The Ottawa Citizen in a preview of Brian McGarry’s new book entitled “From Paupers to Prime Ministers: a Life in Death” suggested that the most interesting chapter was the 6th entitled “Quirky Stories”. While the stories were certainly quirky and fun to read, I would recommend that when reading Brian’s book you start with Chapter 11, “Looking Back”. It is there that by reading this chapter and then skipping back to the start you understand why and who Brian McGarry is and the importance he has in Ottawa. Starting at the end with an understanding of why Brian is the type of person he is allows you as you read the book to enjoy the stories, anecdotes and personal trials that he shares from the 1st Chapter right through to the end.
The stories of his family, work and business are told in a personal home style that is as if Brian is telling you the story and you are there listening with great fascination. You get a sense of how busy a life Brian has had just working with Charles Hulse and Keith Playfair to make Hulse, Playfair and McGarry what is it today while fending off the corporate funeral homes. It is hard to see where the time was found to raise two families, give so much to the community and also be a successful municipal politician.
“From Paupers to Prime Ministers” is a tale of a changing National Capital Region, how being home to our Prime Ministers in life, in power and in death shapes Ottawa and the leaders in it. The stories at times seem farfetched, but Brian tells the stories with his local charm and humility. Even in written form, Brian does not dishonour anyone that has caused him any pain or financial hardships. He keeps some names and identities private as if still after all these years that have passed Brian maintains a calm decorum that allows us to know what he has fought against, but that we don’t really need to know their real identity. That being said I would still really like to know who ‘Tricky Dicky’ is!
The book comes in a set of two volumes, the first is the story and the second is the photo album that works as a great pictorial edition of his life and work in Ottawa along with that of the Hulse, Playfair and McGarry Funeral home. The photo album has wonderful photos of the State funerals from William Lyon Mackenzie King (1950) to Jack Layton (2011). It also traces McGarry’s life from his childhood to the present as a leader in our community.
The book gives a glimpse into the life of a man that has given so much to Ottawa and continues to do so today. Those purchasing the book are asked to also contribute to the Queensway Carleton Hospital ‘care grows west’ campaign. At the book launch, all the proceeds from the sale of the book went directly to the hospital.
“From Paupers to Prime Ministers” is now available in book stores across Ottawa and online.
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