Politics vs. a trip to the circus

In September 1864, John A. MacDonald’s ship pulled into Charlottetown’s harbour. Its hold was full of champagne, ready for a great celebration. After all, MacDonald had just reached a deal that would lay the path for the confederation of Canada.

Photo montage of author Anne McDonald with the father of Canadian confederation

Photo montage of author Anne McDonald with the father of Canadian confederation

In September 1864, John A. MacDonald’s ship pulled into Charlottetown’s harbour. Its hold was full of champagne, ready for a great celebration. After all, MacDonald had just reached a deal that would lay the path for the confederation of Canada.

The townsfolk were in the street partying, bedecked with picnic baskets and parasols. But they weren’t interested in the upcoming conference. Only one man rowed out to greet the political guests and even he was longing to be back on shore.

It seemed the Islanders wanted to celebrate an arrival of a different sort: the circus. And who could blame them? It had been ages since a circus came north to their shores. In the 1800s, East Coast circuses travelled by ship and it was only because of the American Civil War that this one made its way north and toured Canada.

Does it seem farfetched that more people would be interested in the circus than the formation of a country? The story is, in fact, true.

In her just-released book, To the Edge of the Sea, author Anne McDonald follows John A’s campaign to champion confederation. McDonald first learned of the circus incident on a Canadian Heritage TV commercial. Intrigued, she spent nine years extensively researching the events.

In the book, though, McDonald doesn’t just focus on the campaign. She frames the story with the blossoming romance between John A. and a young PEI woman named Mercy Coles. McDonald also inserts two fictional brothers into the story.

The first brother, Reggie, protests alongside his farming relatives, who are fed up with paying rent to the few landlords who owned most of P.E.I. The other brother, Alex, runs away with the circus. He eventually finds himself in Niagara Falls, coming face to face with the legendary tight rope walker, Farini. As it turns out, John A. and Mercy Coles also happen to make a stop in Niagara Falls.

It’s obvious that McDonald loves intriguing, obscure and humorous historical details. She includes many discovered while poring over history books, old newspapers and even a copy of Mercy Coles’ diary tucked away in the P.E.I. archives.

To the Edge of the Sea has a dream-like quality and is playfully poetic. McDonald follows a historical narrative, but is just as interested in language, symbols and metaphors. If you enjoy the writings of authors such as Michael Ondaatje and Sheila Watson, then this is an interpretation of Canadian history that you won’t want to miss. Happy Canada Day!

Heather Allen is a writer and reader who lives in Penticton.

allenh@telus.net

 

 

Just Posted

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Cheetahs can’t roar

Your morning start for Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Highway 3, east of Osoyoos was closed all Monday due to a liquid tar spilled all over the road.
Highway 3, east of Osoyoos, is now open to single lane traffic

The highway was closed all Monday due to liquid tar spilled all over the road

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

(Pixabay.com photo)
No COVID-19 baby boom in Summerland

Pandemic has not resulted in surge in births in 2020 and 2021

(Black Press file photo)
EDITORIAL: Curtailing attempts at scams

The true total of losses from all scams and frauds could be much higher than the figures on file

Teenagers make their way to Truswell Road after a party is broken up by police at the end of Mission Creek (Lorraine Besner/Contributed).
Kelowna residents concerned about ongoing alleged underage beach parties

Public urination, property damage, drinking and drug usage have become weekly concerns

Val Litwin is the latest candidate to declare his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership. (Litwin campaign video)
Political newcomer joins contest for B.C. Liberal leadership

Val Litwin a former B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Regulations needed for short-term rentals in Summerland

Summerland still does not have bylaw rules that govern the management of short-term rentals

A new air cleaning technology will be installed at Unisus School in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Virus cleaning pilot set for Unisus School in Summerland

Summerland-based lighting company to install technology at private school

A West Kelowna man was seriously injured in a single-vehicle collision early on Tuesday morning. (Black Press file photo)
Single vehicle collision seriously injures West Kelowna man

The man was driving a pickup truck that went off the road and caught on fire

Golden Ears Mountains, captured in May 2021. (Black Press Media files)
2nd year of day passes required for entry into 5 provincial parks launches in B.C.

Pilot program seeks to protect the environment by addressing visitor surges amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Lincoln Mckoen. (YouTube)
Anglican bishop of the central Interior resigns over sexual misconduct allegations

Lincoln Mckoen was elected as a bishop of the Territory of the People region last year

Kelowna artist Bobby Vandenhoorn recently completed mural of late Canadian rock icon and activist Gord Downie now adorns Brenda Dalzell’s Sicamous business, the Bruhn Crossing Urban Market. (Contributed)
Canadian rock legend, activist Gord Downie inspires Sicamous mural

Business owner hopes artwork will help foster ongoing conversations around reconciliation

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve. (Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)
Tk’emlups preparing for archaeological work at B.C. residential school site where remains found

The 215 graves are, to the band’s knowledge, undocumented deaths for which it is still collecting records

Most Read