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Saturday 24 September 2011


I am descended in one branch from a long line of Tipperary Chadwicks who first came to Ireland from England in the 17th century. Chadwicks of Ballinard in the county and their near neighbours the Coopers of Killenure frequently intermarried. My 3x great grandparents were William Cooper and Rebecca Chadwick; and William’s sister Elizabeth married Rebecca’s first cousin John Craven Chadwick.

While William and Rebecca’s line (and mine) remained in Tipperary until the 1960s, John and Elizabeth’s son John Craven Chadwick junior emigrated to Canada in 1830 and founded a Canadian Chadwick dynasty. They settled eventually in the town of Guelph, 60 or so miles west of Toronto. Guelph was a flourishing colonial trading post, established by the Canada Company in 1827 on land which was already a market and meeting place for indigenous Canadians before the British arrived.

Frederick Jasper Chadwick (1838-1891)
as Mayor of Guelph, Ontario in 1877

Chadwicks played no small part in the development of the city. John junior served in several militia units during the rebellions of 1837 which sought to overthrow British rule in Canada. He subsequently served on the Commission for Peace locally. His son Jasper also did military service: Jasper and his father were first in line when the Guelph Rifles (No. 1 Company) were being formed in February 1857, and Jasper rose to the rank of Captain.

Jasper was a prominent businessman, a Provincial Land Surveyor who served on the town and county council and was elected Mayor of Guelph in 1877. It was a big year for Guelph, the 50th anniversary of its founding, and Jasper must have presided over many celebratory events. He was from 1871 to 1885 the proprietor of the conservative Guelph Herald newspaper, and under his tenure it went in 1872 from a weekly to a daily edition. (The Herald was eventually bought up in 1924 by its lifelong rival the radical Guelph Mercury, which still publishes to this day.)

Guelph Town Hall (built 1856)
(pictured in 1879, the year the town became a city)

Guelph Town Hall which housed the mayoral offices (as well as courts, market stalls, jail and library)  had been built in 1856, during a period of prosperity triggered by the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railroad in the town that year. Guelph itself had only been granted town status a year earlier. That prosperity was soon boosted with another rail connection to the outside world by the Great Western Railway.

Guelph Board of Trade was determined to capitalise on these transport links and attract manufacturers to the town, and Jasper Chadwick was a founding director of the Guelph Gas Works, one of the Board’s schemes to that end. Its gas first came on stream on 18th January 1871. Gas meant heat and light, which in turn meant longer working hours in factories; and like moths to a flame, industries were indeed drawn to Guelph. (The gasworks survived until they were demolished in the 1960s.)

Guelph Junction Railway’s monopoly-busting Freight Office
(the line was leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1888)

In 1879, two years after Jasper’s mayorship, he could take some credit when Guelph was declared a city. Three years later, when the Grand Trunk and Great Western Railways merged, fears of a monopoly of rail access to the city prompted Chadwick and several other leading citizens to found the city-owned Guelph Junction Railway. At a dinner in his honour that year, he could say with much justification:
“When I came to Guelph in 1848 it was a small place; the spot on which is now erected the Wellington Hotel [in which he was speaking] being a lumber yard and scarcely a building of any pretensions between here and the market place. Her population at that time being counted in hundreds where now there are thousands. Coming here at an early period of my life I might almost claim to be a native, and as you have been kind enough to express in the address, I have been identified with everything that has made Guelph what she is. Nothing, since I was able to take my share, has been done for the advancement of our good city in which I have not taken an active part.”
Well done, Jasper Chadwick - power, media and transport tycoon, citizen and benefactor of Guelph!

Guelph Junction Station in 1986
(built in 1888, demolished in 1989)
Photo by William D. Miller

Saturday 17 September 2011


Eyre Massey my Irish 6x great uncle fought on the wrong side, from my Scottish point of view, at the Battle of Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil. Massey’s military career was built on the bravery he showed that day. There, the Scottish Highlanders were massacred by a Hanoverian army of English, Irish and lowland Scots, and the Jacobite cause of an independent Scotland was ended.

Instead therefore, I prefer to concentrate on the second-last battle, fought three months earlier and 100 miles further south! If the Scots had been able to capitalise on their successes that day, the English advance might well have stalled along with Massey’s career.  

The Jacobites had retreated from their advance deep into English territory, but were at full strength and in high morale, 8000 of them encamped at Bannockburn to the south of Stirling. Massey was with Blakeney’s Regiment, under siege in Stirling Castle where they had been garrisoned to harry the rebellious Scots from within Scotland’s borders.

Stirling Castle in the late 18th century

For the Hanoverian English, an army of 13000 arrived in Edinburgh, and an advance party of 6000 was sent on to relieve the siege at Stirling. But Blakeney, a soldier’s soldier very much in the same mould as Massey, had simply been biding his time, allowing the Scots to commit time, men and money to the siege; hearing of the English advance he easily broke out of Stirling Castle, catching the besiegers by surprise and killing some 300 of them on his way to joining the relief column at Falkirk, a small town southeast of Bannockburn.

Thus it was that Massey found himself on the left flank of the Hanoverian army as the two sides lined up against each other on 17th January 1746. Despite the strength of the Hanoverian forces they were caught unaware, largely because their commander General Henry Hawley refused to believe early reports of the Jacobite advance on his position. Rushing to meet them at last, Hawley’s men were faced with an uphill climb across boggy ground towards the Highland Scots occupying the ridge of Falkirk Hill.

Battle lines on Falkirk Muir, 4pm, 17th January 1746
(plan from Wikipedia)

By four o’clock in the afternoon, with the two sides facing each other and spoiling for a fight, the short Scottish winter day was already drawing to a close. As dusk fell, the wind picked up and brought heavy icy rain. It was uncomfortable weather and a bad time of day for a battle.

The right flank was protected by a deep ravine from attacking or being attacked. So it fell to English cavalry on the left to lead the charge, past Blakeney’s infantry, where they faced three regiments of the Macdonald clan. The cavalry were routed by volleys of Scottish pistol fire and by a tactic of wounding the horse not the rider. As the survivors fled, the highlanders drew their claymore swords and charged. It must have been terrifying. The English front line turned and ran – Eyre Massey and the rest of his regiment, in the second line, were simply swept away in the retreat. It fell to Massey and his fellow grenadiers to pull some of the English cannon from the bog, because the horses had all been lost.

The Battle of Falkirk Muir –
wind and rain also shown

The fighting lasted less than half an hour. In the chaos of the rout the Hanoverian army fell back eastwards, first to Linlithgow and then to Edinburgh. As night came on, the wind became a winter storm of piercing cold sleat. Many English lives were probably spared by the poor visibility and confusion. Only in the grey light of morning were the Jacobites able to see the extent of their victory on a battlefield covered by hundreds on Hanoverian dead.

If the Scots had built on the momentum of this convincing and morale-boosting engagement, the future of their Jacobite cause might have been very different. But instead of pursuing the defeated and disorganised English army, they waited for weeks at Bannockburn for their heavy-drinking leader Charles Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, to recover from a head cold and make some decisions. The English were given time to regroup under a new commander, the Butcher Duke of Cumberland. Charles gradually retreated northwards, fighting a defensive rearguard action instead of seizing the offensive.

The Highlanders’ Medley, or the Duke Triumphant, published 1746
to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
(from the US Library of Congress)

By contrast Cumberland moved swiftly north along the east coast of Scotland, supplying his troops by ship. After six weeks spent in training at Aberdeen his forces were well-fed and highly disciplined. The defeat which he was able to inflict on the Jacobite army at Culloden on 16th April 1746 was crushing and final. Thanks to his subsequent patronage of Eyre Massey (then a lowly lieutenant whose bravery at Culloden had caught the Duke’s eye) my ancestor rose through the ranks to become a general, and was eventually elevated to the Irish peerage as Lord Clarina. And I suppose you don’t get all that just for pulling some guns out of the mud in defeat.

Saturday 10 September 2011


Culloden is a name that resonates like some doom-laden infinite gong throughout Scotland. It still sounds in Scottish heads, long after the day in 1746 when (as morose Scots will tell you) the birds fell silent on that blasted, blood-soaked moor. It rings with finality, the last battle on British soil; a romantic, heroic Scottish failure; The End of the Dream – as the Scottish Daily Record newspaper describes it in its partisan partwork The Story of Scotland. It haunts us with what might have been had the plucky retreating Jacobites of Bonnie Prince Charlie not been comprehensively, ruthlessly defeated by the Auld Enemy, England.

We conveniently forget that Scots and Irish troops fought alongside the English that day. The truth of history is never as simple as the mist of legend. I proudly call myself Scottish, conveniently forgetting the English and Irish muddle of ancestors who make up a good half of me.

Celebrity souvenir, c1748 (V&A, London)
William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
widely lionised in both England and Scotland
for his victory at Culloden

Still, it’s embarrassing in certain circles to have to admit that one of those Irish ancestors lined up with the English ranks at Culloden. Lieutenant Eyre Massey, my 6x great uncle, was not only there on the wrong side. He distinguished himself sufficiently in the battle to attract the attention of the English commander – a man hated in Scottish oral history for his brutal persecution of Jacobites after the victory, William Duke of Cumberland, known around these parts simply as The Butcher.

Eyre served with the grenadiers in Colonel Blakeney’s Regiment, later known as the Enniskillens or the 27th Foot. Blakeney was another Irishman. Although most of the regiment were held in reserve during the engagement and saw little action, the grenadiers led by Massey were in the thick of it. Massey was descended from a wealthy Irish military family and had bought his commission in the army; but he led from the front, earning the respect and support of his men. He was wounded at Culloden and his bravery won him the useful patronage of the Duke, a son of George II the English king.

2000 Jacobites and 50 Hanoverians died 
at the Battle of Culloden, 16th April 1746

Under Cumberland’s influence Eyre began to rise through the ranks – Captain-Lieutenant in 1747, Captain in 1751 and Major in 1755. He again distinguished himself in the Canadian campaign of 1757-60 (of which I wrote here some time ago) and afterwards in the West Indies. He was appointed Colonel in the regiment in 1773, Major-General in 1776 and became a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1782. After a period of frustratingly inactive if comfortable semi-retirement, Massey was called into service again to quell a mutiny amongst Irish troops and rewarded in 1796, at the age of 77, with promotion to the rank of full General.

His military career is impressive, even if it was launched with grenades against the Scots at Culloden. It could all have gone very differently. The second-last battle on British soil was fought three months earlier and 100 miles further south. Eyre Massey was there too. If the Scots had been able to capitalise on their successes that day, the English advance might well have stalled along with Massey’s military career.  No Culloden – no end of the Scottish dream. Ironically, it was failure within their own ranks, and at the very highest level, which led instead to the death of the dream and of so many Scots at the hand of other Scots, English and Irish enemies. More in Part 2!

Saturday 3 September 2011


I was lucky enough to visit Toronto on a couple of occasions in the 1980s when I was the stage manager for a Scottish theatre company. On both visits I was told proudly by (it seemed) almost every Canadian I met that they were Scottish. There has certainly been a substantial exodus from here to there over the last couple of centuries, prompted by the Highland Clearances and other periods of economic hardship.

In 1910 Archibald Piper, a great grandson of my 3x great grandfather William Piper, joined the list of exiles. He lived first in Pincher Creek, about 70 miles west of Lethbridge in Alberta where his brother John had settled via Nebraska and North Dakota. At about the same time his sister Catherine had emigrated to Melbourne in Australia. All three really were Scottish, born in Sorn, the tiny Ayrshire village where generations of their ancestors and future cousins lived and worked as farmers and blacksmiths.

Frederick James Piper (1920-1943)

In time John moved a little east of Lethbridge to Bow Island (now known as the Bean Capital of the West, 2007 population 1868) and Archibald moved a little further east to Tuxford in neighbouring Saskatchewan. These days Tuxford’s population is under 100, but back in 1919 it was a thriving trading post of around 300 people. It was there that Archie’s youngest son, Frederick James Piper, was born.

Fred’s mother died in October 1940, and in January the next year Fred enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, the RCAF (which had coincidentally been founded in the year of his birth). The RCAF was expanding rapidly to assist in the British war effort, and a great many Canadians then as now retained strong links of loyalty to the Old Country. Frederick, a pilot officer, was posted to an airbase in Wales and took advantage of being in Blighty for the first time to visit his Scottish relatives.

Crew of a RCAF Lancaster bomber, 1944

He was probably attached, like many RCAF men, to No.6 Group, RAF Bomber Command. His father remarried in March 1943. In August that year no.s 5, 6 and 8 Group were assigned to Operation Hydra, part of a campaign to disrupt Germany’s development of V-weapons. Hydra was aimed at the Peenemünde Army Research Centre in northeastern Germany, where the V2 bomb was being developed and manufactured. The threat from such weapons was such that Churchill ordered that the facility be attacked “on the heaviest possible scale.”

The attack, by 596 bomber aircraft, took place on the night of 17th/18th August 1943. It was successful only inasmuch as it delayed the V2 programme by about two months, the time it took the Germans to move the project to a safer location in the mountains to the south. The raid killed two key scientists and several hundred civilian prisoners who had been forced to work at Peenemünde and were housed in a neighbouring concentration camp.

Bomb craters surrounding a V2 testlaunch site at Peenemünde after Operation Hydra – but many craters were mock-ups placed by the Germans to deceive allied reconnaissance flights checking the effectiveness of the raid

Allied losses were relatively slight considering the scale of the assault. 40 bombers were lost, with 215 personnel, of which about 86 were Canadian airmen. One of them was Pilot Officer Frederick James Piper. He is buried nearby in Kiel War Cemetery.

After the war, Canada honoured its fallen by naming some of the myriad lakes in the north of the country after them. Piper Lake, in northern Saskatchewan, is the rather beautiful memorial to my southern Saskatchewan cousin.

Piper Lake, northern Saskatchewan
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