Beaching – In Other Times

While I have been waxing prosetic* on outings to the beaches of PEI over at SailStrait Harry Holman has been looking back on outings in the days when beaches were not as accessible as today.

Prince Edward Islanders gather for a picnic by the shore – circa 1880
Photo: Canada’s History Magazine

So pack up your picnic basket, bring out your sunshade, dust off the straw boater and make sure Aunt Maev has her shawl for later in the day. We’re heading down to harbour for an afternoon’s outing one sunny August day in 1877.

*Yes I’m aware that it isn’t a word but it should be! If I can wax in verse I should be able to wax in prose.


On hot summer days it is refreshing to think that for many of us getting to the beach is only a matter of jumping into a car and heading out. This ease of access to the sea shore is a relatively recent phenomena for Charlottetown. In spite of being a port the shoreline is remarkably inaccessible as there is not a really good beach within the city limits. There was bathing at Victoria Park and Kensington Beach and for the uninhibited there was always the attraction of swimming off the wharves. But this was hardly a family or social activity. Accessing a real beach meant a train ride to Hunter River or Bedford and then by wagon to Rustico or Tracadie where there were summer hotels, a round trip that could easily take all day.  Or one could take the Southport ferry and then go by carriage to Keppoch or…

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A Royal Obsession – Part II

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales at the time of his visit to North America in 1860.

Reading a bit on the life of Albert Edward Saxe-Cobourg and Gotha (Edward VII) one can only imagine the field day the tabloids would have with him in this day and age. Though there were gossip magazines galore in Victorian England they tended to be chary in their handling of royal “affairs”. If Royal scandals surfaced – and scandals there were, I mean did you know he had mistresses???? Including the grandmother of Camillla… well enough said about that – it was in the Welsh, colonial and U.S. press seldom in the English newspapers or journals.

A few weeks ago in Sailstrait, his rich historic site on Island things nautical, Harry Holman told us about the American presses’ reporting on Albert Edward’s visit to Prince Edward Island in 1860. And though they were respectful to the Prince of Wales they were decidedly less so to our fair isle. This past week, to balance the scales, he told us about the visit as reported by the a far more circumspect British chroniclers of the age.


“Thy grandsire’s name distinguishes this isle;
We love thy mother’s sway, and court her smile.”
Banner hanging in the ballroom of the Colonial Building, Charlottetown 1860.

A recent posting on this site featured American accounts of the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales to Charlottetown and highlighted, perhaps unfairly, the carnival-like atmosphere, overcrowding  and drunkenness which the journalists from the States chose to make a centerpiece of their reporting.  For the Americans, the Prince’s visit was a unique experience and their florid accounts strained to find moments of interest in what was oftentimes a repetition of the rounds of addresses, salutes, dinners and balls which would characterize the events across two nations as the Prince travelled to Canada and the United States.

Prince of Wales receiving addresses at Colonial Building 1860. London Illustrated News

For the English media, royal appearances were less of a one time event and more…

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A Royal Obsession

A recent look at the tabloids – oh come on you all read the headlines at the supermarket and you know it!!!!! – suggests a rather unhealthy obsession with our Canadian (Britian has some claim to them too) Royal Family. The details of suspected peccedillos, fusses and feuds amongst various members of the House of Windsor-Mountbatten seem to fascinate us lower classes as we tug at our forelocks and cry “Will they not leave poor Princess Megan alone?” Most totally unaware that she will never be “Princess” and isn’t exactly “poor” on any level.

But this obsession with British Royalty is nothing new for members of the fifth estate and their readers, particularly our American cousins. In 1860 Queen Victoria’s eldest son Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales visited the British Colonies and it appears that almost every breath he took was recorded by journalists and breathlessly read by their subscribers.

In his, always fascinating, blog Sailstait PEI historian, archivist and writer Harry Holman recounts the heady days in August 1860 when the visit to our Island by HRH was the news not only locally but internationally. Fine proof that the obsession with our Royal Family is nothing new.

March 29 is the 88th day of the year and a piano has 88 keys so naturally today is International Piano Day.


It was not a pretty sight and the correspondent for the New York Tribune made  it the centrepiece of his reporting of the event.  And what an event it was. The biggest thing to hit Charlottetown in its history. The first visit ever of a member of the Royal Family. Today it has become commonplace as every decade one or more Royals cycle through the province. It was not always so.

View of Royal Fleet at Charlotte Town 1860. From Journal of the Progress of the HRH Prince of Wales through British North America and his Visit to the United States. 1860.

When H.R.H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria, came to North America it was a major event wherever he visited. Not only did he visit the British Colonies, still four years away from becoming a nation, but he also travelled to the United…

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Librarian Pervert

Well my Lusty Librarian Lunedi Lunacy (see what I did there – alliteration!!!) inspired (if that is the right word) my blog buddy Old Lurker to bare his soul about a deep dark secret. I am humbled, if a bit smug, that what was largely a literary lark tapped into his libidinous library lust and led to a true confession much in the manner of the pocket books that inspired it.

And having no sense of propriety I thought I’d share his admission with you.

On this day in 1757: English poet Christopher Smart is admitted into St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London, beginning his six-year confinement to mental asylums.

Old Lurker

Willym recently posted some salacious book covers, which is as good an opportunity as any to commence the “shocking disclosures of sexual perversion” phase of this blog. Today’s shocking disclosure is: librarians.

I do not know how I ended up this way. Probably it is because I have an unhealthy fondness for libraries. Libraries are full of delicious books that (in principle) I am allowed to sign out and ravenously consume, provided that I don’t slobber on the pages and/or accumulate too many late fines. I know that some freaks purchase new books and develop long-term loving relationships with them; I do not understand these people. A passionate three-week romance is plenty for me, and then back to the shelves you go, delightful reading material. Maybe we will have a second go-around, but until then there are plenty of books in the sea.

That makes me a bookslut AND a…

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Of Plants and Pantry

In which the poster shares a blog, a recipe and some pleasure at the little serendipities of life.

One of the joys of last September’s trip to Ireland, England and the North Atlantic was a chance to spend some time with our friends David and his diplomate Jeremy in London.  Unfortunately it was only an afternoon but as always with these two gentlemen it was one of fine food, good conversation and a great discovery.  Both Laurent and I have come to the conclusion that if David recommends something – to read, to hear, or for an exploration – then it is more than worth investigating.  In this case he suggested a trip to the Chelsea Physic Garden after lunch.

Juan poses with the statue of Sir Hans Sloane in an autumnal Chelsea Physic Garden.

As well as giving us a chance to wander through the streets of Chelsea (David is an inveterate walker/hiker) it also allowed us a peek into a hidden treasure that David has mentioned several times on his blog.  And a treasure it is!  Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries it was created to train apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants.  The oldest botanic garden in London (and second in England only to the 1621 Garden at Oxford) it became internationally important in the study of botany and the exchange of plants.   Amongst those that used the Garden in their studies was Sir Hans Sloane who was to become the first doctor to be granted a hereditary title.  In 1712 he bought the land on the banks of the Thames that the Society had been renting from Charles Cheyne and lease it in perpetuity to the Society for a rent of  £5 annually.

Though it was late fall the Garden was still a pleasure to stroll through and view the late blooming flowers, the variety of medicinal and ornamental plants, and the quiet pleasures of a green space on a Sunday afternoon.  And I should add lavender scones with tea on the terrace of the Tangerine Dream Café and further conversation with David.

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We bid our adieus on Royal Hospital Road and as if we had not walked enough Laurent and I decided a stroll back to the Hotel was in order. I hadn’t been along the Embankment in that area since my first trip to London back in 1969. At that time the statue of Sir Thomas More – perhaps tellingly with his back to Chelsea Old Church – had just been dedicated.

The statue to Sir Thomas More before Chelsea Old Church where he built his private chapel.

Unfortunately Evensong was being celebrated so we did not go into the church.  It would have been the perfect opportunity to see some fascinating monuments and to perhaps take a peek at the only chained books in any church in London: a copy of the Vinegar Bible (1717), two volumes of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1684), a Prayer Book (1723) and Homilies (1683) given to the church by Sir Hans Sloane.  Many of the monuments were damaged when a parachute bomb exploded nearby in 1941 collapsing the tower onto the nave of the church.

A goodly number of the monuments have been painstakingly restored and recently a tablet to Sloane was commissioned and dedicated.  I found the Vicar’s remarks at the dedication an incredible encapsulation of the history of the church.

“We have given this great man the best spot we could find. The new plaque is beside the tomb of the family of the squire who picked up the crown at the battle of Bosworth and presented it to the knight who then handed it to the new Tudor King. The tablet is within a few feet of the tomb which Thomas More prepared for himself and his wives and opposite the capitols designed here in Chelsea by Holbein himself. It’s near the spot where Henry VIII stood with Jane Seymour, where Lady Jane Gray received communion every Sunday, where the “illegitimate” and endangered Princess Elizabeth said her private prayers and where James 1 stood as godfather. It’s a handshake away from the pulpit where Wesley preached when Anglican pulpits were closed to him.”

Just looking over the pictures from our trip and doing a bit of research into Old Church makes me think that a return visit would not go amiss – to have another meal with David and Jeremy, see the garden in spring, and explore this corner of English history.

But in my title I mentioned “pantry”.    What does a garden, Chelsea Old Church and Sir Hans Sloane have to do with food?   Well for many years now I’ve been following a blog called Lost Past Remembered by Deana Sidney – a New York based production designer who also has a passion for history and food.  Deana writes sporadically but when she does it’s beautifully researched and presented and always fascinating. As well as providing – as she always does – an interesting recipe with this posting she introduced me, and I would dare say most of her followers, to Richard Bradley and his book The Country Houſwife and Lady’s Directory in the Management of a House and Delights and Profits of a Farm.  Bradley was an 18th century botanist and one of the few of the period who had not gone to university.  His life was short but he contributed much to many of the practices that we follow to day in the name of ecology.

But back to the serendipitous connection that has me joining the Physic Garden and this obscure botanist:  Sir Hans Sloane.  Sloane was a patron of Bradley’s and seemed to be constantly getting him out of financial scrapes as well as obtaining positions for him.  Sloane was secretary of the Royal Society in 1712 when Bradley was elected at the young age of 24 to the the Fellowship.  He thought highly of the man’s work if not of his constant need for money – including after his death to take his widow and child out penury.

A click on the frontispiece and title page of Bradley’s opus for the good country women of England will take you to Deana’s fascinating post on the life of this remarkable man as well as Another Way of dreſſing Pigeons.


On this day in 1976:  The Troubles: Gunmen shoot dead ten Protestant civilians after stopping their minibus at Kingsmill in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, UK.