Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sir John Eh?

A couple of years back a cousin of mine tried to convince me that we were related to Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister.  I had not heard of this before, and decided to try to find the connection.  My great grandmother was Catherine Macdonald, but if you've ever looked at the Macdonald family you would immediately notice that there are an over abundance of Johns, James, Hughs, Alexanders and Catherines.  It's not easy to keep them all straight, but I'm sure I did rule out any possibility of any direct line relationship.  His only son that survived to adulthood, Hugh John Macdonald, who became the Premier of Manitoba married, but had no children. That was the end of the family line on the male side, and any females would, of course, have changed names upon marrying. 

I've been asked to check out lines from Sir John's brothers, or even his father's brothers. I will if I ever get time.  But really, I suspect my cousin's parents just told her that to make her feel special.  I remember my own Dad telling me I was a direct descendant of some Greek royalty, but I don't believe that's true either. I'm sure he just wanted me to feel like a princess.

Last night we went to see a play called Sir John Eh? which was advertised as a musical comedy.  There was music, and the odd funny bit here and there, but mostly it tried to pass on historical bits about Sir John and his life and career.  He was a bit of a scoundrel and a well known drunk.  Here's a wee excerpt from the play:
John A.: I never took bribes for my own use. I may have spent a few tax dollars at Mrs. Grimason's tavern. On my constituents. It was the custom of the day. Courtney: But you did takes bribes.
John A.: To pass along to others. Of course. Wheels don't turn if they don't have grease. Buy a man a drink, you've got his vote. Unless he's a Methodist. Make him a senator, he's yours for life. Bribery is an essential tool of government. Let me give you an example. (Sets the scene) I was fresh from winning the election in '87, giving my usual "Canadians have spoken their minds" speech - "Not for sacks of Yankee gold," sort of thing ...
Shortly after that the modern day character named Courtney blamed Sir John for setting a precedent for all the politicians we have today.  A bunch a corrupt bunch of liers, was the gist of what she called them.  And it was all his fault!

The play went on to indicate that he managed to impregnate the above mentioned Mrs Grimason during a time when both his first wife and her husband were still alive. In fact, the play made it look like his wife died while he was at the tavern for the night.  He went away for several months and and when he returned  he had married a woman that the play indicated was such a snob her nose dented her forehead.  He claimed that was his biggest mistake, as he would rather have taken up with the widowed Mistress of the bar.  That may have just been part of the play too. Who knows?

I'm no longer so sure I want to find myself related to this fellow, though apparently he was quite acceptable as a man of the day in which he lived.

I do like one of his sayings, and will try to remember it when things go wrong.

"When fortune empties her chamber pot on your head," Sir John A. once said, "smile and say we're going to have a summer shower."

The way the world is going lately, it sure feels like that chamber pot has been dumped.  And hey, we could use those summer showers right about now, right?

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