April 6th is Tartan Day in Canada, how appropriate that I sit and write a few words about a book I first spotted in the office of a Senator when I toured the new Senate building a few weeks back.
I learned that there is almost a cottage industry of books written about things that Scots have invented. There are books written about how the Scots invented the modern world, golf, fine single malts and Canada. How Scots invented Canada was written in 2010 by Ken McGoogan and looks at 5 dozen or so Scots/Canadians with Scottish blood lines.
There are the expected profiles and where they stand in Canadian history, like Sir John A MacDonald, George Brown, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Frederick Banting and Sanford Fleming. We know their place in Canadian history as fathers of confederation, the building of the CRP Railway and in the world of medicine and science. McGoogan then goes and expands all our knowlledge of all things scottish and give us names like Alexander Grahma Bell, Doris Anderson, Timothy Eaton, John McCrae and Nellie McClung. He manages to bring Scots into to present day Canada where the world continues to expand and unfold.
Lets go back to the pre-confederation for a bit. Famine, wars, the American Revolution all emerge as some reasons of how many of Scottish decent came to the Upper and Lower Canada provinces. Scots loyal to the crown found refuge in early Canada. The Scots led to the successful mapping of trade routes to the west coast, some doing faster than anyone could have ever imagined. The growth of the Hudson Bay Company was at the hands of Scots that had been educated due to the “Scottish Enlightenment” where reading was given to many. The enlightenment was a leading road to building the character of well educated Scots that would be foremost in business management and growth. The growth of the fur trade and the establishment of the trade routes were instrumental in bringing the west coast colonies into an eventual confederation in 1871. That move to came about with a promise to build a transcontinental railway.
Moving through the decades, profiles of Bell, George Brown and Timothy Eaton talk of leaders in communications. Bell with the telephone, Brown as a leader in newspaper publishing and Timothy Eaton with the catalougue . These communication giants helped grow commerce in a young country. These three live on in 2018 with Bell Canada, The Globe and Mail and the centre of commerce in Toronto, the Eaton Centre.
Of Canada’s Prime Ministers, 60% have Scottish heritage. 14 of 24 can claim a direct Scottish lineage right up to our current PM, Justin Trudeau. Younger Trudeau’s mother comes from the Sinclair Scots and his grandmother from his father’s side was also Scottish as Pierre Elliott Trudeau was borne from a Scottsh mum and French father. Besides Sir John A, McGoogan brings us our other leaders; Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Nellie McClung and paths through their family lines that started back in the homeland.
While the book is an informative read about the mapping, discovery and building of our nation, there are a few chapters where I find he looks pretty far back to find the thinest of Scottish thread. But have no fear he talks about Robbie Burns and the ties that the great poet has to Canada. He even reveals a personal connection in his family to Robbie Burns.
Over 60 profiles build a a strong case that the Scottish really did build Canada. If you are Scottish you’ll enjoy this, if you want to be Scottish “How the Scots invented Canada” will reinforce that feeling. With all of the work McGoogan does to lay out his claims that the Scots really did ‘invent’ Canada, you have to wonder what everyone else doing?
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