The jockstrap was also influential in early 20th-century medicine with the invention of the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a low-voltage electric powered jockstrap that claimed to cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile dysfunction and other ailments.

Today, jockstraps are still worn mostly by adolescent and adult men for sports, weightlifting, medical purposes, and for recovery from injury or surgery for such conditions as hematocele, inguinal hernia, hydrocele or spermatocele.

According to Wikipedia, jockstraps have also become popular as a form of lingerie for men, particularly among gay and bisexual men.

I will just have to take their word on this.

Five-pin bowling is a bowling variant which is played in Canada, where many bowling alleys offer it, either alone or in combination with ten pin bowling.

It was devised around 1909 by Thomas F. Ryan (1872 – 1961) at the Toronto Bowling Club, in response to customers who complained that the ten pin game was too strenuous.

He cut five tenpins down to about 75% of their size, and used hand-sized hard rubber balls, thus inventing the original version of five pin bowling.

See the source image

Other noteworthy items: the city’s covered bridge (now part of a walking trail), built by the Timber Framers’ Guild in 1992, is one of only two of its type in Ontario, using wooden pins to hold it together.

File:Guelph covered bridge.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Note too that the Yukon Gold potato was first bred at the University of Guelph in 1966.

It became available on the market in 1981.

Yukon Gold is a large cultivar of potato most distinctly characterized by its thin, smooth, eye-free skin and yellow-tinged flesh.

This potato was developed in the 1960s by Garnet (“Gary“) Johnston in Guelph, with the help of Geoff Rowberry at the University of Guelph.

The official cross was made in 1966 and ‘Yukon Gold‘ was finally released into the market in 1980.


In 1953, Johnston was a lab technician in the potato development laboratory at the Ontario Agriculture College and he led a team that cross-bred two varieties to create the new type.

In 1959, one of Johnston’s graduate students, a young man originally from Peru, told him of a small, rough, deep-yellow-fleshed potato (Solanum goniocalyx, known as papa amarilla, Spanish for “yellow potato“) that was grown by the many indigenous communities in the Peruvian Andes.

In Lima, this cultivar is considered a delicacy for its bright colour and distinct flavour.

After trying these Peruvian potatoes, Johnston set out to breed a potato with the same colour and flavor characteristics, but larger in size and with a smoother shape, similar to the potatoes being grown in that part of southwestern Ontario.

Above: Gary Johnston

In 1966, the development team made their first cross between a W5289-4 (2× cross between ‘Yema de huevo‘ and 2× Katahdin) and a ‘Norgleam‘ potato native to North Dakota.

After the 66th cross that year, true breeding seed was produced, and the G6666 was created.

The early name for the new cultivar was “Yukon“, for the Yukon River and gold rush country in northern Canada.

Charlie Bishop, or Walter Shy according to some sources, suggested adding “Gold” to describe the colour and appearance.

It was a revolutionary concept.

He was a pioneer.

Johnston had the vision for yellow-fleshed potatoes“, said Hielke De Jong, a potato breeder with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Johnston also developed and brought 15 other potato varieties to market while at the Ontario Agriculture College lab, where he had been seconded by his employer, Agriculture Canada.

A University publication states that:

Yukon Gold was the first Canadian-bred potato variety to be promoted, packaged and marketed with its name right on the pack.”

Organic Certified Yukon Gold Seed Potatoes | Wood Prairie Family Farm

Guelph’s police force had Canada’s first municipal motorcycle patrol.

Chief Ted Lamb brought back an army motorcycle he used during the First World War.

Motorcycles were faster and more efficient than walking.

Canada's First Police Motorcycle — Guelph Heritage

Guelph has several buildings on the National Historic Sites of Canada register:

  • the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate 
  • McCrae House  
  • the Old City Hall

Official logo of Guelph

The McCrae House, located in Guelph, is the birthplace of John McCrae (1872 – 1918), doctor, soldier and author of the famous First World War poem “In Flanders Fields“.

The house is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Above: The birthplace of John McCrae (1872 – 1918) author of In Flanders Fields

This small limestone cottage, built in 1858, was owned by the McCrae family from 1870 to 1873.

Other families occupied the house until 1966, when a group of Guelph citizens purchased the building with the intention of preserving it as a museum.

This group formed the Lt. Col. John McCrae Birthplace Society and began to raise money for its restoration.

The federal government through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board designated both John McCrae as a person of national significance, and the house as a place of national significance.

Above: McCrae House – John McCrae’s medals

McCrae House contains both permanent and temporary exhibition space that interprets the life and times of John McCrae.

Yearly themes are offered.

Summer activities include Poppy Push, Canada Day, Teddy Bear Picnic, History Camp and special teas in the garden.

The gardening volunteers have worked to create an award-winning garden reflecting the time period of the mid-to-late 19th century.

In 2019, Guelph Museums announced that the House would again host a Backyard Theatre in July 2020, with a show that would not be a “literal telling of McCrae’s story” but would contain a “significant amount of McCrae-specific content.”

Revenue from ticket sales would cover at least part of the cost of the production.

A one-person show was presented in summer 2019 dramatizing the life of McCrae and the 2018 show was a love story set during WW I.

Above: Scenes of World War 1

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918) was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium.

He is best known for writing the famous war memorial poem “In Flanders Fields“.

McCrae died of pneumonia near the end of the war.

John McCrae in uniform circa 1914.jpg
Above: John McCrae

McCrae was born in McCrae House in Guelph to Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae and Janet Simpson Eckford.

McCrae attended the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, but took a year off his studies due to recurring problems with asthma.


Among his papers in the John McCrae House in Guelph is a letter he wrote on 18 July 1893, to Laura Kains while he trained as an artilleryman at Tête-de-Pont Barracks, today’s Fort Frontenac, in Kingston (ON):

I have a manservant.

Quite a nobby place it is, in fact.

My windows look right out across the bay, and are just near the water’s edge.

There is a good deal of shipping at present in the port and the river looks very pretty.”

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Above: Fort Frontenac, Kingston

He was a resident master in English and Mathematics in 1894 at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph.

McCrae returned to the University of Toronto and completed his BA, then returned again to study medicine on a scholarship.

At medical school, McCrae had tutored other students to help pay his tuition.

Two of his students were among the first female doctors in Ontario.

McCrae graduated in 1898.

Above: Painting of University College, University of Toronto

He was first a resident house-officer at the Toronto General Hospital, then in 1899 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Above: Toronto General Hospital, 1895

Above: Logo of John Hopkins School of Medicine

In 1900, McCrae served in South Africa as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) during the Second Boer War (1899 to 1902), and upon his return was appointed professor of pathology at the University of Vermont, where he taught until 1911.

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Above: Crest of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery

University of Vermont seal.svg
Above: Logo of the University of Vermont

He also taught at McGill University in Montréal.

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Above: Logo of McGill University

In 1902, he was appointed resident pathologist at the Montréal General Hospital and later became assistant pathologist to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal.

Hôpital Général de Montréal.JPG

In 1904, he was appointed an associate in medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Above: Royal Victoria Hospital, Montréal

Later that year, he went to England where he studied for several months and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

Royal College of Physicians logo.svg

In 1905, McCrae set up his own practice although he continued to work and lecture at several hospitals.

The same year, he was appointed pathologist to the Montreal Foundling and Baby Hospital.

In 1908, he was appointed physician to the Alexandria Hospital for Contagious Diseases.

In 1910, he accompanied Lord Grey, the Governor General of Canada, on a canoe trip to Hudson Bay to serve as expedition physician.

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Above: Albert Grey, 4th Earl Grey (1851 – 1917)

McCrae was the co-author, with J.G. Adami, of a medical textbook, A Text-Book of Pathology for Students of Medicine (1912).

See the source image

When Britain declared war on Germany because of the latter’s invasion of neutral Belgium at the beginning of WWI (1914), Canada, as a Dominion within the British Empire, was at war as well.

McCrae was appointed as Medical Officer and Major of the 1st Brigade CFA (Canadian Field Artillery).

Above: McCrae House – John McCrae’s officer’s cap badge

He treated the wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, from a hastily dug, 8-by-8-foot (2.4 m × 2.4 m) bunker dug in the back of the dyke along the Yser Canal about 2 miles north of Ypres.

Above: Before the battle

Above: After the battle

McCrae’s friend and former militia pal, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, and his burial inspired the poem, “In Flanders Fields“, which was written on 3 May 1915, and first published in the magazine Punch.

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Above: Alexis Helmer (29 June 1892, Hull, Québec, Canada – 2 May 1915, Ypres, Belgium)

A sculpture in the form of an open book. The text of the poem "In Flanders Fields" is written within and a small red poppy lies on top.

From 1 June 1915, McCrae was ordered away from the artillery to set up No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Dannes-Camiers near Boulogne sur Mer, northern France.

Above: Église St. Martin, Dannes-Camier

C.L.C. Allinson reported that McCrae “most unmilitarily told me what he thought of being transferred to the medicals and being pulled away from his beloved guns.

His last words to me were:

‘Allinson, all the goddamn doctors in the world will not win this bloody war:

What we need is more and more fighting men.'”

Above: Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps button

In Flanders Fields” appeared anonymously in Punch on 8 December 1915, but in the index, to that year McCrae was named as the author.

The verses swiftly became one of the most popular poems of the war, used in countless fund-raising campaigns and frequently translated (a Latin version begins In agro belgico).

In Flanders Fields” was also extensively printed in the US, whose government was contemplating joining the war, alongside a ‘reply’ by R.W. Lillard:

(“Fear not that you have died for naught, / The torch ye threw to us we caught“).

Above: “In Flanders Fields” memorial on the John McCrae Memorial Site, Boezinge, Ypres, Belgium

For eight months the hospital operated in Durbar tents, but after suffering from storms, floods, and frosts it was moved in February 1916 into the old Jesuit College in Boulogne sur Mer.

McCrae, now “a household name, albeit a frequently misspelt one“, regarded his sudden fame with some amusement, wishing that “they would get to printing ‘In F.F.’ correctly: it never is nowadays“; but (writes his biographer) “he was satisfied if the poem enabled men to see where their duty lay.

A general view from the Brecquerecque Quarter: The modern lighthouse, the medieval bell tower and the English Channel
Above: Boulogne sur Mer

On 28 January 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne, McCrae died of pneumonia with “extensive pneumococcus meningitis” at the British General Hospital in Wimereux, France.

Above: Modern Wimereux

He was buried the following day in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of Wimereux Cemetery, just a couple of kilometres up the coast from Boulogne, with full military honours.

Six graves marked with white crosses located in a muddy field with trees in the background.
Above: Canadian war graves near Ypres: The crosses identify the graves as those of soldiers of the 14th Canadian Battalion who were killed over several days in May 1916.

His flag-draped coffin was borne on a gun carriage and the mourners – who included Sir Arthur Currie and many of McCrae’s friends and staff – were preceded by McCrae’s charger, “Bonfire“, with McCrae’s boots reversed in the stirrups.

Bonfire was with McCrae from Valcartier (Québec) until his death and was much loved.

Above: John McCrae’s funeral procession

McCrae’s gravestone is placed flat, as are all the others in the section, because of the unstable sandy soil.

A collection of his poetry, In Flanders Fields and Other Poems (1918), was published after his death.

See the source image

    “In Flanders Fields

     In Flanders Fields, the poppies grow
     Between the crosses, row on row,
     That mark our place; and in the sky
     The larks, still bravely singing, fly
     Scarce heard amid the guns below.

     We are the dead, short days ago
     We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
     Loved and were loved, and now we lie
     In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

–John McCrae

A soldier looking down at a grave marked by a cross surrounded by poppies.

Though various legends have developed as to the inspiration for the poem, the most commonly held belief is that McCrae wrote “In Flanders Fields” on 3 May 1915, the day after presiding over the funeral and burial of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who had been killed during the Second Battle of Ypres.

The poem was written as he sat upon the back of a medical field ambulance near an advance dressing post at Essex Farm, just north of Ypres.

The poppy, which was a central feature of the poem, grew in great numbers in the spoiled earth of the battlefields and cemeteries of Flanders.

An article by Veterans Administration Canada provides this account:

The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae’s closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross.

Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves.

The Canadian government has placed a memorial to John McCrae that features “In Flanders Fields” at the site of the dressing station which sits beside the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Essex Farm Cemetery.

The Belgian government has named this site the “John McCrae Memorial Site“.

A page from a book. The first stanza of the poem is printed above an illustration of a white cross amidst a field of red poppies while two cannons fire in the background.

The Cloth Hall of the city of Ieper (Ypres in French and English) in Belgium has a permanent war museum called the “In Flanders Fields Museum“, named after the poem.

There are also a photograph and a short biographical memorial to McCrae in the St George Memorial Church in Ypres.

Ypres grand place.JPG
Above: Grand Place, Ypres

Institutions that have been named in McCrae’s honour include John McCrae Public School in Guelph, John McCrae Public School in Markham, John McCrae Senior Public School in Toronto, and John McCrae Secondary School in Ottawa.

See the source image

A bronze plaque memorial dedicated to Lt. Col. John McCrae was erected by the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute.

See the source image

McCrae House was converted into a museum.

See the source image

The current Canadian War Museum has a gallery for special exhibits, called The Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Gallery.

Canadian War Museum, Vimy Pl, Ottawa - panoramio (1).jpg
Above: Canadian War Museum, Vimy Place, Ottawa

In May 2015, a statue of McCrae was erected on Green Island in the Rideau River in Ottawa.

McCrae is dressed as an artillery officer and his medical bag nearby, as he writes.

The statue shows the destruction of the battlefield and, at his feet, the poppies – a symbol of Remembrance of World War I and all armed conflicts since.

A copy of that statue was erected at the Guelph Civic Museum in 2015.

Above: Colonel John McCrae statue at the Guelph Civic Museum, unveiled in 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his poem “In Flanders Fields

The street next to the cemetery where he is buried is named in his honour, although the street is called “Rue Mac Crae“.

Mount McCrae in British Columbia, is named for him.

See the source image

A few comments…..

Why wasn’t the story of McCrae literally told by the Museum which honours him?

There is something unsettling in the notion that a man who devoted his life to the Hippocratic Oath, the physicians’ creed to “Do no harm.” advocated the recruitment of more men to replace those who had fallen in warfare.

There is something essentially amiss in the use of poetry to advocate bloodshed, even if it is in the name of duty or honour.

Perhaps the discrepancy is connected to the poppies…..

One species of this plant is the source of that powerful narcotic, opium.

Several wreaths of artificial red poppies with black centres. The logo of various veterans and community groups are printed in the middle of each.

The city is home to:

  • the University of Guelph, established in 1964 
  • Sleeman Breweries Ltd

The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), the oldest part of the Univesity of Guelph, began in 1874 as an associate agricultural college of the University of Toronto.

According to Macleans (Canada’s national news magazine), the current University of Guelph, founded in 1964, “grew out of three founding colleges: the Ontario Agricultural College (1874), the Ontario Veterinary College (1862) and the Macdonald Institute (1903)”.

  • The Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI), established in the 1840s, is one of the province’s oldest high schools.
  • The former Canadian National Railways (VIA Rail/GO Transit) Station at 79 Carden Street was listed in 1992.

Above: Guelph Civic Museum

The city of Guelph’s diversified economy helped Guelph obtain the country’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.2% in 2011 and at 3.9% in February 2016.

The great diversity in the types of employers is a significant factor too.

The city is not dependent on a single industry.

The workforce participation rate of 72% was the best in Canada in December 2015, according to BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic.

The job growth of more than 9% at the same time was also of great value to the community. 

At the time, the BMO economist also rated Guelph as the top city in Canada for those looking for work.

Over subsequent months, the rate increased steadily and the jobless rate was at a more typical 5.9% by October 2017, compared to 5.1% in nearby Kitchener-Waterloo.

The rate in June 2018 had decreased to 4.5%.

By December 2018, StatsCan was indicating an unemployment rate of only 2.3%, down from 4% in November, and the lowest in Canada at that time.

The overall economy of the Guelph region (including the city and the townships of Eramosa and Puslinch) grew at an average of 3.5% per year over the previous five years and was expected to be 2.1% in 2019 and also in 2020, according to the Conference Board of Canada’s August 2019 report.

Guelph’s real gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.6% per cent in 2018, the highest among medium-sized cities in Canada.

Although economic growth is poised to moderate in 2019, Guelph will maintain its place as one of Canada’s economic growth leaders,” the report predicted.

Canadian Frontier Banknotes faces.png

Manufacturing is the leading sector of the economy of the city with the most significant sector being auto parts manufacturing.

The Conference Board of Canada’s August 2019 report stated that the Guelph region’s manufacturing was experiencing significant growth, averaging 5.9% over the past five years and expected to be 4.2% in 2019.

Linamar is the city’s leader in this sector, with 22 manufacturing plants.

The company has received government funding for expansion that would create additional jobs, most recently in 2015 ($101 million) and in 2018 ($99 million). 

The latter would create 1,500 additional jobs and maintain 8,000 others in the Canadian operation.

See the source image

According to research completed by the City of Guelph in 2010, fabricated metal product manufacturing accounted for 26.1% of the types of industries, followed by machinery manufacturing for 12.8% and miscellaneous manufacturing for 10.4%.

The city’s Economic Development Strategy identified life science, agri-food and biotechnology firms, environmental management and technology companies as growth industries on which to focus economic development activities.

See the source image

The city also touts the importance of advanced manufacturing which is its largest employer.

The roughly 360 businesses of this type employ approximately 14,755 people (roughly 25% of Guelph’s labour force).

The category includes “high precision manufacturing and auto parts assembly to plastic injection moulding machines manufacturing and automation devices. This enables advanced manufacturing to be a strong driver of the local economy.

The second largest industry is educational services, accounting for 11.3%.

See the source image

Guelph is very attractive to the agri-food and biotechnology market sector, according to the city.

It was ranked as the top cluster in Ontario and one of the top two in Canada.

This sector includes over 90 companies in Guelph-Wellington, employing approximately 6,500 people.

A red flag with a large Union Jack in the upper left corner and a shield in the centre-right
Above: Flag of Ontario

Here is a place that should be by all accounts be a far worse place than it is.

So, how should one perceive Guelph?

Perhapy, gentle reader, you have already seen Guelph and didn’t know it…..

See the source image

The City encourages movie and television filming.

Parts of several productions have been filmed here, including: 

  • Agnes of God (1985) is about a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the dead child was the result of a virginal conception. A psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) and the mother superior (Anne Bancroft) of the convent clash during the resulting investigation.

Agnes moviep.jpg

  • Dream House (2011) is an American psychological thriller film, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts and Marton Csokas.

Two girls holding hands, their dresses match the wallpaper behind them.

  • Total Recall (2012)


  • Episodes of Murdoch Mysteries (2013 / 2015), a Canadian television drama series, which takes place in Toronto starting in 1895 and follows Detective William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary, who solves many of his cases using methods of detection that were unusual at the time, including fingerprinting, blood testing, surveillance, and trace evidence.

See the source image

  • 11.22.63 (2016) is an American science fiction thriller miniseries starring James Franco as a recently divorced English teacher, who is presented with the chance to travel back in time to 1960, in an attempt to prevent the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

11.22.63 TV series.png

  • Dead Rush (2016), a cancelled video game where a massive earthquake has destroyed most of humanity and the world is now overflowing with zombies.

See the source image

  • American Gods (2017) is an American fantasy drama television series a hidden world where magic is real.

American Gods logo.png

  • The Heretics (2017) is a feature-length, documentary film that focuses on a group of New York-based feminist artists called the Heresies Collective and their influential art journal, Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, which was published from 1977 to 1992.

Heresies (journal) no 7 Women Working Together.jpg

According to the Bank of Montréal’s fourth quarterly 2018 report, Guelph was the leading city in Canada in terms of job growth and low unemployment.

In January 2019, the city had the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.

The top five occupations in Guelph in terms of numbers are:

  • Sales and service (16,195)
  • Education, law and social, community and government services (10,205)
  • Business, finance and administration (10,150)
  • Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (9,170)
  • Manufacturing and utilities (8,205)

The City of Guelph’s published 2016 data sorts occupations in a different manner:

  • Professional, scientific and technical jobs employed 39,141
  • Advanced manufacturing employed 20,735
  • Retail and services employed 11,345
  • Agri-Innovation employed 11,345
  • Culture and entertainment employed 7,711
  • Distribution, warehousing and wholesale employed 5,909

The largest private enterprise employers in Guelph (2016) include:

  • Linamar Corporation
  • Cargill Meat Solutions
  • Polycon Industries
  • The Co-operators
  • Guelph Manufacturing Group Inc.
  • Blount Canada Ltd.

See the source image

The Cooperators was one of the Platinum Winners in Canada’s Best Employers 2017 report.

The company has been on this list for 14 years.

The Co-operators Logo.svg

The largest public sector employers (2016) include:

  • the Upper Grand District School Board
  • the University of Guelph
  • the City of Guelph
  • the Wellington Catholic District School Board
  • Guelph General Hospital
  • Homewood Health Centre

See the source image

The University’s staffing fell into three categories in 2015:

  • 2,600 regular full-time faculty and staff
  • 1,890 temporary (full-time and part-time)
  • 3,690 student employees.

The University was among Canada’s Best Employers in 2016 according to Forbes magazine, making the top 20 in the list.

See the source image

Reid’s Heritage Group of Companies, a home builder with 212 full-time employees, “supports employees who are new mothers with maternity leave top-up payments provides flexible work hours, helps employees balance work and their personal commitments with up to 10 paid personal days and offers referral bonuses for staff hires.”

See the source image

Sleeman Breweries Limited, with 991 full-timers, offers “generous tuition subsidies, opportunities for the next generation to gain meaningful experience through summer employment and co-op placements, as well as retirement planning assistance and phased-in work options” and bonuses for salaried staff and profit-sharing for those who are unionized.

See the source image

For many years, Guelph ranked at or near the bottom of Canada’s crime severity list.

The national average for the crime severity index was 70.96 per 100,000 people in 2016 while Guelph’s was much lower at 55 per 100,000 people according to a study published by Maclean’s.

  • Violent crime severity index: 49 per 100,000 people compared to 75.25 for the national index.
  • Homicide rate: The city had only one homicide in 2016 for a rate of 0.76 per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 1.68.
  • Assault rate: Guelph was at 181.87 versus the national average of 370
  • Sexual assault rate: This aspect was quite high with 64.22 per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 56.6.
  • Robbery rate: Guelph had 21.91 per 100,000 people, much lower than the national average of 60.9.
  • Fraud: This aspect has increased notably since 1996; it was at 260.67 per 100,000 people in 2016, versus the national rate of 299.05.
  • Drug offences: The city is well below the national average in all categories.
  • Youth Criminal Justice Act offences: The rate was 8.31 per 100,000 in Guelph, substantially lower than the national average of 16.74.

See the source image

The Wellington County Jail (in Late Gothic Revival Style) and the Governor’s Residence (in Georgian style) at 74 Woolwich Street were built in 191.

They were designated by the city for “historic and architectural value” and as a National Historic Site in 1983.

The property is now an Ontario Court of Justice.

The ghosts of Guelph's first jail and gallows (14 photos) -
Above: the former Wellington County Jail, Guelph

Guelph was home to a major correctional institution from 1911 until 2001, originally the Ontario Reformatory with subsequent names including Wellington Detention Centre and, after 1972, Guelph Correctional Centre.

The first inmates had been transferred to the Guelph reformatory from Toronto’s Central Prison when it closed in 1915.

By 1910 however, a prison farm beside the Eramosa River had begun receiving prisoners.

The farm inmates constructed a concrete bridge, a spur line to the CPR and a wooden trestle bridge.

The official opening of the farm was 25 September 1911.

By 1912, the various buildings on the site housed 300; the correctional operations on the site were fully operational by 1914.

Between 1911 and 1915, prisoners had built the administration building, the cell blocks, ponds and waterways, dry stone walls, stairs, gates, bridges and terraced gardens.

By 1916, this was the largest correctional facility in Ontario, housing 660.

During World War I, the property served as the Guelph Military Convalescent Hospital a convalescent hospital for over 900 veterans, from 1917.

The prisoners returned in January 1921.

The farm and reformatory were used to teach inmates useful skills, including agriculture, dry cleaning, metalworking, and other trades.

By the late 1940s the facility produced food for all of Ontario’s prisons, and also made blankets, wood and metal products.

There was a stone quarry stone on site.

By 1962 the prison farm accommodated a dairy, piggery, horses, cattle and vegetable farming.

The farm area eventually included barns, a woolen mill, abattoir, tailor shop, laundry, bakery, metal shop, broom shop and other facilities.

The prison abattoir was eventually sold off and became the privately owned company, later known as Better Beef (purchased by Cargill Canada in 2005), a massive meat processing plant.

In 2001, the Ministry of Correctional Services closed the entire facility; the remaining inmates were transferred to larger jails.

Afterwards, the property was used for some film shoots and for training emergency personnel. 

Guelph Correctional Centre on fast track to be sold under new provincial  plan -
Above: the former Guelph Correctional Centre

The University of Guelph, (with approximately 25,300 students) is one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities, and home to the Ontario Agriculutral Collega and the Ontario Veterinary College.

University of Guelph logo.svg

Conestoga College operates a small campus in Guelph but in late 2019, the College advised the news media that a major expansion was planned.

Within five or six years, we will have at least 5,000 students there with full-service programming,” said College President John Tibbits.

At the time, the Guelph campus had approximately 1,000 students.

Conestoga College logo

Guelph was the first municipality in Canada to have its own federally chartered railway, the Guelph Junction Railway.

This 25-kilometre (16-mile) link to the CPR is still municipally owned.

GJR - Home

Built in 1911, the Guelph Central Station (still in use), was constructed by the Grand Trunk Railway which had arrived in Guelph in 1856.

Years later, it was taken over by the Canadian National Railway.

It is a classic example of early 20th century Canadian railway station design and has been designated as a heritage structure under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

The Romanesque Revival building, with its Italianate tower, has been listed on the Canadian Register since 2006 and was formally recognized as one of Canada’s Historic Places in November 1992.

A renovation project in 2017 provided various benefits, including repairs to maintain and restore heritage aspects.

Above: Guelph Central Station

Guelph Central Station is currently an Intermodal Transit Terminal that includes bus and railway services in one facility.

The following is a summary of its purpose from an April 2017 report:

Guelph Central Train Station is a busy transit hub that accommodates Guelph Transit, GO Transit and Via Rail operations.

Each weekday, more than 5,000 passengers board Guelph Transit, to travel on one of the 15 different routes that operate out of the bus bays adjacent to the train station.

Guelph is the 3rd fastest-growing city in Ontario with a 5-year growth of 8.3% from 2011 to 2016.

According to the Ontario Places to Grow Plan, Guelph’s population is projected to be about 144,500 by the year 2021 and 175,000 by 2031.

The actual number of residents varies throughout the year because of variations in the University of Guelph student population.

Day-Tripping in Guelph

The most common mother tongue in 2016 was English at 77.2%, followed by Chinese at 2.7%, Italian at 1.7%, Vietnamese at 1.3%, French at 1.3%, Punjabi at 1.2%, Tagalog at 1.2%, Spanish at 1.1%, and Polish at 1%.

1.5% claimed both English and a non-official language as their first languages.

Approximately 78.2% of residents were European Canadians in 2016, whereas 18.8% were visible minorities and 3% were aboriginal.

The largest visible minority groups in Guelph were South Asian (5%), Chinese (3.2%), Black (2.2%), Filipino (2.2%), Southeast Asian (1.9%), West Asian (1.2%), and Latin American (1.0%).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project.jpg
Above: The Tower of Babel

The 2016 Census indicated that 14,430 Italian Canadians lived in Guelph.

Many Italians from the south of Italy, particularly from Monforte San Giorgio, had immigrated to the area in the early 1900s, and also in later years.

Monforte San Giorgio.JPG
Above: Monforte San Giorgio, Italy

Historically however, Guelph’s population has been principally British in origin, with 92% in 1880 and 87% in 1921.

MODIS - Great Britain and Ireland - 2012-06-04 during heat wave.jpg

Heffernan Street Footbridge, spanning the Speed River behind St. George’s Anglican Church, was built in 1913, and replaced an earlier steel bridge.

The Footbridge was designated a heritage site and was restored in 1991 to more closely resemble its original design.

From a bell organ factory to the opera singer Edward Johnson, Guelph has been a source of musical contribution.

Bell Pump Organ Company - Pump Organ Restorations

Above: Edward Johnson (1878 – 1959)

Today, Guelph has a thriving indie rock scene, which has spawned some of Canada’s more well-known indie bands, many of which are highlighted in the annual Kazoo Festival.

Kazoo! Fest 2019 Lineup Announced! - Kazoo!

Guelph is also home to the Hillside Festival, a hugely popular music festival held at nearby Guelph Lake during the summer, as well as the Guelph Jazz Festival.

Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium - IICSI

Guelph is also home to the Guelph Symphony Orchestra and two yearly classical music festivals.

Guelph Symphony (@GuelphSymphony) | Twitter

The Kiwanis Music Festival of Guelph showcases students from Guelph and surrounding areas, while the Guelph Musicfest offers performances by local professional classical musicians.

Guelph Musicfest (@guelphmusicfest) | Twitter

The Sleeman Centre is a sports and entertainment venue in Guelph.

The large, modern facility allows for a variety of events such as concerts, sporting and family events, trade shows and conferences, and it is home to the local hockey team, the Guelph Storm.

Sleeman Centre (Guelph) - Wikiwand

Guelph Storm logo.svg

Notable Guelph personalities (at least those I personally find interesting)(besides those already mentioned):

Edward Robert Armstrong (1876–1955) was a Guelph-born engineer and inventor who in 1927 proposed a series of “seadrome” floating airport platforms for airplanes to land on and refuel for transatlantic flights.

While his original concept was made obsolete by long-range aircraft that did not need such refueling points, the idea of an anchored deep-sea platform was later applied to use for floating oil rigs.

Above: Edward Robert Armstrong and a scale model of his seadrome

Neve Adrianne Campbell is a Guelph-born Canadian actress and producer,

Campbell has had starring roles in films such as the neo-noir film Wild Things (1998), the crime films Drowning Mona and Panic (both 2000), the drama films The Company (2003) and When Will I Be Loved (2004), the comedy films Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004) and Relative Strangers (2006), the romantic-drama film Closing the Ring (2007), the comedy-drama film Walter (2015), the action film Skyscraper (2018), and the biographical film Clouds (2020).

Campbell also appeared in the action drama series The Philanthropist (2009) and starred in the Netflix political thriller series House of Cards.

Neve Campbell 04 (21268333696).jpg

James Cockman (1873 – 1947) was a third baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the New York Highlanders in 1905.

He stood at 5′ 6″ and weighed 145 lbs.

He was born and died in Guelph.

James 'Jim' Cockman (1873-1947) - Find A Grave Memorial
Above: Jim Cockman

Arthur William Cutten (1870 – 1936) was a businessman who gained great wealth and prominence as a commodity speculator in the United States.

He was called to appear before the Banking and Currency Committee in regard to the causes of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

He was under indictment for tax evasion upon his death in Chicago in 1936.

He was born and is buried in Guelph.

Above: Cutten Obelisk, Guelph

Ken Danby (1940 – 2007) was a Canadian painter in the realist style.

Danby is best known for creating highly realistic paintings that study everyday life.

Ken Danby: Artist (Ken Danby Public School)
Above: Ken Danby

His 1972 painting At the Crease, portraying a masked hockey goalie defending his net, is widely recognized and reproduced in Canada.

Early in his career, Danby experimented with abstract expressionism.

In August 1961, Danby participated in the first Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE) in the parking lot of the Four Seasons hotel, located at that time on Jarvis Street in Toronto.

Danby won the “Best of Exhibition” prize with an untitled abstract, currently in the collection of the artist.

Danby later focused on realism in most of his work, and developed his skill with watercolour.

His first solo exhibition in 1964 sold out.

At the Crease (Classic Goalie) by Ken Danby Official Large-Size Art Pr –  Sports Poster Warehouse

He designed three coins for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Coins and Canada - Montréal - Olympic Games canadian coins

He also received the Jessie Dow Prize, the 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal of Canada, the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Award of Merit and both the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilee Medals.

In the 1980s, Danby painted a number of watercolours about the America’s Cup and portrayed Canadian athletes at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

Ken Danby - Olympics | Canvas giclee, Danby, Canadian artists

In 1999 Danby had a studio near Guelph.

A school on Grange Road in Guelph was named after Danby.

Ken Danby Public School

In 2016, the Art Gallery of Hamilton organized a retrospective of Danby’s work, entitled Beyond the Crease.

For approximately three decades until his death, Danby lived and painted in a rural property near Guelph and spent years restoring the historic Armstrong Mill.

Some of his art work features the property.

Restored mill was artist's dream home |

Above: Armstrong Mill

From November 2016 to January 2017, the Guelph Civic Museum exhibited examples of Danby’s work including his Wayne Gretzky portrait, The Great Farewell.

The Great Farewell | Picture This! framing & gallery

On 23 September 2007, Danby collapsed while on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park near North Tea Lake with his wife Gillian Danby and friends.

The party summoned help, but paramedics were unable to revive him.

Danby is the second famous Canadian artist to die in Algonquin Park. 

Algonquin Cache Lake Lookout.JPG

Tom Thomson (1877 – 1917) died on Canoe Lake in the Park.

Above: Thomson fishing in Algonquin Park: Enamoured with the Park, many of his works were painted in the area.

Canadian writer Blair Frazer also drowned in the Park on the Petawawa River’s Rollaway Rapids in May 1968.

Blair Fraser Memorial, Petewawa River (Rollaway Raps)

Victor Davis (1964 – 1989) was a Canadian Olympic and world champion swimmer who specialized in the breast stroke.

He also enjoyed success in the individual medley and the butterfly.

Driver who killed Guelph's Victor Davis facing new manslaughter charge:  Report
Above: Victor Davis

Victor Davis was born in Guelph.

As a boy, Davis learned how to swim in the lakes around his home.

He then joined the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club at the age of 12.

During his career, Davis held several world records as the winner of 31 national titles and 16 medals in international competition.

At the 1982 world championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, he set his first world record while winning the gold medal in the 200-metre breast stroke.

At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he won a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke event, then captured the gold medal in the 200-metre breast stroke, in the process establishing another world record.

1984 Summer Olympics logo.svg

In recognition of his accomplishments, Davis was named Swimming Canada’s Athlete of the Year three times.

A star of Canada’s national swim team for nine years, he retired from competitive swimming in July 1989.

He was voted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (Toronto) in 1985, and posthumously into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (Calgary) in 1990, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame (Fort Lauderdale) in 1994.


A few months after his retirement, on 11 November 1989 while outside a nightclub in the Montréal suburb of Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Davis was struck by a car driven by Glen Crossley, who fled the scene.

Crossley told police he hit Davis while trying to avoid a juice bottle Davis threatened to throw at the vehicle and didn’t realize he made contact with the swimmer.

However, other testimony showed that Davis was actually hit from behind and thrown 14 meters in the air before hitting his head on a parked car and a street curb. 

Two days later, the 25-year-old swimmer died of a severe skull fracture as well as brain and spinal hemorrhage in hospital.

In February 1992, Crossley was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident and sentenced to ten months in prison, ultimately serving four months.

In January 2017, Crossley was charged in the death of 70-year-old Albert Arsenault after an altercation at the Station 77 bar in September 2016.

Crossley pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Arsenault’s death.

Man who killed Olympian Victor Davis pleads guilty to killing 70-year-old  bar patron
Above: Glenn Crossley

Davis’s parents fulfilled his express wish that his organs be donated to help save the lives of others.

The swimmer’s heart, liver, kidneys and corneas were transplanted.

Each year since his death, awards are made by the Victor Davis Memorial Fund to help young Canadian swimmers continue their education while training.


Thirteen recipients of this award participated in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

In 2002, Victor Davis was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame (Toronto).

In Guelph, the city named the 50-metre swimming pool in honour of Victor Davis.

Guelph Dolphins Practice, Victor Davis Memorial Pool, Guelph, September 13  2019 |
Above: Victor Davis Memorial Pool, Guelph

Robert Daniel Emslie (1859 – 1943) was a Canadian pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) who went on to set numerous records for longevity as an umpire.

Bob Emslie baseball photo.jpg
Above: Bob Emslie

Born in Guelph, Emslie had a brief professional playing career with the Baltimore and Philadelphia clubs in the American Association.

His professional umpiring career began in 1888, and after spending a couple of seasons in the minor leagues, he was promoted to the major leagues as an umpire in 1890.

Emslie was nicknamed “Wig” due to his premature receding hairline, which was a result of the stress of umpiring games single-handedly in the rough-and-tumble 1890s.

He was derisively called “Blind Bob” by the New York Giants following his role in the infamous “Merkle’s Boner” play during the 1908 National League pennant race.

The play involved a force out when a Giants player stopped running to second base upon seeing that the game’s winning run would score.

When “Merkle’s Boner” occurred, Emslie had already worked more major league games than any umpire in MLB history, then later served as the National League’s chief of umpires upon retiring from active umpiring.

He retired to St. Thomas, Ontario and died there on Monday, 26 April 1943.

In 1946 he was included in the Honor Rolls of Baseball (Cooperstown, NY).

In 1986 he was named to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (St. Marys, ON).

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.jpg
Above: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, St. Marys

Emslie was the base umpire on 23 September 1908, when controversy erupted at the end of the NY Giants – Chicago Cubs game at the Polo Grounds.

With the score tied and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants had Moose McCormick on third base and Fred Merkle on first base.

Fred Merkle 1908.jpg

Above: Fred Merkle (1888 – 1956)


Al Bridwell smashed a single to center to drive home McCormick with the apparent winning run, but Merkle failed to touch second base.

Cubs second baseman Johnny Evans noticed this error, and tagged second base and appealed to Emslie.

Emslie claimed that he had to duck out of the way of Bridwell’s line drive and did not see the play, and home plate umpire Hank O’Day declared Merkle out and the game a tie.

New York manager John McGraw, with whom Bob had a long and tempestuous history, bestowed upon Emslie his nickname “Blind Bob” after the controversy.

The incident is often referred to as “Merkle’s Boner.

Notably, Emslie and O’Day were the two most experienced umpires in Major League Baseball history at that point, with Emslie having worked nearly 2,500 games and O’Day nearly 1,700.

Above: Umpire Emslie

Later, Emslie showed up at a Giants’ practice with a rifle, placed a dime on the pitching mound and shot it from behind home plate, sending the coin spinning into the outfield.

Reportedly, McGraw never again challenged his eyesight.

John McGraw 1924.jpg
Above: John McGraw (1873 – 1934)

Charles William Fox (1920 – 2008) was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in WW2.

Charley Fox
Above: Charley Fox

Born in Guelph, Fox attended Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute.

Fox, the son of an Irish immigrant, joined the RCAF in 1939 at the beginning of the war.

He graduated near the top of his class in 1941 and was offered a job as a flight instructor in Dunnville (ON).

He remained in this position until 1943 when he began combat training in Bagotville (QB).

He flew Spitfires over Europe, destroying or damaging 153 enemy vehicles (mostly trains), and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1944, he began his tour of duty with the Canadian 412 Squadron.

On D-Day (6 June 1944), he flew three patrols off the coast of France.

On 17 July 1944, he flew from the Allied air base at Beny sur Mer in Normandy and strafed an unknown black car.

He later learned that one of the passengers was German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was seriously injured in the attack.

As Rommel was soon afterwards implicated in the assassination plot against Adolf Hitler, he was allowed to commit suicide and his death was announced as a result of injuries from the air attack.

In 2004, Fox was officially credited with injuring Rommel, although he has expressed some regret about the attack, as Rommel was supposedly planning to secretly negotiate an earlier end to the war with the Allies.

Fourteen of Fox’s planes were judged to be no longer usable after returning from missions due to excessive damage from enemy fire.

Charley Fox

Charles Fox was noted as an educator of youth and spokesperson for veterans.

He founded Torch Bearers, a non-profit organization aimed at educating young people about Canadian military exploits.

He regularly took on speaking engagements to keep veterans’ stories alive and fought with school boards to ensure Remembrance Day ceremonies were held annually.

Charley Fox

According to Fox’s family, he spent his life wondering why he survived numerous dates with death and was in the process of telling his story and those of other veterans in a book titled Why Not Me?, which the family hopes to finish.

It did give him a purpose in life and he was searching for that,” according to his son.

Fox ended his tour of duty in January 1945, and served in the 420 Reserve after the war.

He retired in 1956 and began to work at a shoe factory, from which he retired in 1998.

On 30 April 2004, he was named honorary colonel of 412 Squadron in Ottawa, ultimately belonging to 8 Wing/CFB Trenton.

For his long service in the RCAF, he was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration.

He died in a car accident near Tillsonburg (ON) on 18 October 2008.

Charley Fox
Above: The Canadian Forces Decoration

Jessica Marie (J.M.) Frey is a Guelph-born science fiction and fantasy author.

While she is best known for her debut novel Triptych, Frey’s 2011 work encompasses poetry, academic and magazine articles, screenplays, and short stories.

JM Frey, Author.jpg
Above: Ms. Frey

The novel follows three narrators as they recount the events surrounding major turning points in the life of Gwen Pierson, (a languages specialist): Evvie Pierson (Gwen’s mother a housewife in rural southern Ontario), Kalp, an alien refugee from a dead planet living in England and Gwen’s lover), and Basil Grey (a Welsh computer engineer).

Triptych has been described as both science fiction and as literary fiction, and has been praised for blending both genres.

It has also been praised for the distinctive voices of the narrators, and for its structure:

The novel, rather than chapters, is segmented into three novella-length parts (each narrated by a different character – Evvie, Kalp, and Basil) which hinge together to tell the whole story.

Frey deliberately chose this structure to mimic the artistic triptych technique (art in three parts).

Triptych (Frey novel).jpg

Frey calls herself a “professional geek“.

Frey has appeared at Toronto-area science fiction conventions and is involved with charity and community fan groups and initiatives.

She regularly appears on radio shows, television talk shows, and podcasts discussing fandom and genre works.

About J.M. Frey | J.M. Frey
Above: Ms. Frey

Guelph resident Gregory Gallant, better known by his pen name Seth, is a Canadian cartoonist.

Above: Gregory Gallant (aka Seth)

He is best known for his series Palookaville and his mock-autographical graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken (1996).

Seth draws in a style influenced by the classic cartoonists of The New Yorker.

His work is highly nostalgic, especially for the early-to-mid-20th Century period, and of southern Ontario.

His work also shows a great depth and breadth of knowledge of the history of comics and cartooning.

Seth - Its a good life.jpg

Beth Goobie is a Canadian poet and fiction writer.

Goobie grew up in Guelph.

After working one year in Holland as an au pair, she spent the next four years earning a BA in English Literature from the University of Winnipeg and a BA in Religious Studies from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College.

She then worked as a front line residential treatment worker in both Winnipeg and Edmonton.

Her work has appeared in many Canadian literary journals, including FiddleheadThe Malahat ReviewThe New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, Event, Grain, Prairie Fire and The Prairie Journal.

As of 2017, she has 25 published books to her credit, including the genres of young adult fiction (18 books), children’s (one book), one adult novel, two collections of short fiction and three collections of poetry.

She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Beth Goobie (Author of The Pain Eater)
Above: Beth Goobie

Paddy Johnson is a New York-based art critic, blogger, curator and writer. 

Johnson was born in Guelph.

She was educated at Mount Allison University in Sackville (NB) and continued her education at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ).

She has slowly gained notoriety as an art critic in the New York art scene.

She is also known for her live coverage of major art fairs such as the Armoury Show (NYC), Venice Biennale, Frieze Art Fair (Miami) and Art Basel (Switzerland).

Johnson is the founder and editor of the art blog Art F City.

Art F City publishes an annual calendar titled “Nude Artists as Pandas“, featuring naked artists dressed up in panda costumes.

She pens a regular column for L Magazine in New York.

Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Art Review, Art & Australia, Art in America, artkrush, The Daily Beast, Flash Art, Flavorpill, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, More Intelligent Life, New York Press, NYFA Current, Print Magazine, The Reeler, Time Out NY.

She has worked with Location One as a visiting critic and attended the 2007 iCommons conference in Croatia as a blogger.

In 2008, she served on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellowships and became the first blogger to earn a Creative Capital Arts Writers grant from the Creative Capital Foundation, which is part of the Andy Warhol Foundation.

She has also served on a panel for Art Prize.

She contributed to the book what’s the deal with all the peanut centric aeroplane snacks? published by Paper Monument.

In November 2010, Johnson released an LP called “Now That’s What You Call Net Art“, a DJ battle record that compiles mixes based from sounds recorded in art spaces, galleries, and museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn, pitting the neighboring boroughs against each other.

Johnson raised over $11,000 with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, calling upon sound art lovers and a cadre of collectors, even offering a dinner with herself and artist Glass Popcorn , a former art critic, to the highest bidder.

Johnson predicts the project will spawn follow-up records, including East Coast vs. West Coast, and Canada vs. USA.

Johnson told WNYC’s Carolina Miranda that the Brooklyn recordings sound more DIY.

In December 2011, Johnson was named in a federal libel lawsuit in US District Court for a May, 2011 article she published in Art F City, which suggested an art restorer was a forger and committed crimes.

Paddy Johnson - Founding Editor of Art F City - Art Frankly
Above: Paddy Johnson

Thomas King, who was born in Sacramento on 24 April 1943, self-identifies as being of Cherokee, German, and Greek descent.

King in 2008
Above: Thomas King

King says his father left the family when the boys were very young, and that they were raised almost entirely by their mother.

In his series of Massey Lectures, eventually published as a book The Truth About Stories (2003), King tells that after their father’s death, he and his brother learned that their father had two other families, neither of whom knew about the third.

(The Massey Lectures is an annual five-part series of lectures given in Canada by distinguished writers, thinkers and scholars who explore important ideas and issues of contemporary interest.

Created in 1961 in honour of Vincent Massey, the former Governor General of Canada, it is widely regarded as one of the most acclaimed lecture series in the country.

The Truth About Stories: King, Thomas: 9780887846960: Books -

As a child, King attended grammar school in Roseville, California, and both private Catholic and public high schools.

After flunking out of Sacramento State University, he joined the US Navy for a brief period of time before receiving a medical discharge for a knee injury.

Following this King worked several jobs, including as an ambulance driver, bank teller, and photojournalist in New Zealand for three years.

Emblem of the United States Navy.svg

King eventually completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Chico State University in California.

He moved to Utah, where he worked as a counselor for aboriginal students before completing a PhD program in English at the University of Utah.

His 1971 MA thesis was on film studies.

His 1986 PhD dissertation was on native studies, one of the earliest of works to explore the oral storytelling tradition as literature.

Around this time, King became interested in aboriginal oral traditions and storytelling.

He left the reservation in 1980.

University of Utah seal.svg

After moving to Canada in 1980, King taught native studies at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) in the early 1980s.

He also served as a faculty member of the University of Minnesota’s American Indian studies department.

He is currently an English professor at the University of Guelph and lives in Guelph.

Above: Johnston Clock Tower, University of Guelph

King was chosen to deliver the 2003 Massey Lectures, entitled The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative.

King was the first Massey lecturer of self-identifying aborginal descent.

King explored the native experience in oral stories, literature, history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest in order to make sense of North America’s relationship with its aboriginal peoples.

The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (Indigenous Americas): King,  Thomas: 9780816646272: Books

King has criticized policies and programs of both the United States and Canadian governments in many interviews and books.

He is worried about aboriginal prospects and rights in North America.

He says that he fears that aboriginal culture, and specifically aboriginal land, will continue to be taken away from aboriginal peoples until there is nothing left for them at all.

In his 2013 book The Inconvenient Indian, King says:

The issue has always been land.

It will always be land, until there isn’t a square foot of land left in North America that is controlled by native people.”

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King | Penguin Random House Canada

King also discusses policies regarding aboriginal status.

He noted that legislatures in the 1800s withdrew aboriginal status from persons who graduated from university or joined the army.

King has also worked to identify North American laws that make it complicated to claim status in the first place, for example, the US Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 or Canada’s 1985 Bill C-31.

Bill C-31 amended the Indian Act in 1985 to allow aboriginal women and their children to reclaim status, which the Act had previously withdrawn if the woman married a non-status man.

King claims that the amended act, though progressive for women who had lost their status, threatens the status of future generations because of its limitations.

The Inconvenient Indian Author Thomas King Says He Can't Be All Things to  All People | MONTECRISTO
Above: Thomas King

King has been writing novels, and children’s books, and collections of stories since the 1980s.

His notable works include A Coyote Columbus Story (1992) and Green Grass, Running Water (1993).

A Coyote Columbus Story: King, Thomas, Monkman, William Kent:  9780888998309: Books

King’s writing style incorporates oral storytelling structures with traditional Western narrative.

He writes in a conversational tone.

For example, in Green Grass, Running Water, the narrator argues with some of the characters.

In The Truth About Stories (2003), King addresses the reader as if in a conversation with responses.

Green Grass, Running Water: A Novel: King, Thomas: 9780553373684: Books

King uses a variety of anecdotes and humorous narratives while maintaining a serious message in a way that has been compared to the style of trickster legends in Native North American culture.

Within this story, King also integrates the recently popularized idea of turtles all the way down in an anecdote introducing this narrative, calling into the relevancy of this ideology in Native history.

(“Turtles all the way down” is an expression of the problem of infinite regress.

The saying alludes to the mythological idea of a World Turtle that supports the flat earth on its back.

It suggests that this turtle rests on the back of an even larger turtle, which itself is part of a column of increasingly large world turtles that continues indefinitely (hence, “turtles all the way down“).

The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain.)

Three turtles of varying sizes stacked on top of each other with the largest at the bottom

Henry Kock (1952 – 2005) was a noted horticulturalist, eco-activist, and founder of the Elm Recovery Project in Ontario.

Born in Sarnia (ON), Kock grew up working for the family business, Huronview Nurseries.

A graduate of the University of Guelph in 1977 with an emphasis on horticulture, he stayed connected to the University until his death.

Affectionately known as “Mr. Arboretum“, he was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2004.

He finally succumbed to the disease on Christmas Day 2005 at the age of 53.

Weekend ride a tribute to late Guelph horticulturalist Henry Kock
Above: Henry Kock

After the devastating effects of Dutch elm disease on the provincial elm population, Kock created the Elm Recovery Project, collecting scions from the survivors, developing a breeding program and raising the young trees for eventual restoration of DED-tolerant elms in the wild.

Another notable legacy left by Kock is the guelph Hillside Festival, which he co-founded.

Celebrated every year in July at Guelph Lake, just north of the city, folk and other musical acts gather for a three-day weekend event attended by hundreds of people.

Above: Guelph Lake

Kock was also known for his many activist activities, especially those regarding plants.

He helped to organize the first Guelph Organic Conference, which has increased in popularity each year.

He rallied for peace in Iraq, renewable energy, public transit and urban cycling, as well as being a regular attendee of the International Women’s Day in Toronto each year with his wife.

At the time of his death he was working on a book on growing native trees from seed, a project which some of his botany colleagues at the University of Guelph Arboretum completed.

Additionally, Kock often travelled the province with talks and slide shows about protecting wild placing, propagating native plant species, and alternatives to garden pesticides.

Most notably, however, Kock is recognized for establishing gene banks for rare native plants, including elms.

Things to See & Do: Overview | The Arboretum
Above: Guelph Arboretum

Jean Little (1932 – 2020) was born in Formosa, the daughter of Flora (Gauld), a doctor, and John Llewellyn Little, a physician.

Her parents were Canadian doctors serving as medical missionaries under the United Church of Canada.

The Little family came home to live in Canada in 1939, moving to Guelph in 1940.

Jean Little before delivering the 2016 Margaret Laurence Lecture in Toronto
Above: Jean Little

After teaching disabled children for several years, Little wrote her first children’s novel, Mine for Keeps, about a child with cerebral palsy.

It won the Little, Brown Canadian Children’s Book Award and was published in 1962.

She has subsequently written over 50 published works, which include novels, picture books, poetry, short stories, and two autobiographical books.

Mine for Keeps by Jean Little (1995-05-25): Books

Her novel His Banner Over Me is based on her mother’s childhood.

His Banner over Me: Little, Jean: Fremdsprachige Bücher

Little won literary awards for her work and has been published internationally.

Little taught Children’s Literature at the University of Guelph, where she was an Adjunct Professor in the Department of English.

Jean Little Public School in Guelph is named in her honour.

Tears of joy for young Guelph cancer survivor

She journeyed widely talking to both adults and children themselves about the joys to be found through reading and writing.

In March 2004, she went to India and in November 2006 to Bulgaria.

Little gave the 2016 Margaret Lawrence Lecture at the Canadian Writers Summit in June.

As of 2016, Little resided in Guelph with her sister Pat deVries, her great-niece Jeanie, and her great-nephew Ben.

She continued to write through the aid of a voice-activated computer and travelled with her guide dog Honey.

Jean Little was her family's poet and a pioneer in the Canadian kidlit  community | Quill and Quire

Several of Little’s books, such as Mine for Keeps and From Anna, focus on children who have a disability or are affected by a person with a disability.

From Anna: Little, Jean, Sandin, Joan: Fremdsprachige Bücher

As many of her books were written several decades ago, they now serve as examples of how children with disabilities were previously raised and treated by society.

Another frequent theme is adoption and foster care, as shown in Home from Far and Willow and Twig.

Children often find homes and families throughout the course of the novel, whether it consists of rediscovering the importance of their family, being reunited with family or creating a new family in their new situation.

While the novels often touch on very sad events, ranging from serious illness, abuse and death, the endings are usually positive and show the resilience of children.

Home from far: Little, Jean: 9780316528023: Books

Douglas Grant Lochhead (pronounced Lockheed)(1922 – 2011) was a Guelph-born poet, academic librarian, bibliographer and university professor who published more than 30 collections of poetry over five decades, from 1959 to 2009.

Douglas Lochhead in 2008
Above: Douglas Lochhead

Lochhead’s best-known book, High Marsh Road, a collection of 122 short poems chronicling his daily walks across the Tantramar Marshes in southeastern New Brunswick, earned him a nomination for a Governor General’s Award in 1980.

The first 30 poems in High Marsh Road are posted on telephone poles leading from Sackville’s main downtown intersection toward the marshes that so often stirred “the red sea of his singing“.

I think Douglas thought of poetry as a form of resistance,” his friend and fellow poet Pete Sanger told The Globe and Mail following Lochhead’s death in 2011.

A form of resistance to non-poetic thinking, to tyranny, to unimaginative views of the world. High Marsh Road: Lines for a Diary (Goose Lane Editions Poetry  Books) (9780864921925): Lochhead, Douglas: Books

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon (née Sutherland) (1863 – 1935) was a leading British fashion designer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who worked under the professional name Lucile.

The first British-based designer to achieve international acclaim, Lucy Duff-Gordon was a widely acknowledged innovator in couture styles as well as in fashion industry public relations.

In addition to originating the “mannequin parade“, a precursor to the modern fashion show, and training the first professional models, she launched slit skirts and low necklines, popularized less restrictive corsets, and promoted alluring and pared-down lingerie.

Opening branches of her London house, Lucile Ltd, in Chicago, New York City, and Paris, her business became the first global couture brand, dressing a trend-setting clientele of royalty, nobility, and stage and film personalities.

Duff-Gordon is also remembered as a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, and as the losing party in the precedent-setting 1917 contract law case of Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, in which Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo wrote the opinion for New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals, upholding a contract between Duff-Gordon and her advertising agent that assigned the agent the sole right to market her name.

It was the first case of its kind, clothes labeled and sold at a lowered cost in a cheaper market under an expensive “brand name“.

Above: The Lady

The daughter of civil engineer Douglas Sutherland (1838 – 1865) and his Anglo-French-Canadian wife Elinor Saunders (1841 – 1937), Lucy Christiana Sutherland was born in London, England, and raised in Guelph, after her father’s death from typhiod fever.

When her mother remarried in 1871 to the bachelor David Kennedy (d. 1889), Lucy moved with them and her sister, the future novelist Elinor Glyn, to Saint Helier on the Channel Isle of Jersey.

Portrait of Elinor Glyn
Above: Elinor Glyn (1864 – 1943)

Lucy acquired her love of fashion through dressing her collection of dolls, by studying gowns worn by women in family paintings, and by later making clothes for herself and Elinor.

Returning to Jersey, after a visit to relatives in England in 1875, Lucy and Elinor survived the wreck of their ship when it ran aground in a gale.

In 1884, Lucy married for the first time, to James Stuart Wallace, with whom she had a child, Esme (1885–1973).

Wallace was an alcoholic and regularly unfaithful, and Lucy sought consolation in love affairs, including a long relationship with the famous surgeon Sir Morell Mackenzie.

Morell Mackenzie 4.jpg
Above: Dr. Morell Mackenzie (1837 – 1892)

The Wallaces separated circa 1890 and Lucy started divorce proceedings in 1893. 

In 1900, Lucy Sutherland Wallace married a Scottish baronet, landowner and sportsman Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon.

Above: Cosmo Duff-Gordon (1862 – 1931)

In order to support herself and her daughter after the end of her first marriage, Lucy Duff-Gordon began working as a dressmaker from home.

In 1893, she opened Maison Lucile at 24 Old Burlington St., in the heart of the fashionable West End of London, having worked for a year previously from her mother’s flat at 25 Davies Street.

In 1897, Lucy Duff-Gordon opened a larger shop at 17 Hanover Square, Westminster, before a further move (1904) to 14 George Street, Oxford.

In 1903, the business was incorporated as “Lucile Ltd” and the following year moved to 23 Hanover Square, where it operated for the next 20 years.

Duff-Gordon was eventually bankrupted after she revealed in the American press that she was not designing much of the clothing that was attributed to her name.

She spent her later years selling imported clothing and smaller collections in a succession of unsuccessful small ‘boutiques‘.

Above: Lucile nightgown, 1913

Lucile Ltd served a wealthy clientele including aristocracy, royalty, and theatre stars.

The business expanded, with salons opening in New York City in 1910, Paris in 1911, and Chicago in 1915, making it the first leading couture house with full-scale branches in three countries.

Lucile was most famous for its lingerie, tea gowns and evening wear.

Above: A tea gown

Its luxuriously layered and draped garments in soft fabrics of blended pastel colors, often accentuated with sprays of hand-made silk flowers, became its hallmark.

However, Lucile also offered simple, smart tailored suits and daywear. 

The dress illustrated below typifies the classically draped style often found in Lucile designs.

Lucy Duff-Gordon originally designed it in Paris, for Lucile Ltd’s spring 1913 collection, and later specially adapted it for London socialite Heather Firbank (1888 – 1954) and other well-known clients, including actress Kitty Gordon and dancer Lydia Kyasht of the Ballets Russes.

The example illustrated below was worn by Miss Firbank and is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Kitty Gordon 1900s.jpg
Above: Actress Kitty Gordon (1878 – 1974)

Above: Dancer Lydia Kyasht (1885 – 1959)

Above: Lucile evening dress, 1913

Lucy Duff-Gordon is also widely credited with training the first professional fashion models (called mannequins) as well as staging the first runway or “catwalk” style shows.

These affairs were theatrically inspired, invitation-only, tea-time presentations, complete with a stage, curtains, mood-setting lighting, music from a string band, souvenir gifts, and programmes.

Above: Western Canada Fashion Week, 2014

Another innovation in the presentation of her collections was what she called her “emotional gowns“.

These dresses were given descriptive names, influenced by literature, history, popular culture and her interest in the psychology and personality of her clients.

Some well-known clients, whose clothing influenced many when it appeared in early films, on stage, and in the press, included: Irene Castle, Lily Elsie, Gertie Millar, Gaby Desyls, Billie Burke and Mary Pickford.

Above: Dancer Irene Castle (1893 – 1969) in a Lucile dress for Watch Your Step (1914)

Above: Actress / singer Lily Elsie (1886 – 1962) in Lucile dress, The Merry Widow (1907)

Above: Actress / singer Gertie Millar (1879 – 1952)

Above: Actress / singer Gaby Deslys (1881 – 1920)

Black and white portrait photograph of Billie Burke in 1933
Above: Actress Billie Burke (1884 – 1970)

Mary Pickford cph.3c17995u.jpg
Above: Actress Mary Pickford (1892 – 1979)

Lucile costumed numerous theatrical productions, including the London première of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow (1907), the Ziegfield Follies revues on Broadway (1915 – 1921), and the D.W. Griffith silent movie Way Down East (1920).


Lucile creations were also frequently featured in Pathé and Gaumont newsreels of the 1910s and 1920s, and Lucy Duff-Gordon appeared in her own weekly spot in the British newsreel “Around the Town” (1919 – 1921).

Early Lucile Ltd sketches, archived at the Victoria and Albert Museum, provide evidence that in 1904 the salon employed at least one sketch artist to record Lucy Duff-Gordon’s designs for in-house use.

Above: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

As demands grew on her time, especially in the US during WW1, she was aided by various sketch artists who created ideas based on the “Lucile look“.

In her memoir, Lucy Duff-Gordon credited her corps of assistants for their contributions to the success of the New York branch of Lucile Ltd.

Many of these assistants’ drawings were published in the press and signed “Lucile“, though occasionally the signature of the artist appeared.

It was general practice for couture houses to use professional artists to execute drawings of designs as they were being created, as well as of the artist’s own ideas for each season’s output and for individual clients.

These drawings were overseen by Lucy Duff-Gordon, who often critiqued them, adding notes, instructions, dates, and sometimes her own signature or initials, indicating she approved the design.

Like many couturiers, Lucy Duff-Gordon designed principally on the human form.

Her surviving personal sketchbooks indicate her limited technical ability as a sketch artist, but a skill at recording colour.

Surviving Lucile Ltd sketches reveal numerous artists of varying talent levels, and these are often mis-attributed to herself.

Howard Greer admitted in his autobiography that the sketches he and his colleagues executed were often confused interpretations of the Lucile style that did not match their employer’s vision.

Moreover, he claimed customers were not always pleased by the actual dresses created from the sketches he and the other assistants submitted.

Unprecedented for a leading couturière, Lucy Duff-Gordon promoted her collections journalistically.

In addition to a weekly syndicated fashion page for the Hearst newspaper syndicate (1910–22), she wrote monthly columns for Harper’s Bazaar and Good Housekeeping (1912 – 1922).

Kate Winslet June-July 2014 HB Cover.jpg

A Hearst writer ghost wrote the newspaper page after 1918, but the designer herself penned the Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar features throughout their duration, although the responsibility of producing a regular piece proved difficult, and she missed several deadlines.

Good Housekeeping January 2015 issue.jpg

Lucile fashions also appeared regularly in VogueFeminaLes ModesL’art et la Mode, and other leading fashion magazines (1910 – 1922).


Along with Hearst publications, Lucile contributed to Vanity FairDressThe Illustrated London News, The London Magazine, Pearson’s Magazine and Munsey’s.

Vanity Fair Logo.svg

In addition to her career as a couturière, costumier, journalist, and pundit, Lucy Duff-Gordon took significant advantage of opportunities for commercial endorsement, lending her name to advertising for brassieres, perfume, shoes, and other luxury apparel and beauty items.

Among the most adventurous of her licensing ventures were a two-season, lower-priced, mail-order fashion line for Sears, Roebuck & Co. (1916 –1917), which promoted her clothing in special de luxe catalogues, and a contract to design interiors for limousines and town cars for the Chalmers Motor Co., later Chrysler Corporation (1917).

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In 1912, Lucy Duff-Gordon travelled to America on business in connection with the New York branch of Lucile Ltd.

She and her husband, Sir Cosmo, booked first class passage on the ocean liner RMS Titanic under the alias “Mr. and Mrs. Morgan“.

Her secretary, Laura Mabel Francatelli, nicknamed “Franks“, accompanied the couple.

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Above: The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton harbour

On 14 April, at 11:40 pm the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink.

"Untergang der Titanic", a painting showing a big ship sinking with survivors in the water and boats

During the evacuation, the Duff-Gordons and Francatelli escaped in Lifeboat #1.

Although the boat was designed to hold 40 people, it was lowered with only 12 people aboard, seven of them male crew members.

Some time after the Titanic sank, while afloat in Lifeboat #1, Lucy Duff-Gordon reportedly commented to her secretary:

There is your beautiful nightdress gone.”

A fireman, annoyed by her comment, replied that while the couple could replace their property, he and the other crew members had lost everything in the sinking.

Sir Cosmo then offered each of the men £5 (equivalent to £499 in 2019) to aid them until they received new assignments.

While on the RMS Carpathia, the Cunard liner that rescued Titanics survivors, Sir Cosmo presented the men from Lifeboat #1 with cheques drawn on his bank, Coutts.

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Above: The RMS Carpathia

This action later spawned gossip that the Duff-Gordons had bribed their lifeboat’s crew not to return to save swimmers out of fear the vessel would be swamped.

These rumours were fuelled by the tabloid press in the US and, eventually, in the UK.

On 17 May, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon testified at the London hearings of the British Board of Trade inquiry into the disaster.

Above: Cosmo at the Titanic inquiry

On 20 May, Lady Duff-Gordon took the stand.

The couple’s testimony attracted the largest crowds during the inquiry.

While Sir Cosmo faced tough criticism during cross-examination, his wife had it slightly easier.

Dressed in black, with a large, veiled hat, she told the court she remembered little about what happened in the lifeboat on the night of the sinking, due to seasickness, and she could not recall specific conversations.

Lawyers did not seem to have pressed her very hard.

Lucy Duff-Gordon noted that for the rest of her husband’s life he was brokenhearted over the negative coverage by the “yellow press“, during his cross-examination at the inquiry.

Above: “The Yellow Press“, by L.M. Glackens, portrays newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst as a jester distributing sensational stories

The final report by the inquiry determined that the Duff-Gordons did not deter the crew from any attempt at rescue through bribery or any other method of coercion.

In 2012, a box of documents and letters concerning the Titanic sinking belonging to the Duff-Gordons was rediscovered at the London office of Veale Wasborough Vizards, the legal firm that merged with Tweedies, which had represented the couple.

Among the papers was an inventory of the possessions Lucy Duff Gordon had lost, the total value listed as £3,208 3s 6d.

One letter detailed what she wore when leaving the ship:

  • two dressing gowns “for warmth
  • a muff
  • her “motor hat“.

(A faded grey silk kimono with typical Fortuny-style black cord edging, for some time thought to have been worn by her that night, is now understood to have belonged to her daughter Esme, Countess of Halsbury, as its distinctive print dates the item to post World War 1)

An apron said to have been worn by Francatelli can be seen at the Maritime Museum in Liverpool.

Her life-jacket was sold, along with correspondence about her experiences in the disaster, at Christie’s auction house, London, in 2007.

Above: Titanic wreck bow

Lucy Duff-Gordon had another close call three years after surviving the Titanic, when she booked passage aboard the final voyage of the RMS Lusitania.

It was reported in the press that she cancelled her trip due to illness.

The Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo on 7 May 1915.

Above: The RMS Lusitania

In 1917, Lucy Duff-Gordon lost the New York Court of Appeals case of Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, in which Judge Benjmin N. Cardozo established precedent in the realm of contract law when he held the designer to a contract that assigned the sole right to market her professional name to her advertising agent, Otis F. Wood, despite the fact that the contract lacked explicit consideration for her promise.

Above: Lady Duff-Gordon, 1917

Cardozo noted that:

A promise may be lacking, and yet the whole writing may be ‘instinct with an obligation'” and, if so, “there is a contract.”

Cardozo famously opened the opinion with the following description of the designer:

The defendant styles herself “a creator of fashions.”

Her favor helps a sale.

Manufacturers of dresses, millinery, and like articles are glad to pay for a certificate of her approval.

The things which she designs, fabrics, parasols, and what not, have a new value in the public mind when issued in her name.

Although the term “creator of fashions” was part of the tagline in ‘Lucile’s‘ columns for the Hearst papers, some observers have claimed that Cardozo’s tone revealed a certain disdain for her position in the world of fashion.

Others accept that he was merely echoing language used by the defendant in her own submissions to the court as well as in her publicity.

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Above: Benjamin Cardozo (1870 – 1938)

Lucy Duff-Gordon’s connection to her design empire began to disintegrate following a restructuring of Lucile, Ltd in 1918–19.

An acrimonious battle emerged in the press, culminating in her public acknowledgement that many Lucile dresses were not designed by her.

Lucy Duff-Gordon’s autobiography acknowledges that this had been the case since at least 1911.

By September 1922, she had ceased designing for the company, which effectively closed.

A completely new ‘Lucile’ was formed, using the same premises in Paris, and different designs, but it gradually failed.

Meanwhile, its founder (who continued to be known as ‘Lucile‘) worked from private premises designing personally for individual clients.

She was briefly associated with the firm of Reville, Ltd., maintained a ready-to-wear shop of her own and lent her name to a wholesale operation in America.

Lucy Duff-Gordon also continued as a fashion columnist and critic after her design career ended, contributing to London’s Daily Sketch and Daily Express (1922 – 1930), and she penned her best-selling autobiography Discretions and Indiscretions (1932).

Discretions and Indiscretions: Edwardian Couturier, It Girl & Titanic  Survivor by Lucy Duff-Gordon

Dorothy Maclean (1920 – 2020) was a Canadian writer and educator on spiritual subjects who was one of the original three adults at what is now the Findhorn Foundation in northeast Scotland.

Maclean was born in Guelph.

Above: Dorothy Maclean (open eyes)

From 1941 onwards she worked for the British Security Coordination (BSC) in New York City.

(The BSC was a covert organisation set up in New York City by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in May 1940 upon the authorisation of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Its purpose was to investigate enemy activities, prevent sabotage against British interests in the Americas, and mobilise pro-British opinion in the Americas.

As a ‘huge secret agency of nationwide news manipulation and black propaganda‘, the BSC influenced news coverage in the Herald Tribune, the New York Post, the Baltimore Sun and radio New York Worldwide.

The stories disseminated from the organisation’s offices at Rockefeller Center would then be legitimately picked up by other radio stations and newspapers, before being relayed to the American public.

Through this, anti-German stories were placed in major American media outlets to help turn public opinion.)

Above: BSC operated from the 35th and 36th floors of the International Building, Rockefeller Center, New York during World War II

After being posted to Panama, she met and married John Wood, though the couple would divorce in 1951.

On her way to New York City in 1941, Maclean had met spiritual teacher Sheena Govan, and it was through her that she would later meet Peter Caddy.

Living in England in the 1950s, Maclean became involved in the spiritual practices of Govan and Caddy and eventually Peter’s wife Eileen Caddy.

When the Caddys were appointed to manage a hotel in Scotland, Maclean joined them as the hotel’s secretary.

After the Caddys became unemployed in 1962, they moved into a caravan near the village of Findhorn.

In 1963, an annex was built so that Maclean could continue to work with them.

A community eventually grew up around the Caddys and Maclean, and this community has since 1972 been known as the Findhorn Foundation.

The Findhorn Foundation and the surrounding community have no formal doctrine or creed.

The Foundation offers a range of workshops, programmes and events in the environment of a working ecovillage.

The programmes are intended to give participants practical experience of how to apply spiritual values in daily life.

Approximately 3,000 participants from around the world take part in residential programmes each year.

Above: The Findhorn Foundation community

Maclean was known for her work with devas, said to be intelligences overseeing the natural world.

Her book To Hear the Angels Sing gives an overview of this work and also provides autobiographical materials.

To Hear the Angels Sing: An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdom: Secrest, Freya, Maclean, Dorothy: Fremdsprachige Bücher

A full-length biography, Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic was published in 2010.

Maclean left Findhorn in 1973 and subsequently founded an educational organization in North America with David Spangler.

Her childhood home, Woodside, at 40 Spring Street, Guelph has since been designated a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Maclean retired from public life in 2010 and lived again at Findhorn.

She turned 92 years old during Findhorn Foundation’s 50-year anniversary celebration in 2012.

She turned 100 in January 2020 and died shortly after on 12 March 2020, in Findhorn.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic (English Edition) eBook: Maclean, Dorothy: Kindle-Shop

Robert Munsch was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He graduated from Fordham University in 1969 with a Bachelop of Arts degree in history and from Boston University in 1971 with a Master of Arts degree in anthropology.

He studied to become a Jesuit priest, but decided he would rather work with children after having jobs at orphanages and daycare centres.

In 1973, he received a Master of Education in Child Studies from Tufts University.

In 1975, he moved to Canada to work at the preschool at the University of Guelph. 

He also taught in the College of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Guelph as a lecturer and as an assistant professor.

Munsch signs autograph for a young fan at Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1997
Above: Munsch signing an autograph for a young fan

In Guelph, he was encouraged to publish the many stories he made up for the children he worked with.

One of Munsch’s best-known books, Love You Forever, was listed 4th on the 2001 Publishers Weekly All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books list for paperbacks at 6.97 million copies (not including the 1.049 million hardcover copies).

It has since sold more than 30 million copies and has been featured on the episode “The One With the Cake” from the TV show Friends, as well as being mentioned by Oprah Winfrey on Late Night with David Letterman as being her favorite children’s book.

Munsch, R: Love You Forever: Munsch, Robert N., McGraw, Sheila:  Fremdsprachige Bücher

His other famous book The Paper Bag Princess has sold more than seven million copies and is considered to be a feminist story, as well as a literary classic.

The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch for Kids): Munsch, Robert,  Martchenko, Michael: Fremdsprachige Bücher

Munsch and his wife Ann discovered they couldn’t have biological children after two pregnancies ended with still-birth.

They have three adopted children.

Munsch has publicly talked about his bipolar disorder and addiction issues.

In August 2008, Munsch suffered a stroke that affected his memory.

He has since retired; however, he continues to publish two previously written books each year.

On 15 May 2010, Munsch revealed that he has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive disorder, and that he had a cocaine addiction that started in 2005 and was an alcoholic.

At the time, he had been clean for four months, and had regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for the previous 25 years and Narcotics Anonymous meetings more recently.

75 things you might not know about Robert Munsch | CBC Books
Above: Robert Munsch (pre-beard)

Munsch is known for his exuberant storytelling methods, with exaggerated expressions and acted voices.

He makes up his stories in front of audiences and refines them through repeated tellings.

His stories do not have a recurring single character.

Instead, the characters are based on the children to whom he first told the story, including his own children.

He often performs at children’s festivals and appears at elementary schools, sometimes unannounced.

In 1991, some of his books were adapted into the cartoon series A Bunch of Munsch.


He is also the most stolen author at the Toronto Public Library.

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Born in Guelph, Brendan Myers was raised in Elora, a small village north of Guelph in Wellington County.

He was born the eldest son of an Irish-Canadian family and completed a bachelor’s degree in drama and philosophy in 1996 and then a master’s degree in philosophy in 1999, both from the University of Guelph.

While at university, he became more involved in ethics and environmentalism and he converted from Catholicism to paganism, becoming an activist member of the neo-pagan community.

Myers continued his academic career in Ireland, and eventually completed a doctoral dissertation entitled “Time and the Land” at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Normative in their conception, Myers’ works fundamentally examine ideas regarding the interconnectedness of creation and emphasize the importance of strong moral character as vital to the health and well-being of the world and society.

Myers criticizes utilitarian views, especially “negative” utilitarianism, which holds that ethics require nothing more than the minimization of harm, and of deontological views, which emphasize social duties and adhering to social norms, i.e. rules.

As an alternative to utilitarianism and deontology, Myers explores the ethics of character and identity, self-knowledge and shared life.

Interview with Brendan Cathbad Myers | Paganism
Above: Brendan Myers

In 1848, George Pirie (1799 – 1870) became the publisher of the Guelph Herald newspaper after his attempt at farming in the Bon Accord community.

The farm was sold and the family moved to Guelph where he ran the Guelph Herald publishing and printing office on Wyndham Street.

The elder Pirie was a staunch conservative and Scottish Canadian poet.

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As a young man, Alexander Fraser Pirie (1849 – 1903) assisted at his father’s newspaper office.

The paper struggled to maintain circulation and relied upon job printing work. Imprint magazine later described these early days in a profile of Pirie:

He first saw the light of publication day in his father’s office, the Guelph Herald, in 1849, and was brought up to the sound of the mallet and planer, the hammering of wooden quoins in the chases and the incessant cry of “Colour!” on the part of the man who pulled the lever of the Washington press.

The principal event of his early life was stirring the glue and molasses over a hot fire when the foreman decided to cast a new roller, the making of a new roller being at that time regarded as an epoch in the history of all well-regulated country printing offices.

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Above: A.F. Pirie

At 21 years of age, after his father’s death in 1870, Pirie became publisher of The Herald.

During this time he took on the numerous duties of a local newspaper which included the issuing of marriage licenses.

At this time he received a letter from Prime Minister John A. Macdonald authorizing him as the local agent for these licenses.

Photograph of Macdonald circa 1875 by George Lancefield.
Above: John A. Macdonald (1815 – 1891)

However, Pirie had a great desire to work as a journalist in a larger city, and two years later moved on to Toronto.

In 1924, The Herald was absorbed by the Guelph Mercury (1853 – 2016).


By 1874, Pirie was working at The Toronto Sun as a columnist.

From a circa 1876 article:

The Sun still retains one of the most fertile humorists in Canada in the person of Mr. Alexander Pirie, commonly known as the “Sun Skit Urchin”.

This gentleman, who is still very young, finds plenty of work for the scissors of his contemporaries in a daily column of “Sun Skits.”

They abound in reckless humor, sparing no one, and have just the pleasant bitterness of a dry curacoa.

They have now flowed forth in an uninterrupted stream for nearly two years, and neither the supply nor quality shows any signs of falling off“.

Toronto Sun* - Postmedia Solutions

A caricature of Pirie as the “Sun Skit Urchin” appeared in Grip magazine at this time. 

Grip magazine was Canada’s version of the satirical British magazine Punch.

While Pirie was also a contributor to Grip, these contributions were submitted anonymously.

He also penned several articles for Saturday Night (1887 – 2005).

Rambles About Rimouski” was a story of the history of Rimouski (QB).

Skyline of Rimouski with the St. Lawrence River in the background
Above: Rimouski

Pirie was a popular editorial columnist, as well as social figure and public speaker.

During the 1870s, he lived with his mother and other family members on Mutual Street in Toronto.

This house, now demolished, was in the vicinity of where Ryerson University now stands.

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Above: Crest of Ryerson University, famous for its joiurnalism programme

He was in demand as a public speaker, and known for his use of political humour.

Throughout his years in Toronto Pirie was present at many of the city’s social events, such as an 1885 reading by Robert Kirkland “the Khan” Kernighan (1854 – 1926).

His speaking engagements ranged from reviews of his European travels to speeches in support of Liberal political candidates.

Above: The Khan lecture

In 1876, Pirie joined the Toronto Telegram (1876 – 1971).

He was best known as the second editor of the Telegram, a role he held until 1888.

The Telegram was founded in 1876 by John Ross Robertson (1841 – 1918) as a paper devoted to Toronto’s interests, and, as Robertson described it, devoted to “today’s news today“.

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Above: Last edition of the Toronto Telegram

Pirie spent his first year at the Telegram working under the historian John Charles Dent (1841 – 1888).

After that he took on the role of editor which he held until 1888.

Toronto Telegram Building (Toronto, Ont.) : Digital Archive : Toronto  Public Library

A 1923 review of the history of Toronto newspapers commented on Pirie’s time at the Telegram:

Then came Mr. A. F. Pirie, one of the wittiest and most companionable of men, whose paragraphs, straight-flung and barbed at the point, enlarged public interest in the enterprise“.


In 1886, Pirie participated in a literary debate relating to Canada’s role in North America and her relationship with the United States.

Articles under the heading “Canadian Prospects and Politics” were submitted to The North American Review for the January 1886 issue (Volume 142, Issue 350) by the Marquis of Lorne and A. F. Pirie with a brief note from Sir John A. Macdonald.

North American Review - 1st issue - William Tudor's copy.gif
Above: 1st issue of the North American Review, the first literary magazinne in the United States

In February 1893, Pirie was elected president of the Canadian Press Association.

In this capacity he spoke on behalf of Canadian interests at the World Press Conference in Chicago.

In a 29 May 1893, article from the Toronto Mail (1872 – 1895), “Good Words for Canada: Plain Talk at the Press Convention“, it was reported that Canada had the “honor of closing the proceedings of the 9th annual convention of the National Editorial Association” with the last address delivered by A. F. Pirie.

Mr. Pirie also represented the Canadian Press Association at the World’s Press Congress.

The reporter felt that:

He said some good words for Canada, reminding his hearers that there were a hundred thousand Canadians in Chicago alone.”

Also, that Pirie had noted the role women had been taking in the press congress and stated that as the public journals were made for men and women, “there seemed to be no good reason that women as well as men should not bear a part in making them”.

Finally, he made a strong plea for closer trade relations between the U.S. and Canada:

Holding it to be a shame and an outrage that Canadian workmen should be shut out of the United States, and Canadian products subjected to a high duty, after all the Canadians had done for the United States at the time of the civil war, when 40,000 took up arms for the union, and all that Canadians in the States are still doing in building up that country“.

He appealed to the journalists of America for fair play for Canada.

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Pirie’s work attracted many admirers. 

Imprint magazine, in profiling the new President of the Canadian Press Association wrote in reference to his 1889 William Notman portrait which was published within the article:

“The portrait does not do justice to its subject:

To do so it would require to be a “speaking likeness”, for our friend is just as handy with his tongue as he is with his pen — he is a born orator as well as journalist.”

William Notman.jpg
Above: Photographer / businessman William Notman (1826 – 1891)

Commenting on his career, Imprint noted:

“Mr. Pirie is a writer of great versatility, a capital speaker, one of the best-natured men in the profession, and publishes a model country weekly.

And on his popularity:

“He is one of the most popular of our Canadian journalists, a believer in his country and its future, and is a good representative of the men who make Canadian newspapers.

Alexander Fraser Pirie (1849-1903) - Find A Grave Memorial
Above: A.F. Pirie

He married Hester Emma McCausland (1858 – 1901) in Toronto on 12 June 1889, at her father’s home on Jarvis Street.

Miss McCausland’s father Joseph McCausland had been in Toronto since the 1820s and was a native of Armagh, Ireland, and founder of a successful Toronto stained glass window firm.

The newly married couple moved to Montreal where Pirie briefly worked as an Editor at the Montreal Star.

At this time, they were photographed by Canada’s top portrait photographer William Notman.

Hester Emma McCausland Pirie (1858-1901) - Find A Grave Memorial
Above: Alex and Hester

By 1889, they returned to Dundas (ON) and purchased a home on Sydenham Street that they named “Sydenham Lodge”.

Four children were born in Dundas during the 1890s: Russell Fraser, Elsie Gowan, Jean Booth and Goldwin McCausland.

In recent years, this home was used for the filming of one episode in Season Six of The West Wing.

Above: Sydenham Lodge

In 1895, Pirie lost his mother, Jane (Booth) Pirie, who fell ill after a visit to Dundas from her Toronto home.

Jane Pirie had actively assisted in her husband’s publishing and printing business in Guelph, and in the 1890s had drafted an account of her travels to Western Canada which Mr. Pirie published in the Dundas Banner.

Downtown Dundas

Above: Downtown Dundas, 2005

Pirie was interested in politics and during the Parliamentary session of 1888 he had represented the Montreal Star (1869 – 1979) in the press gallery at Ottawa.


Above: Parliamentary Press Gallery, 1917

In the Provincial General Election of 1898, Pirie had received a Reform nomination as a candidate for North Wentworth.

This was not successful, and afterwards he worked for the Liberal Party of Canada, often appearing as a public speaker, or editing work destined for publication.

Liberal Party of Canada Logo 2014.svg

He appeared in Brantford (ON), on behalf of the Honourable William Paterson for the election of 1900.

At that time, the audience rose to its feet in a standing ovation.

Pirie began his speech noting that his reputation as a humorist preceded him, however, in this case, he had some serious issues to cover.

Clockwise from top: Flowerbed outside RBC Building, Statue of Joseph Brant, Bell Homestead, Grand River, City Hall, Colborne Street in Downtown Brantford
Above: Images of modern Brantford

Pirie’s wife died of pneumonia in 1901 after a brief illness.

She was only 43 years old.

Hester Emma McCausland Pirie (1858-1901) - Find A Grave Memorial

After this time, Pirie’s health broke down and he limited his public engagements.

He continued some of his work for the Liberal Party of Canada and public speaking engagements.

According to newspaper accounts after his death, his relatives noted that he began to stay indoors for much of the time.

His cousin, Robinson Pirie of Hamilton, began to visit him to urge him to get out.

In 1901, he attended a conference for the Canadian Press Association held in Charlottetown (PEI), Pirie wrote to his sister-in-law in Toronto (Mrs. Boyce Thompson) that many events had lost their lustre.

He told her that he and his wife had always dreamt of returning to Toronto after the children grew up.

He described the regular visits he made to his wife’s grave on Sundays.

In July 1903, Pirie visited relatives in Brandon (MB), in conjunction with some work for the Liberal party.

Relatives hoped that this trip might improve his state of mind.

Above: Burlington Gazette, 3 August 1903

After his return to Dundas, he died at home on 15 August 1903.

This event shocked the community.

In a letter preserved at the Whitehern Museum Archives, Mrs. McQuesten wrote to her son Reverend Calvin McQuesten in Montreal about the event.

Pirie’s pallbearers included John Ross Robertson of the Toronto Telegram.

He was buried in Grove Cemetery next to his wife.

Four children were left without parents.

The children’s guardian was their paternal aunt, Ada L. Pirie (Mrs. Walpole Murdoch), who had been assisting Pirie since the death of her sister-in-law.

In 1918, The Hamilton Review published an article on Pirie by Sir John Willison (of The Globe) who had been profiling political and public personalities from Canada’s past.

He wrote:

But Mr. Pirie was more than a jester.

He had qualities of heart and mind which were seldom revealed and only to those who had his affection and confidence.

These were few, for beneath an apparent openness and spontaneity there was a reserve which was not easily penetrated.

He got much out of life, but not all that he desired.

Happy but often anxious and foreboding.

When I think of Pirie I recall what was said of Shelley:

‘He passed through life like a strange bird upon a great journey, singing always of the paradise to which he was travelling, and suddenly lost from the sight of men in the midst of his song.‘ “

Portrait of Shelley, by Alfred Clint (1829)
Above: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

Sandra Sabatini is a Canadian writer.

Born in Guelph, Sabatini is a graduate of the doctoral program in English Literature at the University of Waterloo.

She also has a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Guelph where she currently teaches.

blog — sandra sabatini
Above: Sandra Sabatini

Her first collection of short stories, The One with the News (2000), a collection of linked stories exploring the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a family, was shortlisted for the McClelland Stewart Writers Trust Journey and for the Upper Canada Writers’ Craft Award.

The One With the News: Sabatini, Sandra: 9780889842175: Books

Sabatini’s second book, Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction (2004), explored how babies are becoming more predominant in contemporary Canadian fiction and developing their own literary identity.

Making Babies: Infants in Canadian Fiction by Sandra Sabatini (2003-10-01): Books

Her second collection of short stories, The Dolphins at Sainte-Marie (2006), explores small town living in southern Ontario and the curiosities of youth and inexperience.

The Dolphins at Sainte-Marie: Sabatini, Sandra:  9780143017608: Books

Her latest book, Dante’s War, a novel, is about an Italian soldier stationed in Africa during the Second World War.

It is said to be the first novel written in English to present the Italian point of view on World War II. Dante's War (9781554701131): Sabatini, Sandra: Books

Joe Sawyer (né Joseph Sauers)(1906 – 1982) was a Canadian film actor.

He appeared in more than 200 films between 1927 and 1962, and was sometimes billed under his birth name.

He was born in Guelph.

Sawyer gained acting experience in the Pasadena Playhouse.

Popular roles that he portrayed included Sergeant Biff O’Hara in the Rin Tin Tin TV program, a film, and on radio.

On Stories of the Century in 1954, he portrayed Butch Cassidy, a role which he repeated in the 1958 episode “The Outlaw Legion” of the syndicated western series Frontier Doctor.

Sawyer also appeared on ABC’s Maverick, Sugarfoot, Peter Gunn and Surfside 6, as well as NBC’s Bat Masterson.

Sawyer died 21 April 1982, in Ashland, Oregon from liver cancer.

He was 75.

Joe Sawyer - IMDb
Above: Joe Sawyer

David Troy Somerville (1933 – 2015) was a Canadian singer operating primarily in the United States, best known as the co-founder, and original lead singer, of The Diamonds, one of the most popular vocal groups of the 1950s.

David Somerville, interviewed in 1993, the day after his return to the  stage as the original lead singer of The Diamonds - Pop, Rock & Doo Wopp  Live!
Above: Dave Somerville

Born in Guelph, Somerville grew up in a musical family in the nearby farming village of Rockwood, 50 miles west of Toronto.

In 1947, at the age of 14, he moved to Toronto with his parents and brother Marc, where he entered Central Tech to study architecture and building construction.

He changed the focus of his studies to radio, and in 1952, at the age of 19, secured a position at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the engineering department as a radio operator while concurrently studying voice at the University of Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music.

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In 1953, Somerville, while working as a sound engineer for the CBC in Toronto, met three other young singers: Ted Kowalski, Phil Levitt and Bill Reed.

They decided to form a stand-up quartet called The Diamonds.

The group in 1957.

The group’s first performance was in the basement of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Toronto singing in a Christmas minstrel show.

The audience’s reaction to the Somerville-led group was so positive that they decided that night they would turn professional.

After 18 months of rehearsal, they drove to New York and tied for 1st place on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.


The prize of being guest artist for a week on Godfrey’s show led to a recording contract with Coral Records.

Professional musician Nat Goodman became their manager.

Coral released four songs, the most notable being “Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots“, written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller.


The next big step was an audition with Cleveland radio disc jockey Bill Randle, who had aided in the success of some popular groups, such as The Crew Cuts.

The group in 1957

Randle was impressed with The Diamonds and introduced them to a producer at Mercury Records who signed the group to a recording contract.

The Diamonds’ first recording for Mercury was “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” (originated by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers), which reached #12 in the US as their first hit, and their follow-up hit single, “The Church Bells May Ring” (originally by The Willows), reached #14 in the US.

The Diamonds – Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1956, Vinyl) - Discogs

The Diamonds‘ biggest hits were 1957’s “Little Darlin’” (originally recorded by The Gladiolas, written by Maurice Williams) and “The Stroll” (1957), an original song written for the group by Clyde Otis, from an idea by Dick Clark.

Album Little Darlin', The Diamonds | Qobuz: download and streaming in high  quality

Although they were signed to do rock and roll, Mercury also paired them with jazz composer and arranger Pete Rugolo, in one of his Meet series recordings.

The album, entitled The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo, allowed them to return to their roots and do some established standards.

Pete Rugolo, c. December 1946, photograph by William P. Gottlieb
Above: Pete Rugolo (1915 – 2011)

The group sang “Little Darlin’” and “Where Mary Go” in the film The Big Beat.

The Big Beat (1958) starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin & Jeffrey Stone  | Lobby cards, Movie memorabilia, Vintage movies

They sang the theme song to the 1958 film, Kathy O’.

Kathy O' (1958) - Filmaffinity

Their television appearances included the TV shows of Steve Allen, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Eddy Arnold and Paul Winchell.

They also appeared on American Bandstand.

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Above: Logo of American Bandstand

In the late 1950s, Reed, Kowalski and Levitt left the group and were replaced by Mike Douglas, John Felten, and Evan Fisher.

There were no more hit records by The Diamonds after Somerville left. 

Despite the ever-changing style of rock & roll and their Mercury contract expiring, The Diamonds continued touring the country.

After Dave Somerville left the group in 1961 to pursue a folk singing career as “David Troy“, he was replaced by Jim Malone.

After leaving the Diamonds, Somerville married Judy Corns of Evansville (IN) and began a six-year solo career as a folk artist, using the stage name David Troy. 

During this period, Somerville also studied acting, with Leonard Nimoy as his teacher, and made numerous guest-starring appearances, often credited as “David Troy“, on various television programs.

David Somerville was born October 2, 1933. | The Real Nerd Herd

Around this time, he became one of the clients of the William Morris Agency, which has since merged with the Endeavor Talent Agency to become the present-day William Morris – Endeavor Agency.

As such, he did extensive voiceover work and was heard in hundreds of radio, television and cable advertisements.

Above: William Morris monogram on fireplace

In 1967, Dave joined The Four Preps as a replacement for Ed Cobb, the original bass singer.

In 1969, he and Bruce Belland, the Four Preps‘s original lead singer, concentrated on a folk/comedy act as the duo of Belland & Somerville.

FOUR PREPS - Capitol Collectors Series: The Four Preps - Music

As such, they appeared in concert with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mathis and were regulars on The Tim Conway Show, a CBS-TV prime-time comedy series.

The Tim Conway Show (TV Series 1980–1981) - IMDb

As songwriters, Bruce and Dave co-wrote “The Troublemaker“, which became the title track of two Willie Nelson albums.

The duo sang in a later roster of the Four Preps with Jim Pike of The Lettermen.

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Above: Willie Nelson

In 1972, Somerville formed the group WW Fancy, which also included Keith Barbour and Gail Jensen as members.

In the late 1980s, he again sang with original members of The Diamonds and also returned to The Four Preps with Bruce Belland, Ed Cobb and Jim Yester of The Association.

In 1972, Somerville sang background vocals along with The Blossoms in B.J. Thomas’ version of “Rock and Roll Lullaby“.

B.J. Thomas in 1972
Above: B. J. Thomas

Somerville’s song “The Ballad of the Unknown Stuntman“, jointly written and composed with Jensen, inspired Glen Larson, who had been the Four Preps‘s original baritone vocalist, to create the central characters and develop the core format of The Fall Guy, starring Lee Majors, for 20th Century Fox Television, which became a highly successful television series for ABC TV.

With additional lyrics which Larson wrote for it, “The Unknown Stuntman” became the theme for The Fall Guy.

Somerville’s own home in the Hollywood Hills was used as the set for the home of Majors’ character, Colt Seavers.


His first children’s album was titled The Cosmic Adventures of Diamond Dave. 

It contained many original songs and characters and received critical acclaim in the US and Canada.

Diamond Dave Somerville - The Cosmic Adventures of Diamond Dave – Snailworx

The Diamonds have been honored and inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame, The Doo Wop Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame and are recipients of Canada’s Juno Award.

Somerville’s last stage show, On The 1957 Rock & Roll Greyhound Bus, was based on rock and roll’s first major tour.

In it, he told road stories and sang the songs of such pioneer jukebox giants as Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, and Chuck Berry.

Drifters Medley - Under the Boardwalk / Save the Last Dance for Me - song  by Diamond Dave Somerville | Spotify

Ned Sparks was born in Guelph, but moved to St. Thomas, where he grew up.

Sparks left home at age 16 and attempted to work as a gold prospector on the  Klondike Gold Rush.

After running out of money, he won a spot as a singer on a traveling musical company’s tour.

At age 19, he returned to Canada and briefly attended a Toronto seminary.

After leaving the seminary, he worked for the railroad and worked in theater in Toronto.

In 1907, he left Toronto for New York City to try his hand in the Broadway theatre, where he appeared in his first show in 1912.

While working on Broadway, Sparks developed his trademark deadpan expression while portraying the role of a desk clerk in the play Little Miss Brown.

His success on the stage soon caught the attention of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) studio head Louis B. Mayer who signed Sparks to a six-picture deal.

Sparks began appearing in numerous silent films before finally making his “talkie” debut in the 1928 film The Big Noise.

In the 1930s, Sparks became known for portraying dour-faced, sarcastic, cigar-chomping characters.

He became so associated with the type that, in 1936, The New York Times reported that Sparks had his face insured for $100,000 with Lloyd’s of London.

The market agreed to pay the sum to any photographer who could capture Sparks smiling

(Sparks later admitted that the story was a publicity stunt and he was only insured for $10,000).


Sparks was also caricatured in cartoons including the Jack-in-the-Box character in the Disney short Broken Toys (1935), and the jester in Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938), a hermit crab in both Tex Avery’s Fresh Fish (1939) and Bob Clampett’s Goofy Groceries (1941), a chicken in Bob Clampett’s Slap Happy Pappy (1940), Friz Freleng’s Warner Brothers cartoon Malibu Beach Party (1940), and Tex Avery’s Hollywood Steps Out (1941).

Sparks also voiced the cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle from 1947 to 1951.

Sparks appeared in ten stage productions on Broadway and over 80 films.

He retired from films in 1947, saying that everyone should retire at 65.

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Donna Theo Strickland is a Canadian optical physicist and pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, together with Gérard Mourou, for the practical implementation of chirped pulse amplification.

She is a professor at the University of Waterloo.

Strickland during Nobel press conference in Stockholm, December 2018
Above: Donna Strickland

Strickland was born in Guelph, to Edith J. (née Ranney), an English teacher, and Lloyd Strickland, an electrical engineer.

After graduating from Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, she decided to attend McMaster University because its engineering physics program included lasers and electro-optics, areas of particular interest to her.

At McMaster, she was one of three women in a class of twenty-five.

Strickland graduated with a degree in engineering physics in 1981.

Strickland studied for her graduate degree in the Institute of Optics, receiving a Ph.D degree from the University of Rochester in 1989.

She conducted her doctoral research at the associated Laboratory for Laser Energetics, supervised by Gérard Mourou.

Strickland and Mourou worked to develop an experimental setup that could raise the peak power of laser pulses, to overcome a limitation, that when the maximal intensity of laser pulses reached gigawatts per square centimetre, self-focusing of the pulses severely damaged the amplifying part of the laser.

Their 1985 technique of chirped pulse amplification stretched out each laser pulse both spectrally and in time before amplifying it, then compressed each pulse back to its original duration, generating ultrashort optical pulses of terawatt to petawatt intensity.

Using chirped pulse amplification allowed smaller high-power laser systems to be built on a typical laboratory optical table, as “table-top terawatt lasers“.

The work received the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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Above: Gérard Mourou

Charles Tatham is a Canadian screenwriter and TV producer best known for his work on Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother and Modern Family.

Tatham was born in Listowel (ON).

He grew up in Guelph and later lived in Waterloo, London (ON) and Toronto.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 with his brother Jamie to pursue a career in writing in the film and television industry after working in the advertising business for fifteen years in Toronto.

Chuck Tatham to Executive Produce 'Children Ruin Everything' Comedy for  Canada's Bell Media | Hollywood Reporter
Above: Chuck Tatham

Tatham’s first writing job was in 1992 on the sitcom Full House, for which he wrote eight episodes with his brother and writing partner, Jamie, who later quit and returned to Vancouver, while Chuck went on to become a producer in 1994.

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He then went on to a number of simultaneous writer-producer jobs on sitcoms including Suddenly Susan, Oh, Grow Up, Less Than Perfect, The Jake Effect and Andy Barker, P.I., the latter four of which he served as a co-executive producer.


His most notable (and acclaimed) role, however, has been as a writer and co-executive producer for the comedy series  Arrested Development from 2005 to 2006.

He was nominated for two Emmys in 2006; the first shared with the show’s other producers in the category of Outstanding Comedy Series, and the second shared with three other writers of the episode “Development Arrested” in the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series category.

He has also, with the rest of the Arrested Development writing crew, been nominated for two Writers guild of America Awards, in 2005 and 2006, both in the Comedy Series category.

The words "Arrested Development" in red and black lettering

He fully supported the 2007 – 2008 Writers Guild of America strike, which stalled a project he had with Ron Howard developing a new series, The Church of Reggie, about a man who starts his own religion on his porch.

In 2020, he signed on as an executive producer on the forthcoming Canadian sitcom Children Ruin Everything.

He is married to Joanne Tatham, a jazz singer, with whom he has two sons.

He enjoys hockey and slow marathons and is allergic to bananas.

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Percy Algernon Taverner (1875 – 1947) was a Canadian ornithologist and architect.

He was born Percy Algernon Fowler in Guelph.

When his parents separated and his mother remarried, he took on his new parent’s surname, Tavernier, which he later changed to Taverner.

Taverner, a self-taught naturalist, was the first ornithologist at the National Museum of Canada, now the Canadian Museum of Nature, from 1912 to 1942.

Above: Percy Taverner

Above: The Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Taverner was in correspondence with Alberta’s first female naturalist and ‘keen observer‘ of birdlife Elsie Cassels.

Taverner was one of a handful of federal bureaucrats who convinced the Canadian government to sign the 1916 Canada – US Migratory Birds Convention.

He helped establish Point Pelee National Park and a number of bird sanctuaries across Canada, including Bonaventure Island.

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Above: Boardwalk in Point Pelee National Park

Above: Cliffs of Bonaventure Island

As an architect, Taverner designed in Chicago, Detroit and Ottawa, including homes on Rosedale Avenue and Leonard Avenue in Ottawa.

A pillar of the Ottawa naturalist community, he was president of the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club in the 1930s and was substantially responsible for the survival of this organization and its journal, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, which he founded.

Taverner is the subject of a biography titled “A Life With Birds: Percy A. Taverner, Canadian Ornithologist“.

The Canadian Field Naturalist 1996, Percy Taverner, Ornithology birds  nature | eBay

What is the visitor to Guelph supposed to think?

How can the place be defined?

The answer is a combination of France Preseren and Neal Cassady.

Things are not as bad as they first look: breweries, mental health and addiction patients, orphans, Scientologists, communists, tax evading criminals, largest correctional institutes…..

They can be seen as they are.

We can judge Guelph by its wealth, by its reputation (low unemployment, low crime, best employers, safest hospitals).

And between the bad and the good that Guelph is, there are the folks who are themselves contradictions that make this place so difficult to pigeon-hole, so difficult to define, so problematic to perceive.

Guelph is an author rejected for his financial acumen and forgotten for his talent.

Guelph is a place that accommodates Scientologists and Communists, philosophers, poets and prophets.

This is a city that brought the world cable TV, the jockstrap, five-pin bowling, Yukon Gold potatoes, the nation’s first motorcycle patrol, floating platforms, high calibre athletes in baseball and swimming, a doctor who advocated war and a pilot mystified that he survived a war that so many didn’t, Hollywood stars too few remember and a writer who has brought entertainment to the couch potatoes that cable TV seduced, a remarkable woman who survived sinking ships and scandal and brought the world fashion and its models, a man struggling through his personal demons to bring children joy and a woman who despite her blindness could see the strength of children, men who saw the beauty and fragility of the world and sought to preserve it, music that still moves us decades after it was released, and a man gifted with words that could not save him from his sorrow.

Guelph is the living embodiment of the realization that some places defy description and that folks will define a place the way that they want to.

Nothing before and since Guelph has completely defined the town for me and I doubt anything will.

It is the ultimate Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test town and how you see Guelph says little about what Guelph is and volumes about who you are.

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Swiss Miss and the Temple of Literature

Sunday 7 February 2021, Landschlacht, Switzerland

bonfire of the vanities (Italian: falò delle vanità) is a burning of objects condemned by religious authorities as occasions of sin.

The phrase usually refers to the bonfire of 7 February 1497, when supporters of  Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola collected and burned thousands of objects such as cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy on the Shrove Tuesday festival.

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Above: Bernardino of Siena organising the vanities bonfire, Perugia, The Oratorio di San Bernardino

Francesco Guicciardini’s The History of Florence gives a first-hand account of the bonfire of the vanities that took place in Florence in 1497.

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Above: Francesco Guicciardini (1483 – 1540)

The focus of this destruction was on objects that might tempt one to sin, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, playing cards, and musical instruments.

Other targets included books which Savonarola deemed to be immoral (such as works by Boccaccio), manuscripts of secular songs, and artworks, including paintings and sculpture.

Fra Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar who was assigned to work in Florence in 1490, at the request of  Lorenzo de’ Medici – although within a few years Savonarola became one of the foremost enemies of the Medici house and helped to bring about their downfall in 1494.

Savonarola campaigned against what he considered to be the artistic and social excesses of Renaissance Italy, preaching with great vigor against any sort of luxury.

His power and influence grew so that with time, he became the effective ruler of Florence, and had soldiers for his protection following him around.

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Above: Girolamo Savonarola (1452 – 1498)

Starting on 7 February 1495, during the time in which the festival known as Carnival occurred, Savonarola began to host his regular “bonfire of the vanities“.

He collected various objects that he considered to be objectionable: irreplaceable manuscripts, ancient sculptures, antique and modern paintings, priceless tapestries, and many other valuable works of art, as well as mirrors, musical instruments, and books of divination, astrology, and magic.

See the source image

He obtained the cooperation of contemporary artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Lorenzo di Credi, who consigned some of their own works to his bonfires.

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Above: Self-portrait, Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)

Above: Portrait of Lorenzo di Credi (1456 – 1537)

Anyone who tried to object found their hands being forced by teams of Savonarola supporters.

These supporters called themselves Piagnoni (Weepers) after a public nickname that was originally intended as an insult.

Savonarola’s influence did not go unnoticed by the higher church officials, however, and his actions came to the attention of Pope Alexander VI.

He was excommunicated on 13 May 1497.

The charges were heresy and sedition at the command of Pope Alexander VI.

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Above: Pope Alexander VI (né Roderigo de Borja) (1431 – 1503)

Savonarola was executed on 23 May 1498, hung on a cross and burned to death.

His death occurred in the Piazza della Signoria, where he had previously held his bonfires of the vanities. 

Then the papal authorities gave word that anyone in possession of the friar’s writings had four days to turn them over to a papal agent to be destroyed.

Anyone who failed to do so faced excommunication.

Above: Painting (1650) of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria

The idea of a bonfire of the vanities suggests that the bad moments that affect us are caused by our attachment to what isn’t good for us.

So, what vanities led to the troubles of Myanmar, Liechtenstein, Haiti, Iran, Vietnam, India, the Sudan, to anyone, anywhere?

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Tens of thousands of people rallied across Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in the biggest protests since the 2007 Saffron Revolution that helped lead to democratic reforms.

Flag of Myanmar

Above: Flag of Myanmar

In a second day of widespread protests, crowds in the biggest city, Yangon, sported red shirts, red flags and red balloons, the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD).

We don’t want military dictatorship! We want democracy!” they chanted.

See the source image

On Sunday afternoon, the junta ended a day-long blockade of the Internet that had further inflamed anger since the coup last Monday that has halted the Southeast Asian nation’s troubled transition to democracy and drawn international outrage.

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Pope Francis expressed “solidarity with the people” on Sunday and asked Myanmar’s leaders to seek “democratic” harmony.

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Above: Pope Francis

Huge crowds from all corners of Yangon gathered in townships, filling streets as they headed towards the Sule Pagoda at the heart of the city, also a rallying point during the Buddhist monk-led 2007 protests and others in 1988.

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Above: Sule Pagoda, Yangon

A line of armed police with riot shields set up barricades, but did not try to stop the demonstration. Some marchers presented police with flowers.

One officer was photographed giving a surreptitious three-finger salute.

Protesters gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup.

Drivers honked their horns and passengers held up photos of Suu Kyi.

See the source image

We don’t want a dictatorship for the next generation,” said 21-year-old Thaw Zin.

We will not finish this revolution until we make history. We will fight to the end.

See the source image

Meanwhile, Europe’s most powerful monarch still lives in a towering hilltop castle and has the power to dissolve parliament and veto legislation.

He is referred to as His Serene Highness.

H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein and his wife H.S.H. Princess Marie of Liechtenstein receive a tree as a gift for their Golden Wedding by the government.

Above: H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein and his wife H.S.H. Princess Marie of Liechtenstein

Decades, or indeed centuries, after Europe’s kings and queens were forced to relinquish their political power to national parliaments, Liechtenstein’s Prince Hans-Adam II and his son, Crown Prince Alois have only seen their grip on the tiny Alpine nation tighten.

And the people of Liechtenstein, for the most part at least, seem to love them for it.

Flag of Liechtenstein

Above: Flag of Liechtenstein

In 2003, after a series of disputes between Prince Hans-Adam II and Liechtenstein’s parliament, a referendum was held – not on whether to reduce his power over parliamentary politics, but to increase it.

Liechtenstein’s 40,000 people voted overwhelmingly in favour.

Then in 2012, after the Prince, a staunch Catholic, threatened to veto a law that would have legalised abortion, pro-democracy campaigners organised a referendum that would have reduced the monarchy’s power.

Over 75% of Liechtenstein’s citizens voted against it.

It didn’t hurt that the Prince threatened to leave the country if the vote went against him.

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Above: Prince Hans-Adam II

So as the country went to the polls on Sunday, it goes without saying that the monarchy – Europe’s last, at least in terms of political power – will not be an electoral issue.

Even the tiny ‘Free List’ grouping, which was originally republican, no longer speaks out against the Prince.

The form of government enjoys great support in Liechtenstein and has hardly been politicised in recent years,” said Christian Frommelt, director and head of research politics at the Liechtenstein Institute.

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Above: Coat of arms of Liechtenstein

Two parties have ruled Liechtenstein, which borders Switzerland and Austria, since World War Two: the Progress Citizens Party (FBP) and the Patriotic Union (VU), known as ‘the blacks’ and ‘the reds’.

The Free List, which rarely gets more than 15% of the vote, is known as ‘the whites’.

Liechtenstein’s right-wing populists the Independents (known as the DU) increased their vote share in 2013 and 2017, but the country’s election on Monday will – as it has always been – be a two-horse race, with only marginal differences, policy-wise, between the horses.

Above: Parliament, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein, a mountainous and largely rural country, was neutral during World War Two, but emerged from the conflict with little in the way of industry.

Over the next few decades, it rebranded itself as a finance centre, luring companies with rock-bottom corporate tax rates while its banking secrecy laws made it a popular destination for wealthy individuals to avoid taxes – and criminals looking for a place to launder their money.

Above: Hilti headquarters, Schaan, Liechtenstein

The latter – and to a certain extent the former, too – landed the tiny country on a blacklist of tax havens drawn up by the European Union.

It was a decade before it enacted sufficient regulations to get it removed from the list in 2018.

Location of Liechtenstein (green) in Europe (agate grey)  –  [Legend]

That hasn’t done much to hit the people of Liechtenstein in the pocket:

In 2018, per capita income in the principality was €150,000, the highest in the world, even beating Luxembourg and Qatar.

Prince Hans-Adam II himself is worth €3.6 billion.

Above: Vaduz Castle, home to Prince Hans-Adam II and his family

Like Switzerland, with which it shares a currency and a language, Liechtenstein is not a member of the European Union, but it is a member of the European Economic Area, which regulates issues such as energy and financial services but not immigration, over which it retains control.

As elsewhere in Europe, immigration is an issue that does get voters’ juices flowing, despite the fact that Liechtenstein has an exceedingly restrictive policy on foreign labour, often not even permitting workers who take jobs with local companies to live in the Principality.

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Above: Flag of the European Union

It is still the issue where the DU has found the most support, although, in the four years since the party won its largest vote share (18%), the populists have had an internal quarrel and split in two.

That has ensured that it will be a struggle for the DU to reach the 8% threshold required to take seats in parliament.

Its other half, the Democrats pro Liechtenstein (DpL), is expected to do far better, says Frommelt, perhaps winning as much as 20% of the vote.

But right-wing populism in Liechtenstein is not the same as in Switzerland or Austria, he says, and while the DpL and DU are critical about migration and European integration, those issues do not dominate their manifestos.

DpL and DU voters could, however, have been influenced by populist politics by parties in neighbouring countries, he added.

Populism in Liechtenstein is therefore mainly imported and then cultivated through letters to the editor or in the social media. In parliament itself and also in the election programmes, one finds rather little populist rhetoric,” he said.

The FBP have held a majority in parliament in Liechtenstein for the last eight years, and so it may be that voters opt for the VU in order to change things up, although both parties are broadly the same: pro-business, sound fiscal policy, pro-family and environmentalist.

The only difference this time around is that the FBP have a female candidate for prime minister, which would mark the first time in history that a woman has held that role in Liechtenstein.

A significant milestone for any European nation, but particularly one where the monarchial line of succession is only passed on to sons and where women didn’t get the vote until 1984.

Andres Arauz claimed victory in Ecuador’s presidential election on Sunday, but urged supporters to wait for the official results, which are expected to be out tonight, before celebrating.

Andres Arauz, who is running for president with the United for Hope alliance, holds his closing campaign rally in Quito, Ecuador

Above: Andres Arauz

Arauz’s celebration was short-lived, as an official projection by Ecuador’s National Electoral Council revealed that Arauz would have to face off indigenous candidate and lawyer Yaku Perez in the election run-off.

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Above: Yaku Perez

The Council based its estimate on 90.4% of the results from 2,425 polling stations selected for a quick count.

According to estimates, Arauz has 31.5% of the vote, with Perez trailing behind at 20.04%.

Guillermo Lasso, who was initially expected to face Arauz in the runoff, received 19.97% of the vote, according to the first count.

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Above: Guillermo Lasso

To win the election in Ecuador, a candidate has to win 50% plus one vote or 40% and a 10-point lead over the rival.

Failing this, the election goes to a run-off round.

Flag of Ecuador

Above: Flag of Ecuador

Arauz is a protégé of Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador, who is currently living in Belgium.  

An Ecuadorian court convicted Correa in absentia on corruption charges and sentenced him to eight years in prison, but he has so far managed to evade the sentence by staying out of the country.

He remains popular in his home country for presiding over economic prosperity driven by an oil boom and loans from China which funded social programs.

His conviction barred him from running as Arauz’s vice-presidential running mate.

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Above: Rafael Correa

Ecuador is suffering from an economic downturn, made worse by the impact of the corona virus pandemic.

A record number of 16 candidates are standing for election. 

Location of Ecuador (dark green)

Arauz, who was pursuing a PhD in Economics in Mexico, left his degree mid-way to stand for the election.

Arauz’s main rival, the conservative candidate and ex-banker Guillermo Lasso, has a hard sell given the population’s distaste for austerity politics.

The socialist candidate follows in the footsteps of former president Rafal Correa and has promised $1 billion (€836 million) in direct payments to families and to overturn the conditions of the $6.5 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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We have to continue convincing people, so that our victory, the victory of hope, will be in a single round,” Arauz wrote on his Facebook page on Friday.

“Let’s do this right away.”

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Lawyer Yaku Perez trailed third in the exit polls, representing an environmental and indigenous movement that is aligned with the anti-Correa left.

Pollsters expect a runoff vote as no candidate has polled more than 50% in the run-up to the election.

However, a low turnout was expected to help the leftwing candidate.

Voting is mandatory by law in Ecuador and abstention is punished with a $40 fine.

(Ecuador, like Liechtenstein, uses another nation’s currency as its own, the US dollar.)

It is expected that middle-class voters are more likely to pay the fine to avoid catching corona virus.

Working-class voters, who cannot afford to pay the fine, are more likely to vote for Arauz.

Voters also face fines of up to $100 for failing to wear a mask to the polling stations.


Outgoing President Moreno is leaving a devastated economy behind him — two million people are sliding into poverty and unemployment has doubled to around 13%.

Correa fled the country under the presidency of his former ally Moreno after being accused of corruption for which he was convicted in absentia.

He remains popular in his home country for presiding over economic prosperity driven by an oil boom and loans from China which funded social programs.


Above: Lenin Moreno

Haitian authorities said Sunday they had foiled an attempt to murder President Jovenel Moise and overthrow the government, as a dispute rages over when his term ends.

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Above: Haitian President Jovenel Moise

The plot was an “attempted coup d’etat,” according to Justice Minister Rockefeller Vincent, with authorities saying at least 23 people have been arrested, including a top judge and an official from the national police.

See the source image

I thank my head of security at the palace. The goal of these people was to make an attempt on my life,” Moise said.

That plan was aborted,” he added, speaking on the tarmac at Port-au-Prince airport, accompanied by his wife and Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe.

Jouthe said plotters had contacted police officials at the presidential palace who were planning to arrest Moise and then help install a “transition” president.

See the source image

Above: Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe

Moise has been governing without any checks on his power for the past year and says he remains President until 7 February 2022 — in an interpretation of the Constitution rejected by the opposition, which has led protests asserting that his term ends Sunday.

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Above: Flag of Haiti

Leon Charles, the director of Haiti’s national police force, said officers had seized documents, cash and several weapons, including assault rifles, an Uzi submachine gun, pistols and machetes.

Jouthe added that among the documents was a speech from the judge who had planned on becoming interim leader in a transition government.

The US on Friday accepted the President’s claim to power, with State Department spokesman Ned Price saying Washington has urged “free and fair legislative elections so that Parliament may resume its rightful role.”

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Above: Ned Price

The dispute over when the President’s term ends stems from Moise’s original election:

He was voted into office in a poll subsequently canceled on grounds of fraud, and then elected again a year later, in 2016.

After the latter disputed election, demonstrations demanding his resignation intensified in the summer of 2018.

Voting to elect deputies, senators, mayors and local officials should have been held in 2018, but the polls have been delayed, triggering the vacuum in which Moise says he is entitled to stay for another year.

In recent years, angry Haitians have demonstrated against what they call rampant government corruption and unchecked crime by gangs.

See the source image

In a letter Friday to the United Nations mission in Haiti, several human rights and women’s advocacy groups faulted it for providing technical and logistical support for Moise’s plans to hold a constitutional reform referendum in April followed by presidential and legislative elections.

The United Nations must under no circumstances support President Jovenel Moise in his anti-democratic plans,” the letter stated.

Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Sunday saw sparse demonstrations and sporadic clashes with police.

Flag of United Nations Arabic: منظمة الأمم المتحدة‎ Chinese: 联合国 French: Organisation des Nations unies Russian: Организация Объединённых Наций Spanish: Organización de las Naciones Unidas

Above: Flag of the United Nations

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that Tehran’s “final and irreversible” decision was to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iranian state TV reported.

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Above: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni

The comment, as well as US President Joe Biden’s separate statement that the United States would not lift sanctions simply to get Iran back to the negotiating table, appeared to be posturing by both sides as they weigh whether and how to revive the pact.

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Above: US President Joe Biden

The deal between Iran and six major powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms – an ambition Iran has long denied having – in return for the easing of U.S. and other sanctions.

But former US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran’s favour, and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Official White House presidential portrait. Head shot of Trump smiling in front of the U.S. flag, wearing a dark blue suit jacket with American flag lapel pin, white shirt, and light blue necktie.

Above: Donald Trump

Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal, not the United States and the three European countries.

If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the United States must in practice lift all sanctions,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying during a meeting with Air Force commanders.

“Then, after verifying whether all sanctions have been lifted correctly, we will return to full compliance.

It is the irreversible and final decision and all Iranian officials have consensus over it.”

While Iran has insisted the United States first drop its sanctions before it resumes compliance, Washington has demanded the reverse.

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Above: Flag of Iran

In a segment of a CBS News interview taped on Friday and broadcast on Sunday, Biden said “no” when asked whether Washington would lift sanctions to get Tehran to the negotiating table.

Asked if Iran had to stop enriching uranium first, Biden nodded.

It was not clear exactly what he meant, since Iran was allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67% under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A senior US official later said Biden meant Iran had to stop enriching beyond the deal’s limits, not that it had to stop enriching entirely before the two sides might talk.

They have to stop enriching beyond the limits of the JCPOA,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There is nothing changed in the US position.

The United States wants Iran to come back into compliance with its JCPOA commitments and if it does, the United States will do the same.

Flag of the United States

Iran in January said it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear site, well above the deal’s limit but far short of the 90% that is weapons-grade.

In response to Trump’s withdrawal, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

Biden has said if Tehran returned to strict compliance, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement on other areas of concern for Washington including Iran’s missile development and regional activities.

Those activities include support for proxies in conflicts roiling countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Iran has said it could quickly reverse its JCPOA violations if US sanctions are removed but has ruled out talks on its missile programme and its influence in the Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia have fought proxy wars for decades.

Location of Iran

Vietnam has reported 2,001 COVID-19 infections since the corona virus pandemic first hit the country more than a year ago, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday.

More than 1,100 of the cases are locally transmitted, while the rest are imported, the ministry said in a statement.

It recorded 20 new cases on Sunday, all linked to a new outbreak that began on 27 January in the northern province of Hai Duong and has spread to at least 12 cities and provinces. 

Flag of Vietnam

Above: Flag of Vietnam

Sunday’s disaster below Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest peak, swept away the small Rishiganga hydro-electric project and damaged a bigger one further down the Dhauliganga river being built by state firm NTPC.

Above: Nanda Devi

Eighteen bodies had been recovered so far, officials said.

Most of the missing were people working on the two projects, part of the many the government has been building deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand state as part of a development push.

As of now, around 203 people are missing,” state chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said.

Mohd Farooq Azam, assistant professor, glaciology & hydrology at the Indian Institute of Technology in Indore, said a hanging glacier fractured.

Our current hypothesis is that the water accumulated and locked in the debris-snow below the glacier was released when the glacier-rock mass fell,” he said.

Pekka Haavisto, Special European Envoy and Finnish Foreign Minister, arrived in the Sudan to consult on tensions in the region.

Flag of Sudan

Above: Flag of the Sudan

The Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Sudan is proud to announce the arrival of His Excellency Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland.

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Above: Flag of Finland

Mr. Haavisto was mandated by His Excellency Mr. Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union to visit Sudan and Ethiopia as Special EU envoy, to help reduce the tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia and to see how the international community could provide support in finding peaceful solutions to the current crises facing the region.

Mr. Haavisto was expected to be in Khartoum from 7 to 8 February and will then travel onwards to Ethiopia.

It is expected that Mr. Pekka Haavisto will hold meetings with their excellencies Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources.

He is also expected to visit a camp where Ethiopians fleeing the violence in the Tigray region have sought refuge.

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Above: Flag of Ethiopia

In August 2019, Mr. Haavisto participated in the signing of the Constitutional Document as Special Representative of the European Union.

Earlier, he served as Special Representative of the European Union for Darfur.

Mr. Haavisto is 62 years old.

He has worked before as Minister of the Environment and International Cooperation, was a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic of Finland twice and was a member of the Finnish Parliament before being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2019.

Mr. Haavisto also worked extensively for the UN Environmental Programme.

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Above: Pekka Haavisto

The universal link between all these stories is the question:

What have I done to deserve this?

What am I doing here?

Looking at the land of Vietnam it is a question that isn’t far from the traveller’s mind…..

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Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday 19 March 2019

It seemed to be a day favouring women and punishing men.

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Above: Venus symbol

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters awarded 2019’s Abel Prize to Karen Uhlenbeck for “her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integrable systems.”

Uhlenbeck is the first woman to win this prize.

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Above: Karen Uhlenbeck

A Guatemalan judge has ordered the arrest of former attorney general and presidential candidate Thelma Aldana on charges including embezzlement, the police said on Tuesday, amid an escalating campaign on high-profile corruption and rights cases.

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Above: Flag of Guatemala

Aldana, who helped lead investigations into top politicians, including the current President, is seeking the presidency in a June election.

The warrant for her arrest, issued by Judge Victor Cruz, cited charges of embezzlement, lying and tax fraud.

Aldana has denied wrongdoing.

Aldana, who was in El Salvador on Tuesday for a meeting, planned to return to Guatemala by Thursday, she said in an appearance on CNN.

She added that her presidential candidacy, approved by electoral authorities on Tuesday, had granted her immunity and that she would not take action against the arrest order.

We’re not going to do anything.

They know that I’m going to keep up the fight against corruption, and lots of people in Guatemala are trembling because of that,” she said.

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Above: Thelma Aldana

President Jimmy Morales has fought back against a UN-backed anti-corruption body that, along with Aldana, sought to impeach him in a campaign financing investigation.

In January, he expelled the head of the corruption body, known as CICIG, from the country and has declined to renew its mandate.

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Above: Guatamalan President Jimmy Morales

Aldana and CICIG’s investigation of former President Otto Perez Molina led to his impeachment and cut short his presidency.

He remains in custody on charges of involvement in a customs corruption ring.

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Above: Otto Pérez Molina

Morales’ party is seeking to pass a law to free military officials convicted of human rights crimes during the Central American country’s 36-year civil war.

Lawmakers were set to review changes to the law on Wednesday, but dropped it from the agenda amid an onslaught of criticism from local and international rights groups, including the United Nations.

Instead, they have scheduled a discussion on modifying the criminal procedure code.

The proposed changes would limit jail time for accused people awaiting verdicts, which could allow the release of at least 100 people facing corruption charges, as well as others accused of war crimes. 

Location of Guatemala (dark green) in the Western Hemisphere (grey)

FIFA announced Tuesday that South Korea and North Korea have formally expressed their interest in co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

In a press release, FIFA said it has received a record nine expressions of interest for the top global event in women’s football.

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Joining the Koreas in the ring are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

The Women’s World Cup was first contested in 1991.

The eighth edition of the quadrennial tournament will take place in France from June 7 to July 7 this year.

Previous hosts were China (twice), Sweden, the United States (twice), Germany and Canada.

FIFA said all interested countries had until 16 April 2019 to submit their bidding registration, and the deadline to send the bid book to FIFA was 4 October 2019.

FIFA added that it expected to name the host of the 2023 event in March 2020.

The possibility of a joint Korean bid for the tournament surfaced on 4 March, when FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the Associated Press:

I have been hearing for the Women’s World Cup in 2023, the two Koreas. It would be great.

South Korean officials at the time explained that FIFA had first approached them about the joint bid and that they were carefully considering the proposal.

The two Koreas, which remain technically at war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, are also trying to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved Zulresso (brexanolone) injection for intravenous (IV) use for the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD) in adult women.

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This is the first drug approved by the FDA specifically for PPD.

Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening.

Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child.

Postpartum depression can also interfere with the maternal-infant bond.

This approval marks the first time a drug has been specifically approved to treat postpartum depression, providing an important new treatment option,” said Tiffany Farchione, M.D., acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Because of concerns about serious risks, including excessive sedation or sudden loss of consciousness during administration, Zulresso has been approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) and is only available to patients through a restricted distribution program at certified health care facilities where the health care provider can carefully monitor the patient.

See the source image

PPD is a major depressive episode that occurs following childbirth, although symptoms can start during pregnancy.

As with other forms of depression, it is characterized by sadness and/or loss of interest in activities that one used to enjoy and a decreased ability to feel pleasure (anhedonia) and may present with symptoms such as cognitive impairment, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, or suicidal ideation.

Zulresso will be available only through a restricted program called the Zulresso REMS Program that requires the drug be administered by a health care provider in a certified health care facility.

The REMS requires that patients be enrolled in the program prior to administration of the drug.

Zulresso is administered as a continuous IV infusion over a total of 60 hours (2.5 days).

Because of the risk of serious harm due to the sudden loss of consciousness, patients must be monitored for excessive sedation and sudden loss of consciousness and have continuous pulse oximetry monitoring (monitors oxygen levels in the blood).

While receiving the infusion, patients must be accompanied during interactions with their child(ren).

The need for these steps is addressed in a boxed warning in the drug’s prescribing information.

See the source image

Patients will be counseled on the risks of Zulresso treatment and instructed that they must be monitored for these effects at a health care facility for the entire 60 hours of infusion.

Patients should not drive, operate machinery, or do other dangerous activities until feelings of sleepiness from the treatment have completely gone away.

The efficacy of Zulresso was shown in two clinical studies in participants who received a 60-hour continuous intravenous infusion of Zulresso or placebo and were then followed for four weeks.

One study included patients with severe PPD and the other included patients with moderate PPD.

The primary measure in the study was the mean change from baseline in depressive symptoms as measured by a depression rating scale.

In both placebo controlled studies, Zulresso demonstrated superiority to placebo in improvement of depressive symptoms at the end of the first infusion.

The improvement in depression was also observed at the end of the 30-day follow-up period. 

The most common adverse reactions reported by patients treated with Zulresso in clinical trials include sleepiness, dry mouth, loss of consciousness and flushing.

Health care providers should consider changing the therapeutic regimen, including discontinuing Zulresso in patients whose PPD becomes worse or who experience emergent suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The FDA granted this application priority review and breakthrough therapy designation.

Approval of Zulresso was granted to Sage Therapeutics, Inc.

The FDA, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.

The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

See the source image

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday after three decades in power, in what appeared to be the first step in a choreographed political transition that will see him retain considerable sway.

Known as “Papa” to many Kazakhs, the 78-year-old former steel worker and Communist party apparatchik has ruled the vast oil and gas-rich Central Asian nation since 1989, when it was still part of the Soviet Union.

Bestowed by parliament with the official title of “the Leader of the Nation”, he was the last Soviet-era leader still in office and oversaw extensive market reforms while remaining widely popular in his country of 18 million people.

I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president,” Nazarbayev said in a nationwide TV address, flanked by his country’s blue and yellow flags, before signing a decree terminating his powers from 20 March.

As the founder of the independent Kazakh state I see my task now in facilitating the rise of a new generation of leaders who will continue the reforms that are underway in the country.

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Above: Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev

But Nazarbayev, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he would retain key security council and party leader positions and hand over the presidency to a loyal ally for the rest of his term, which ends in April 2020.

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, speaker of the Upper House of Parliament, will take over as Kazakhstan’s acting president for the remainder of his term in line with the Constitution, Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev has no apparent long-term successor.

His decision hit the price of Kazakh bonds, while the London-listed shares of Kazakhstan’s biggest bank, Halyk Bank, tumbled 5%.

The news also appeared to weigh on the Russian rouble.

Moscow is Kazakhstan’s main trade partner.

The Kremlin said Nazarbayev and Putin had spoken by phone on Tuesday, but gave no details of their conversation.

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Above: Flag of Kazakhstan

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of an ISIS encampment in Baghouz after weeks of operations and attacks on the village.

But isolated gun battles are continuing in the area, seen as ISIS’ last remaining redoubt.

This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh,” said Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office.

In a tweet, he added:

“Clashes are continuing as a group of ISIS terrorists who are confined into a tiny area still fight back.

Above: Smoke rises in the Islamic State’s last remaining position on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in the Syrian village of Baghouz. The Syrian Democratic Forces say they have taken control of the village after weeks of offensives and surrenders by ISIS fighters.

The last holdouts of ISIS have been largely confined to Baghuoz since last month.

The Kurdish-led SDF launched a new offensive on 10 March after slowing its push to allow civilians to flee — and to let thousands of ISIS fighters and their families surrender.

In the final push to control Baghouz, the SDF blew up an ammunition storage area and slowly pried positions away from ISIS.

Above: Fighters with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces hold a position on a hilltop overlooking the last ISIS enclave in the village of Baghouz.

On Tuesday, the SDF captured hundreds of sick or injured ISIS militants and sent them to nearby hospitals, Bali said.

“This is the slow unraveling of Baghouz, the last ISIS holdout, whose capture will mark the end of the group’s territory, which once spanned hundreds of miles across Iraq and Syria,” NPR’s Ruth Sherlock reports for our Newscast unit.

More than 60,000 people have poured out of this area in the past two months. Most of them have been ISIS fighters, supporters, and their children, but there have also been ISIS victims – Yazidi children and women who were taken by the group from Iraq and used as slaves.”

Ms. Sherlock added:

“It’s believed more hostages – Yazidis, westerners and others – are still trapped inside.”

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Above: Logo of National Public Radio (NPR)

Separately, Bali said the SDF had captured 157 people he described as experienced terrorists — including more than 100 foreign nationals who had flocked to join the extremist group in its heyday.

Baghouz sits along the Euphrates River at the Iraqi border in eastern Syria. 

As of February 2019, US intelligence officials said they believed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be hiding out in Iraq.

ISIS, which once produced elaborate propaganda and shocking videos of violence and abuse, has largely fallen silent as it has lost territory and oil-related revenue.

But recently, the group’s spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, reacted to the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, calling for the group’s followers to take up a religious war.

Muhajir, whose true identity remains unknown, also mocked the US and President Trump — particularly the president’s very public claim of victory over ISIS at the end of 2018.

And he spoke about Baghdadi in a way that implies the leader is still alive.

This day finds Swiss Miss / Heidi Hoi wandering around Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District.

Ba Dinh District is a big open space that is easily accessible from Hanoi’s Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake.

Ba Đình is one of the four original urban districts (quận) of Hanoi.

The district currently has 14 wards, covering a total area of 9.21 square kilometers. 

As of 2019, there were 221,893 people residing in the district, the population density is 24,000 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Ba Đình District has a large number of monuments, landmarks and relics, including Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Flag Tower of Hanoi and the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

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Above: Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

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Above: The One Pillar Pagoda

Above: The Flag Tower of Hanoi

Above: The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Ba Đình is the political center of Vietnam.

Most of the government offices and embassies are located here.

It was formerly called the “French Quarter” (Khu phố Pháp) because of a high concentration of French-styled villas and government buildings built when Hanoi was the capital of French Indochina.

This name is still used in travel literature.

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The wreckage of a B-52 bomber shot down during the Vietnam / American War can be seen in Hữu Tiệp Lake in the Ngọc Hà neighborhood.

See the source image

The southern half of Hoân Kiêm district is also called the “French Quarter“, also because of numerous French-styled buildings, most of which are now used as foreign embassies.

It has been Vietnam’s political nucleus since the French occupation and was where Ho Chi Minh declared independence in 1945.

In 1901, the Presidential Palace was built here.

Above: The Presidential Palace

On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence at Ba Dinh Square to approximately 500,000 people.

Following his death in 1969, the preserved body of Hô Chi Minh was put on display in the Hô Chi Minh Mausoleum, located in Ba Dinh Square, in 1975.

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Above: Ho Chi Minh (1890 – 1969)

To fully understand the impact of the attraction described below had on Heidi, it is important to remember the events that preceded her visit to Vietnam.

Before returning to Switzerland for a number of weeks, Heidi‘s relationship with her Mumbai-based boyfriend was in trouble.

Heidi returned to travelling after her grandmother died in Switzerland.

Thus her mind set was clouded by the realization that life, that love, can be impermanent things.

The Temple of Literature, on the other hand, is all about lost-lasting legacy.

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Above: Main entrance of the Temple of Literature

The Temple of Literature is often cited as one of Hanoi’s most picturesque tourist attractions. 

Originally built as a university in 1070 dedicated to Confucius, scholars and sages, the building is extremely well preserved and is a superb example of traditional-style Vietnamese architecture.

This ancient site offers a lake of literature, the Well of Heavenly Clarity, turtle steles (stone tablets), pavilions, courtyards and passageways that were once used by royalty.

Visiting the Temple of Literature, you discover historic buildings from the Ly (1009 – 1225) and Tran (1225 – 1400) dynasties in a revered place that has seen thousands of doctors’ graduate in what has now become a memorial to education and literature.

Above: Thien Quang (“Heaven Light“) Well, also known as Literature Well

Originally the university only accepted aristocrats, the elite and royal family members as students before eventually opening its doors to brighter ‘commoners’.

In many nations this still seems to hold true, only the wealthy can truly afford a quality education.


Successful graduates had their names engraved on a stone stele, which can be found on the backs of stone turtles.

There is something primal, something spiritual, in seeing graduates’ names immortalized for as long as stone endures.

See the source image

The Temple of Literature is a place of study rather than just a religious landmark.

There are five courtyards at the temple, two brimming with landscaped gardens, the third is home to a large pond known as the Well of Heavenly Clarity, the fourth courtyard is called the Sage Courtyard and features a statue of Confucius and a house of ceremonies, and the last courtyard is Thai Hoc in which stands a large drum and bell tower.

This historic site is ranked as one of Hanoi’s most important cultural places and is steeped in Vietnamese history.

The layout of the temple is based upon the birthplace of Confucius with a magnificent main entrance and a path, once reserved solely for the King, running through the centre.

The immaculate gardens are rich in ancient trees and are considered a serene place in which students can relax.

There are stone statues and inscriptions dotted throughout the temple which has retained many of its original features as the most renowned landmark of academia in Vietnam.

Above: The main gate to the Temple

Sliders is an American science fiction and fantasy TV series, which was broadcast for five seasons between 1995 and 2000.

The series follows a group of travellers as they use a wormhole to “slide” between different parallel universes. 

I recall a Season 1 episode (“Eggheads“) where the Sliders slid to a world where being an intellectual is more prestigious than being a professional athlete or movie star.


It is refreshing to see a place in our universe that honours achievements of the mind rather than the accomplishments of the young and beautiful, a place where beauty is less important than intelligence, where character matters more than appearance.

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temple of Confucius or Confucian temple is a temple for the veneration of Confucius and the sages and philosophers of  Confucianism in Chinese folk religion and other East Asian religions.

They were formerly the site of the administration of the imperial examination in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, often housing schools and other studying facilities.

I like this idea: the veneration of the wise.

Above: Hall of Great Perfection (Dacheng Hall) of the Confucius temple in Qufu, China

Confucius (Chinese; Kong Fuzi / Master Kǒng); (551–479 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and politician, traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages.

The philosophy of Confucius — Confucianism — emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity.


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Above: Portrait of Confucius (551 – 479 BC)

Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life;

To Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion.

It is difficult to define what is meant by this last sentence above.

Perhaps it is meant to imply that daily life can be controlled by religion.

I choose to see this another way, that there is something divine in daily life.

See the source image

His followers competed successfully with many other schools during the Hundred Schools of Thought era (6th century to 221 BC) only to be suppressed during the Qin dynasty (221 – 206 BC).

Following the collapse of Qin, Confucius’s thoughts received official sanction in the new government.

During the Tang (618–690 / 705–907) and Song (960 – 1279) dynasties, Confucianism developed into a system known in the West as Neo-Confucianism, and later New Confucianism.

Confucius’s principles have commonality with Chinese tradition and belief.

Above: Another portrait of Confucius

With filial piety, he championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, recommending family as a basis for ideal government.

He espoused the well-known principle “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself“, the Golden Rule.

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Confucius is widely considered as one of the most important and influential individuals in human history.

His teaching and philosophy greatly affected people around the world and remain influential today.

Above: Tomb of Confucius, Kong Lin Cemetery, Qufu

I would take this a step further….

Every person is my superior in that I may learn from them and I am superior to everyone in that they may learn from me.

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In 1070, Emperor Ly Thanh Tong (1023 – 1072) opened the first Confucius university in Hanoi named Van Mieu (the Temple of Literature).

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Above: Statue of Lý Tháng Tông

The Lý Trần court expanded the Confucianism influences in Vietnamese Mandarin through year examinations, continued the model of Tang dynasty until being annexed by the Ming invaders in 1407.

In 1460, Emperor Lê Thanh Tông of the Lê dynasty adopted Neo-Confucianism as Đại Việt’s basic values.

Royal Standard of Đại Việt

Above: Royal standard of Da Viet (Annam)(Great Nam) (968 – 1407 / 1428 – 1804)

Basic values.

It had suddenly become a point worth pondering.

What did Heidi value?

What was important to her?

Flag of Switzerland

Above: Flag of Switzerland

Văn Miếu is a temple devoted to Confucius in Hanoi.

The temple also hosts the Imperial Academy (Quốc Tử Giám), Vietnam’s first national university.

The temple is located to the south of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long.

The various pavilions, halls, statues and stelae of doctors are places where offering ceremonies, study sessions and the strict exams of the Dai Viet took place.

The temple is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese dong banknote.

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I like the idea of education being valued so much that it is featured on the money that people use everyday, as a reminder of the importance of learning, that the traditions that define once began with problems that demanded wisdom to resolve them.

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Just before the Vietnamese New Year celebration Têt, calligraphists assemble outside the temple and write wishes in Han  characters.

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The art works are given away as gifts or are used as home decorations for special occasions.

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Somehow it seems fitting that wishes are expressed at the Temple of Literature, for it begs the question:

What do you want out of life?

Above: Prayer plaques

For nearly two centuries, despite wars and disasters, the Temple has preserved ancient architectural styles of many dynasties as well as precious relics.

Major restorations have taken place in 1920, 1954 and 2000.

In the autumn of the year Canh Tuat, the second year of Than Vu (1070), in the 8th lunar month, during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tông, the Văn Miếu was built.

The statues of Confucius, his four best disciples: Yan Hui, Zengzi, Zisi, and Mencius, as well as the Duke of Zhou, Chu Công, were carved and 72 other statues of Confucian scholars were painted.

Ceremonies were dedicated to them in each of the four seasons.

The Crown Princes studied here.

Half Portraits of the Great Sage and Virtuous Men of Old - Yan Hui Ziyuan (顏回 子淵).jpg

Above: Yan Hui (521 – 481 BC)

Half Portraits of the Great Sage and Virtuous Men of Old - Zeng Shen Ziyu (曾參 子輿).jpg

Above: Zengzi (505 – 435 BC)

Half Portraits of the Great Sage and Virtuous Men of Old - Kong Ji Zisi (孔伋 子思).jpg

Above: Zisi (481 – 402 BC)

Half Portraits of the Great Sage and Virtuous Men of Old - Meng Ke (孟軻).jpg

Above: Mencius (372 – 289 BC)

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Above: Duke Zhou Gong (r. 1042 – 1035 BC)

Above: Altars to Confucius and his disciples, Temple of Literature

Sometimes I wonder whether basing so many calendars on religion rather than the years in which someone has reigned hasn’t somehow diminished the role of mere mortals as compared to divinites whose existence we can neither prove nor disprove.

Perhaps the date of Heidi‘s visit could be described as:

“In the spring of the year of Chemistry,…

(2019 was designated as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements by the United Nations General Assembly, given that it coincides with the 150th anniversary of its creation by Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.)


Above: Dmitri Mendeleev (1834 – 1907)

.the third year of Guterres,….

(António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, began his reign on 1 January 2017.)

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Above: United Nations Secretary General António Guterres

.on the 19th day of the 3rd solar month, during the reign of Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Heidi Hoi visited Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature.”

(Nguyễn Phú Trọng is the current President of Vietnam, the most powerful person in Vietnam.)

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Above: Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong

In 1076, Vietnam’s first university, the Quốc Tử Giám  (Imperial Academy), was established within the temple to educate Vietnam’s bureaucrats, nobles, royalty, and other members of the elite.

The university remained open from 1076 to 1779.

In 1802, the Nguyen dynasty monarchs founded the capital at Hué where they established a new Imperial Academy.

Above: Entrance of the Imperial Academy in Huế

The Academy at the Hanoi temple lost its prominence and became simply a school of the Hoai Duc District.

Under the French protectorate, Văn Miếu was registered as a Monument historique in 1906.

During the period of 1945 – 1954, the French demolished parts of the temple to make additional room for the Saint Paul Hospital since hospital capacity was full during times of war.


Above: Logo of Saint Paul Hospital, Hanoi

Campaigns of restoration were pursued in 1920 and 1947 under the responsibility of the École Francaise d’Extrême Orient (the French School of the Far East).

Above: Original headquarters of the École Francaise d’Extrême Orient, now the National Museum of Vietnamese History, Hanoi

I think universities and institutions of higher education are important, but I wonder whether there is true learning being accomplished for the benefit of the individual.

Too often, in too many countries, it seems that what is learned and how it is learned has become less important than the piece of paper rewarded to the student after much time, effort and wealth has been sacrificed.

Shouldn’t education be more than the qualifications?

Shouldn’t education be an experience that enhances a life rather than just employment opportunities?

I agree, to a point, that a job is judged by the standards it accomplishes, but I nonetheless find myself asking whether we are more than the jobs that we do, whether our education should be more than simply the fulfillment of professional goals.

Shouldn’t life be more than simply existing until a goal is reached?

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The temple layout is similar to that of the Temple at Qufu, Shandong, China, Confucius’ birthplace.

Confucius temple 1912.jpg

The Temple of Literature covers an area of over 54,000 square metres (580,000 sq ft), including Văn Lake, Giám Park and the interior courtyards which are surrounded by a brick wall.

In front of the Great Gate are four tall pillars.

On either side of the pillars are two stelae commanding horsemen to dismount.

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Perhaps even here there is a message.

That true education cannot be hurried.

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The gate opens onto three pathways which continues through the complex.

The centre path was reserved for the monarch and above the center path there is a big bronze bell,

The path to the left is for the administrative Mandarins and the path to the right is for military Mandarins.

The interior of the site is divided into five courtyards.

The first two courtyards are quiet areas with ancient trees and trimmed lawns, where scholars would relax away from the bustle of the outside world.

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In all this hustle and bustle, what are we learning?

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The bell located above the main gate was used to signify that an important person was coming through and was added to the Văn Miếu in the 19th century.

The bell was made out of bronze and could only be touched by monks.

On the bell several patterns can be found including an outline of a phoenix, which represents beauty, and a dragon, which represents power.

Both of these symbols are used to represent the Emperor and Queen.

A bell can be found in all of the pagodas in Vietnam.

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A bell serves a dual purpose.

It can celebrate and it can warn.

Should we celebrate the powerful or take heed of them?

I lean towards the latter.

a large bronze bell with a pronounced crack in it, hangs from a blackened wooden yoke. This is the Liberty Bell

Above: The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The first courtyard extends from the Great Portico to the Dai Trung (Đại Trung), which is flanked by two smaller gates: the Dai Tai gate (Đại Tài Môn) and the Thanh Duc gate (Thành Đức Môn).

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The second courtyard is known as the great central courtyard or sometimes the Courtyard of Great Success.

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It features the Khue Van pavilion (Khuê Văn Các), a unique architectural work built in 1805 and a symbol of present-day Hanoi.

Official seal of Hanoi

The Khue Van pavilion is built on four white-washed stone stilts.

At the top is a red-coloured with two circular windows and an elaborate roof.

Inside, a bronze bell hangs from the ceiling to be rung on auspicious occasions.

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That is an interesting question….

When do we consider an occasion “auspicious”?

By what it is supposed to represent for the future?

Or is an event auspicious only in consideration of the moment’s impact on the future that followed after the moment has passed?

The idea that a moment’s significance is only realized in reflection?

Many beautiful poetic phrases preserved on the pavilion glorify Vietnamese traditional culture.

Beside the Khue Van pavilion are the Suc Van gate (Súc Văn Môn) and the Bi Van gate (Bi Văn Môn).

These two gates are dedicated to the beauty of literature, both its content and its form.

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Here is where literature seems to differ from ordinary conception of beauty.

Is beauty only in form?

Can something, someone, more attractive in character than form be considered beautiful?

Can something, someone, more attractive in form than character be worthy of being named beautiful?

I think herein lies my conundrum with women and fashion.

Is there more to a woman than just her appearance?

Is there more to a person than the wardrobe they sport?

In the first and second courtyards there are topiaries (bushes that are cut into particular shapes) that represent the 12 zodiac animals.

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Do the positions of the stars and planets affect our fates or is it easier to believe that someone / something has our lives organized and predictable for us?

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One enters the third courtyard from the Khue Van pavilion.

In the third courtyard is the Thien Quang Well (Thiên Quang Tỉnh).

On either side of the well stand two great halls which house the treasures of the temple.

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Does not the well itself possess more value that the two great halls?

Can one drink treasure?

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The construction of the stone stelae began in 1484 under Emperor Le Thang Tông.

He erected 116 steles of carved blue stone turtles with elaborate motifs to honour talent and encourage study.

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The Turtle (Quy) is one of the nation’s four holy creatures – the others are the Dragon (Long), the Unicorn (Ly) and the Phoenix (Phượng).

The turtle is a symbol of longevity and wisdom.

The shape and size of the turtle have changed with the passage of time.

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The doctors’ steles are a valuable historical resource for the study of culture, education and sculpture in Vietnam.

82 stelae remain.

They depict the names and birth places of 1,307 graduates of 82 triennial royal exams.

Between 1442 and 1779, eighty-one exams were held by the Lê dynasty and one was held by the Mac dynasty. 

The ancient Chinese engravings on each stele praise the merits of the monarch and cite the reason for holding royal exams.

They also record the mandarins who were tasked with organising the exams.

It used to be common to rub the stone turtles’ heads, but now there is a fence that is meant to prevent people from doing this in order to preserve the turtles.

They are a valuable historical resource for the study of philosophy, history, culture, education, society and sculpture in Vietnam.

The stelae were inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011.

UNESCO logo English.svg

There is something both sad and glorious about these names inscribed on the backs of stone turtles.

Their names endure, yet beyond the memory of those that knew them when they lived, there is no hint of the people they once were.

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One enters the fourth courtyard through the Dai Thanh gate (Đại Thành Môn).

On either side are two smaller gates: Kim Thanh gate (Kim Thanh Môn) and the Ngoc Chan gate (Ngọc Chấn Môn).

This courtyard is the ceremonial heart of the complex.

On each side of the ceremonial fourth courtyard stand two halls.

Their original purpose was to house altars to the 72 most honoured disciples of Confucius and Chu Van An (a rector of the Imperial Academy).

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In the centre of the fourth courtyard is the House of Ceremonies (Đại Bái Đường).

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The next building is the Thượng Điện, where Confucius and his four closest disciples Yanhui, Zengshen, Zisi and Mencius are honoured.

The sanctuary also hosts altars to ten honoured philosophers.

These pavilions reflect the style of the early 19th century.

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A small museum displays ink wells, pens, books and personal artefacts belonging to some of the students that studied at the temple.

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There is something striking about travelling, as contrasted with tourism, that, if done with consequence, causes the voyager to ponder the significance of existence.

The impermance of love, the limited lease on life, causes a person to ponder one’s reason for living in a universe vast beyond our imagination.

The death of her grandmother and the dying of her bond with her Mumbai boyfriend made Heidi consider, perhaps for the first time that year, perhaps for the first time since her travels began, why she was travelling and what she hoped her travels would accomplish.

In this Temple of Literature, in this sanctuary of scholars, the realization of what compelled these ancient learners to apply themselves to years of study, gave Heidi pause.

Has mankind really evolved that much from Confucian applications?

Are not our fates still tied to qualifications deeming us worthy to compete with others for a piece of the pie?

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Certainly in Switzerland, this is so.

The lowliest of positions, perhaps even that of beggar, all require documentation of one form or another in Switzerland.

Coat of arms of Switzerland

I will be the last to suggest that education doesn’t have its uses.

But I do wonder if the standardizations used to evaluate a person’s worthiness can ever take into consideration the uniqueness of the individual.

There is this unspoken prejudice surrounding academia that the sole route to success is through its halls, through its groves.

Certainly education is an aide to a person’s development, but it is not the sole determination of a person’s fate, and nor should it be.

Above: Plato’s Academy, mosaic from Pompeii

I think of my own experience as a foreigner in Switzerland.

Before I came to Switzerland, a decade ago, my qualifications were deemed sufficient to teach, for example, legal English at the University of Osnabrück in Germany.

Universität Osnabrück.svg

In Switzerland, I dare not darken the doorway of any academic institution, save those of a private “cowboy school” nature, even if the courses I taught in Germany differ not at all from those being taught in Switzerland.

My character and my experience matter less here than pieces of paper (and, more significantly, qualifications obtained in Switzerland) to potential employers.

My complaint is one well-known and experienced by other expats.

There is an unspoken prejudice that Swiss quality is superior to all others, and, of course, this quality (and Swiss jobs) must be maintained and protected,

I understand the thinking, but I dislike the result.

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So, I had to decide whether I wanted to pay for expensive further education in Switzerland to do a job in which I already have decades of experience or try to cope without this.

From being a man who once was teaching 60 hours a week in Germany’s Freiburg im Breisgau I was reduced to teaching six hours a month (if lucky) in Switzerland.

From being a man in demand I have been reduced to a teacher barely remembered, from a workaholic teaching professional to a part-time Starbucks barista.

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The blame is not Switzerland’s entirely.

I certainly should have marketed myself more aggressively and creatively, but I cannot deny how stinging it feels to not find employment as easily as I once did.

I eventually came to the conclusion that if I wanted to follow my chosen profession, without bankrupting myself for further education, I could not do so in Switzerland.

But, I digress, this is not my story.

This is Heidi‘s.


Heidi Hoi is called Swiss Miss for a reason:

She is Swiss, born and raised.

Switzerland, for better and for worse, is her home.

The death of her grandmother and the strangeness of being a stranger in strange lands brought home to her the importance of home for her.

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These scholars in the Temple of Literature, their names inscribed on the backs of stone turtles, strove to get their education in the hopes of succeeding in their homeland.

Heidi wants recognition of her talents as a musician, but recognition, unless gifted through ideal networks, often requires evidence of an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the profession one wishes to enter.

Chance favours the prepared and an in-depth education is part of that preparation.

If Heidi wishes to be respected in Switzerland, qualifications can be part of that path.

I don’t know whether Heidi‘s eventual decision to return to Switzerland to study music at the University of Zürich was made at the Temple of Literature, but perhaps it was subtly influenced by the Temple’s presence.

University of Zurich seal.svg

Above: Logo of the University of Zürich

In 1076, Emperor Ly Nhan Tong ordered the construction of an Imperial Academy as a fifth courtyard.

Literate mandarins were selected as students.

In 1236, the Academy was enlarged and named Quốc Tử Viện and later Quốc Học Viện.

In the Lê dynasty it was called Thái Học Viện and was developed further.

This development included the Minh Luân House, west and east classrooms, a storehouse for wooden printing blocks and two sets of three 25-room dormitories.

The Khải Thánh Shrine was built to honour the parents of Confucius.

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There is, I think, a misconception that Buddhists and Hindus, and similar religions, whose followers prostrate themselves before altars of images, worship the Buddha, or, in the case of the Temple of Literature, worship ancestors or sages of the past.

But this is not the impression I have, at least in this enlightened modern age in which we live.

I think images inspire the faithful, but I don’t think that the rational actually expect these images to intercede on their behalf beyond inspiration.

I think these faithful adherants believe that the spirit of the honoured somehow remains and perhaps whispers to the Fates the faithful’s desires.

But images are often no more than mere manifestations of aspects of the divine rather than objects of worship themselves.

We honour the past by seeking inspiration from it.

We honour the past by realizing that it shaped events that followed,

We honour the past by acknowledging that the spirit of those times still stirs us.

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In 1946, the courtyard was destroyed during the First Indochina War.

In the year 2000, the fifth courtyard was reconstructed on grounds of the original “Imperial Academy“.

It honours the talents, the national traditions and the culture and education of Vietnam.

Emblem of Vietnam

Above: Emblem of Vietnam

There is something so appealing about this!

Above: Uniforms of students of the Imperial Academy

The design of the new fifth courtyard was based on the traditional architecture in harmony with the surrounding sights of the temple.

Several buildings were constructed including the front building, the rear building, the left and right buildings, a bell house and a drum house.

Shouldn’t education set the tone and rule the rhythm of society?

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The Thái Học courtyard occupies 1,530 square metres of the temple’s total area of 6,150 square metres. 

The front building has a number of functions.

Ceremonies in memory of cultural scholars are organised from the front building as are scientific activities and cultural events.

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Again, I find myself asking does a ceremony really compensate for all the time, energy and money sacrificed to get there?

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The rear building has two levels.

The ground floor has a statue of Chu Văn An (a rector of the academy) and shows exhibits of the temple and the academy with a display on Confucian education in Vietnam.

The upper floor is dedicated to the three monarchs who contributed most to the foundation of the temple and the academy:

  • Lý Thánh Tông (1023–1072), who founded the temple in 1070
  • Lý Nhân Tông (1066–1127), who founded the Imperial Academy
  • Lê Thánh Tông (1442–1497), who ordered the erection of the turtle stone stelae of doctor laureates in 1484.

Above: Altar to Chu Van An, Rector of the Imperial Academy

Can there be academic freedom if a school is government-supported?

Can there be academic equality if a student must spend a fortune to attend?

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On either side of the rear building are square buildings which hold a drum and a bronze bell.

The drum is 2.01 metres (6 ft 7 in) wide, 2.65 metres (8 ft 8 in) high, has a volume of 10 m3 and weighs 700 kilograms (1,500 lb).

The bell was cast in 2000, with dimensions of 2.1 X 0.99 metres (6 ’11” X 3′ 3″).

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The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free.

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Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

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We asked for signs
The signs were sent:
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government —
Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me.

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Ring the bells that still can ring …
You can add up the parts
But you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march

There is no drum
Every heart, every heart
To love will come
But like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

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Frederick Harris’ painting, The Red Door, is a watercolor of Văn Miếu.

There are sometimes water puppet performances that tell about the history of Vietnam.

Visitors can also buy water puppets and other objects such as stamps and wooden masks at the souvenir stores.

They can see and buy miniature statues of famous Vietnamese historical people in the temple.

They can see people playing traditional Vietnamese musical instruments in the temple as well.

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 

And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 

When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 

And He said to those who sold doves:

“Take these things away!  Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

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The Amazing Race is a reality television competition, typically involving eleven teams of two, in a race around the world.

The race cycle is divided into a number of legs, normally twelve;

Each episode generally covers the events of one leg.

Each leg ends with a Pit Stop, where teams are given a chance to rest and recover before starting the next leg twelve hours later.

The first team to arrive at a Pit Stop is often awarded a prize such as a trip, while the last team is normally eliminated from the race.

Some legs are non-elimination legs, where the last team to arrive may be penalized in the following leg.

Some races have featured double-length legs, where the teams meet the host at what appears to be a Pit Stop, only to be told to continue to race.

The final leg of each race is run by the last three remaining teams, and the first to arrive at the final destination wins the show’s prize, US$1 million.

The average length of each race is approximately 21 to 30 days.

The Amazing Race 23 logo.jpg

[Verse 1]
Just a little more time is all we’re asking for
‘Cause just a little more time could open closing doors
Just a little uncertainty can bring you down

And nobody wants to know you now
And nobody wants to show you how

So if you’re lost and on your own
You can never surrender
And if your path won’t lead you home
You can never surrender
And when the night is cold and dark
You can see, you can see light
‘Cause no one can take away your right
To fight and to never surrender

[Verse 2]
With a little perseverance
You can get things done
Without the blind adherence
That has conquered some

And nobody wants to know you now
And nobody wants to show you how

So if you’re lost and on your own
You can never surrender
And if your path won’t lead you home
You can never surrender
And when the night is cold and dark
You can see, you can see light
‘Cause no one can take away your right
To fight and to never surrender
To never surrender

And when the night is cold and dark
You can see, you can see light
No one can take away your right
To fight and to never surrender
To never surrender

Oh, time is all we’re asking for
To never surrender
Oh, you can never surrender
Time is all you’re asking for
Stand your ground, never surrender
Oh, I said you never surrender, oh


The Amazing Race 22 is the 22nd installment of the American reality television show The Amazing Race.

It featured eleven teams of two, each with a pre-existing relationship, in a race around the world.

The season premiered on 17 February 2013, at 8:00 p.m. EST / PST on CBS in the United States and CTV in Canada, with the two-hour season finale broadcast on 5 May 2013.

In Leg 5 (Indonesia – Vietnam / “Your tan is totally cool.“), one team member had to watch a performance of a Vietnamese patriotic song.

After the performance, the performers would reveal the phrase “Vinh quang thay thế hệ thanh niên chúng ta” (“Glory to our young generation“) to the racers, who would be given five minutes to search the nearby gallery without any notes for one of several political posters with the correct phrase hidden among many with misleading phrases.

Once team members found the correct poster, they would receive their next clue.

If team members were unable to identify the poster within the allotted time, they had to watch the performance again.

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I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her finger tips
It burned like fire
(I was)
Burning inside her

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

I believe in Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes, I’m still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

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Then there was a choice between Make Your Move or Make Your Meal.

In Make Your Move, teams had to set up a human chess board at the Temple of Literature.

Using a local co tuong board as a reference, teams had to find four human chess pieces that had symbols matching the pieces on the board, and then set them up with four staffs in position on the human chess board to receive their next clue from the chess master.

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One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, Brother

It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city

Whaddya mean?
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town

But thank God, I’m only watching the game, controlling it

I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you….

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In Make Your Meal, teams had to prepare Vietnam’s national dish pho.

Teams had to pick up four baskets (two empty and two with live chickens) at the Ngoc Son Temple, then they had to navigate at the street market to pick up the rest of the ingredients on a shopping list of specific weights or amounts.

After acquiring the ingredients, teams had to find a cooking station to cook two phở soups to chef’s approval to receive their next clue.

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At Công Viên Thống Nhất, teams had to correctly complete a traditional Vietnamese bamboo dance known as múa sạp to receive their next clue.

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The visitor to the Temple of Literature learns that the complex is divided into three main parts:

  • the Garden Courtyard
  • the Reflecting Pool Courtyard
  • the University buildings

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Simply stated, the Garden Courtyard serves as a place for students to relax after all their stressful lessons.

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The Reflecting Pool Courtyard is best known for its Khue Van Pavilion, an international symbol of the city of Hanoi, from which the Academy teachers would read and comment on any good student essays.

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To become an Academy teacher, one had to know a great many things about literature, history, geography and mathematics.

It is in this Courtyard that the visitor sees the thousands of names upon 116 steles upon the back of stone turtles.

To be one of the inscribed required three testing levels, not so different from those of modern days.

These three levels of testing were done every three years.

The first level of testing, comprised of three examinations, was done in the student’s hometown and was equivalent to today’s high school leaving examinations.

The second level of testing, comprised of four examinations, done at Van Mieu, was equivalent to today’s university examinations, though far more difficult, as on average only nine students in each group of eight provinces ever successfully passed these exams.

The third and final level of testing, comprised of three examinations on literature, history and theocracy, done at Van Mieu, was equivalent to today’s doctorate (PhD), and was by far the most difficult testing of them all, as generally only three students successfully passed this level.

Testing was truly stressful as each candidate would sit on the ground with a sun shelter over each head while their test papers and writing implements lay on the ground before them, while professor-proctors would walk around and around each student denying any possibility of cheating.

The examination professor at the side of the courtyard would shout out the questions the students had to answer in writing.

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The successful graduating trio would be rewarded with a job offer to serve the King directly as a mandarin, a large special, hand-drawn calligraphed certificate written in Chinese but read in Vietnamese, and a hand-woven silk robe with a dragon design on its back.

(The dragon design was allowed to have four toes on each foot, but never five, as five-toed dragon designs were exclusively used by the King.)

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The youngest person to successfully pass the third level of testing was only 10 years old, the oldest was 60.

The candidates were exclusively male.

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Many students lived and studied at the Temple.

Most students (Giám sinh) had passed the regional exam (Hương Examination – Thi Hương) before enrolling at the academy.

During the course of study at the Academy, the students focused on discussion of literature and wrote poetry as well.

The students learned Chinese, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese history.

They had textbooks printed on paper which were in both Chinese and Vietnamese.

They read The Four Books (The Great Study, The Golden Means, The Analects, and Mencius), Five Pre-Confucian Classics (Book of Odes, Book of Annals, Book of Rites, Book of Change, and Book of Spring and Autumn), ancient poetry and Chinese history among others.

The students enrolled for three to seven years.

They had minor tests each month and four major tests per year.

Success in the exams, certified by the Ministry of Rites, qualified them to sit the national exam (Hội Examination).

Success at the Hội Examination qualified the student to sit the royal exam, the Đình Examination (Thi Đình), held at court.

At this exam, the monarch himself posed the questions, responded to the candidate’s answer and then ranked those who passed into different grades.

The Imperial Academy was the largest centre in the country.

The courses, examinations and graduation ceremonies were all accomplished within and without the university buildings.

Still today, the freshly-graduated high school and university graduates, male and female, assemble here for picture-taking and celebration.

The visitor is shown the drum which an old man would beat to announce the start of classes, the roof upon which coins were tossed (If the coin stayed on the roof, exams would be passed.), the students’ ancient “backpacks” with which they carried their writing materials to class, the silent shrine where the petitioner would think his request for academic success as spoken words would disturb the calm….

And here the guide would speak in trembling whispers of Vietnam’s most revered teacher, Chu Van An.

Above: Portrait of Chu Van An

Chu Văn An (1292 – 1370) (né Chu An) was a Confucian, teacher, physician and high-ranking mandarin of the Tran dynasty in Dai Viêt (Great Viet or Annam was a Vietnamese kingdom: 968 – 1407 / 1428–1804).

He was born in Văn Thôn village, Quang Liệt commune, present day Thanh Tri district, Hanoi.

In his youth, An was famous as a straightforward man who passed the doctoral examination, but refused to become a mandarin.

Instead, he opened a school and began his career as a Confucian teacher in Huỳnh Cung village in Thanh Tri.

An’s teaching played an important role in spreading Confucianism into a Buddhist Vietnam at this time.

Under the reign of Tran Minh Tong (1314–1329), he became a teacher at the Imperial Academy, where he was responsible for teaching Crown Prince Vuong, the future emperor Tran Hien Tong.

Under the reign of Emperor Tran Du Tong, An was raised to a high-ranking mandarin.

Later, he resigned and return to his home village, because Tran Du Tong refused his request of beheading seven other mandarins who he accused of corruption.

Van Mieu Hanoi 21.jpg

The Seven Decapitations Petition was a document written by Chu Văn An and presented to King Trần Dụ Tông to propose the beheading of seven officials he considered corrupted.

Initially, as Dụ Tông was still a little child, the King’s father – King Trần Minh Tông – was in charge of the court.

After King Trần Minh Tông passed away in 1357, Dụ Tông Trần Hạo took charge.

However, he was incapable of ruling.

During Trần Dụ Tông’s reign, the social situation was disturbing.

Dụ Tông loved drinking, having fun with pretty women and music.

Officials were incompetent, pampering the King so that they could abuse their power.

Famine was widespread.

The King’s loyal and dutiful subjects were killed.

The court’s historians, whose job was to dissuade the King, tried, but Dụ Tông did not listen.

Chu Văn An was a righteous and straightforward official highly respected in the court.

He bravely submitted a petition to behead seven corrupted officials.

The petition has been lost thus now its content is unknown.

Even at that time though, few people knew who were on his list.

Still, the petition shook the country.

As the King did not listen to his petition, Chu Văn An resigned and returned to his home village in Phoenix Mountain, Chí Linh, Hải Dương.

See the source image

For the rest of his life, An continued his teaching career and wrote books.

He died of illness in 1370.

An altar was erected in his honour in the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, where he is still revered.

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As I’ve gotten older, I realize I’m certain of only two things:

  • Days that begin with rowing on a lake are better than days that do not.
  • Second, a man’s character is his fate.

EMPERORS CLUB - Measuring the Worth of a life - character - destiny -  YouTube

And as a student of history, I find this hard to refute.

For most of us our stories can be written long before we die.

There are exceptions among the great men of history, but they are rare, and I am not one of them.

I am a teacher – simply that.

I taught for 34 years.

One day I stopped teaching.

Those were the facts of my life’s chronicle.

The last chapter had been written.

My book was closed.

See the source image

I like to believe that there is more than one path to success and that success can be measured in more than one way.

That said, I try to follow the Socratic advice, in my own limited fashion, that suggests it is not living that is important, but living properly.

Above: Statue of Socrates (470 – 399 BC), Academy of Athens

William Hundert: Excuse me?

Louis Masoudi: Huh? Who, me?

William Hundert: Yes, sir. What is your name?

Louis Masoudi: Uh, Louis.

William Hundert: Just Louis?

Louis Masoudi: Louis Masoudi, sir.

William Hundert: Mr. Masoudi, could you define the word “path” for me?

Louis Masoudi: Well, there are several definitions, I suppose.

William Hundert: Would “a route along which someone or something moves” be among them?

Louis Masoudi: Yeah. Oh, yeah. No. Yeah. I’m s-sorry, sir.

William Hundert: Follow the path, Mr. Masoudi. Walk where the great men before you have walked.

Louis Masoudi: Yes, sir. It’s, uh – It’s better for the grass.

William Hundert: It’s better for you.

The Emperor's Club ( 2002 ) watch online in best quality

To become recognized and respected in any profession in Switzerland, the path where great persons before Heidi have walked has often been through Academia, and her decision to follow this path would eventually curtail the extent of globetrotting adventures.

Above: Main building of the University of Zürich

As I write these words (11 March 2021) in my small apartment in the city of Esksehir in Turkey, I have returned to teaching full-time.

May be an image of 1 person and outdoors

As I write these words, Heidi studies in her St. Gallen apartment for her University of Zürich courses.

Above: Old houses, St. Gallen, Switzerland

I, like “William Hundert“, will probably never be remembered beyond my students’ experience, but I believe that Heidi‘s combination of determination, perseverance, talent and training will find her excelling in her studies and beyond in her career.

I can only hope that her travels (and my description of them) has enhanced that eventuality.

The Emperor's Club Poster.jpg

Sources: Wikipedia / Microsoft Bing Images / Google Images / Lonely Planet Vietnam / Rough Guide to Vietnam / The Emperor’s Club / Leonard Cohen, “Anthem” / Corey Hart, “Never Surrender” / Luna Oi, YouTube, 15 October 2018 / U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

Canada Slim and the Canadian Berlin

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Friday 5 February 2021

When I was young there were many things they tried to teach me

Son, you must be grounded, find some strong stability

Be rooted and secure to live long and endure

Don’t seek out chance or circumstance and never try if you’re not sure

There was a harmony I heard when I shut my eyes

Like advice from some strange voice I seemed to recognize

Build dreams or chase behind their shadows in your mind

You can choose to give or lose, take what you get or seek to find

Live Life Like a Traveller by Dawud Wharnsby on Amazon Music -

Live like a traveller, only passing through

Don’t let your baggage weigh you down through all you need to do

Faith, Friends, and Freedom, they will always be with you

If you live like a traveller, only passing through

Friday Night's Lights Ep. 7 - Dawud Wharnsby - Live Life Like a Traveller -  YouTube

I looked out from the windows of my school and parents’ home

There was so much new to learn,

I got an itch to roam

It wasn’t long before I unlocked the old back door

And I was roving in the world to learn and to explore

Dawud Wharnsby Shares His Eco-Life From Pakistan | @TheEcoMuslim

Live like a traveller only passing through

Don’t let your baggage weigh you down through all you need to do

Faith, Friends, and Freedom, they will always be with you

If you live like a traveller, only passing through

Acoustic Simplicitea by dawud wharnsby

I look back in all honesty, my parents weren’t all wrong

It’s important to know who you are and where you best belong

Roots don’t grow in boxes, dreams wither out of range

Cash in the bank can’t buy success if you’re afraid of change

And that old world stability must mean something else to me

Because I feel it underfoot each step I take when I am free

Interview: Eco-Muslim Dawud Wharnsby In Pakistan Says "Live With Less" |  @TheEcoMuslim

Live like a traveller only passing through

Don’t let your baggage weigh you down through all you need to do

Faith, Friends, and Freedom, they will always be with you

If you live like a traveller, only passing through

music |

Every once in a while a story idea generates from actual events and other sources to intrigue my imagination with possibilities.

Begin with an actual event.

On 5 February 1958, the United States Air Force (USAF) lost a 7,600-pound (3,400 kg) Mark 15 nuclear bomb in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia.

During a practice exercise, an F-86 fighter plane collided with the B-47 bomber carrying the bomb.

To protect the aircrew from a possible detonation in the event of a crash, the bomb was jettisoned.

Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost somewhere in Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island.


The B-47 bomber was on a simulated combat mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.

It was carrying a single 7,600-pound (3,400 kg) bomb.

At about 2:00 a.m., an F-86 fighter collided with the B-47.

The F-86 crashed after the pilot ejected from the plane.

The damaged B-47 remained airborne, plummeting 18,000 feet (5,500 m) from 38,000 feet (12,000 m) when the pilot, Colonel Howard Richardson, regained flight control.

The crew requested permission to jettison the bomb, in order to reduce weight and prevent the bomb from exploding during an emergency landing.

Permission was granted, and the bomb was jettisoned at 7,200 feet (2,200 m) while the bomber was travelling at about 200 knots (370 km/h).

The crew did not see an explosion when the bomb struck the sea.

They managed to land the B-47 safely at the nearest base, Hunter Air Force Base.

Colonel Richardson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after this incident.


Some sources describe the bomb as a functional nuclear weapon, but others describe it as disabled.

If it had a plutonium nuclear core installed, it was a fully functional weapon.

If it had a dummy core installed, it was incapable of producing a nuclear explosion but could still produce a conventional explosion.

The 12-foot (4 m) long Mark 15 bomb weighs 7,600 pounds (3,400 kg) and bears the serial number 47782.

It contains 400 pounds (180 kg) of conventional high explosives and highly enriched uranium. 

The Air Force maintains that its nuclear capsule, used to initiate the nuclear reaction, was removed before its flight aboard the B-47. 

As noted in the Atomic Energy Commission “Form AL-569 Temporary Custodian Receipt (for maneuvers)“, signed by the aircraft commander, the bomb contained a simulated 150-pound cap made of lead.

However, according to 1966 Congressional testimony by Assistant Secretary of Defense W.J. Howard, the Tybee Island bomb was a “complete weapon, a bomb with a nuclear capsule” and one of two weapons lost that contained a plutonium trigger.

Nevertheless, a study of the Strategic Air Command documents indicates that Alert Force test flights in February 1958 with the older Mark 15 payloads were not authorized to fly with nuclear capsules on board.

Such approval was pending deployment of safer “sealed-pit nuclear capsule” weapons, which did not begin deployment until June 1958.

Starting on 6 February 1958, the Air Force 2,700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand-held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps mounted a search.

On 16 April, the military announced the search had been unsuccessful.

Based on a hydrologic survey, the bomb was thought by the Department of Energy to lie buried under 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 4.6 m) of silt at the bottom of Wassaw Sound.

In 2004, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Derek Duke claimed to have narrowed the possible resting spot of the bomb down to a small area approximately the size of a football field.

He and his partner located the area by trawling in their boat with a Geiger counter in tow.

Secondary radioactive particles four times naturally occurring levels were detected and mapped, and the site of radiation origination triangulated.

Subsequent investigations found the source of the radiation was natural, originating from monazite deposits.

Mark of the United States Air Force.svg

As of 2007, no undue levels of unnatural radioactive contamination have been detected in the regional Upper Floridan aquifer by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (over and above the already high levels thought to be due to monazite, a locally occurring mineral that is naturally radioactive).

Flag of Georgia

Above: Flag of Georgia

Aside from the “what if the Tynbee bomb had exploded” scenario, the conflicting reports as to whether the lost bomb (“broken arrow“) was indeed nuclear capable does raise a number of questions.

Why the discrepanices between the reports?

Did someone lie?

If so, why?

Tybee Island Lighthouse.

In February 2015, a satirical news web site ran an article stating that the bomb was found by vacationing Canadian divers and that the bomb had since been removed from the bay.

The fake story spread widely via social media.

On 12 February 2015, the entertainment web site World News Daily Report published an article claiming that a couple of amateur scuba divers had discovered a long-lost nuclear warhead off the coast of Georgia:

A couple of tourists from Canada made a surprising discovery while scuba diving in Wassaw Sound, a small bay located on the shores of Georgia.

Jason Sutter and Christina Murray were admiring the marine life of the area when they stumbled upon a Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb that had been lost by the United States Air Force more than 50 years ago.

The couple from London in Ontario, was on a two week vacation in Georgia and Florida to practise their favorite hobby, scuba diving, when they decided to dive near the shores of Tybee Island.

While admiring the plants and fishes near the sea floor, they noticed a large cylindrical item partially covered by sand.

They investigated the object and found out that it was actually a sort of bomb or missile, so they decided to contact the authorities.

I noticed an object that looked like a metal cylinder, which I thought was an oil barrel” says Jason Sutter.

When I dug it up a bit, I noticed that it was actually a lot bigger and that there was some writing on the side.

When I saw the inscription saying that it was a Mk-15 nuclear bomb, I totally freaked out.

I caught Christina by the arm and made signs to tell her we had to leave.

We made an emergency ascent, went back to shore and then we called 911.

Savannah – Wassaw Sound | Island Laser Design

However, World News Daily Report is an fake news web site that does not publish factual news material.

A disclaimer on the site states that all of the information contained therein is for “entertainment purposes only.”

This is not an interview with Banksy - The Washington Post

Still there is some poignancy in a memory I have of the movie Men in Black….

In upstate New York, an alien illegally crash-lands on Earth, kills a farmer named Edgar, and uses his skin as a disguise.

Tasked with finding a device called “The Galaxy“, the Edgar alien goes into a New York restaurant and finds two aliens (disguised as humans) who are supposed to have it in their possession.

He kills them and takes a container from them but is angered to find only diamonds inside.

After learning about the incident in a tabloid magazine, K investigates the crash landing and concludes that Edgar’s skin was taken by a “bug“, a species of aggressive cockroach-like aliens.

Men in Black (1997 film) - Wikipedia

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones): Anything about that seem unusual to you?….Let’s check the hot sheets.

Agent J (Will Smith)(looking at K buying a newsstand’s row of tabloids): These are the hot sheets?

Agent K: Best investigative reporting on the planet. Go ahead, read the New York Times if you want to. They get lucky sometimes.

Agent J: I can’t believe you are looking for tips in the supermarket tabloids.

Agent K: Not looking for. Found.

brandchannel: Men in Black 3 Re-Teams with Weekly World News for Viral  Movie Promotion

Now, gentle readers, don’t panic.

I am not suggesting that tabloids should be trusted or conspiracy theories believed.

The fact that many actually do take tabloids and theories seriously causes me great concern, for there are those who may believe and act accordingly to their belief that the parody, that the conspiracies, are real.

There are disturbingly too many Americans, for example, who firmly believe (still) that Donald Trump was cheated out of his re-election and should still be President.

They choose to believe the lie, which conforms to and confirms their preferred world view, than the facts of unpleasant reality.

Flag of the United States

Though I don’t fully subscribe to all of American George Carlin’s viewpoints, there are certain validities in the philosophies he espoused.

I live by certain rules.

First rule.

I don’t believe anything the government tells me.



And I don’t take very seriously the media and the press in this country, who are nothing more than the unpaid employees of the government and who most of the time function as a public relations branch of the government….

And all you ever hear about are our differences, what separates us, what keeps us apart from one another.

That is the way the ruling class operates in any society.

They try to divide the rest of the people, keep us fighting with each other, so that they can run off with all the money.

Fairly simple concept.

Happens to work.

Anything different, that’s what they are going to talk about: race, religion, national background, job, income, social status, sexuality….

Anything they can do to keep us fighting with each other.

This is why the wealthy don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking.

They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people aware of how the System has failed them.”

George Carlin 1975 (Little David Records) Publicity.jpg

Above: George Carlin (1937 – 2008)

Generally, I believe that we are born to love, but taught to hate.

This is how wars work.

Convince the populace that the enemy is less worthy than they are, that the enemy must be perceived as a threat which threatens our very survival.

Talk about the flag, religion or our children and watch the masses scramble to the recruiting stations, dehumanize the enemy and hate those they neither know nor care to know.

In times of war, even the hint that you may sympathize with the enemy – because they too are human beings – may cause countries to ban or imprison other groups and may even find communities denying their own heritage to be deemed more acceptable to the nationalist spirit.

Canada is considered to be a very liberal and cosmopolitan country, but this has not always been so……

A vertical triband design (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the center.

St. Thomas, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monday 13 January 2020

One thing you have to understand about Canada is that it exists, for the most part, because not all Americans wanted to abandon being British.

Certainly, there was a small minority of English speakers who remained to govern and settle in Canada after France ceded Nouveau France to Britain in the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

But the population of English speakers in Canada greatly increased with the influx of United Empire Loyalists from an America that no longer tolerated them.

Part of that loyalty to Queen and country is evident in the choice of names these Loyalists gave to the communities they founded:

  • Victoria (BC) after Queen Victoria

From top to bottom, left to right: the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Downtown Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, the Empress Hotel and the Fisgard Lighthouse

Above: Images of Victoria

  • Queen Charlotte Islands (BC)

Queen Charlotte Islands Map.png

  • Regina (SK) after Queen Victoria

From top to bottom; left to right: Downtown, Victoria Park, Saskatchewan Legislative Building, Prince Edward Building, Dr. John Archer Library and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum

Above: Images of Regina

  • London (ON) after London, England

Clockwise from top: London skyline as of 2009, Victoria Park, London Normal School, Financial District, Budweiser Gardens

Above: Images of London

  • Stratford (ON) after Stratford upon Avon, England

City Hall

Above: Stratford City Hall

  • Kingston (ON), the King’s town

Kingston City Hall

Above: Kingston City Hall

These are just a tiny sample of the many places across Canada that are named after England or the English monarchy.

And though Canada has evolved into a nation of its own after Confederation (1867) and especially after WW2 (1939 – 1945), the Head of State of Canada still remains the British monarch, represented by the Governor General when the monarchy isn’t upon Canadian soil or if a major constitutional change requires a signature from the Crown.

A photograph of Queen Elizabeth II in her eighty-ninth year

Above: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

I have always advocated that a place name should either reflect its original settlers or geography, so Kitchener‘s original Anglicized name of Sandhills is quite acceptable to me.

In 1784, the land that would develop into the town of Kitchener, was a 240,000-hectare area given to the Six Nations by the British as a gift for their allegiance during the American Revolution.

Flag of Iroquois

Above: Flag of the Iroquois Confederacy

Between 1796 and 1798, the Six Nations sold 38,000 hectares of this land to Loyalist Colonel Richard Beasley.

The portion of land that Beasley purchased was remote, but of great interest to German Mennonite farming families from Pennsylvania.

They wanted to live in an area that would allow them to practice their beliefs without persecution. Eventually, the Mennonites purchased all of Beasley’s unsold land, creating 160 farm tracts.

Many of the first farms were least 400 acres in size.

The payment to Beasley, in cash, arrived from Pennsylvania in kegs, carried in a wagon surrounded by armed guards.

By 1800, the first buildings in Berlin had been built, and over the next decade, several families made the difficult trip north to what was then known as the Sandhills.

One of these Mennonite families, arriving in 1807, was the Schneiders, whose restored 1816 home (the oldest building in the city) is now a museum in the heart of Kitchener.

Above: Schneider House

Other families whose names can still be found in local place names were the Bechtels, the Ebys, the Erbs, the Weavers (better known today as the Webers), the Cressmans, and the Brubachers.

In 1816, the government of Upper Canada designated the settlement the Township of Waterloo.

Much of the land, made up of moraines and swampland interspersed with rivers and streams, was converted to farmland and roads.

Wild pigeons, which once swarmed by the tens of thousands, were driven from the area.

Apple trees were introduced to the region by John Eby in the 1830s, and several gristmills and sawmills (most notably Joseph Schneider’s 1816 sawmill, John and Abraham Erb’s grist- and sawmills, and Eby’s cider mill) were erected throughout the area.

Schneider built Berlin’s first road, from his home to the corner of King Street and Queen Street (then known as Walper Corner).

The settlers raised $1,000 to extend the road from Walper Corner to Huether Corner, where the Huether Brewery was built and the Huether Hotel now stands in the city of Waterloo.

Huether NE corner.jpg

A petition to the government for $100 to assist in completing the project was denied.

Later named the founder of Berlin, Benjamin Eby (made Mennonite preacher in 1809, and bishop in 1812) arrived from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1806, and purchased a large tract of land consisting of much of what would become the village of Berlin (named about 1830).

The settlement was initially called Ebytown, and was at the southeast side of what later became Queen Street.

BISHOP BENJAMIN EBY" - Kitchener - Ontario Provincial Plaques on

Eby was also responsible for the growth of the Mennonite church in Waterloo County.

By 1811, Eby had built a log Mennonite meeting house first used as a school house, but later also housing religious services.

Benchi' — Bishop Benjamin Eby was a builder and Berlin booster |

A new meeting house, known as Eby’s Versammlungshaus (gathering house), near Stirling Avenue, replaced the log house in 1834, while a schoolhouse was built on Frederick Street about the same time.

Benchi' — Bishop Benjamin Eby was a builder and Berlin booster

Benjamin Eby encouraged manufacturers to Ebytown.

Jacob Hoffman came in 1829 and started the first furniture factory.

John Eby, druggist and chemist, arrived from Pennsylvania in about 1820, and opened a shop to the west of what would later be Eby Street.

At the time, settlers commonly formed a building “bee” to help newcomers erect a log home.

The 21st Century Barn Raising – Medium

Immigration from Lancaster County continued heavily in the 1820s because of a severe agricultural depression there.

Joseph Schneider, from that area, built a frame house in 1820 on the south side of the future Queen Street after clearing a farm and creating a rough road.

A small settlement formed around “Schneider’s Road“, which became the nucleus of Berlin.

The home was renovated over a century later and still stands.

The village centre of what would become Berlin (Kitchener) was established in 1830 by Phineas Varnum, who leased land from Joseph Schneider and opened a blacksmith shop on the site where a hotel would be built many years later, the Walper House.

Walper Hotel | Dubbeldam Architecture + Design | Archello

A tavern was also established here at the same time, and a store was opened.

At the time, the settlement of Berlin was still considered to be a hamlet.

Immigration to Berlin increased considerably from 1816 until the 1870s, many of the newcomers being of German (particularly Lutheran, and Mennonite) extraction.

Some were from Switzerland, like the founder of the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company.

Pequegnat King Edward time only.JPG

In 1833, the town was rededicated Berlin because of then-prevalent German immigration from the Breuckmann family, and in 1853, Berlin became the county seat of the newly created County of Waterloo, elevating it to the status of village.

The Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer of 1846 describes Berlin as:

“Berlin contains about 400 inhabitants, who are principally Germans.

A newspaper is printed here, called the “German Canadian” and there is a Lutheran meeting house, a post office, post twice a week.

Professions and Trades.—One physician and surgeon, one lawyer, three stores, one brewery, one printing office, two taverns, one pump maker, two blacksmiths.”

Berlin (Kitchener) Ontario 1875 - Vintage City Maps, Restored City Maps

The Township of Waterloo (smaller than Waterloo County) consisted primarily of Pennsylvanian Mennonites and immigrants directly from Germany who had brought money with them.

At the time, many did not speak English.

There were eight grist and twenty saw mills in the township.

In 1841, the township population count was 4,424.

The first cemetery in the city was the one next to Pioneer Tower in Doon.

The first recorded burial at that location was in 1806.

The cemetery at First Mennonite Church is not as old, but contains the graves of some notable citizens, including Bishop Benjamin Eby, who died in 1853, Joseph Schneider, and Reverend Joseph Cramer, founder of the House of Friendship social service agency.

Above: Pioneer Tower

Previously part of the United County of Waterloo, Wellington, and Grey, Waterloo became a separate entity in 1853 with Berlin as county seat.

Some contentious debate had existed between Galt and Berlin as to where the seat would be located.

One of the requirements for founding was the construction of a courthouse and jail.

When local merchant Joseph Gaukel donated a small parcel of land he owned (at the current Queen and Weber Streets), this sealed the deal for Berlin, which was still a small community compared to Galt.

The courthouse at the corner of the later Queen Street North and Weber Street and the Gaol were built within a few months.

The first county council meeting was held in the new facility on 24 January 1853, as the county officially began operations.

The Waterloo County Gaol is the oldest government building in the Region of Waterloo.

The Governor’s House, home of the “gaoler“, in a mid-Victorian Italian Villa style, was added in 1878.

Both have been extensively restored and are on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Above: Waterloo County Jail and Governor’s House

The extension of the Grand Trunk Railway from Sarnia to Toronto (and hence through Berlin) in July 1856 was a major boon to the community, helping to improve industrialization in the area.

Immigrants from Germany, mostly Lutheran and Catholic, dominated the city after 1850, and developed their own newer German celebrations, and influences, such as the Turner societies, gymnastics, and band music.

A new streetcar system, the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway (later called the Grand River Railway) began to operate in 1894 connecting Preston and Galt.

In 1911, the line reached Hespeler, Berlin, and Waterloo.

The electric rail system ended passenger services in April 1955.

In 1869, Berlin had a population of 3,000.

On 9 June 1912, Berlin was designated a city.

historic photos of berlin ontario | Canada history, Waterloo ontario,  Ontario

It was renamed Kitchener in 1916, after Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, a British Empire field marshal killed during the First World War.

Kitchener was the first city in Ontario to get hydroelectric power in long-distance transmission lines from Niagara Falls, on 11 October 1910.

Because citizens with a German heritage were viewed as a threat by some in Canada during the First World War, many in the city, particularly its business people, feared a backlash against the name Berlin.

A 2016 news report summarized the situation as:

Some questioned the loyalty of a city with strong German roots, and business leaders worried about a potential boycott of goods stamped Made in Berlin“.

A referendum was held on 19 May 1916 as to whether the city name should be changed.

That passed with a small majority and another referendum led to the name change from Berlin ro Kitchener, effective on 1 September 1916.

Flag of Kitchener

Prior to the War of 1812, the township of Waterloo was predominantly settled by German speaking Mennonites from Pennsylvania.

German-speaking immigrants from Europe began arriving in Waterloo County during the 1820s, bringing with them their language, religion and cultural traditions.

Berlin and Waterloo County soon became recognized throughout Canada for their German heritage.

These German immigrants became Berlin’s industrial and political leaders, and created a German-Canadian society unlike any other found in Canada at the time.

They established German public schools and German language churches.

A section of "Busy Berlin", Berlin, Ontario. : Digital Archive : Toronto  Public Library

In a speech given by the Governor General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, while visiting Berlin in May 1914, said:

It is of great interest to me that many of the citizens of Berlin are of German descent.

I well know the admirable qualities – the thoroughness, the tenacity, and the loyalty of the great Teutonic Race, to which I am so closely related.

I am sure that these inherited qualities will go far in the making of good Canadians and loyal citizens of the British Empire“.

Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.jpg

Above: Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850 – 1942)

The 1871 Canadian Census reveals that 73% of Berlin’s 2,743 residents were of German ethnic origin and almost 30% had been born in Germany.

Berlin at this time was a bilingual town with German being the dominant language spoken.

More than one visitor commented on the necessity of speaking German in Berlin.

These German-Canadians had strong ties to Europe, and on 2 May 1871 held a Friedensfest (peace festival) to celebrate the victory of Germany over France in the Franco-Prussian War.

More than 10,000 – mainly German – people attended the celebration.

This was one of the earliest German festivals for which Waterloo County became known – Saengerfest, Kirmes, and Oktoberfest would soon follow.

Franco-Prussian War Collage.jpg

Above: Images of the Franco-Prussian War (1870 – 1871)

Frequently unknown to some Kitchenerites now is that their German names actually came from Alsace-Lorraine in Eastern France which was ceded to Germany in 1871.

It switched again in both world wars but has been part of France since 1945.

Flag of Alsace-Lorraine

Above: Flag of Alsace- Lorraine (1871 – 1918)

Some roots of nearby Maryhill, Ontario, for example, lie in Soufflenheim and other parts of Alsace, France.

Immigration from continental Germany slowed in the 1880s and 1890s.

First and second-generation descendants now comprised most of the local German population, and while they were proud of their German roots, most considered themselves loyal British subjects.

The 1911 Census indicates that of the 15,196 residents in Berlin, about 70% were identified as ethnic German but only 8.3% had been born in Germany.

By the beginning of the First World War in 1914, Berlin and Waterloo County were still considered to be predominantly German by people across Canada.

This would prove to have a profound impact on local citizens during the war years.

The fact that many of the original settlers of Berlin were not directly German but were Mennonites from Pennsylvania did not help, as their refusal to join the war effort (because of their pacifism) only increased tensions.

The slow pace of recruitment for the local 118 Battalion led to suspicions of disloyalty.

A bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, set up in Victoria Park long before the War, was thrown into Victoria Lake in August 1914 (the main lake in the park), and then vanished forever on 15 February 1916, after the 118th Battalion broke into the Concordia club, taking the statue with them.

Kaiser Wilhelm I. .JPG

Above: Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797 – 1888)

History professor Mark Humphries summarized the situation as:

Before the war, most people in Ontario probably didn’t give the German community a second thought.

But it’s important to remember that Canada was a society in transition – the country had absorbed massive numbers of immigrants between 1896 and the First World War, proportionately more than at any other time in our history.

So there were these latent fears about foreigners.

It becomes very easy to stoke these racist, nativist fires and convince people there really is a threat.

War propaganda is top-down driven, but it’s effective because it re-enforces tendencies that already exist.

Above: The Oktoberfest Timeteller, a traditional display in Waterloo

In 1916, a movement began to change the name of the city.

Two groups formed in Berlin in 1916 – those in support of the name change and those opposed to it.

The British League was in favour of changing the name Berlin and included city councillors and members of the Berlin Board of Trade.

Many manufacturers also supported the name change as they claimed it was difficult to sell goods labelled “Made in Berlin” during the War.

Soldiers from the 118th Battalion championed the British League as a matter of patriotism.

100 years ago today we said 'no' to Berlin |

The Citizens’ League was organized to promote the best interests of the community.

This committee also included manufacturers and city councillors but they felt that the name change was being pushed through for purely financial reasons.

Members of the Citizens’ League were highly critical of the methods used to bring about the name change.

A referendum was held in May 1916.

On 19 May 1916, 3,057 residents of the town cast their vote, with 1,569 favouring a change to 1,488 voting to keep the current name.

W. H. Breithaupt the following day lamented in a letter:

We had a citizens vote yesterday on the question of changing the name of our city, a name it has had for nearly a hundred years, and I regret to say that those who want to change won by a small majority.

No new name is as yet selected.”

A special committee was set-up by the city council with the express purpose to suggest possible names.

A nationwide contest to choose a new name for the city was launched in May 1916.

A $300 prize was offered for a new name.

Names like “Bercana” (a mash-up of “Berlin” and “Canada“) and “Hydro City“, a nod to the city’s connection to hydroelectric were offered.

Some of the proposed names, such as Huronto, Dunard, Renoma (which means famous in Esperanto), Agnoleo (an obscure Italian masculine name), prompted humorous newspaper stories around the continent.

Editorials in several Ontario newspapers outside Berlin were critical of the unusual names:

One newspaper asserted that it seemed like someone had chosen letters from a hat at random.

In the face of scrutiny, a committee of 99 people was created to come up with a shortlist to create the final six names that appeared on the ballot.

Just weeks after the vote to change the name of the city from Berlin, on 5 June 1916, British war leader Lord Kitchener was killed when his ship hit a German mine and sank off the coast of Scotland.

Kitchener had been popular among the general public, but was a controversial military figure, due to his creation of deadly concentration camps during the Boer War.

Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener  (1850 – 1916) was an Irish-born senior British Army officer and colonial administrator who won notoriety for his imperial campaigns, most especially his scorched earth policy against the Boers and his expansion of Lord Roberts’ internment camps during the Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) and later played a central role in the early part of the First World War (1914 – 1918).

Kitchener was credited in 1898 for winning the Battle of Omdurman (2 September) and securing control of the Sudan for which he was made Baron Kitchener of Khartoum.

As Chief of Staff (1900–1902) in the Second Boer War he played a key role in Lord Roberts’ conquest of the Boer Republics, then succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief – by which time Boer forces had taken to guerrilla fighting and British forces imprisoned Boer civilians in concentration camps.

His term as Commander-in-Chief (1902 – 1909) of the Army in India saw him quarrel with another eminent proconsul, the Viceroy Lord Curzon, who eventually resigned.

Kitchener then returned to Egypt as British Agent and Consul-General (de facto administrator).

In 1914, at the start of the First World War, Kitchener became Secretary of State for War, a Cabinet Minister.

One of the few to foresee a long war, lasting for at least three years, and with the authority to act effectively on that perception, he organised the largest volunteer army that Britain had seen, and oversaw a significant expansion of materials production to fight on the Western Front.

Despite having warned of the difficulty of provisioning for a long war, he was blamed for the shortage of shells in the spring of 1915 – one of the events leading to the formation of a coalition government – and stripped of his control over munitions and strategy.

On 5 June 1916, Kitchener was making his way to Russia on HMS Hampshire to attend negotiations with Tsar Nicholas II when the ship struck a German mine 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Orkney, Scotland, and sank.

Kitchener was among 737 who died.

Horatio Herbert Kitchener (cropped).jpg

Above: Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850 – 1916)

Kitchener’s name was placed on the final list, leaving Brock, Kitchener, Adanac (Canada spelled backwards), Benton, Corona, Keowana as the city’s choices.

The vote to choose a new name was held on 28 June 1916.

Kitchener” received a total of 346 votes, and it was declared the winner.

Berlin and the First World War | Special Collections & Archives |  University of Waterloo

On 1 September 1916, the name of Kitchener was officially adopted.

Berlin was not the only place in Canada to change its name during the First World War.

In Saskatchewan, Kaiser became Peebles.

Neidpath, Saskatchewan - Wikipedia

In Alberta, Carlstadt was changed to Alderson.

Alderson, Alberta July 2014 (16087392003).jpg

Berlin Street in Calgary was renamed 2nd Avenue.

6 reasons why Calgary is Canada's best city for shopping –

A similar trend existed in Australia, where dozens of “German sounding” towns had their names changed.

The California town of Genevra, whose original name was Berlin, got its present name under the same circumstances.

Map of Genevra, CA, California

However, at other locations in the US, more than 20 towns called “Berlin” or “New Berlin” retained their names through both World Wars.

Kitchener is one of the few names that persisted beyond the period of anti-German sentiment.

When the city was building its new city hall early in the 1990s, a small movement to change the city’s name back to Berlin was unsuccessful.

Official logo of Kitchener

There was a great deal of anti-German sentiment, not limited to local ruffians.

Anti-German sentiment was widespread in the local 118th Battalion, for instance.

Clashes between local citizens and soldiers in the 118th Battalion increased in early 1916.

There was a belief that the intimidation would not end after the name was changed.

Finsbury Rifles Badge.jpg

Four incidents in particular increased tensions in the city:

  1. Rev. Tappert:

On 5 March 1916, Reverend C. Reinhold Tappert was dragged from his home and beaten by a group of soldiers from the 118th Battalion.

Tappert, an American, was the pastor at Berlin’s St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.

His numerous pro-German remarks – “I am not ashamed to confess that I love the land of my fathers – Germany” – caused a great uproar in the city.

Two soldiers, Sergeant Major Granville Blood and Private Schaefer – received suspended sentences for the assault.

Tappert resigned from St. Matthew’s and returned to the United States.

During the first few months of the war, services and activities at Lutheran churches in Waterloo County continued as they always had.

However, as anti-German sentiment increased throughout Waterloo County, many of the churches decided to stop holding services in German.

Rev. C. Reinhold Tappert b. 1864 , Germany d. Yes, date unknown: Waterloo  Region Generations

2. The Concordia Raid:

The Concordia Singing Society was founded as a choral group in 1873 by German immigrants.

The group was instrumental in organizing the Sangerfests (singing festivals) for which Waterloo County had become famous in the late 1800s.

In May 1915, members of the Concordia Club unanimously decided to close their doors for the duration of WWI.

Stored in their hall was the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I which had been retrieved after being thrown in the lake at Victoria Park in August 1914.

Berlin and the First World War | Special Collections & Archives |  University of Waterloo

On the evening of 15 February 1916, members of the 118th Battalion broke into the club, stole the bust and smashed many of the club’s possessions.

Furniture, German flags, sheet music and pictures were all destroyed in a large bonfire on the street.

On 16 February 1916, members of the 118th stole the medallions from the base of the Peace Monument in Victoria Park, where the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I had previously been.

Antique Painted Wood Sign "Concordia Singing Society" Ca. 1900 Lancaster,  Pa | eBay

3. Waterloo’s Acadian Club:

During the summer of 1916, the 118th soldiers were at it again.

After a recruiting rally held in Waterloo’s town square, about 30 members of the battalion broke into the Acadian Club on King Street in Waterloo.

The Acadian was a social club for single and married men of German background.

Acadian Club Halloween Celebration, Waterloo, Ontario: Waterloo Public  Library Digital Collections

Once again, the club’s possessions were damaged or destroyed.

Club president, Norman Zick, seemed particularly shocked – by July 1916 roughly half of the club’s members had already enlisted, many in the 118th.

He also stated that the Club, since the beginning of the War had been very patriotic, always welcoming soldiers in their midst, and never giving cause for offense to anyone.

Both raids on these local German clubs were investigated by military authorities.

The clubs asked for damages – around $300 in each case – to be paid by the army.

The court found that the Concordia Club had not been closed as claimed and that conditions were allowed to prevail in Berlin that loyal British citizens found impossible to tolerate.

It concluded that since both soldiers and civilians were equally responsible for damages, members of the 118th who participated in the raid would not be charged.

The Acadian Club did not receive much better news.

The court found that the 118th soldiers were responsible for the damage but that the battalion should not pay in case further ill-feeling might be engendered.

The bill for the damages was ultimately sent to the Department of Justice who replied that the claim could not be entertained.

Similar claims in Calgary, Winnipeg and others were also not entertained, as the Minister of Justice viewed that there was no legal responsibility on the part of the Crown.

The final incident occurred during the newly named Kitchener municipal election held on 1 January 1917.

The majority of the newly elected council had been opposed to the city’s name change and rumours spread that they would try to change “Kitchener” back to “Berlin“.

Soldiers from the 118th were in the city on Christmas leave during the election and did not take kindly to the rumour of reverting to the name Berlin.

A riot broke out, led by Sergeant Major Blood.

The Berlin News Record newspaper office was broken into and damaged.

Two aldermen-elect – Nicholas Asmussen and H.M. Bowman – were beaten up.

Members of the battalion were allegedly hunting for the new mayor, David Gross, throughout the city.

Around 100 men from the 122nd Battalion stationed in Galt quickly arrived and stopped the riot.

They escorted the 118th soldiers to the train station and remained on guard in Kitchener for the next few days as calm eventually returned.

The Kitchener Train Station | Old train station, Railroad photos, Train  station

A city wide petition was launched in the summer of 2020 to initiate a referendum on changing the city’s name once more.

The petition drew parallels with the original changing of the city’s name, a possible return to the name Berlin, and additionally played upon sentiments within the city highlighting various controversity that have painted the legacy of Lord Kitchener.

In conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement, the element of racism associated with the controversial figure has coloured this referendum on changing the name of the city once more.

Black Lives Matter logo.svg

The main organizer of the petition, Nicholas Roy, has highlighted that the main purpose of the petition is not necessarily to demand a rename, but to generate conversation around the possibility of said option, contrary to fears of forcing the erasure of history.

In an official response, the city of Kitchener initially responded with the statement of:

It is not surprising that recent world events have us contemplating the origin of our city’s name.

While we in no way condone, diminish, or forget his actions, Kitchener has become so much more than its historic connection to a British field marshal.

Our name is not a celebration of an individual leader’s hurtful legacy.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic touched on the topic during an interview on “Staying At Home with Bourke and Farwell“.

I think what’s more important than what the name was, and the reason it was chosen back then, is really what our city has become.

The fact that it’s a modern city at the western end of Canada’s innovation corridor, one that over many decades, has been very resilient in terms of responding to changes in the global economy, has been home to hundreds of thousands of residents over the years, and has a proud history of being a great community.

Councillor Berry Vrbanovic - Region of Waterloo

Above: Berry Vrbanovic

A document in the Archives of Canada makes the following comment:

Although ludicrous to modern eyes, the whole issue of a name for Berlin highlights the effects that fear, hatred and nationalism can have upon a society in the face of war.

Library and Archives Canada.JPG

Above: National Library and Archives of Canada

On this Monday 13 January 2020, nine days before the first case of the corona virus pandemic was diagnosed in Canada, the Toronto Star (bought earlier at the London train station) was focused on:


  • memorials of the crash of Flight 752
UR-PSR (B738) at Ben Gurion Airport.jpg

  • protesters in Iran who see the shooting of Flight 752 as another example of military incompetence

Protests against Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shot down by Sepah in Tehran 6.jpg

  • the confusion and anger over the false alarm at the Pickering nuclear plant

Pickering Nuclear Plant.jpg

  • the Ontario government considered e-learning optional until 2024

A red flag with a large Union Jack in the upper left corner and a shield in the centre-right

Above: Flag of Ontario

  • Uber’s premium service drivers filed an application to unionize in Ontario.

Uber logo 2018.svg

  • Oakville family Dr. Clarence Clottey was barred from certain exams for women and his MD licence suspended for his “callous disregard” for some of his female patients’ dignity with his “careless” physical exams.

Doctor Acquitted of Sexual Assault Charges - CHCH

  • the 10th anniversary of the Haitian earthquake (4:53 pm, 12 January 2010) with over 200,000 deaths, 300,000 injured (including 58 Canadians) was commemorated in a ceremony in Montréal (home to more than 165,000 people of Haitian origin)

Flag of Haiti

Above: Flag of Haiti

  • the start of the race for leadership of the federal Conservatives today, which former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he would not take sides of any candidate.

Conservative Party of Canada logo 2020.svg

(As of 24 August 2020, Erin O’Tool is the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.)

  • British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender wants Canada to stop building the contentious natural gas pipeline from northeastern BC to Kitimat on the Pacific coast until the affected Indigenous groups (Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc peoples) consent to the construction.

Northern Gateway Pipeline approved: B.C. reacts | CBC News

  • Philippine villagers were evacuated from ash-blanketed southern provinces in the wake of the eruption of the Taal volcano.

Taal Volcano aerial 2013.jpg

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would call for a high level government inquiry into the response of the nation’s devastating bushfires.

2019-20 Australia Bushfires season montage.png

Above: Images of 2019 – 2020 Australian bushfire season

  • Hong Kong authorities barred the head of Human Rights Watch (Kenneth Roth) from entering the territory as he had planned to focus on China’s efforts to “deliberately undermine the international human rights system“.

A flag with a white 5-petalled flower design on solid red background

Above: Flag of Hong Kong

  • Trump tweeted that he doesn’t understand being saddled with the stigma of impeachment when he did nothing wrong. (Who knew that this impeachment would only be the first of two?)

Official White House presidential portrait. Head shot of Trump smiling in front of the U.S. flag, wearing a dark blue suit jacket with American flag lapel pin, white shirt, and light blue necktie.

  • As the world considers doing away with Daylight Savings Time (“spring forward, fall back“), Brazilians aren’t happy that daybreak is at 0430 since their President Jair Bolsano called off the clock adjustment in a decision made last year.

Flag of Brazil

  • Still much talk about Prince Harry, his wife Meghan, and their son Archie leaving England

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle Prioritize Archie in Their Post-Royal Lives

By 1912, Kitchener’s City Hall was in the two-story building at King and Frederick Streets that had also been used as the Berlin town hall, completed in 1869.

During its tenure, the structure was also used as a library, theatre, post/telegraph office, market, and jail.

That building was demolished in 1924 and replaced by a new structure behind it, featuring a classical-revival style and a large civic square in front.

Demolished in 1973, and replaced by an office tower and shopping mall, the old City Hall’s clock tower was later (1995) erected in Victoria Park.

The building was not replaced by the current Kitchener City Hall on King Street until 1993.

Above: The old City Hall clock tower in Victoria Park

In 1869, the County built a very large so-called poorhouse with an attached farm, the House of Industry and Refuge that accommodated some 3,200 people before being closed in 1951.

The building was later demolished.

Home - Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge

It was on Frederick St. in Kitchener, behind the now Frederick Street Mall, and was intended to minimize the number of people begging, living on the streets, or being incarcerated at a time before social-welfare programmes.

A 2009 report by the Toronto Star explains:

Pauperism was considered a moral failing that could be erased through order and hard work.”

A research project by the Laurier School of Social Work has amassed all available data about the house and its residents, digitized it, and made the archive available online.

According to Sandy Hoy, a director of research projects, the “inmates” included not only the poor, but also those with disabilities, women, and children.

Some were single women who had been servants and became pregnant.

Since there were no social services, they were sent to the House.

“We saw a lot of young, single mothers in the records,” said Laura Coakley, a research co-ordinator.

The archives also indicate that in addition to food and shelter for “inmates“, in return for labour in the house and on the attached farm, the house also donated food, clothing, and money for train tickets to enable the poor to reach family that might be able to support them.

Two cemeteries for the poor also were nearby, including “inmates” of the house who had died.

Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge - Waterloo County House of  Industry and Refuge

The Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower built in 1926 commemorates the settlement by the Pennsylvania ‘Dutch’ (actually Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch, or German) of the Grand River area of Waterloo County.

In the background is a grey, overcast sky above a canopy of trees. In the foreground is a grass field with numerous dandelions display seed heads, in the middle of which rises a tower of earth-tones multi-coloured stones. At the top of the tower is an observation deck ringed by an iron railing, each section of which is supported by end columns painted white that also support the roof structure. The copper roof is a concave structure peaking at a point, topped with an ornamental weather vane shaped like an 1800s Conestoga wagon.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is a remembrance of the region’s German heritage.

The event includes beer halls and German entertainment.

The second largest Oktoberfest in the world, the event is based on the original German Oktoberfest and is billed as “Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival“.

Keg tapped at opening of Oktoberfest 1996

It attracts an average of 700,000 people to the county.

During the 2016 Oktoberfest parade, an estimated 150,000 people lined the streets along the route.

It is held every October, starting on the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving and running until the Saturday after.

It is the largest Bavarian festival outside of Germany.

While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other family and cultural events also fill the week.

The best-known is the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade held on Thanksgiving Day.

As it is the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, it is televised nationally.

Another icon of the festival is Miss Oktoberfest.

This festival ambassador position is selected by a closed committee of judges from a panel of local applicants; community involvement and personal character are the main selection criteria.

Some people do not consider Oktoberfest to be indicative of German culture in general.

The fact is, Oktoberfest in Germany is a very localized festival.

Oktoberfest in Kitchener really is a Munich festival, celebrating only a ‘tiny aspect’ of German culture [Bavarian]”, according to German studies professor James Skidmore of the University of Waterloo.

Kitchener’s economic heritage is rooted in manufacturing.

Industrial artifacts are in public places throughout the city as a celebration of its manufacturing history.

While the local economy’s reliance on manufacturing has decreased, in 2012, 20.36% of the labour force was employed in the manufacturing sector.

Above: Downtown Kitchener

The city is home to four municipal business parks: the Bridgeport Business Park, Grand River West Business Park, Huron Business Park and Lancaster Corporate Centre.

The largest, the Huron Business Park, is home to a number of industries, from seat manufacturers to furniture components.

Huron Business Park Map

Kitchener’s economy has diversified to include new high-value economic clusters.

In addition to Kitchener’s internationally recognized finance and insurance and manufacturing clusters, digital media and health science clusters are emerging within the city.

Above: Market Square, Kitchener

Beginning in 2004, the City of Kitchener launched several initiatives to re-energize the downtown core.

These initiatives included heavy investment, on behalf of the city and its partners, and the creation of a Downtown Kitchener Action Plan.

View of Downtown Kitchener

Above: Aerial view of downtown Kitchener

The modern incarnation of its historic farmers’ market, opened in 2004.

The Kitchener Market is one of the oldest consistently operating markets in Canada.

The Kitchener Market features local producers, international cuisine, artisans, and craftspeople.

This famous market enlivens Kitchener on Saturday mornings (as well as Wednesday mornings in the summer), where one can find arrays of sausages, cheese, eggs, poultry, fruit, vegetables and flowers, and such Mennonite dishes as shoofly (molasses) pie, Kochkase (processed curd cheese) and Kimmel Kirsche (pickled cherries).

Kitchener Farmers' Market | Ulocal

The Kitchener Stock Yards Farmers’ Market, just northeast of the city, is held Thursday afternoons.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Stockyards and outdoor market, Waterloo, Ontario,  Can... / HipPostcard

In 2009, the City of Kitchener began a project to reconstruct and revitalize the main street in Kitchener’s downtown core, King Street.

In the reconstruction of King Street, several features were added to make the street more friendly to pedestrians.

New lighting was added to the street, sidewalks were widened, and curbs were lowered. 

Movable bollards were installed to add flexibility to the streetscape, accommodating main street events and festivals.

In 2010, the redesigned King Street was awarded the International Community Places Award for its flexible design intended to draw people into the downtown core.

In 2009, Tree Canada recognized King Street as a green street.

The redesigned King Street features several environmentally sustainable elements such as new street trees, bike racks, planter beds that collect and filter storm water, street furnishing made primarily from recycled materials, and an improved waste management system.

The street was reconstructed using recycled roadway and paving stones. 

Region's top doctor issues instructions for businesses, workplaces to slow  spread of COVID-19 | CTV News

In September 2012, the City of Toronto government used Kitchener’s King Street as a model for Celebrate Yonge – a month-long event which reduced Yonge Street to two lanes, widening sidewalks to improve the commercial street for businesses and pedestrians.

Celebrate Yonge' Gives Pedestrians More Of Toronto's Main Street |  UrbanToronto

The groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy and downtown health sciences campus took place on 15 March 2006, and the facility opened in spring 2009.

The building is on King Street near Victoria Street, on the site of the old Epton plant, across the street from the Kaufman Lofts (formerly the Kaufman shoe factory). 

Hamilton’s McMaster University later opened a satellite campus for its Michael G. DeGroote Scholl of Medicine next to the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy.

The Health Sciences Campus has been central to the emergence of Kitchener’s health science cluster.

School of Pharmacy / Hariri Pontarini Architects | ArchDaily

Above: University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy

In 2007, Cadan Inc., a Toronto-based real estate development company, bought what had been the Lang Tannery for $10 million.

Supported by the local government, Cadan repurposed the building for use by commercial firms.

Since its refurbishment, the Tannery has become a hub for digital media companies, both large and small. 

Desire2Learn, an e-learning company, in the Tannery as the company expanded.

In 2011, Communitech moved into the Tannery.

Home to over 800 companies, Communitech is a hub for innovative high-tech companies in the fields of information technology, digital media, biomedical, aerospace, environmental technology and advanced manufacturing.

Also in 2011, high-tech giant Google Inc. became a tenant of the Tannery, furthering its reputation as a home for leading high-tech companies.

The Kitchener office is a large hub for the development for Google’s Gmail application. 

In 2016, the University of Waterloo-sponsored startup hub Velocity Garage relocated to the building, bringing over 100 additional startup companies into the Tannery.

Above: the Lang Tannery building

The Province of Ontario built a new provincial courthouse in downtown Kitchener, on the block bordered by Frederick, Duke, Scott and Weber streets.

The new courthouse created new jobs, mainly for the courthouse, but also for other businesses, especially law offices.

EllisDon - Waterloo Regional Courthouse

Above: Waterloo County Courthouse

In the downtown area, several factories have been transformed into upscale lofts and residences.

In September 2010, construction began on the ‘City Centre’ redevelopment project in downtown Kitchener.

This redevelopment project includes condominium units, new retail spaces, private and public parking, a gallery, and a boutique hotel.

The former Arrow shirt factory has been converted into a luxury, high-rise apartment building, featuring loft condominiums.

In 2012, Desire2Learn, in downtown Kitchener, received $80 million in venture capitalist funding from OMERS Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.

D2L | LinkedIn

The downtown area was in a boom phase by late 2017, with $1.2 billion in building permits for 20 new developments completed by the end of February 2019.

That added 1,000 apartments and 1,800 condominium units.

The City indicated that the development would be a “mixture of high-density residential buildings with ground-floor retail, and office buildings with ground-floor retail“.

Since the Ion rapid transit (light rail) system, operated by Grand River Transit, was approved in 2009, “the region has issued $2.4 billion in building permits within the LRT corridor“.


Kitchener’s cultural highlights, many of which are free to the public, include:

  • KOI Music Festival is a three-day festival held annually in downtown Kitchener each September.

The festival was started in 2010 and has since expanded to include a free concert on Friday and a full day of performance Saturday and Sunday. KOI features more than 100 rock bands every year, with a large focus on local, independent musicians.

KOI Music Festival at Downtown Kitchener (Kitchener) on 19 Sep 2014 |

Notable past performers include: 

  • Every Time I Die

Every Time I Die performing on the 2018 Vans Warped Tour

  • Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker

Uss Questamation.jpg

  • Chiodos

Chiodos performing at Warped Tour in 2009

  • Walk Off the Earth

Walk off the Earth performing in Toronto at the Canadian National Exhibition 2013

  • Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong in 2011. From left to right: Weiss, Day, Massucco, and O'Connor.

  • Protest the Hero

Protest the Hero live at Southern Ontario Metal Festival, August 2011[1]

  • Mad Caddies

The Mad Caddies in 2006

  • Monster Truck

Monster Truck

  • Gob

Too Late No Friends by Gob.jpg

  • Treble Charger

Tc nc17.png

  • Cute Is What We Aim For


  • the Planet Smashers
The Planet Smashers in concert

  • Bayside

Bayside performing in 2007

…..and several hundred more.

  • Kultrun is an annual festival of world music, food, culture, and art that takes place in Victoria Park each July. Music from various cultures is performed on two stages, and the rest of the park is covered with vendors selling their goods. A key part of the festival is the large number of food stands selling foods from all different ethnic backgrounds.

Kultrun Festival kicks off with Friday night concert -


Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area (CAFKA) - Artguide – Artforum  International

  • the Open Ears Festival

Open Ears

  • IMPACT Theatre Festival

IMPACT Festival - MT Space

  • the Multicultural Festival is a two-day event in Victoria Park commencing usually on the first weekend of the summer. Run by the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, the festival features foods, dance and music from around the world. The festival also showcases several vendors that sell artifacts and crafts from around the world. This festival has been ongoing for well over 40 years. Well over 50,000 attend every year.

Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival — Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural  Centre

  • the Kitchener Blues Festival is a four-day festival in downtown Kitchener dedicated to blues music, always held in August on the weekend following the civic holiday. The festival has expanded to four stages and two workshop stages throughout the downtown area, with over 90 performances. It has grown from a one-day event with an attendance of 3,000 to a four-day event with over 150,000 attending. In 2014 the Kitchener Blues Festival celebrated its 14th year.

Kitchener Blues Festival 2019 Lineup - Aug 8 - 11, 2019

  • Kids World

Kidzone to shut down over dispute with landlord | CTV News

  • Winterfest in January is highlighted by a Sno-do 100, a 100-mile endurance race for snowmobilers.

Kitchener Public Library - 视频| Facebook

Kitchener is also home to venues such as:

  • Homer Watson House & Gallery

Homer Ransford Watson (1855 – 1936) was a Canadian landscape painter.

Homer Watson.jpg

He has been characterized as the painter who first painted Canada as Canada, rather than as a pastiche of European painting. 

He was a member and president (1918–1922) of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, as well as a founding member and first president (1907–1911) of the Canadian Art Club.

Although Watson had almost no formal training, by his mid-1920s he was well known and admired by Canadian collectors and critics, his rural landscape paintings making him one of the central figures in Canadian art from the 1880s until the First World War.

Homer Watson House National Historic Site of Canada is located in the hamlet of Doon, which is now part of Kitchener, Ontario.

This modest, 19th-century, one-and-a-half-storey house that sits within a generous property, was the home and studio of Canadian landscape artist Homer Watson.

The house was designated for its dramatic gallery and studio addition that contains works of art and creative spaces associated with Watson’s career.

The designation refers to the original house with its Watson-era additions on its legal property as of 1980.

He purchased this house when he married in 1881, and lived in it until he died in 1936.

Although the house is a typical 19th-century brick farmhouse built in 1834, Watson personalized its facilities to pursue his art, and made two additions: a studio addition on the rear of the house (1893) and a gallery (1906).

Particular value lies in those rooms and places associated with his art, his studio and gallery spaces, viewscapes and features of the surrounding site associated with his paintings, and location of the residence within the historic community of Doon.

Some of Watson’s most respected works are views of the surrounding countryside from various vantage points of the property.

The house later became the Doon School of Fine Arts and a privately maintained memorial to Watson.

Since that time it has been operated by the City of Kitchener.

  • Kitchener–Waterloo Art Gallery

Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery to close temporarily for renovations |

This is a permanent collection of about 200 works of art, including oil paintings and sketches by Homer Watson. Among the works on permanent loan from the National Gallery of Canada are Split Rock Georgian Bay by Tom Thomson and Winter Moonlight by A.Y. Jackson. 

Split Rock Georgian bay by Tom Thomson

Above: Split Rock Georgian Bay, Tom Thomson

Deny Fear on Twitter: "A reminder that "A.Y. Jackson" and "A. Y. Jackson"  are two different searches on Twitter. They both stand for Alexander Young. Winter  Moonlight 1921 @NatGalleryCan #GroupOfSevenAt100…"

Above: Winter Moonlight, A.Y. Jackson


Formerly the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum, THE MUSEUM opened to the public in September 2003 following eight years of planning and fundraising.

The Museum, as it was renamed in 2010, offers a range of permanent interactive exhibits and rotating temporary exhibits designed for all ages to touch and enjoy.

TheMuseum - Wikipedia

  • JM Drama Alumni

JM Drama – Supporting the development of the performing arts in the Region  of Waterloo

  • Centre in the Square

Centre In The Square - Event Venues in Canada | Event, Canada, Event venues

  • Doon Heritage Village

Doon Heritage Village (Kitchener) - Aktuelle 2021 - Lohnt es sich? (Mit  fotos)

  • Woodside National Historic Park

William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874 – 1950), commonly known as Mackenzie King or WLMK, was a Canadian statesman and politician who served as the 10th Prime Minister of Canada for three non-consecutive terms (1921–1926 /1926–1930 /1935–1948).

A Liberal, he was the dominant politician in Canada during the interwar period from the 1920s through the 1940s.

He is best known for his leadership of Canada throughout the Second World War (1939–1945) when he mobilized Canadian money, supplies and volunteers to support Britain while boosting the economy and maintaining morale on the home front.

With a total of 21 years and 154 days in office, he remains the longest serving prime minister in Canadian history.

Trained in law and social work, he was keenly interested in the human condition – As a boy, his motto was “Help those that cannot help themselves“. – and played a major role in laying the foundations of the Canadian welfare state.


King acceded to the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1919.

Taking the helm of a party bitterly torn apart during the First World War, he reconciled factions, unifying the Liberal Party and leading it to victory in the 1921 election.

His party was out of office during the harshest days of the Great Depression of Canada (1930 – 1935).

He returned when the economy was on an upswing.

Liberal Party of Canada Logo 2014.svg

He personally handled complex relations with the Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta) while his top aides Ernest Lapointe and Louis St. Laurent skillfully met the demands of French Canadians.

Ernest Lapointe.jpg

Above: Ernest Lapointe (1876 – 1941)

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Above: Louis St. Laurent (1882 – 1973)

During the Second World War, King carefully avoided the battles over conscription, patriotism and ethnicity that had divided Canada so deeply in the First World War.

Though few major policy innovations took place during his premiership, he was able to synthesize and pass a number of measures that had reached a level of broad national support.

Scholars attribute King’s long tenure as party leader to his wide range of skills that were appropriate to Canada’s needs.

He understood the workings of capital and labour.

Above: King, while writing Industry and Humanity, 1917

Keenly sensitive to the nuances of public policy, he was a workaholic with a shrewd and penetrating intelligence and a profound understanding of the complexities of Canadian society.

A modernizing technocrat who regarded managerial mediation as essential to an industrial society, he wanted his Liberal Party to represent liberal corporatism to create social harmony.

King worked to bring compromise and harmony to many competing and feuding elements, using politics and government action as his instrument.

He led his party for 29 years, and established Canada’s international reputation as a middle power fully committed to world order.

King’s biographers agree on the personal characteristics that made him distinctive.

He lacked the charisma of such contemporaries as Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill or Charles de Gaulle.

He lacked a commanding presence or oratorical skill.

Above: King (far right) together with (from left to right) Governor General the Earl of Athlone (1874 – 1957), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945) and Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) at the Octagon Conference, Québec City, September 1944

Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F010324-0002, Flughafen Köln-Bonn, Adenauer, de Gaulle-cropped.jpg

Above: Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970)

King’s best writing was academic, and did not resonate with the electorate.

Cold and tactless in human relations, he had many political allies but very few close personal friends.

He never married and lacked a hostess whose charm could substitute for his chill.

He kept secret his beliefs in spiritualism and use of mediums to stay in contact with departed associates and particularly with his mother, and allowed his intense spirituality to distort his understanding of Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) throughout the late 1930s.

Hitler portrait crop.jpg

A survey of scholars in 1997 by Maclean’s magazine ranked King first among all Canada’s prime ministers including Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

As historian Jack Granatstein notes:

The scholars expressed little admiration for King the man but offered unbounded admiration for his political skills and attention to Canadian unity.”

On the other hand, political scientist Ian Stewart in 2007 found that even Liberal activists have but a dim memory of him.

Maclean's magazine - Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding

Woodside, a large gray brick house in which Prime Minister Mackenzie King lived as a boy, is set in 11.5 acres of park grounds.

It was leased by King’s father from 1886 to 1893.

A group of citizens purchased it in 1943 and undertook to restore it to the condition in which King had known it as a boy.

It was deeded to the government of Canada in 1954 and designated as a National Historic Park.

The L-shaped house is a good example of Victorian English country style transplanted to Canada and is in many ways typical of upper middle class Ontario homes of that period.

The house has ornamental gables and bargeboard with an intricate feleur-de-lis pattern.

It was heated by stoves – there were no fireplaces – and had no basement, although one has been added and contains displays relating to King’s life.

Woodside Kitchener 2006.jpg

One is a document he treasured: a government proclamation putting a price of 1,000 pounds on the head of his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada.

A portrait of William Lyon Mackenzie, depicted sitting in a chair with papers in his hands.

Above: William Lyon Mackenzie (1795 – 1861)

The rest of the ten-room house is furnished in the cluttered comfortable fashion of the Victorian era.

It has the look of a home, not a museum.

CNHS - "WOODSIDE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE" - Kitchener - Ontario - Canadian  National Historic Sites on

Among the highlights are a marbletop table that belonged to King’s grandfather, a fine old kitchen cookstove, a white timber wolf rug, a Royal Doulton washstand set, a gleaming brass bed and a grand piano that King willed to be returned to Woodside.

There are also brass spittoons, scores of doilies, various bric-a-brac and a stereopticon, a picture-viewing device giving a three-dimensional image.

Paper and shoemaker’s wax is provided for visitors to make rubbings of a brass plaque of King.

Kitchener is also home to independent music label, Busted Flat Records, which features the music of many Kitchener–Waterloo based musicians.

Busted Flat Records - Wikiwand

Various locations in Kitchener and Waterloo were used to portray the fictional Ontario town of Wessex in the filming of Canadian television sitcom Dan for Mayor.

Dan for Mayor - Wikipedia

A local folk group, Destroy All Robots, wrote a tongue-in-cheek song jibing the city of Kitchener, “Battle Hymn of the City of Kitchener, Ontario“.

Destroy All Robots – “Battle Hymn of the City of Kitchener,