Boer War Page 68

Picture Press 5: In Canada

More Great Canadian Anglo-Boer War lithos, pictures, and prints, salvaged for posterity from the trash heap of history by the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum.

If you have others, please let us know.


The Kilties (1902-1933): "Scottish Medley" 1902
(also known as the Regimental Band of the Gordon Highlanders)

You are listening to one of Canada's very first recordings, "Scottish Medley" played in 1902, by one of Canada's very first recording bands, the Kilties. Formed in Toronto by members of the 48th Highlanders Band to keep some touring commitments of that group, the Kilties Band of Belleville, Ontario was one of Canada's most popular international touring bands of its day.

You can hear these earliest Canadian recordings on our program's sound track. Details on our Music Page.


Return of the Volunteers, 1885

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Return of the Volunteers, 1885 (detail)
Orig. lithograph - Size - 13" x 18"
Found - Napanee, ON
Toronto Lithographing Co.,
Pub. by Grip, Toronto, 1885
Rare! This fabulous print is one of the rarest Canadian chromolithographs. It was published by the Toronto Lithographing Co. and Grip Ltd. in 1885.

Grip is, of course, where the first members of the famed Canadian painting group the "Group of Seven" earned their bread and butter to pay for their self-indulgent hobby of painting Canadian outdoor scenes - which nobody wanted then, nor for almost a hundred years after.....

And this print is a good example of why not. Who wants rough-looking pictures of water, clouds, and trees, when you can have a wonderfully detailed and stirring picture of real Canadian heroes, returning triumphantly from putting Riel and those pesky "red skins" in their place?

(The Grip Group, which included MacDonald, Varley, Johnston, Carmichael, Lismer, and Thomson, were urban escapists, who sought refuge for their creative spirits away from the industrial screech and smell of downtown Toronto, in the untouched remote landscapes of Canada.)

Red River Rebellion of 1870: When the Hudson's Bay Company sold its vast western Canadian territories to the newly formed Dominion of Canada, in 1869, the government sought to exert its power over the native populations that had lived there in harmony with the Bay, which had owned the land since 1670.

The confrontation between the Anglo-Saxon Government in Ottawa, and the Indians and Métis (mixed Indian and French ethnicity) came to a head when Government surveyors came west and started subdividing the land without regard to the traditional land titles of local populations.

he Métis under Louis Riel took a leadership role to assert their rights, and set up shop inside Fort Garry (below).

A boisterous Ontarian "red neck," Thomas Scott, challenged the Métis council's right to make laws which he brashly refused to obey. The Council condemned Scott and his loud and constant undermining of its authority, as treasonous and voted to execute him. The death of this Ontarian outraged eastern Canadians. The Government sent out Col. Wolseley in 1870 to put down "the Rebellion." Riel and the council fled for their lives. The Red River Rebellion was over.

The soldiers wanted souvenirs to take back to Ontario. An artist, Lionel M. Stephenson painted views of Fort Garry (today the heart of downtown Winnipeg) as it existed in 1869. These turn up from time to time at auctions. (12 x 18" oil on board found at Palgrave, ON)

The 1885 Rebellion: After the Red River Rebellion fizzled out, many Métis moved west to Saskatchewan, where one was still free to roam and hunt buffalo. But by 1885 the long arm of the Canadian government reached even there. The Métis and their Indian allies made a stand; the government sent out an army and after famous fights - Duck Lake, Cut Knife, and Fish Creek - broke the back of the Indigenous People's revolt at Batoche (Print right found at Milton, ON).

Four famous chromolithographs were struck to commemorate these battles and are found every now and then at antique stores and auctions. They are among the earliest Canadian coloured lithos made.

But the "Returning Volunteers" (top) showing the men returning to Ontario, after Batoche, is extremely rare and impossible to find.

The Red River Valley - The Song: Contrary to popular belief, The Red River Valley was not written by an American in the US. The most authoritative research points strongly to the conclusion that the famous song was composed by one of the 1,200 men Col. Wolseley brought with him to the Red River Valley, in 1870. Other versions cropped up along the Canadian prairies in the years after. Sure, the Americans had a Red River Valley, but the song didn't become known there till the 1890s.

Adios Muchachos - Hasta La Vista Baby: And of course, in a Texas region, tapping a huge hinterland of hispanic people, who would ever dream of writing "Do not hasten to bid me 'adieu'," - let alone sing it - without being laughed out of the barrios. But across the Canadian West, French was widely spoken by the Métis. And Wolseley's expedition made use of hundreds of French-Canadian voyageurs to boat his expedition to the Red River.

Métis or Métis ? - No, not a typo! To be perfectly correct, grammatically, in French, the second is preferred, by some. The word stems from the French moitié, or "half" to describe a people who stem from the French traders and voyageurs of the Fur Trade days, who married Indian women. They were proud of their "half breed" heritage. The Métis organization of Ontario writes it in the latter French style.

But the Métis who founded Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who carry the legacy of the history of Western Canada in their veins, proudly refer to themselves as Métis, a people linguistically free to be themselves.


Souvenir of Black Week, Dec. 1899

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War "The Soldier's Dream" calendar 1901
Orig. calendar - Size - 18.5" x 26.5"
Found - St. Georges, ON
Signed to Elliott, Marr, & Co. Grocers, London, ON
"Black Week" Rediscovered: This wonderfully huge lithograph was produced in December 1900 for a grocer in London, Ontario and features the calender for 1901. December, 1899 was an extremely emotional time throughout the British Empire, and no less so in Canada as proven by this wonderful Canadian lithograph. (Found in an old attic in Brantford, Ontario.)
The Disasters of Black Week: "Black Week" of December 10-15, 1899 saw a trio of terrible British reverses suffered by the world's most powerful army at the hands of militarily untrained Boer farmers: Stormberg, where General Gattacre, in trying to attack the Boers at night, lost hundreds of his men in the dark. The Boers found and captured the lot. Magersfontein, where General Wauchope died in another disastrous night attack, resulting in another British retreat, and Colenso, where General Buller, the British commander-in-chief himself, had to retreat with heavy losses and suffered a fate worse than death itself, the loss of ten artillery guns to the Boers.
Anatomy of a Slaughterhouse: Right, historian John Goldi stands in the middle of the slaughterhouse at Colenso, between the two stone blocks that mark the spots from which two British guns were rescued, and points up the valley from where gallant British troopers rode fearlessly into the teeth of an awesome Boer fire. But so many men and horses were shot down, that General Buller called off further rescue attempts and ordered a retreat.
Seven Victoria Crosses were won for the gallant acts carried out on this small piece of ground, the second highest number ever awarded by Britain for a single engagement. Left, one of the heroes who died on this spot during the rescue of the two guns, Freddy Roberts VC, the only son of the new British commander-in-chief appointed in the wake of the Black Week disasters. Lord Roberts "Bobs" and Freddy were the first father and son to both win the Victoria Cross.
Honouring the Sacrifices of Black Week. A grocery store in London, Ontario wanted its customers to remember the heroes of Black Week for the entire year, by making this litho "The Soldier's Dream" the centerpiece of its calender for 1901.

"The Soldier's Dream" was especially inspired by the slaughterhouse at Magersfontein, where the Highland Brigade stumbled into an ambush at night.

Right, standing at the spot where the flower of a nation was cut down, historian John Goldi points to the Boer trenches, cannily dug in the middle distance, from which an ambuscade of rifle fire cut down the British Highland Brigade, as in tight formation, it was silently marching, in the dead of night, to surprise the Boers, supposedly waiting on Magersfontein hill in the background.

Among the first to fall at the front of his men, the gallant General Wauchope celebrated in this period Stevengraph, woven in silk (below).

The ground above, littered the next morning with hundreds of dead and dying highlanders, inspired the Soldier's Dream, a dying highlander's last kiss from a ghostly daughter.

This scene of a dying soldier receiving a last ghostly kiss from his daughter, must have been especially evocative for the citizens of London, Ontario which was heavily settled by immigrants from Scotland many of whom must have had relatives that died during the Boer War.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stevengraph of Maj. Gen. Wauchope 1900
Woven silk - Size - 2.5" x 4"
Found - Toronto, ON
In orig. mount.

Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Premier Sir Wilfrid Laurier c. 1900
Oilette on canvas - Size - 20" x 28"
Found - Milton, ON
In orig. frame
This huge and rare oilette of Canada's Prime Minister during the Anglo-Boer War, remains in wonderful shape despite its age.

Laurier is chiefly responsible taking steps to see that Canadian volunteers, who were signed up to serve in the Imperial Army, would not be simple cannon fodder to plug up holes in the British ranks, but would go as Canadian units, in Canadian uniforms, under Canadian officers. His decisions - at a time when Canada had no real standing army of its own - were major factors leading to the establishment of the permanent Canadian Armed Forces of today.


Joe Chamberlain - The British Colonial Secretary
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary, 1900
Copper plaque - Size - 8" x 10"
Found - Toronto, ON
Orig. frame
This rare and unique copper plate relief image is of Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary, whose family was in the munitions business, and who was behind the machinations leading up to the outbreak of war with the Boers in 1899.

When the navy dismounted a huge naval gun from a battleship to go after the Boers at Magersfontein, they named it "Joe Chamberlain" in his honour.

This magnificent copper process was used for other leading figures during the war, including Baden-Powell. It has a wonderful patina after 100 years and a rich oak frame to hold it.

Obviously a Canadian family thought highly enough of this British cabinet minister to hang and preserve this plaque in his memory for the past hundred years.


c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000