Monthly Archives: July 2009

Kingston Conservateur, Alex Gabov, lands mission of a lifetime.

agvOne of our local savants, Alex Gabov, Adjunct Professor at Queen’s, will be part of the team documenting and restoring one of the earliest ritual sites in the world, the “deer stones” in central Mongolia.  The bronze age carvings were made by nomads between 3000 and 700 BC.  The stones have been badly damaged by weather, time and vandalism. 

The Mongolian government plans to save and restore them.

Alex has considerable expertise about stone monuments, but he has always made himself available to colleagues in the Kingston area to consult on a wide range of conservation challenges from cracking leather to rising damp.  His passion for defending Canadian material culture is legendary in our community.

Needless to say, we are all no-end pleased to hear that Alex has landed the trip of a lifetime and the chance to be part of a really distinguished international team. 

For more about the trip, see “Monumental Effort”, Kingston Whig-Standard, July 27, 2009.

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Filed under Archaeology, Material culture

A Woodstock lady, with her pug, circa 1888

KirtonPhoto

This cabinet photograph taken by George Kirton of Woodstock, Ontario, surfaced down in Michigan.  Nothing keeps the ego a reasonable size like being confronted with a face from long ago, now without a name.  So shall it be for most of us, one day.

The photograph is damaged, probably from exposure to humidity, but we can see that the lady wears the soft, feathered bonnet supposed to resemble the hats in Rembrandt paintings.  These were introduced to the fashionable in the early 1880’s  and lasted only until about 1888 in Canada.  This photograph could be as early as 1882, but is much more likely to be 1887-8. 

Pugs were very popular dogs in Ontario in the 19th century.  Although they were frequently the choice of young families, they also had the reputation of being good companions for single ladies.   Lord Frederick Hamilton (1856-1928), remembering the 1880’s later in life, wrote:

“One ought never to be astonished at misplaced affections I have seen old ladies lavish a wealth of tenderness on fat, asthmatical and wholly repellent pugs.”  (The Vanished Pomps of Yesterday)

However, this bright little pug is certainly not fat and wheezy.

Lord Frederick Hamilton, who disliked pugs,  is credited with introducing the sport of skiing to Canada — but that is another story.

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Filed under Archives, Material culture, Photograph history

Where is a Les Callan when you need him?

A Saskatchewan soldier under fire awaits his chance to vote.

A Saskatchewan soldier under fire awaits his chance to vote.

Once upon a time, Canadians were able to find humour in war.  Nothing could demonstrate better how much the world has changed in sixty years then the astonishment which greets me today when I show the young the wonderful cartoons of the late Les Callan (1905-1986).

“I don’t understand the drawing,” said one young woman, “But I can see it is supposed to be funny.  But it must have offended a lot of soldiers.”

The cartoons did not offend our soldiers, who were glad to find coping techniques to help them survive the unspeakable, which was Western Europe in 1944-45.  Mr. Callan was with our artillery, including the men I knew from Lennox and Addington county, during the invasion called  D-Day which began on June 6th, 1944.     He remained with them during the advance through France and Belgium.  Life for the soldiers was usually pretty nasty and often a nightmare, but they were able to find comedy and continued to laugh at certain episodes fifty years later — like the time that a French farmer begged them for help.  From his hysteria, they thought that the Gestapo were in his parlour, but it turned out that a cow was stuck on the farmhouse staircase.  A light moment during dark days.

On June 15th, 1944, the Province of Saskatchewan had an election.  Every effort was made to bring in the votes from the men serving in Europe.  The RCA had, by then, just reached the Leopold Canal, where they met very forceful resistence from seasoned German troops.    The above cartoon was Mr. Callan’s report.

Our troops are enduring horror and danger at present in Afghanistan, but I see no evidence that there is any humour to lighten the load.   In fact, I suspect that it is politically incorrect to laugh about any aspect of the present conflict, which is a pity.

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Filed under Archives, Canada at war., Material culture