Friday, December 30, 2016

Dow Brewery


984 - 1000 Notre-Dame, 333 Peel Street

image courtesy – Griffintown Tour

The former brewery complex consists of many buildings. On Montfort we find the oldest building at the site; formerly a refrigerated warehouse, it is built in the vernacular style with 'porteur' walls in stone. The brewery's large warehouse and fermention buildings were constructed between 1924 and 1929 the length of Colborne Street (now Peel), between St. Joseph (now Notre-Dame) and William.

In 1929, a garage for the brewery's delivery vehicles, designed by architect Louis-Auguste Amos (1869-1948), was erected at the southeast corner of William and Peel. In 1930-1931 an administration building, designed by Harold Lea Fetherstonhaugh (1887-1971), was built at 984-990 Notre-Dame.

Constructed in the art deco style, this building, which served as head office for The National Breweries Limited consortium, boasts a rich interior decor of various marbles and precious woods, bronze and brass and an exterior ornamented with pilasters and bas reliefs showing elements and symbols of the brewing process and of the consortium members.

The first brewery at this location, owned by Thomas Dunn, moved to Montreal from La Prairie in 1808. In 1920 Dunn hired recent immigrant William Dow, son of a Scottish brewmaster, to assist with the brewing. By 1829, Dow was Dunn's partner and the brewery name was changed to Dunn & Dow.

Dow's younger brother Andrew eventually joined the company and, after Dunn's death, the name was changed to William Dow and Company and became Molson's main competitor. By the mid-1960s the Dow brand was outselling every other beer in the province and their slogans, such as: "Wouldn't a Dow go good now?", "Now for a Dow" or "Dis donc Dow" were ubiquitous.

Then, in 1966, as a result of poor public relations handling of the tainted beer scandal in which 16 deaths were attributed to the use of cobalt as a heading agent, Dow's popularity dropped overnight and the company suffered a decline in sales from which it never recovered. In 1968, the Dow name, by now representing a national consortium, was changed to La brasserie O’Keefe du Québec Ltée. O’Keefe closed the plant in 1991 and in 1996, École de technologie supérieure (ETS) recycled the O’Keefe building at the southwest corner of Peel and Notre-Dame into an engineering school and is currently at work repurposing portions of the buildings on the east side of Peel into a Centre of Innovation for the technology sector.

Sadly, while renovating to accomodate the new Centre of Innovation, ETS had the top portion of the brewery’s chimney removed: where it used to read “Dow Brewery”, it has now been reduced to “Brewery”. According to local property owner Harvey Lev, Normand Proulx at the borough’s permit department asserts it will be restored.

The garage at Peel and William was renovated in 2003 and currently houses the offices of the Board of Montréal Museum Directors as well as ETS’s AÉROÉTS and Centre de technologie thermique.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Westmount Conservatory To Be Restored



montreal-que-december-28-2016-westmounts-conservatory1When the city of Westmount restored its public library in 1995, it faced the challenging task of modernizing the building while respecting its historical look and feel.

To do so, it pored over historical photos to find matching chandeliers and wallpaper and sought out the original manufacturer, located in Waterloo, Ontario, that had supplied the library with wooden oak armchairs nearly 100 years earlier.

When the city expanded the Victoria Hall Community Centre building next to the library three years later — it had been rebuilt in 1925 after initially opening in 1899 — it had the same goal in mind: restore, but respect the building’s historical character.

The architect in charge managed to find limestone and sandstone from the same quarry the building’s original materials came from to ensure the extension matched the rest of its facade.

Now the city hopes to do the same as it undertakes major restorations at the Westmount conservatory and greenhouse complex, closed since a pane of glass fell and nearly injured a man below in September 2015.

But the project has already proved to be challenging. Some of the materials used to build the complex back in 1927, such as cypress wood, are no longer commercially available, and architects, engineers and construction companies with experience in building large and historical greenhouses aren’t easy to come by.

“If it were a more standard building, we probably would have been in construction by now,” Westmount Mayor Peter Trent said on Wednesday. “But we have to approach this extremely carefully, while keeping the same goal in mind — bringing it back to its former glory.”

Working with engineering firms, the city is looking into equivalent materials — including British Columbia fir — that could resemble the wooded purlins used when the building was initially built.

The city used a drone to photograph the exterior and interior of the greenhouse and document the extent of the damage after the glass pane collapsed last year. A structural assessment completed afterward led it to believe a complete restoration was a better option than partially fixing the failing structure.

According to Benoit Hurtubise, Westmount’s assistant director-general, the building’s infrastructure is sound; it’s the glass and wooden envelope above it that’s at risk of collapsing.

“One way or another, eventually we would have to do a complete restoration,” Hurtubise said, “so we rather bite the bullet and do it now.”

Hurtubise said a growing impatience among residents could be felt after the complex was first closed in 2015. It’s the only nearby indoor botanical garden and is often visited by people trying to escape the cold for a couple of hours during winters.

According to early estimates provided, Trent said on Wednesday, completely restoring the building could cost roughly $3.2 million.

“But really, we will spend whatever is required to bring it back to what it was,” Trent said. “This is a piece of Westmount architectural history, but it also serves a purpose and is a beautiful building in its own right.”

The city has put aside $1 million in its 2017 budget for the project, and expects to have a call for tenders early next year. But it’s unlikely the greenhouse complex will be completely restored and reopened until 2018.

Paul Marriott, president of the Westmount Municipal Association, a nonpartisan community organization, said despite some initial doubts about why the complex was closed for so long, overall, most residents agree the city should take the time required to restore it properly.

“Essentially we’re custodians of the architectural heritage for future generations. You can’t just say ‘it’s too expensive, I’m going to abandon it.’ You have a certain responsibility,” Marriott said. “It’s been there for almost 100 years. There’s no reason to believe it couldn’t be there for another 100 years.”

courtesy Montreal Gazette


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Silent Night



Silent Night Chapel at Oberndorf, Austria

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had written the lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.

The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass. Together they performed the new carol during the mass on the night of December 24.

The original manuscript has been lost. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers as c. 1820. It states that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. 

In 1859, the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, then serving at Trinity Church, New York City, wrote and published the English translation that is most frequently sung today, translated from three of Mohr's original six verses. The version of the melody that is generally used today is a slow, meditative lullaby or pastorale, differing slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber's original, which was a "moderato" tune in 6
time and siciliana rhythm. Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain.

The carol has been translated into about 140 languages.

Mohr's German lyrics

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:

Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb' aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'.

Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Young’s English lyrics

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The First Christmas Lights


One would think that Christmas lights have been around for as long as Christmas itself. Can any of you imagine Christmas without lights? How would the children find their way in the dark, so early on Christmas morning without them? The history of Christmas lights is intricately tied to the dawn of the modern era, when houses began to be supplied with electricity.


As you are likely aware, Thomas Edison invented the first functioning light bulb back in 1879. A few years later, in 1882, an associate of his first employed the use of lights on his Christmas tree. Edward Johnson was the first to electrically light his family Christmas tree in his New York home. His home was located in one of the first sections of the city to be wired for electricity.

A visiting reporter from Detroit reported the following in "The Detroit Post and Tribune": "Last evening I walked over beyond Fifth Avenue and called at the residence of Edward H. Johnson, vice-president of Edison's electric company. There, at the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect. It was brilliantly lighted with many colored globes about as large as an English walnut and was turning some six times a minute on a little pine box. There were eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs, and about equally divided between white, red and blue. As the tree turned, the colors alternated, all the lamps going out and being relit at every revolution. The result was a continuous twinkling of dancing colors, red, white, blue, white, red, blue---all evening."

In 1890, Edison published a promotional brochure which may have been the first mention of commercially available electrically powered
Christmas lights. It stated that "There are few forms of decoration more beautiful and pleasing than miniature incandescent lamps placed among flowers, or interwoven in garlands or festoons; for decorating Christmas trees or conservatories..."

From there, the popularity of Christmas lights exploded. Before long, every family had them and they became synonymous with the Christmas tree. It's hard to imagine Christmas without Christmas lights. 


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 26, 2016

History of the Christmas Card


A prominent educator and patron of the arts, Henry Cole travelled in the elite, social circles of early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.

During the holiday season of 1843, those friends were causing Cole much anxiety.

The problem were their letters: An old custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.


Now, everybody was sending letters. Sir Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, but he was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.”

Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

It was the first Christmas card.

Unlike many holiday traditions—can anyone really say who sent the first Christmas fruitcake?—we have a generally agreed upon name and date for the beginning of this one. But as with today’s brouhahas about Starbucks cups or “Happy Holidays” greetings, it was not without controversy. In their image of the family celebrating, Cole and Horsley had included several young children enjoying what appear to be glasses of wine along with their older siblings and parents. “At the time there was a big temperance movement in England,” Collins says. “So there were some that thought he was encouraging underage drinking.”

The criticism was not enough to blunt what some in Cole’s circle immediately recognized as a good way to save time. Within a few years, several other prominent Victorians had simply copied his and Horsley’s creation and were sending them out at Christmas.

While Cole and Horsley get the credit for the first, it took several decades for the Christmas card to really catch on, both in Great Britain and the United States. Once it did, it became an integral part of our holiday celebrations—even as the definition of “the holidays” became more expansive, and now includes not just Christmas and New Year’s, but Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice.

Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a print shop near Boston, is credited with creating the first Christmas card originating in the United States in 1875. It was very different from Cole and Horsley’s of 30 years prior, in that it didn’t even contain a Christmas or holiday image. The card was a painting of a flower, and it read “Merry Christmas.” This more artistic, subtle approach would categorize this first generation of American Christmas cards.  “They were vivid, beautiful reproductions,” says Collins. “There were very few nativity scenes or depictions of holiday celebrations. You were typically looking at animals, nature, scenes that could have taken place in October or February.”

Appreciation of the quality and the artistry of the cards grew in the late 1800s, spurred in part by competitions organized by card publishers, with cash prizes offered for the best designs. People soon collected Christmas cards like they would butterflies or coins, and the new crop each season were reviewed in newspapers, like books or films today.

In 1894, prominent British arts writer Gleeson White devoted an entire issue of his influential magazine, The Studio, to a study of Christmas cards. While he found the varied designs interesting, he was not impressed by the written sentiments. “It’s obvious that for the sake of their literature no collection would be worth making,” he sniffed. (White’s comments are included as part of an online exhibit of Victorian Christmas cards from Indiana University’s Lilly Library)

“In the manufacture of Victorian Christmas cards,” wrote George Buday in his 1968 book, The History of the Christmas Card, “we witness the emergence of a form of popular art, accommodated to the transitory conditions of society and its production methods.”

The modern Christmas card industry arguably began in 1915, when a Kansas City-based fledgling postcard printing company started by Joyce Hall, later to be joined by his brothers Rollie and William, published its first holiday card. The Hall Brothers company (which, a decade later, change its name to Hallmark), soon adapted a new format for the cards—4 inches wide, 6 inches high, folded once, and inserted in an envelope.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus


Virginia O’Hanlon


DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?



Francis P. Church

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


The Letter


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Visit from St. Nicholas


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”


author – Clement Clarke Moore (1779–1863)


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ribbon Farms


Ribbon farms are long, narrow land divisions, usually lined up along a waterway. In the United States, ribbon farms are found in various places settled by the French, particularly along the Saint Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, the Detroit River and tributaries, and parts of Louisiana. Near Detroit, the ribbon farms were about 250 feet wide and up to three miles long.

French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac sailed up the Detroit River in 1701 and settled Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit, named after the comte de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine under Louis XIV. The river itself became known as the Rivière du Détroit, as détroit is French for the strait. Cadillac was given authority to appropriate and grant land to settlers. Beginning in 1701, he awarded farms that extended two or three miles inland and were laid out with narrow river frontage. Detroit, which grew to 800 people in 1765, became the largest city between Montreal and New Orleans.

The ribbon farm layout gave multiple landowners access to the waterway. In addition, the long lots increased variation in soil and drainage within one lot, and facilitated plowing by minimizing the number of times oxen teams needed to be turned. Where farmers lived on their lots (rather than in a central village), the ribbon farm fostered communication and socialization, with houses clustered at the ends of the lots.

The ribbon farm system also strikes an economic balance, where houses are relatively close together and can be easily and economically accessed, yet the farmers need not spend excessive travel time to reach their fields some distance from a central village. Finally, in those places where ribbon farms were platted, the division of land into long rectangles was relatively easy to survey and establish boundaries.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vermont Maple Pecan Cookies





3 Cups old-fashioned oats

1 Cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 2/3 Cups all purpose flour

1 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

2 Cups packed light brown sugar

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 Cup Maple syrup

2 Tbs. light corn syrup

2 Tsp. baking soda

1/4 Cup boiling water

1 Tsp. maple flavoring

2 Cups chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 300 degrees, line two baking sheets with parchment paper

Combine oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in large bowl, whisk to blend.

Combine butter, maple syrup, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium low heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally; remove from heat.

Combine baking soda and boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Add to maple syrup mixture stirring well. Add maple extract. Stir well.

Place 1/4 cup size balls of dough on baking, 3 inches apart, flatten balls slightly.

Bake 15 minutes, cool on rack, enjoy.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

100 years of Ouimetoscope


On 1 st  January 1906, Montrealers flock to the entry of a new institution of "moving pictures", the Ouimetoscope. Located in the Poiré room, on the corner of Montcalm and Saint-Catherine streets, the new attraction brings home a hundred dollars to its owner, Léo-Ernest Ouimet, in the first week.



Born in Saint-Martin on Île Jésus (today Laval) in 1877, Ouimet leaves the family farm to move to Montreal. He learned the trade of electrician and became a theater lighting designer. Strongly interested in the new medium of cinema, he takes care of projections at Sohmer Park, produces short films and creates a company, the Ouimet Film Exchange. The projection device he conceives, the Ouimetoscope, even influences the work realized by Thomas Edison. As part of his documentary achievements, Ouimet will appeal to Lactance Giroux as a cameraman. The latter became, in 1920, the first photographer hired by the City of Montreal.

In 1907, Léo-Ernest Ouimet demolished the building he occupied and began construction of the "Grand Ouimetoscope" which opens these doors in August. The following year, several cinemas opened their doors and the competition became more fierce. The American film distribution monopoly created Canadian branches and thus eliminated Ouimet from this market. At the same time, the Montreal Church began its campaign against Sunday cinematographic performances. At the end of the summer of 1908, Mayor Louis Payette, yielding to the pressure of the League for the observance of Sunday, caused contraventions to the various cinemas. Due to lung problems in two of his children, the Ouimet family settled in California each winter from 1913.

During the First World War, Ouimet withdrew from the projection to redo the distribution again and especially the realization. Among other things, he was given a film about the opening of the Bibliothèque de Montréal by Marshal Joffre in May 1917.

Following the death of two of his children, Ouimet settled down in Los Angeles in 1921, Produced the feature film Why get married that will have little success. His financial situation degraded, he accepted a position for a distribution company in Toronto but returned to Hollywood in 1930. Ruined, he returned to Quebec in 1933 to become a year later manager of the Imperial cinema. Since his financial situation had not improved, he accepted a position as manager of a branch of the Commission des liqueurs. At the time of his retirement in 1956, he was a store clerk. He died on 2 March 1972 at the age of 94 years.



In 1978, Léon H. Bélanger's nephew, Léon H. Bélanger, published a book on the life of his uncle and the beginnings of the Quebec cinema, Les Ouimetoscopes. In May 1979, the author handed over his manuscript to the city's archives. This document and its printed version constituted the Fonds Léon H. Bélanger ( P55).


- courtesy Archives of Montreal

©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mordecai Richler


Mordecai Richler, CC, novelist, essayist, social critic (born 27 January 1931 in Montréal, QC; died 3 July 2001 in Montréal, QC).


A singular figure in Canadian literary and cultural history, Richler remained, in the words of critic Robert Fulford, “the loyal opposition to the governing principles of Canadian culture” throughout his long and productive career. His instincts were to ask hard, uncomfortable questions and to take clear, often unpopular moral positions.

Born into an Orthodox family in Montréal’s old Jewish neighborhood, a community he immortalized in his work, he was from the start a complex and uncompromising figure, at once rejecting many of the formal tenets of his faith while embracing its intellectual and ethical rigour. That tension, along with an innately absurdist vision of life, a raw, bracing comedic sensibility, and a fearlessness about speaking his mind, as both artist and citizen, ensured that nearly every word he published displayed a distinctive sensibility. No one else sounded like Mordecai Richler, and few other writers in Canada have ever demanded, and maintained, such a high profile as both an admired literary novelist and a frequently controversial critic. A Companion of the Order of Canada, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award (1968 and 1971), and winner of the Giller Prize, Mordecai Richler is without question one of Canada’s greatest writers.

Only with his fourth novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, published in 1959, did he learn how to translate his ferocious, satiric, funny take on human behaviour onto the page. With this novel, and its anti-hero, the hard-nosed, unscrupulous, but also energized and empathetic young hustler, Duddy Kravitz, Richler gave Canadian literature one of its most challenging and unresolved protagonists, and one of its first important novels. It won him admirers in London, New York and Toronto, but not so many, it often seemed, among his “people” in Montréal — a pattern that would persist for decades.

By the time he published Solomon Gursky, Richler was a household name in Canada. Often that name was being taken in vain, especially in French-speaking Québec, where his status as a biting and mocking commentator on aspects of the nationalist movement, in particular the language and sign laws introduced in the late 1980s, earned him much enmity. In contrast, for English-speaking Canadians, most piquantly for Jewish Montrealers, many in their fourth decade nursing a grudge against their most famous offspring, he became a kind of reluctant hero, standing up for their community, their city, and for a united Canada, in his own candid, irascible way. Reams of journalism came out of his powerful, bare-knuckled engagement with Québec nationalism, most famously his 1991 New Yorker piece, and the quick, cutting book that grew out of it. Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! (1992) is far from his best non-fiction. It is, however, arguably one of the most influential works ever published in the country.

The Final Decade

In his final decade, the now-veteran novelist produced one very good travel book, 1994’s This Year in Jerusalem,and the charming novel that appears, at present, to be the people’s choice among his works. On its appearance in 1997, Barney’s Version became an instant bestseller and, shortly, winner of the Giller Prize, a still relatively new literary award that Richler had himself helped set up a few years earlier. The tale of the outsized, unapologetic, apostate Jew Barney Panofsky was presumed by many to be closely autobiographical. It isn’t, most significantly its portrait of a man who destroys his one great chance at enduring love, but much about the character’s appetite for life, and his philosophy for living, is close to its author’s way of being in the world. New, almost, to Barney’s Versionwas a degree of pathos, and an emotional tenderness, that won Richler new readers and admirers in what was his fifth and, it turned out, final decade of a significant career as a man of letters and that loyal member of the opposition. His death in 2001 was mourned nationally.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cipâte aux Bluets (Deep Dish Blueberry Pie)



2 unbaked pie shells
5 cups blueberries
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 tablespoons butter

1. Heat oven to 350º F. Pour half of blueberries into deep dish casserole. Sprinkle with half of sugar and cover with a pie crust; trim crust to fit into dish.

2. Cover crust with the other half of blueberries, sprinkle with remaining sugar and dot with butter. Cover with top crust and trim edge to fit border of casserole. Cut a 2 inch hole in center of pie; this will allow steam to escape.

3. Bake for about two hours or until crust is light brown. Cool until lukewarm, and serve with pouring cream if desired.



©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved



Creton (kind of sounds like "KrrrAW-tohn" or "GAH-taw") is a food most people with Quebecois parents or grandparents may remember growing up in my area. It is a mildly spiced pork paté spread that used to be popular and via nostalgia is gaining in popularity again. It is used at breakfast on toast and with mustard in sandwiches for lunch. Some people will use it with breadcrumbs to stuff a turkey and I'm sure there are other uses.



1 pound ground pork
2 Tbs bacon fat
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
beef stock or whole milk

Place an appropriately-sized sauce pan over medium heat.

When pan is hot, add 1 Tbs bacon fat and gently fry the ground pork until cooked through. While the pork cooks use a fork to keep crumbling it.

Add the onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic are soft and translucent.

Lower the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for about an hour.

If mixture starts to dry out add beef stock or milk to keep it at a very-thick-sauce consistency.

Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool.

If needed add beef stock or whole milk so the mixture seems just spreadable.

Put the mixture in a food processor and process until fine and granular but not pasty.

Place the mixture into a glass or ceramic container and add a small layer of bacon fat over the top to seal and add extra flavor.
Refrigerate until needed. Serve on crackers as a snack, toast for a hearty breakfast or with mustard as a sandwich for lunch.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Charles Smallwood, meteorologist and founder of the McGill Observatory


Born in Birmingham, England, in 1812, Charles Smallwood arrived in Canada in 1833 and was licensed to practice medicine in 1834. A few years later, around 1840, he established his residence at Saint-Martin in Isle-Jésus. In addition to practicing medicine, he had a strong interest for meteorology. In order to conduct experiments, Smallwood built a weather observatory on his property. It was a small wooden building equipped with several instruments, such as barometers, thermometers, a 7-inch telescope and rain and snow gauges. For example, he gathered data about the ozone, dew and evaporation, atmospheric electricity and bird migrations.


In 1856, Smallwood became the first professor of meteorology at the McGill University. In 1863, he moved his equipment from his observatory in Saint-Martin to a stone structure at the McGill University, thus founding the ''McGill Observatory''. The observatory stayed in the same building until 1962, and it is still in operation today in the Macdonald Physics Building.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 16, 2016

The mysteries of Michigan's Cemetery Island


ISLE ROYALE, MI - More than a few kayakers who've skirted the shoreline of Isle Royale have had this experience: You're paddling through a light mist around one of Michigan's most remote places only to see the nearby Cemetery Island rise out of the water, just off the mainland.

Contained inside this small island are at least nine marked or partially-marked graves that hark back to the 1850s - an era when the nation's copper rush stretched past the northern reaches of the Upper Peninsula.

Many of the graves likely are associated with the area's copper mines. At least one was dug for an infant. And there is island lore that perhaps ties others to the 1885 loss of the steamer Algoma, the deadliest shipwreck in Lake Superior's maritime history.

"It's special because it definitely captures the interest of island visitors. You can see the mystique," said Seth DePasqual, an archeologist and cultural resources manager for the National Park Service, who has looked at some of Cemetery Island's archived material….more


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Search for Missing Friends


I found a book called The Search for Missing Friends, Vol. I I think the price was $3, it’s a fat book, over 600 pages compiling the advertisments placed in the Boston Pilot of Irish immigrants looking for friends and loved ones. Now I see Boston College has inventoried these listings and have placed them in a searchable database.


“THERE WAS A TIDAL WAVE of Irish immigration to North America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some came to escape political upheaval, famine, and poverty, while others simply hoped to start a better life in the new world. During this time, formal communication was by the written word, but an international postal system was just emerging, making it difficult for those who had immigrated to keep in touch with those they had left behind. The result was that many of those in Ireland had no idea where their relatives and friends might be. Many new Irish Americans simply became “lost” to those who cared for them.”

You may view the database here.

©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Burnside House


No house in Montreal's history has been the object of so much struggle and the subject of so many unfulfilled aspirations as Burnside house, which once stood on McGill College Avenue just up from Maisonneuve.


Like many fur traders who had made their fortunes and wished to settle down, James McGill purchased a farm on the side of Mount Royal. He called it Burnside after the stream ("burn" in Scots) running through it. The property was about 46 acres, and featured orchards and fields, as well as a "very commodious country house…with a most excellent garden." McGill's diary accounts of growing hay, apples, melons, cucumbers, peaches and grapes all reinforce the image of a comfortably retired gentleman. Having no children of his own, and knowing his wife's sons from a former marriage were well taken care of, McGill willed the Burnside estate to the newly-formed Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning in hopes that this paragovernmental body would establish a college on the estate - what eventually became McGill University.

James McGill died in 1813. While the Royal Institution was getting its act together, McGill's stepson decided he had rights to Burnside, and a legal battle ensued. In was only in 1829 that the Royal Institution was able to occupy the estate, and the first principal, the Reverend George Mountain, could preside over the college's official opening at Burnside house. But after the court case there were no funds left to hire professors, so the house and estate were leased to farmers for several years. Mountain, moreover, lived in Quebec City, so a local man to replace him as principal was found in 1835: the Reverend John Bethune. Bethune decided that Burnside house should be the principal's official residence, and moved in - quite against the wishes of the Royal Institution. Bethune promoted the construction of what became known as the Arts Building higher up the hill on another part of the estate. When it opened, in 1843, teaching could at last begin - although in the first year there were only three students.

Having decided that it would fund the running of the new college by renting the lower part of the estate, the Royal Institution asked Bethune to vacate the house, which he did only after a great deal of protest. He also took the entirely inappropriate step of personally engaging a real estate agent, Joshua Pelton, to subdivide the lower part of McGill's estate as building lots, with rent money going directly into the principal's hands. Furthermore, this arrangement was made in such a way that Pelton was able to claim he was now the owner of the land. Pelton leased the house and gardens to a market gardener, Neil McIntosh, who at one point had the Royal Institution, Pelton, and the college bursar, Joseph Abbott (father of the future prime minister), all asking him for rent. McIntosh eventually left in confusion, but it was not until 1847 that the Royal Institution was able to force Pelton out and reassert its ownership. By that time the economy was sluggish, so the Royal Institution secretary, William Burrage, was allowed to occupy the house for four years, while local farmers used the grounds for pasture. On occasion, the Montreal Cricket Club was allowed to practice in the Burnside fields.

Attempts to sell bits of the estate to raise money were not very successful even after the economy began to revive, but in 1852 the Royal Institution decided it could profitably generate income by leasing the house. The new occupants were the Birks family, whose son Henry would later found a famous jewellery store. The gardens, as well as part of the basement and one of the outdoor privies, were leased to market gardener William Riley. Within a few years, lot sales did pick up, and a new street was laid out running straight up to the college: appropriately, it was called McGill College Avenue. By 1857 lots along this new street were purchased by builders who put up elegant terraced houses. Burnside house, which straddled lots 74 and 75, soon looked rather drab in the midst of this new fashionable neighbourhood. Nevertheless, the enterprising Riley bought both lots and moved in for several years.

In 1863 Riley rented the house (but stayed on as the gardener, apparently living in part of the basement) to Isabella and Annabella McIntosh (daughters of former Burnside tenant Neil McIntosh), who operated a ladies academy there. A few years later, the McIntosh academy (renamed Bute House School) moved up to the corner of Sherbrooke Street and other private schools occupied Burnside house until it was in such need of repair that Riley sold it and it was torn down. Once fought over, James McGill's old home was now an embarrassment next to the mansions around it and the shining university thriving just above it.


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vive la différence!


While you are all familiar with such Christmas staple songs as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Holy Night, Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland, you may not be aware that we sing the same songs in French, only with translated lyrics. Sometimes the French lyrics are very similar to the English ones (Sleigh Ride is about a, well, sleigh ride in both languages, for instance). But quite often, only the melody is retained and the whole theme of the song changes entirely. Most often it’s because the new theme allows the French version to use words that fit the music better. Other times, it’s because the song would make cultural references that wouldn’t be as familiar.

One of the most different songs when translated is Jingle Bells. The original English song is about riding in a one-horse sleigh on a bright winter day. The French version, however, becomes Vive le vent and is all about the cold winter wind and how it brings an old man memories of his childhood winters.

Almost as different is Holy Night, the song about Jesus’ birth, which becomes Minuit, chrétiens, a reference to the Catholic midnight mass so popular in Québec. One of the starkest differences is the translation of the verse, “Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices!”, which in French becomes, “Peuple à genoux! Attend ta délivrance!” (Kneeling people, await thy deliverance!)

It’s rather interesting that the English version is an exhortation to kneel in worship of the newborn King of Kings, while the French version addresses an already kneeling people, telling them that they will need kneel no longer when Jesus brings about their deliverance.

It’s not only the Christmas carols that are reworked. Sometimes a concept is simply given a little tweak to fit in better with the French culture. You may remember old Canadian Tire commercials featuring the character of Scrooge. The concept was well summed-up with the chain’s Christmas slogan: “Give like Santa and save like Scrooge!”

While Scrooge is known in Québec thanks to the translated Dickens work and of course its numerous adaptations, he’s just not traditionally a part of the lore. He’s more of a British creation. So when Canadian Tire produced French versions of the commercial, they kept the concept of the penny-pinching miser, but Scrooge instead became “Gratteux” (a French slang term for a spendthrift or a cheapskate), Santa’s accountant elf. The character’s costume remained the same and he was simply played by a French-Canadian actor.

courtesy – Chez Seb


©2016 Linda Sullivan – Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

La chasse-galerie – a tale of Christmas


lachassegalerie2Back in the late 19th century, many French-Canadian men spent long winters in remote logging camps to support their families back in the cities and towns. In those days before modern travels, coming back every week or even month for a visit was out of the question. So the men would spend the whole season, including the holidays, far from their loved ones.

One Christmas (or New Year’s) Eve, a group of such men in a lonely camp were feeling homesick and wanted to spend the réveillon with their wives and girlfriends. So they made a deal with the devil: the Prince of Darkness would make their canoe fly over the forests and hills so they could go back to their homes for the night. Old Scratch gave three conditions to respect: they could not swear, they could not touch a church steeple with their canoe while in flight, and they had to be back at camp before 6 o’clock in the morning. If they broke any one of those rules, their souls would be damned to hell forever. Despite the risk, the homesick men agreed and off they flew!

The reunion with their beloveds are joyous indeed and they spend the night drinking and dancing. When they realize the late hour, they hurry back to the canoe to get back to camp before the devilish deadline. Of course, in their inebriated states they are much more prone to swearing or accidentally ramming the craft into a church. And one of them invariably begins to get agitated and comes close to swearing, so his panicked companions gag and tie him up, but he eventually breaks free and swears. The canoe crashes into a tall tree and the passengers are knocked out when they hit the ground.

In the most famous version, by Honoré-Beaugrand, the men wake up the next morning and never speak of the adventure again. However, in other versions they are doomed to fly forever across the sky, their souls never getting to their eternal rest. And they say if you look out on Christmas or New Year’s Eve, you can sometimes get a glimpse of the bewitched canoe.

While a deal with the devil might be an odd choice of theme for a Christmas story, it’s really indicative of the loneliness that develops when hardworking and honest men are forced to spend the holidays on their own, far from their kin.

While the most famous element of the chasse-galerie, the flying canoe, came about in 19th century Québec, it’s actually a newer version of an even older story from France. It is told that a nobleman named the Sieur de Galerie was such an avid hunter that he even skipped church in order to enjoy his favourite sport. The Lord did not take kindly to this and condemned his soul to forever run across the sky pursued by celestial hunters and wolves.


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Buche de Noel




Buche de Noel is one of many traditional cakes baked at Christmas. As the name suggests, it is of French origin. The name of this recipe literally translates as "Christmas log," referring to the traditional Yule log burned centuries past. The ingedients suggest the cake is most likely a 19th century creation. That's when thinly rolled sponge cakes filled with jam or cream and covered with buttercream icing begin to show up in European cook books. Marzipan and meringue, typically employed for decorative purposes, date to the Medieval Ages and the 17th century respectively. We find no person/place/company credited for having *invented* this particular confection.

"[In France] where the buche de Noel, a roll of light sponge cake, is covered in chocolate or coffee buttercream textured to resemble bark. The conceit is carried further by mounding the cream over small pieces of cake stuck to the main roll, to represent trimmed branches. The ends of the roll and the cut faces of the branches are finished with vanilla cream, imitating pale newly cut wood, and the whole is decorated with leaves made from icing, or meringue mushrooms."

---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson, [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 184)


The yule log cake is served at the midnight feast that follows Mass on Christmas Eve. Although it does not take the place of our flaming Christmas pudding, it makes a nice dessert to serve at any time during the Christmas season.

Buche de Noel

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 egg whites
Chocolate Butter Cream 1
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon hot water
2 or 3 blanched almonds
candied cherries
green sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the mixing bowl with hot water and wrap a hot wet towel around the base. Combine the egg yolks and sugar and beat for 5 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume. Fold in the flour and then the butter, which should be cooled. Fold in the beaten egg whites gently but thoroughly.

Butter a small, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (10X14) and dust it with flour. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth it evenly with a knife. Bake 10 minutes. Spread a damp towel on a marble slab or table. Run a knife around the edge of the baked cake and turn the pan upside down on the towel, leaving the pan on top of the cake until it is cool. Make the butter cream, using 5 egg yolks, and add to it the dissolved instant coffee. Spread the cake with the butter cream and roll it up lenghthwise like a jelly roll. Place seam side down on a long serving tray and cut off both ends diagonally. Put the remaining butter cream in a pastry bag fitted with a flat cannellated tip. Force the cream lengthwise over the surface of the cake to give the appearance of bark. Place a 'knot' here and there. Decorate the cake with almonds and a sprig of holly made with strips of angelica and little rounds of candied cherries. Sprinkle very lightly with green sugar."


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 9, 2016

Peter McAuslan


Peter McAuslan's family originated from Glasgow, Scotland. His father grew up in NDG and worked for CN. His mother was from Lachine, where he grew up. He attended John Grant High School, after which he studied at Sir George Williams University, graduating with a BA in 1972.

He was employed by the YMCA for several years as a community organizer before taking a position at Dawson College (where he later became the Secretary General).

Peter began experimenting with home brewing and took a trip with his wife to Europe to learn more about independent breweries. He put together a business plan for opening his own brewery, and began to seek out investors (many of which were his colleagues at Dawson).

While still working at Dawson, Peter and Ellen visited a friend's brewery in Portland. This friend, Allan Pugsey, showed Ellen, a biologist, how to brew beer. In 1988, at the age of forty, Peter quit his job and went about setting up his brewery.

They built their brewery slowly. They began by producing one type of beer (St. Ambroise Pale Ale) and working with a staff of four. By 2000, they had employed 40-50 people. That same year, they struck a deal with Moosehead to distribute locally. They then invested in a new brewing space, new equipment and a bigger payroll.

Peter's sons Todd and Taylor are also involved with the company. Todd distributes in the Plateau while Taylor focuses on the maritimes. The company as a whole distributes in six canadian provinces.

Peter was at one time the President of the Quebec Microbrewery Association, and a director of the Brewer's Association of Canada and the Association of Brewers in the U.S.


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 7, 2016




Traditional Christmas celebrations in the predominantly Catholic province of Quebec include attending midnight Mass. Just as in the United States, some families open their gifts on Christmas Eve, others on Christmas morning.
            To add a French Canadian touch to your holiday celebrations, try this traditional recipe.


            1 pound lean pork shoulder
            1 pound beef, venison or boned wild fowl meat
            1 pound veal shoulder or boned chicken
            6 medium onions, chopped
            1 teaspoon salt
            1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
            4 large potatoes, peeled
            Enough pastry for three 9-inch pie crusts (your favorite recipe or refrigerated storebought pastry)
            Egg wash (1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 to teaspoons milk or water)

            Chop the meats into 1/2-inch cubes. Coming meat cubes with onions, salt and pepper in large bowl; mix thoroughly with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
            Dice potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes. Put in large bowl. Add 4 to 6 cups cold water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

            The next morning, roll out pastry. (Use two-thirds of the pastry for the bottom crust, and the remaining one-third of the pastry and trimmings for the top crust.) Use bottom-crust pastry to line a baking dish (preferably a cast-iron Dutch oven) at least 4 inches deep that will hold about 12 to 14 cups of filling. Drain potatoes, reserving water. Add potatoes to meat mixture. Transfer mixture to pastry-lined baking dish. Add enough of the reserved potato water (about 3 cups) to bring it up to the top of the meat; add additional cold water if needed.

            Brush outer edge of pastry with eggwash. Cover with top crust; seal edges. In the center, cut a 2-inch hole and insert a small “chimney” of foil. Seal the base of the chimney with eggwash and a bit of the pastry trimmings. Brush surface of pastry with eggwash. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven one hour; reduce temperature to 250 degrees and bake 6 to 8 hours, or until richly golden brown. Check from time to time during baking to make sure the meat is not too dry and the juices can be seen in the foil chimney. If not, add a little hot water through the hole.

            Serve piping hot with beet pickles and a variety of relishes.

            Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
            Note: Traditionally, lard pastry is used. 


© 2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Monday, December 5, 2016

Origins of Celtic Christmas


5687547_f1024Christmas has been marked in Ireland since St Patrick brought Christianity to the island in the fifth century. Over the centuries pagan Celtic customs merged with Christianity to produce some uniquely Celtic Christmas traditions for the winter festival. While not all are practiced today, some can still be seen – customs which date back to earlier, less commercial times.

Before the coming of Christianity the people of Ireland practiced a pagan druidic religion which gave them a keen sense of their connection with the natural world. Like many earlier peoples around the world, the winter solstice of 21st December was particularly important to the Gaelic Irish. The winter solstice is the shortest day / longest night of the year. However for the Celts it marked the turning point in the year. In the dark and cold of winter, at solstice the sun begins the long journey back towards its midsummer peak.

The Celts celebrated the turning point of the sun with fires in sacred places such as the Hill of Tara. The use of fire to mark the winter solstice may have contributed to the more recent Irish tradition of placing a candle in the window of your house during the twelve days of the Christmas season. It is the time of year when the Celts, just like people all across the world want to rekindle the light of love and hope in their lives.

A candle in the window: As well as a throw-back to the ancient Celtic custom of using fire to celebrate the turning point of the year, this tradition is said to be aimed at welcoming travellers to your home. The candle in the window marks the way to warmth and hospitality to anyone who finds themselves, like Mary and Joseph in the New Testament, without a place to stay at Christmas time.

Greenery: The druids of the ancient Celtic world used evergreen to branches to symbolize the eternal nature of the human soul. In Christian times the tradition of bringing evergreen branches into an Irish home has continued, as a symbol of the eternal life brought about by Christ’s resurrection. In Celtic countries evergreen branches such as holly and yew are more traditional than the German custom of bringing an entire tree into the home.

In Irish (Gaelic) Nollaig Shona Duit means Happy Christmas to you. It is pronounced no-leg show-na ditch.

A traditional Irish Christmas blessing in English is: 'May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.'

At new years it is traditional in Ireland to say 'Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo arís.'In English - May we be alive at this time next year...


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 2, 2016

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train


Now in its 18th year, Canadian Pacific's annual Holiday Train will travel across Canada and the northern United States to raise money, food and awareness for food banks and hunger issues while hosting free concerts along the way.
Since its launch in 1999, the program has raised more than C$12 million and nearly 4 million pounds of food for communities along CP's routes.



There will be two trains under the Holiday Train banner, each approximately 1,000 feet in length with 14 rail cars decorated with thousands of LED lights and a boxcar that has been converted into a traveling stage.



"For nearly 20 years, CP has watched communities turn out to enjoy a wonderful event while taking a stand against hunger," E. Hunter Harrison, CP's CEO, said. "We are proud of the role the Holiday Train plays, but more importantly, we're proud of the people and families that come out year after year to help their neighbors. They're the reason we keep bringing the train back."

One train will launch on Nov. 25 and the other launches a day later - both out of Montreal. The final shows of the U.S. train will be in Saskatchewan on Dec. 15 and the final show of the tour will be in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, on Dec. 17.
Every pound of food and dollar raised at each stop stays with the local food back to help those in need in that community.

The Canadian train will feature musical guests Dallas Smith and Odds, while the U.S. train will feature Kelly Prescott and Doc Walker between Montreal and Windsor, Ontario and Colin James covering the Midwest and Great Plains shows. Jonathan Roy will perform at the Quebec locations.

"We are very excited about this year's CP Holiday Train and are encouraging all event attendees to bring healthy, nutritious food items to the shows," Pam Jolliffee, interim executive director for Food Banks Canada, said.

Fans of the Holiday Train are encouraged to take photos capturing the train in various cities and landscapes and entering the "Capture the Spirit" photo contest on Facebook for a chance to win an exclusive ride on next year's train.

The train will make stops in Quebec, New York, Ontario, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. For a full schedule, click here.

For those not in the area of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, there are various holiday-based excursions around the country. Here is a state-by-state list we've put together.

Chasing the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

Holiday Train – 2015


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Éva Circé-Côté


She was the daughter of Ezilda Décarie (1846-1926) and Narcissus Circe (1842-1911), Montreal merchant  .She studied at the Convent of the Sisters of St. Anne in Lachine.



In 1900, when already known as a poet and speaker, she began her journalistic career in the Debates .Her essays and poems earned her rave reviews. From 1900 to 1942, she worked for newspapers L'Avenir ,The Illustrated World , The Future of the North , the Nationalist, The Country and The World worker.In 1902, with other young writers, she founded The Spark , a literary journal. She signed some 1,100 columns in various newspapers of opinion, under the pseudonyms of Columbine, Musette, John Nay, Fantasio, Arthur Maheu, Julien Saint-Michel, Paul S. Bédard. Francophile, she called his collection of poems and essays Blue, White, Red .

In 1903, she was appointed first librarian of the Technical Library, the first public library in Montreal. It will have the title of assistant librarian of the Library of the City of Montreal from 1915 to 1932.

In 1905, she married Dr. Pierre Côté-Salomon, who was known as the doctor of the poor of Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood. They had a daughter, Eve. After the death of her husband in 1909, according to his last wishes, he was cremated. She attended the progressive circles and Freemasons in Montreal.

From the end of xix th  century, it gives lectures on education for girls. In 1908, with journalist Georgina Belanger , it opens in Montreal a secular school for girls, however firm in 1910 . In January 1910 she began her collaboration with the radical liberal weekly The Nation led by Godfroy Langlois . From the foundation of worker World by Gustave Francq , she joins her team and published in the union newspaper until 1942. From 1937, she also published in the French Protestant newspaper L'Aurore .

Four plays, historical dramas or comic satires, each is worth a price. In 1922, she was elected vice-president of the French section of the Society of Canadian authors of which she is a founding member.

Liberal and progressive, she denounces the imperialism , the anti-Semitism and religious power of the time in Quebec. The struggle for free thought , the separation of church and state, free education, compulsory and secular. Women, she says, "The time evolution of a people sound when the woman ceases to be a slave. "It defends workers' rights and calls for reform of the provisions Civil Code on the status of married women.

Admirer of the Patriots and Louis-Joseph Papineau , in 1924 she published Papineau. His influence on Canadian thinking. Historical psychology test .


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Maude Abbott



Maude Abbott, pathologist - Though world famous, Abbott was never promoted beyond the rank of assistant professor at McGill, where she taught because she was a woman.


Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott, pathologist (b at St Andrews East [St-André-Est], Qué 18 Mar 1869; d at Montréal 2 Sept 1940). Though she graduated in arts from McGill (1890), she was barred from medicine because of her sex, so she earned Bishop's CM, MD (1894); ironically McGill awarded her MD, CM (honoris causa, 1910) also LLD (1936). As assistant curator, McGill Medical Museum (1898), and curator (1901), she introduced the use of the museum in teaching pathology.

A disciple of William OSLER, she contributed to his text Modern Medicine (1908) the chapter on "Congenital Heart Disease," which he declared the best thing he had ever read on the subject. Apart from 2 years, her whole career was at McGill where, though world famous, she was never promoted beyond the rank of assistant professor.

She served as permanent international secretary of the International Association of Medical Museums and editor of its journal (1907-1938), and published many papers on pathology as well as histories of medicine and nursing. A trifle eccentric in later life, she was generous, active, always involved and sometimes known as "The Beneficent Tornado."


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Maisonneuve/Morgan public bath


Bain Maisonneuve opened its doors in 1916. It included a bath and a gymnasium. This building was part of a program to improve the hygiene and the security in the city of Maisonneuve. At the beginning of the 20th century, not all the houses were equipped with a bath, so the Maisonneuve public bath was useful in regards to general hygiene. However, six days per week the public bath was open to men only; women were allowed in the building on Tuesdays only.



Bain Maisonneuve was designed by architect Marius Dufresne. Dufresne contributed a lot to the development of the city of Maisonneuve; for example, he designed the Maisonneuve Market and the Château Dufresne, the latter one in partnership with French architect Jules Renard. The Maisonneuve public bath was inspired by a city planning concept from the United-States, called "City Beautiful", which aimed to improve and embellish the cities.

This Beaux-Arts style building has similarities with the Grand Central Station in New York. It is also inspired by the public baths of the Antique Rome. In front of the building, there is a bronze sculpture-fountain, entitled ''Les petits baigneurs", from artist Alfred Laliberté.

In 1918, due to bankruptcy the city of Maisonneuve was integrated to Montreal. As the new owner of the Maisonneuve public bath, the city of Montreal decided to turn it into the École de police de la Ville de Montréal. Thus, from 1920 to 1960 the building served as a training centre for the young policemen.

The building changed name for Bain Morgan in 1961. It returned to its first vocation and is still today a public swimming pool.

SOURCES: Mémorable Montréal

©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Robillard


Last Thursday, a fire unfortunately destroyed The Robillard, a historic 19th-century building in Montreal's Chinatown district. As a heritage building, the Robillard certainly lived up to the designation with its historical significance: it was the birthplace of cinema in Canada.

On June 27, 1896, naval officer Louis Minier and his assistant Louis Pupier organized Canada's first public screening using a new device called the cinematograph. Developed by French filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumière, the invention could project movies as well as record them — in direct competition with Thomas Edison's Vitascope projector.


ciurtesy – Montreal Archives 1921

Six months prior, the Lumières had revealed their world-changing motion picture technology for the first time to the public and charged for admission. Among several other films, Sortie de l'usine Lumière de Lyon(Workers leaving the Lumière Factory) was screened in Paris on Dec. 28, 1895, at the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines. Soon the Lumières licenced their creation to entrepreneurs around the world, including Minier and Pupier. In fact, the Montreal screening was not only the first screening in Canada, but the first in North America — the Lumière cinematograph made its American debut at Keith's Union Square Theater in New York, just two days after Montreal.

At that time, Robillard was used as a variety and vaudeville theatre — the idea of a movie theatre did not yet exist, of course — but Minier and Pupier's demonstration proved to be so successful that the theatre was booked for a two-month run of the cinematograph before the duo toured the new technology around Quebec.

While that historic day in June in Montreal is now proven to be the first movie screening in North America, for many years Canadian film historians reported erroneously that cinema first came to this country by Canadian entrepreneurs Andrew and George Holland, who had licensed Edison's Vitascope for a public demonstration in Ottawa. That much-discussed screening took place in the nation capital's West End Park on July 21, 1896. A magician provided a 30-minute pre-show before the event, in which the Holland brothers screened Edison films like The Kiss. The historic event was recreated in the summer of 2014 by community organizers.

It was only in the 1980s that French-Canadian scholars Andre Gaudreault and Germain Lacasse disabused the notion that Ottawa's screening preceded Montreal's. Their research revealed the discrepancies in reports from English and French media sources about Canada's first film screening. Since Minier and Pupier had publicized the event in French (their English was supposedly not very good), the Robillard screening was never mentioned in English-language publications in Montreal at the time.

Nonetheless, French-Canadian journalists were quite taken with the Lumières' novel moving-picture technology. Here's one enthusiastic report from La Presse:

"We were shown, as in some strange phantasmagoria, scenes from different places in France. First there was the arrival of a train at the Lyon-Perrache station ... you could clearly see each individual. Is [sic] was most lifelike: you really were at the station. The train left and everything disappeared ... And the sea? We saw it, not immobile, but rolling its waves. Is [sic] was most striking. 'How refreshing!' cried a jocular fellow."

Anglophone film historians researching the time and place of Canada's first film screening had entirely missed the Montreal screening by examining solely English sources. "The discrepancies in the reporting of this event are a good example of what more and more historians have come to acknowledge: history is also — is mostly — a discourse, sometimes biased, made to serve interests and ideas," wrote Gaudreault and Lacasse in "The Introduction of the Lumière Cinematograph in Canada," an account of their research in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies.

The article also questions the idea of "firsts" in history, as the Lumière cinematograph and Edison's Vitascope were two of several similar inventions displayed at the time to project moving pictures. For example, the Eidoloscope — a motion-picture projector created by Eugene Augustin Lauste, Woodville Latham and his two sons — screened publicly in the spring of the same year that the Lumière brothers' and Edison's technologies were taking off. Yet it's rarely discussed when we talk about the "birth of cinema."

Over a century later, the memory of the now-destroyed Robillard Building should serve as a reminder that history isn't always as neatly squared away as textbooks might want us to believe — and that in the realm of Canadian cinema, Quebec has always been ahead of the curve.


©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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