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Mystery Canadian Boer War Quilt - 1900

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure The Mystery Quilt...

A fine piece of history from a small Ontario town showing how people came together to show support for the local boys who went off to fight in the Boer War.

This fabulous quilt was hand stitched with the names of some 200 women who, perhaps, contributed to a support parcel for the boys in South Africa... we guess...

Perhaps they had knitted socks, gloves, hats, or even sweaters for the boys. In return the contributors' names were stitched on the memorial quilt.

Sadly it is a mystery quilt, because no one added the name of the town it's from, the date it was made, or even the reason for it.

Perhaps by trying to identify the names we can narrow down the town it might be from...

Canadian Boer War Community Quilt - 1900
Orig. plate - Image Size - 23 cm
Found - London, ON
Mrs. C Currier

The stitching across the quilt varies, in the way the characters are formed.

Like handwriting, stitching names betrays the unique styling of each worker.

But there is a uniformity of lettering within each wheel - the Ms and Fs are good letters for comparison.

It appears then, that one woman, whose name is at the centre of each wheel, stitched all the names for her piece.

There are a dozen wheels like this, which were then assembled into the main quilt.

Clearly at some point a group planning session had to be arranged to pick the design, and compile the names for each particular spot.

We have no way of knowing who the coordinating genius for doing this was.

 

CC Elliott

One thing that is very noteworthy is that all the names are Anglo-Saxon: English, Irish, or Scottish, reflecting the overwhelming nature of Canada in 1900, the duality of the two European founding races of Canada.

This was southern Ontario settled overwhelmingly by people of British stock.

The quilt reflects this historic past of the Two Solitudes of Canada - French and English.

There are no French names on this quilt.

Partly because there are no French settlers living in this area.

But it reflects another reality: Canada's original settling peoples, the French, overwhelming opposed this war.

French-Canadians have truly been the "Conscience of Canada," both in 1900, and in 2006, holding out, in vain, both times against the cry for blood by the ruling elites intent on piling up the bodies - Boers in 1900, Muslims in 2006.

M Gale

Here and there is an interesting anomaly.

Mrs. Bloom for instance.

Is she Jewish, a lone soul in the midst of an Anglo enclave of Christians of United, Anglican, and Presbyterian views?

Where do you go, Mrs. Bloom, for mental comfort in your private moments with your God, in a community where not a single other person shares your passion, or understands what you really are all about... or really cares?

This homogeneous group is not really a receptive community for "outsiders."

This was 100 years before people started to take the "multi-cultural" nature of Canada seriously.

During the Boer War everyone talked about the superiority of the British Race, and how far the Boers - and maybe Mrs. Bloom? - fell short.

How did you end up, choosing to live and raise your children in such an isolated and isolating community?

D Hagerty

Then and Now; Them and Us

Have things really changed, much, in 2011? Or has the racism merely gone underground.

Take for instance, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

The superior White Christians of European background - which all the NATO troops of CWILLKILL (Coalition of the Willing to do the Killing) are - have banded together to teach those inferior non-White Muslims a lesson they won't soon forget.

Exactly the sentiments of most Canadians - not those of French background - during the Boer War.

The papers were full of racist comments by journalists urging on the bloodletting.

Very much like Rosie diManno and Christie Blatchford, the strident Ladies Ha-Ha, of our day, who were virulently racist in their attacks on the Muslims the Christian NATO forces were fighting.

Kemp Daughters???

A name we could not decipher...

Another Mrs. Bloom here, probably the same one, this one with an added initial "B."

DM McIntyre

Some preferred to be anonymous.

A Friend is hardly the name of someone, but a choice, for some reason, to not have his real name put on the quilt.

The heart was there, but not to be worn on the sleeve...

A Montrealer is another pseudonym for someone who feels word might get out, and he doesn't want it to...

An Auld Acquaintance is still another contributor who wants anonymity.

Miss E Oldring ???

Another name we are not sure of.

Mrs. J Pattison

There are no fewer than eight "Miss" names on this wheel, several Gould sisters.

Probably the most kids or teenagers of any circle.

Mrs Purton
JB Smith
Mrs. J Worth
Queen Victoria

The most patriotic wheel may have the key.

It lists the top Canadian names in Col. Otter, who commanded the First Contingent, and Lord Strathcona, who paid to outfit another.

Ethnic Patriotism - An interesting oddity is that Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier - a French-Canadian, who was lukewarm about sending troops - is not memorialized here, but Lord Salisbury the British PM is...

And there are numerous well-known British generals, some like Buller, Roberts, Hutton, Kitchener, and Smith-Dorrien, with Canadian connections. Some not.

Winston Churchill is there, a patriotic journalist - in the jingoistic style of Rosie and Christie - who was famous for being captured by the Boers and then making a dramatic escape.

And there are some mystery names among the celebrities, notably a Col. McDonald, a Capt. Stuart, and among the outer circle of illustrious heroes, is Allan Rae...

Allan who...?

On this wheel are three names who are not top commanders: a Colonel McDonald, a Captain Stuart, and Allan Rae.

So you look through Boer War records and see if one of these names gets a hit.

You start with the oddest name first, Allan Rae, on the assumption that it already narrows the field of possible candidates. There are far too many McDonalds and Stuarts in Ontario to sort through.

It turns out that Allan Rae, who was originally from Kingston, Ontario, went to the Boer War, under Colonel Otter (both names right) but signed up from distant London, Ontario. Hmmh... odd...

When you check his Boer War Attestation Paper, lo and behold, the recruiting officer who signs him up is a Captain DEW Stuart (name right) who went to South Africa as an officer under Colonel Otter.

But Allan would not have signed up in London, if he had lived in Kingston, several hundred kms away. Did he live in London. No clue in his Boer War papers.

So you check if he has World War I Attestation Papers as well. Numerous Boer War volunteers eagerly signed up for World War I, a dozen years later, figuring to relive the Boer War highlight of their lives. Bad move...

Allan does have papers, and - Eureka! - they list his place of residence as Glencoe, Ontario, which is only a short drive from London... So he must have lived there during the Boer War, and accounts for why he signed up in London, in 1899.

Then it turns out that Captains DEW Stuart was a lawyer living in Glencoe.

So they both went from Glencoe to London to sign up for the Boer War, in the Royal Canadian Regiment, under Colonel Otter, whose name is on the same wheel.

It is almost a certainty then, that the women of Glencoe, Ontario, stitched this quilt in honour, and support, of their two local heroes who went off to fight for Queen and Country. And on the same wheel that honoured the Queen and the top military commanders of the age.

In fact a lot of the family names that are listed on the quilt were still common in Glencoe in the 1950s, including one family of Blooms...

There are 210 names on the quilt, the vast majority being women, and young girls.

There are some 30 men.

The quilt may originally have been for display.

But once the mass butchery of World War I began it wiped out the significance of the quaint adventure of two local boys in a little war in Africa, from which they returned quite safe and sound.

With the unending lists of the dead, and the steady stream of returning blind, armless, and legless men, the quilt lost its meaning.

Whoever had it, used it for warmth instead.

It shows that it was quite well used, for a period of time, till someone put it away for safe keeping.

It is a fine memorial to a time when passionate Canadians insisted on sending the first ever military contingents to fight in an overseas war.

Left Alan Rae's Boer War Attestation paper signed by Duncan Stuart a lawyer, with offices in London and Glencoe, Ontario.

Below Alan Rae's WWI Attestation Paper listing his place of residence as Glencoe, Ontario.

 

Left Duncan Stuart's letter trying to get his Paardeberg clasp because Col. Otter had forgetfully omitted his leading officer's name off the list for honours sent to England. Otter later acknowledged his mistake, and Stuart got his clasp.

His official letterhead does show his offices are London and Glencoe (top right) in 1905, and in World War I, he lists his address as Glencoe.