Historical / Reference Notes:
This poem came about because of two genealogical
hobbyists Brian Jones and Al Lewis having found my genealogy
page contacted me.
My poem is based upon family folk lore
- family names have been omitted - the drunken fools who conspired
to assassinate mc gee it is said belonged to a branch of my
family - there is no tangible evidence to prove this - and people
will be upset at halving their family name dragged into what
they refer to as the mud - only my memories of stories told
by people now dead walk the corridors of my mind. For
myself there is the belief that all families are all composed
of dark, light and gray sides - to deny this reality is to deny
been written concerning the fairness of Whelan's trial. The
fact that the prime minister sat beside the presiding judge
and that Whelan continued to proclaim his innocence refusing
to name others who may have assisted him contributed to this
historical sense that there is more to the story.
The irish fenian plan - an idea more
than a plan - was to capture the government thus taking control
of Canada and holding it as ransom to be exchanged for ireland.
On with the story. Both sides of my family
came from ireland and settled in bytown before confederation.
I was born in 1939 and raised in lower town. Family members
talked of the fenian conspiracy and of those who were active
and those who were sympathizers. They talked of a local family
of whom it was said to be burdened with the McGee curse for
allowing Whelan to die for their actions.
Yes it was rumored that Whelan had been imported from montreal
by local fenians to kill McGee but it was also rumored that
he failed the task . Whelan never implicated others - three
factors may influenced this - his family would pay the price
of his disclosure - secondly as a catholic he would have believed
the harboring of sinful thoughts was is the same as acting on
them - even if he did not actually kill mc gee he was guilty
in the eyes of god because he thought of killing him - a third
factor enters the equation : he could have been told that his
death at the hands of the hated british would spark the revolution
that would save ireland .
The irish were as some modern analysts
term "bog irish" - extremely superstitious - in this
superstition is born the Mc Gee Curse upon that particular family
which it is said flows down the generations into my blood -
my ancestors were definitely unsophisticated in the thinking
Naturally as a young man I studied the rules of the curse and
decided it was superstition and therefor did not apply to me
- on with the story.
They filled the local taverns with drunken
words churned in hatred and megalomania morphing themselves
into heros and rulers of their beloved ireland. What their drunken
minds imagined became reality and reality became fiction.
When one of these fools assassinated
McGee on April 7, 1868 the government immediately responded
as though a full fledged insurrection had begun.
All of the drunken fenian planning was
based upon the idea that in reality an enormouse army of organized
committed patriotic irish americian fenians were waiting for
the call to invade canada.
These irish fenians never entertained
the idea that if an organized dedicated army of irish americian
fenians did exist and were successful
in conquering Canada the United States army would take control
and immediately annex Canada to become part of Contenental United
States. They would never win their objective of trading Canada
for Ireland no matter what happened. They were simpleton pawns
to americian imperialism desiring to extend itself over all
of north america.
After McGee's assassination and once
macdonald realized the emotional mood of the irish leaders was
the opposite of what he had expected - and he may have figured
out that the americian army was not going to officially invade
- and there were no irish americian fenians moving accross the
border - and he may have further realized the problem could
be contained - thus he sprung into action - got his sacrificial
lamb - ended it all quietly
Macdonald did not want to open an inquiry into a conspiracy
- that would be messy and involve thousands of irish in an activated
conflict between irish catholic and Protestant communities -
many irish did not want a self revealing inquiry which would
lead to a religious conflict - so he sat beside the presiding
judge to make certain nothing would be said that would aggrivate
the two groups into action - his sacrificial lamb would end
Whelan was a product of his time and culture - the old saying
is that you are judged by the company you keep - Whelan may
not have actually done the deed but he was in the wrong place
at the right time and sometimes that's all that matters.
History has named Macdonald
a father of our nation - but what of Whelan? Would anyone have
fit the role of sacrificial lamb? The assassin was gone (according
to my family folk lore and never returned to Canada) - to bring
closure someone had to hang - Whelan was as I said before in
the wrong place at the right time. Is it not said that some
men have greatness thrust upon them? Did he not in his own way
unknowlingly save the nation from a civil war? Has Macdonald
made Whelan an unwitting father of our nation? Would Macdonald's
sacrifice of Whelan to the gods of peace order and good government
set the stage for another sacrifical lamb by the name of Riel
to those very same gods ?
The ethnic and religous conflicts
of europe bubbled in the cauldron of early Canadian history
- no place for a squeamish leader - Macdonald was no squeamish
Unfortunately our history sanitizes the ugly decisions of our
historical leaders to the point of unrealistic purity which
removes from them everything they can teach us about real life
decisions - we have been robbed of our historical leaders and
their history - we have if I may use a modern term - soccer
mom history filled with soccer mom leaders - boring and sanitized
to the point of tasteless mush - we have no real history - thus
we can never learn from history for we deny its true existence.
ottawa (bytown) mar , 2005