CHARLES MAIR

CHARLES MAIR

THE LITERARY TROUBLEMAKER

By George Siamandas

CHARLES MAIR
Mair was a poet and writer who was involved with Ottawa politicians that supported the idea of “Canada first.” Mair was born in Sept 21, 1838 in Perth Ontario. He started as a medical student at Queens along with John Schultz. Neither graduated and Mair went on to become a writer and poet. But first he was an activist. In 1868 he had Dreamland and other Poems published. There he met a group of people who like Mair were strongly committed to obtaining for Canada the lands of the HBC.

ANTI FRENCH LEANINGS
Mair became a part of a group of five bachelors that called themselves the five apostles. They believed in the superiority of white Anglo Saxon Protestants. They were suspicious of French Canadians and they hated half-breeds. Charles Mair was the troublemaker sent out to help build the Dawson Road. Mair received an appointment as paymaster to the crew building the overland Dawson Road route from Lake Superior to Red River. Simon J Dawson had proposed the idea of the road as early as 1859. Mair also arrived as a journalist for the Globe to report on the state of this part of the country. He raved about the beauty of the countryside but it did not take long for Mair to get himself into trouble as he reviled the people.

INSULT TO RED RIVER SOCIETY
Mair wrote several letters, which were published in the Globe criticizing Red River Society and in particular insulting the half-breed women, that some men had taken as wives. Mrs Annie Bannatyne encountered him in front of the old post office on Main St and horsewhipped him for having insulted a woman and all western women. Mair was drunk at public events. He joined company with Dr Schultz and became and lived with him and sent business to Schultz by making out the payment vouchers for the workers on the Dawson Trail payable at Schultz’s store at heavily reduced values. Many of the workers were poor Metis.

ARRESTED BY RIEL
As an anti Riel agitator Mair was arrested along with Schultz and Thomas Scott in late 1869. He was one of those that escaped in Jan 1870 and headed to Portage La Prairie where Riel’s influence did not extend and where most Canadians were gathering. He later left for St Paul with Donald A Smith. He returned to the east where he began an anti-Riel propaganda campaign, and lobbied against amnesty for Riel and others.

LATER LITERARY LIFE
In 1877 Mair moved further west to Prince Albert Saskatchewan where he opened up a store and began to become a member of the community. He also kept a store at Portage till 1883. In 1886 he published the well-regarded verse-drama “Tecumseh.” He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1889. He wrote “Through the McKenzie Basin” in 1908 and was one of the founders of Kelowna. Mair moved to Victoria in 1921. Mair lived to a ripe old age dying at age 89 in 1927.

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