Rainy, cold day on the Island

I welcome the change from a brilliant, sunny day on the Island to a soggy, grey one.  Everything changes. Routine dissolves. Purpose alters. Objectives are recast. Time contorts. It is conducive to indolence, retrospection and choral music. Cycling is off the agenda (my old limbs need a break and I most certainly dislike water walloped against my back). I had an appointment at 12:30 pm today to have my hair cut at Rita’s salon by Elena Shank (she does a splendid job) so I hadn’t time to do anything this morning but consume the butt-ends of the Cranberry/Walnut Artisan loaf with a titch of  Kerrygold Pure Irish butter and two discrete spoonfuls of MaraNatha Organic peanut butter. I shall rely upon the lubrication to get me through the rest of the day.

We devoted considerable attention this morning to clarification of the Reward/CashBack® features of our Canadian and American credit cards.The financial industry fully comprehends the value of minute but abiding advances.  Meanwhile we watch the game played more fitfully as the latest stock market adjustment unfolds. My fervour for retail gratification has lately been precipitously diminished by the extraordinary confusion surrounding my attempted on-line purchase of eye glasses (and prescription) from an outfit in Austin, Texas. We have yet to see proof of Return or Order though both are projected to transpire shortly.

Last evening the North Lanark Regional Museum (occupying the area of Lanark County in which I spent 38 years of my professional life as a legal practitioner and where we call home to this day) presented (or, more correctly, tried to present) “Misconduct & Mismanagement: Andrew Dickson at the Reform Penitentiary, Isle-Aux-Noix“. Hitherto my only acquaintance with Andrew Dickson was an eponymous stone building adjacent the celebrated 5-span bridge in the Village of Pakenham (Lanark County).  The building then housed primarily local artistic productions.  It thus enlivened a nutritious element of Andrew Dickson in my mind.

A brief on-line investigation of Andrew Dickson reveals a wealth of highly complimentary reports:

“With the early progress and development of Geology of Canada, the name of Andrew Dickson will always be honorably associated.”
(The Canadian Journal of Industry, Science and Art.  July, 1855)

Andrew Dickson (1797 – 1868), the person most associated with the founding of the Village of  Pakenham in Lanark County, is principally remembered today as Sheriff Dickson, as he held the position of Sheriff of Bathurst District for a ten year period from 1842 to 1852.   At that time Bathurst District encompassed what today is Lanark County, Renfrew County and Ottawa west of the Rideau River.   Perth was the most important town in Bathurst District, while Ottawa (then known as Bytown) was a small lumber town.   An article on Sheriff Dickson published in 1915 in the Almonte Gazette points out  that “when Perth was the judicial, educational and social centre of this part of Ontario, it was a striking sight to see Sheriff Dickson in his shrieval garb, armed, astride his fine horse, taking prisoners from Bytown, to the district gaol in Perth, the prisoners being also mounted on horses and chained to the sheriff.”

Andrew Dickson

But I have discovered on another island another side to Andrew Dickson as a result of the failed Zoom meeting last evening.

Île aux Noix is a 85-hectare (210-acre) island in the Richelieu River. The French and Indian War caused the French to build a fort in 1759, named fort de l’Isle aux Noix, to slow the British advance on Montreal, but were forced to surrender it in 1760. In 1775, the island was taken by American forces, and used as a base by the American generals Philip Schuyler and Richard Montgomery for attacks on Montreal and Quebec. The Americans used the island again in 1776 during their retreat from Canada. Their army spent 10 days on the island: more than 900 American soldiers died from small pox and were buried in two mass graves on Isle aux Noix. The British then built a new fort in 1778 and named it the fort of Isle aux Noix. During the War of 1812, the British used the island to supply their operations against the American fleet on Lake Champlain. The present Fort Lennox was built from 1819 to 1829, when the old fortifications were completely demolished. It remained a military post until 1870 and is now a popular tourist location.

The Île aux Noix Naval Shipyard was a Royal Navy yard from 1812 to 1834 in Quebec and served the RN’s Lake Champlain fleet during the War of 1812. HMS Confiance was one of several warships built here.

From 1940 the island was the home of an internment camp which held European Jewish refugees who had been forcibly removed from Britain. The camp was initially called Camp I, later Camp No. 41. Internees were treated as enemy aliens, and only after a year did the Canadian authorities begin to treat them as refugees. They were still not free to leave the camp, however, in some cases until 1944.

More directly to the point of Andrew Dickson, below is a copy of a report regarding his misconduct as a civil servant (Warden) in a prison.  Basically he acted lasciviously towards a matron in the employ of the prison and her sister, a nearby resident of Île aux Noix and daughter of a guard in the employ of the prison. I have read the entire Return of Francis G. Johnson the Commissioner appointed by the Governor General of British North America. I am mightily impressed by Johnson. His comments appear not only reasonable and fair on all sides; but of more outstanding observation is his seemingly modern approach to such master/servant abuse specifically directed by a man in a position of power against female subalterns. The strength of the Return also contaminates the modern renditions of Andrew Dickson which appear entirely to disregard the post-1861 detail. Considering his lifetime Andrew Dickson (1797 – 1868) it was an unfortunate end to what might otherwise have been universally commendable.  Who knows?  It would be easy to dismiss the allegations as trifling in the overall scheme of things; but, not having been the object of such abuse of authority nor ever having practiced such abuse, I am in no position to dismiss the acquaintance one way or another. My suspicion however is that such conduct late in life signifies prior engagement and practice. In addition my reading of the Return by Commissioner Johnson is that Dickson was a scoundrel; though it is equally apparent to me that the characterization of the misconduct was less than punishing. He at least calls Dickson’s “deportment” and “rumours respecting his attempts to seduce” injurious. This I find an unexpected credit to both Johnson and the prevailing legal system in 1861.

A Report on the Inquiry of the Management of Isle-Aux-Noix Penitentiary