All posts by Dorothy

York and Mountbatten Weddings

A big year for royal weddings. Tomorrow, October 12th, Princess Eugenie will marry. In May, her cousin Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. Both large, lavish and televised. But, in between the weddings of the Queen’s grandchildren, a distant Mountbatten cousin got married. That wedding was private but it caused a big ‘wow’.

Princess Eugenie

The Royal Family Facebook eugenie and jack oct-2018Princess Eugenie of York is marrying Jack Brooksbank. “Who?” seems to be a common question in online comments – about both of them. She is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Jack worked in a bar in London. Yes, he’s a commoner. But it’s an upscale bar, and his pedigree has baronets and the like in it. He and Eugenie are third cousins and he has kin connections with other royals. As the Daily Mail put it, his family may have started as Yorkshire farmers, but “they grew rich… and married well.”

Eugenie and Jack will marry in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, same place as Harry and Meghan. A two-day reception will be at Eugenie’s family home, the Royal Lodge in Windsor. Their guest list, at over 850 for the ceremony, is even larger than Harry and Meghan’s.

But there is not as much public hoopla for Eugenie’s wedding as there was for Harry’s. That is despite Eugenie’s being the first wedding of a British Princess since her Aunt Anne’s. Maybe that’s because she’s the daughter of the Queen’s second son whereas Harry is the second son of the first-born. Maybe too because Jack, in himself and his family background, does not cause celebration of Royal Family diversity and inclusivity as Harry and Meghan’s marriage did. Also as the wedding of their distant cousin did.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten

town and country-facebook-ivar and james-7-oct-2018‘I’ll see your divorced American bi-racial bride, and raise you a white English groom.’ So might Lord Ivar Mountbatten have said. His engagement caused a flap when it was announced in June. The second marriage of a British aristocrat – what was the big deal? First gay marriage in the Royal extended family, that’s what. Lord Ivar married James Coyle in front of a couple hundred family and friends. None of the Royals were there, but they sent their best wishes.

Who’s Lord Ivar Mountbatten? You might ask. I did. His late father was David, 3rd Marquess of Milford Haven. David was the Queen’s third cousin and Prince Philip’s first cousin. He was Philip’s best man at his wedding and a close friend. Read any biography of Prince Philip, you’ll find David Mountbatten stories. He was quite the lad.

Mountbatten Family
ivar-mountbatten-fam-tree d stewart
Click/tap to enlarge Mountbatten family tree

David and Philip’s uncle was Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The last Viceroy of India, he was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. Louis’ wife was Edwina Ashley. Read any book about interesting – ‘scandalous’ – women of the early 20th century and you’ll find Edwina Mountbatten.

Nada-de-Torby-marchioness-Milford-Haven-c1916-wikicommons
Nada, 2nd Marchioness of Milford Haven, ca. 1916

In those same stories is Edwina’s friend and sister-in-law, David’s mother Nadejda de Torby. An English marchioness by marriage, Nada was a Russian countess by birth. She was also Russian literary ‘royalty’, being a great granddaughter of Alexander Pushkin.

So an interesting family. Lord Ivar Mountbatten’s own life was pretty standard for the aristocracy. A geologist and gentleman farmer with a wife and daughters. Then, in 2011, an amicable divorce. Four years later, he came out. He and James Coyle made public their relationship. Mr. Coyle, an airline cabin services director, has no royal antecedents as best my googling can detect.

Lord Mountbatten and Mr. Coyle married Sept 22, 2018 at Lord Mountbatten’s Devon estate. Those are the names and titles each will continue to use. So the protocol people didn’t have to scramble to figure out title usage for same-sex spouses, but this marriage gives them a heads-up on it.

Princess Eugenie’s wedding will be televised on TLC in the US (starting live at 4:25 ET). It’s on ITV in the UK. But apparently not in Canada at all. Pity! You can read more here about the Mountbatten family. For my thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s wedding, see Princess Harry.

Apple Chutney

Apples left over from a good crop this year from our trees. As much apple chutneyjelly and juice as I could handle making, apple crumble too. Maybe apple chutney? Lots of recipes on line. But most called for raisins, which I did not have and don’t actually like in chutney. One, however, fit the bill: myheartbeets Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney.

So Google told me an Instant Pot is a fancy pressure cooker that does everything except eat the food it cooks. Not having one, I improvised – with one ordinary cooking pot. I don’t know how mine compares to that made in an Instant Pot, but I like it. Delicious, easy to make and versatile.

Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney (adapted)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (didn’t have them, so omitted)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves (I used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (my addition)
  • 4 red apples (approx. 1½ lbs) cored and quartered
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder (I used 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

add later:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika (for colour), optional
How I made it

apples-ready-to-cook1. Core and cut up apples. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. (Also, in looking for substitutions for curry leaves, I read that they are kind of citrusy. So lemon juice would not hurt.) My apples were small so I just quartered them. If I were using large apples, using my method, I’d chop the quarters again. The way, the peel in the chutney would not be overly large.

2. Put oil in a medium size saucepan and allow it a minute to heat up. Then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the apples and remaining spices (turmeric, ginger, salt, cayenne). Give everything a good mix, then add the apple cider vinegar.

3. Cook for 15 minutes at medium high heat.

apples-cooked-15-mins4. Mix well and mash up apple pieces. My apples pretty much did this themselves, so I just stirred it a bit. If need be, purée with an immersion blender, or pour in a blender and purée, then pour back in the pot.

5. Add sugar, cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. I only cooked it maybe another 5 minutes.

apple-chutney-paprika added6. Stir in Kashmiri chili or paprika, if you wish, and cook another minute or two. I used 1½ tsp paprika.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. I got a 16 ounce container full (about 475 ml).

Ready to use, or can it

I think this would can nicely – although it really is so quick to make that you could just make a container full as you need to. However, jars of it would make a lovely gift – and make you look like a really good cook.

So far, we have tried it on cheese and ham sandwiches – wonderful! chutney-with-beefMy husband also used it as the sauce in a stir fry. Sliced beef, cauliflower, red pepper and sliced cooked potato. 3 tablespoons of chutney and ¼ cup water added. Heated through, and served on rice. A bit of spicy heat in it, but delicate and light. Perfect.

Zucchini Noodles

thin zoodlesWhen only a giant zucchini will do: to make zucchini noodles. Zoodles some call them. Use them the same way you use pasta. They taste great, and they are gluten free, wheat free and carb free. Also you don’t need to think about what vegetable to serve. They are the “something green” in your meal.

fettuccine style zucchini noodles
Fettuccine style zucchini noodles

Here are two kinds of zucchini noodles I have made, using two blade plates of a mandoline slicer. For thin ones, use the mincer (the one with close-set cutting teeth). For thick fettucine size noodles, use the cutting or julienne blade (with teeth about ¼ inch apart).

1. Slice zucchini noodles

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. If it’s wider than the base of your slicer, cut in half lengthwise again so that it will fit. One half a giant zucchini (say 12″/30 cm) makes enough noodles for two servings.

slicing zucchini with mandolineThen, carefully, slide the zucchini the full length of the slicer. Keep it as flat as you can. Continue this, turning the zucchini around as needed to keep making nice long noodle strings. Stop when you reach the inner part. The seedy, soft part middle will not slice well.

2. Cook zucchini noodles

frying-zoodlesYou can sauté, microwave or boil the zoodles. I heated a tbsp or so of olive oil in a pan and sautéed them a few minutes. Stir and flip them often. Water will come out of the zucchini. That’s good. After another couple minutes, your pile of noodles will shrink in size and they will look cooked. And they are.

3. Plate, top, serve

thin zucchini noodles alfredo with garlic bread
Thin zucchini noodles

Put noodles on plates, draining as much water off as you can. Add your topping. I used alfredo sauce, microwaved straight from the jar. Enjoy.

Using a mandoline is quite labour intensive. Your arm gets tired. So if you are making dinner for eight, even four, you might want a method that is easier and faster. Maybe that’s where a spiralizer or some specialized tool would be worthwhile. See Downshiftology for much more information on zucchini noodle making.

Dinner Talk

Swiss Chalet in Saint John, two 20-something women with a toddler Swiss_Chalet_quarter_chicken-2011-Tabercil-wikicommonseach and one infant. Four full meals. One child picks at his food, the other has eaten all he wants. One woman eats her meal, the other appears to be done. All the plates are still full. Side dishes, most still full, been pushed away.

One toddler goes exploring, over to the next table. He reaches as high as he can and pulls napkins and cutlery off. The woman sitting there smiles and talks to him. The child’s mother doesn’t notice what woman on cell phone wikicommonsis happening two feet away. Her head is down, over her cell phone. She is reading and texting. The other woman doesn’t notice either. She is chewing french fries and talking on her phone.

Finally the child’s mother looks up to see where he is. “Come back here Randy” she says and apologizes to the couple. They say it’s ok, they have a grandchild the same age. Randy sits in his chair. Mom goes back to texting.

The other mother goes to the washroom, baby carrier in one hand and phone held against her ear with the other. She returns, still talking on her phone. Both women continue texting and talking to people who are not in the restaurant.

Randy climbs down from his chair and goes to yet another table to pull things down and hang off restaurant patrons’ legs. Occasionally, his mother looks up from her screen to see where he is. Sometimes she gets up to retrieve him. He screeches when she demands he sit still. She goes back to her texting and reading.

Birthday Boy

birthday cake with sparkler wikicommonsWaiters head over, bearing birthday cake with a sparkler. They surround the table, clap and sing to the other little boy, who has stayed quietly in his chair. His mother continues talking on the phone, glancing up as they finish to say thank you. Then she returns to her call. The other woman texts throughout the entire thing. Birthday kid eats his cake and looks confused. The waiters are gone and everyone at his table is back to ignoring him. Randy screeches, baby sleeps, moms talk and text on their phones.

Randy’s mom looks up long enough to realize he is tired and is not going to shut up. “Ok, I’m taking you outside” she says. She puts her phone in her purse, gathers both boys up and leaves. Randy screeches all the way. The other mother puts her phone down and gets the baby ready to go. She asks for boxes for some of the food. Thank heavens, there is enough left to feed them all for another day. While she waits for the bill, she talks to her baby and to the couple sitting beside her, apologizing for her nephew bothering them. “It’s ok,” they too say, “we have grandchildren that age.”

Thankfully, Randy hadn’t made it to our table. While the child’s behaviour was understandable, if not desirable, that of the mothers kid-and cell-phoneswas not. Talking neither to each other nor their children, engaged solely with people somewhere else. We were fascinated by it and repulsed. Happy birthday, little boy. You deserve better than what you got.

junk email aug 2018
From a spam email I received recently. I highlighted the probably accurate – and scary – figure.

Five years later

I wrote this the day after it happened five years ago because I needed to cleanse my mind of this hideous family outing. I didn’t post it then though. Maybe it was just a “when I was young” old fogey complaint. Everyone had a cell phone, and always seemed to be on it doing something. Part of life. But others still talk about the omnipresence of phones, even little kids. The kid who wrote this widely-shared essay would be about the same age as the two little boys in Swiss Chalet.jen-adams-beason-fb-may-2018

Third Generation

Tony Warren 1992

The Queen came to Coronation Street and she stood and chatted to me. I really couldn’t believe it. Because they’d just rebuilt the set. And I was standing there after she’d gone. I thought: how many writers wake up one morning and they think, well, I’ll write a show. I’ll have a pub at one end of the street and I’ll have a corner shop at the other.

And they live to see it built, first of all, in the studio in just lath and plaster. Then to see it built out on the backlot once and then to see it totally rebuilt. And my goodness, there’s the Queen of England walking down it. I was dazed by the whole thing.

Then this man came up to me and he said “have you got to the third generation yet?” And I thought go away! In fact, I thought much more strongly than that. I’ve just been talking to the Queen of England!

I suddenly realized, and I said, you know, you’ve just earned yourself a gold clock. He said, what do you mean? I said, well, there’s a gold clock for anyone who asks an original question about Coronation Street and that is an original one.

Elsie begat Linda who begat Paul Cheveski. Yes, we have got to the third generation. And where would you like the clock sent? He said, we’re not short of them at the Palace. And it was the Duke of Edinburgh!

Tony Warren with Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Street set 1982 corriepedia
L-R (facing camera) Bill Podmore, H V Kershaw, Denis Parkin, Tony Warren (backs to camera) David Plowright, Prince Philip, Denis Forman, Elizabeth II 1982 photo Corriepedia

Gold Clock Moment

Coronation Street creator Tony Warren told me, in 1992, about Queen Elizabeth opening the show’s new set 10 years earlier. About looking at it, his realm on the backlot of Granada Studios. And then, thanks to Prince Philip, thinking about the lineage of the characters he had created.

Tony Warren lived to see another incarnation of his street – larger and in a totally new area, but the same bricks and cobbles. In 2013 the new set at Media City UK opened. tony-warren and ITV tony warren building-Jtomlin1uk-2014-corriepedia

But it was still Tony’s realm, and his history. “I’m the only person here today who has been in four times to see the brand new set installed,” he told Ian Wylie (Life of Wylie). “Coronation Street hasn’t moved at all. It’s exactly where it always was. Which is wherever you want it to be inside your own imagination.”

Tony also saw the fourth generation added to his families. Not the Tanner-valerie-and-ken-barlow third generation twins-peter-and-susan-1965-maz79-corriepediaCheveski family, but the Barlows. Like Linda and her mother, Ken Barlow and his parents were in the very first episode. Sixty-eight years later, he is still there. So are his children – third generation – and his grandchildren – the fourth generation.

It’s three months since I left the Street. I miss it, yes, but my routine has shifted to fill the gap it left. Will I return? Not yet. I want to know that I will stay when I come back. I can’t just drop in for a visit.

Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

A zucchini that escaped, hiding under foliage in order to grow huge. cheese stuffed zucchini with dinner rollStuff it. With what? What about a cheese stuffing? Something light and summery for the last days of summer. Light cheese. Maybe egg too. Below is what I used, but other combinations of cheese and herbs would work just as well.

Ingredients

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
1-2 tbsp chopped onion
1/3 cup (100 g) cream cheese
1/3 cup (100 g) ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
salt, pepper
fresh or dried herbs
turmeric, garlic (options for taste)
cheddar cheese, grated

Recipe for stuffed zucchini

Scoop out zucchini insides and keep. I left about a half inch of zucchini in the shells. Set them aside to fill later.scooped-zucchini

Take seedy parts out of the zucchini pulp and discard. Chop up the rest of it.

sauteeing-zucchini Melt a bit of butter in a frying pan and add zucchini pulp, onion, salt and pepper. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for colour. Garlic would probably be good too.

A lot of water will come out of the zucchini. Drain it and put in a bowl.

cheese added to zucchiniAdd one large egg, beaten.

Add 1/3 cup each cream cheese and ricotta to zucchini-egg mixture. Blend with a fork.

You can use any kind of hard or soft cheese, alone or in combination. I thought the cream cheese and ricotta I had on hand would make a light, almost fluffy filling, and it did.

zucchini egg breadcrumbs and herbsMix in 1 cup breadcrumbs. I added fresh herbs – parsley, basil and rosemary – and green onion, chopped coarsely.

Put a bit of olive oil on zucchini boats and fill with mixture. I added cherry tomatoes on top and grated cheddar cheese over them.

zucchini-ready-to-bakePut them on a baking sheet and add a bit of water to the pan so they don’t stick. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until cheese on top is nicely browned and zucchini on the sides is soft.

Cut each baked zucchini boat in half, which gives you four servings.cheese-stuffed-zucchini

Alternative suggestions

My husband said the zucchini stuffing on its own would make a great casserole. Its texture is almost like a soufflé. So if I try that, I’d scrape out the whole inside of the zucchini. Then, his suggestion, put the mixture in ramekins for individual servings.  If you want to stick with stuffed zucchini boats, but heartier ones, you can use a thick pasta sauce. Here is how I make  those. And you can buy zucchini corers! (See Paderno’s below) Who knew?

They shouldn’t have pets

You may hear people say “people who need help from food banks shouldn’t have pets.” If you can’t afford to feed your animal/your kids/yourself you can’t afford a pet. Easy to say. You could, however, also say if you can’t afford to feed your kids, you shouldn’t have them.girl and cat closeup wikicommons

You may have decided to have kids when things were going well in your life, you had a partner, you had a job, money. Then you lost the job, you lost your partner. You can’t afford to house or feed those kids properly anymore. What do you do with them then?

Depending on the age of your kids and how well behaved they are, you probably could find homes for them. You may not find one person to take them all, but if you split them up, you might find enough homes. If they’re too old, not cute enough or badly behaved, well, you could be in a pickle. Maybe in a year’s time you’ll have a new job and be back on your feet and can afford the kids again. But what do you do during that time?

This isn’t likely to happen, or be expected, for kids. There’s welfare and child benefits. There are food banks – aid that started within communities because governmental help often didn’t adequately meet the need to keep body and soul together.US Navy help at food banks - commons.wikimedia.org

What if they got a dog when they were doing well? Should they have to get rid of their pet? Where is that dog going to go if they do? Killing (“euthanasia”) is a legal option for getting rid of healthy happy pets, but not a desirable one. The pound? Shelters? At least maybe the animals live, but it’s a high emotional and financial cost for all involved.

Help from food banks for kids and pets

Then a year later when those people are back on track financially, what do they do then? Probably go out and get another dog. Why not help them keep that first dog during the bleak time? Anyone who ever had a pet – even a goldfish – as a child knows how Mitten tree Carroll Co. Public Schools Marylandimportant that animal was to their young life. So even if you don’t care about animals or about adults who can’t make ends meet, think, as they say, about the children. The trauma of losing a beloved pet in any way in childhood is never forgotten.

We don’t bat an eyelid at people needing help feeding their children. When we shop, we buy an extra can of tuna for the food bank bin. We enjoy making up parcels to donate to Christmas Care. We buy for toy drives and mitten trees. So why would we begrudge a family a can of cat food or a pack of dog treats?

As a whole, we believe it is in society’s best interests – politically, socially and financially – to keep families intact. Those families may well include pets – indeed maybe should.

Pets are more than extra mouths to feed. They provide comfort, therapy, exercise and a reason to greet the day. We, individually and as a society, owe them as much as they owe us.

Obamas with Bo, White House lawn, commons.wikipedia.orgJobs and relationships can come and go, but the love of your dog or cat is steadfast. That is a lesson many of us learn as children. But some of us forget it. It’s worth remembering. So too, when thinking about someone needing help feeding their kids and pets, it’s worth remembering, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

First posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog on Sept. 23, 2011.

West Virginia

In 1971 my parents and I drove through West Virginia on our way from Ontario to Kentucky. We’d never been there before and it was stunningly beautiful. So we took back roads and made lots of stops.

for-sale-antiques west virginia house photo r angerThe stop I remember most was at a small house. A wooden sign, “antiques for sale”. A table covered with old glass bottles and china. Over by a tree, machine parts and old tools.

family-west-virginia-1971 photo r angerEverybody came out to see the pickup with Ontario plates come in the driveway. A man from somewhere out back. Woman and kids from the house. Lots of kids, teenage to toddlers.

Mom looked at the glass, Dad the car parts. But I saw a kid holding a pup. Then I saw kittens playing in the flowerbed. Chickens scratching around the side of the house. I went to the kids, and the animals.

with-pup-and kitten-1971 photo r angerWe stayed a long time, long enough for the woman to ask if we’d like a cold drink. So lemonade and cookies, served on a small table under a tree. When we left, with some blue medicine bottles, they asked if I wanted a pup or the kitten I held. A gift. No, sorry, our dog doesn’t take kindly to sharing.

dad with dog and truck-1971 photo r angerThat small farm in the hills was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. They farmed a bit and they hunted. The kids knew the woods as well as they knew the inside of their house.

Coal Mining

I don’t remember anyone mentioning coal. But it had to be coal country. Commercial coal mining had been a part of West Virginia for a century and a half by then. But underground mining, not strip mining. Not mountaintop removal. Not on a large scale anyway. Mountain-top removal mining started in the 1950s but didn’t take off as the preferred method of mining until the early 1970s. Just a couple years after we stopped at that house to look at glass bottles.

West_Virginia_Route_10-near-Man-WVa-Seicer-wikicommonsThe oil crisis of 1973 gave an impetus to fast, cheap coal mining. Bulldozing and blasting soil, trees and rock to reach the seams of coal under the land. Taking down the mountain to reach what’s underneath. And taking it down further and further, to reach each seam deeper in the mountain. Until there is no mountain left.

Mountaintop_removal_mine_in_Pike_County_Kentucky-2010-flickr.com-iLoveMountains.orgAll that soil, vegetation and rock has to go somewhere. Into the valleys, filling them. Thereby filling rivers and lakes, farms and houses. Then the mined coal has to be cleaned. More waterways polluted by the runoff from the washing process.

This is the industry that President Trump wants. Despite the demand for coal having dropped over the past years, due to no real need for it and no desire for the air pollution that burning it causes. Yes, less coal mining in Appalachia caused unemployment. But retraining and economic aid programmes were helping. Then Trump swore he’d revive coal. Miners would go back to work, he promised. Are there really markets for what they’d produce? Not so sure, even in China where coal-burning plants are being phased out.

EPA and coal lobby

Andrew_Wheeler_official_photo-Apr-2018-US-EPA-wikicommonsThe US Environmental Protection Agency, under Trump, is now headed by a former coal lobbyist. Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator, took over from Scott Pruitt, himself a former energy industry lobbyist and a big friend of big coal. Neither Wheeler nor Pruitt have rethought their former employment positions. Both have publicly stated their support for coal and energy industries, even their pride in their former work. Both in charge of the federal agency responsible for, well, protecting the environment. Fox guarding the henhouse?

Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed the mountains of West Virginia and throughout Appalachia. Destroying the mountains also means destroying the entire waterway system of lakes, rivers and ponds. It destroys wildlife and fishstocks and their habitats. It also destroys human habitats.

Martin_County-KY_home-mountainroadshow.com-jun-2006-wikicommonsThe other big industry in West Virginia is drugs; meth labs and distribution of opiods. That filled the economic gap left by the loss of mining jobs. It destroys people’s health and lives. But it doesn’t destroy the environment as well. Mining destroys people’s health, their homelands and the whole environment. That damage hurts Appalachia and everywhere else too.

Amazon.ca link Grisham Gray Mountain
Click/tap for Amazon

If you want a quick primer in the coal industry and mountaintop removal mining, and a good story, read John Grisham’s 2014 novel Gray Mountain. He also writes about those fighting back. The lawyers and legal clinics who fight big coal and fight for the miners suffering black lung disease and other debilitations caused by their profession.

fb-2018-NZ-Libraries-snopes.com_fact-check
August 14, 1912 New Zealand newspaper, from NZ Libraries archives

Today, the Trump Administration announced a major scale back of constraints on emissions from coal-fired power plants. The EPA said the regulations set by the Obama administration were “burdensome”. President Trump will celebrate this at a political rally in Charleston, West Virginia, tonight.

Mattie Mitchell, Response

Good response to Mattie Mitchell story

Vignettes of the West, by Don Morris (Apr. 11, 1992)

Mattie Mitchell-ca-1920-heritage.nf-wikicommonsI was pleasantly surprised by the response to the two-part series on the story of the career, achievements and brief life history of Mattie Mitchell, the Micmac Indian, which appeared in The Western Star March 7 and 14. I got two phone calls from Corner Brook on the day the first column appeared; one from my good friend, Dr. Noel Murphy, who kindly gave me what information he had on Mr. Mitchell and family; the other from a granddaughter of the famed guide and prospector who expanded on Dr. Murphy’s data.

This particular caller said her grandfather had lots of descendants all over Newfoundland and elsewhere and on the very day the first column appeared many of them in the Corner Brook area, the caller informed me, were telephoning each other reporting that the Star “had an article on Mattie.”

Two other phone calls came during the days that followed, including one from John Mitchell who is a grandson of Mattie and whose father, also named John, was the person who travelled from Corner Brook to Curling to fetch a Roman Catholic priest to be at Mattie’s side at the time of death. This was one of Mattie’s last requests.

And letters came in also, including one from the United States. But probably the most informative of the phone calls and letters was a written communique from Ms. Irene Doucette… However, before dealing with Ms. Doucette’s letter, it is appropriate to state briefly here something about the man of whom I wrote.

Noted prospector and guide

Matthew Mitchell was undoubtedly the most noted of Newfoundland’s Micmac people. He was born either at Hall’s Bay or Norris Point about 1851. He was the son of a Micmac Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton. He became widely known in the early part of this century as the prospector who, in 1905, discovered the rich ore bodies at Buchans River in the interior which was the beginning of the thriving town of Buchans.

While that made Mattie famous, (although not rich), his celebrity grew in 1908 when he was chosen by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to act as guide in the most unusual wildlife venture in the island’s history. The company, builders of the Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, had ordered from the Grenfell Mission at St. Anthony 50 of the 300-reindeer herd which the mission had purchased in Scandinavia as a supplement to caribou as a big-game animal for the northern population.

Reindeer swimming - Grenfell lantern slides, Maritime History Archive
Reindeer swimming – Grenfell lantern slides, Maritime History Archive MUN

Men from the AND Company went to St. Anthony, accompanied by Mattie, to escort the animals 400 miles southward to Millertown. It was intended to make this unique “reindeer drive” over the sea ice. However, vicious winds and heavy seas made this impossible and the only alternative was to herd the reindeer down The Great Northern Peninsula. This was accomplished in the very difficult month of March when the land was constantly swept by blizzards and the weather was most times below zero. However, the trek was completed without the loss of a single animal. Mitchell then went on about his usual business as a popular, eagerly-sought guide and prospector whose clients included some wealthy and influential American, Englishmen and Canadians.

Irene Doucette’s letter

Now to Ms. Doucette’s letter which, because of the apparent popularity of the Mitchell articles, I shall quote in full:

“Dear Mr. Morris: I just had to write to you and let you know how surprised I was when I read The Western Star today (March 7) about the amazing career of Mattie Mitchell. The reason for my surprise was that Mattie Mitchell was my grandfather and to me he was a Newfoundland legend and more should have been written about him. But thanks to you it is now coming to light.

“I didn’t know my grandfather. He died in 1922 before I was born. He was 72. But I have heard so many wonderful stories from my father, John Mitchell (evidently Ms. Doucette is the sister of the John Mitchell who telephoned me) and my mother, Agnes Mitchell, with whom he resided, that I just had to write and give you the additional information you requested.

Mattie Mitchell and Mary Ann Webb
based on letter, Mattie Mitchell Webpage and Jasen’s genealogy #23 (click to enlarge)

“Mattie was married to a woman named Mary Webb. She was from Flat Bay, St. George’s Bay. She died when she was about 60. It was then that my grandfather went to live with my mother and father here in Corner Brook. My father told me that Mattie was a great fur trapper. He would cure all his own fur skins. He was a very big man, six foot four and he wore size 14 shoes. I guess back then they were called moccasins. I have in my possession a walking cane that he made and to me that is a priceless object. I also have a picture of Mattie, also priceless.

“My mother told me that Mattie was a very gentle man. She told me she never heard the man say a bad word; he was a very religious man and had a Micmac Bible which he carried with him at all times.

Six children

“My grandfather had six children: three boys and three girls. My father, John, was the youngest. The other boys were Matthew and Laurence. The girls were Margaret Rumbolt, Bridget Sheppard and Lucy Duhart, and, of course, there are numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. My mother and father raised eleven of us. My father worked at the paper mill in Corner Brook for 40 years and he was very proud of his father. When my grandfather discovered Buchans’ mine he worked for the AND Co. and from what I understand he was given $2.50 (for the find). I also read somewhere that he was given a sack of flour for the discovery. I hope that the story about Mattie Mitchell hits the St. John’s papers as I have two sons and a daughter living out there. Thanks again for that long overdue story about my grandfather.”

More letters and calls

The other letters I received are similar to the one from Ms. Doucette, and all the writers are descendants of Mattie Mitchell. The one from the States came from John Alexander Atkins, a great grandson of Mattie. Apparently, the MItchell columns were sent to him by his mother, Helena Atkins of 29 Crescent Way, Corner Brook… This young correspondent said he worked as a logger and during his life had travelled to many places. He said he always wondered why he was so adventurous. May I suggest, John Alexander, the trait runs in the family…

Included in the phone calls I received was one from the west coast from a man who said he was a grandson of Mattie Mitchell. Although he gave me his name I shall not use it because he had some rather curious things to say which were not in keeping with all the other information I received on Mattie Mitchell. This particular caller said that Mattie Mitchell was of Beothuk extraction; was not at all friendly with the Micmac Indians; in fact detested them; and that he was not of the Catholic faith. I repeat, what this reader had to say goes against everything all other calls and letter writers have to say.

In any event, I wish to thank most sincerely all those who contacted me about the celebrated Mattie Mitchell. I agree with one writer who said that a monument should be erected to him and a definitive book written about his amazing career.morris-mattie-mitchell-pt3-headline

don morris-mattie-mitchell column-pt 3
(click to enlarge)

Mattie Mitchell commemorated

Amazon for Mattie Mitchell
Go to Amazon.ca

In 2005, a historical plaque was erected in Gros Morne National Park honouring Mattie Mitchell. Gary Collins wrote a biography of him, published in 2011.

Also a short film was made in 2013. In “The Mattie Mitchell Project,” Alonzo Rumbolt portrays his great grandfather Mattie.

The first of this series is Mattie Mitchell, Buchans and the second is Mattie Mitchell, Reindeer.

Mattie Mitchell, Reindeer

The unique 400-mile ‘reindeer drive’Reindeer_Jukkasjärvi_Lappland_Sweden_1930-1949

Vignettes of the West, Don Morris – Mar. 14 1992

Newfoundland’s most noted Micmac Indian, Mattie Mitchell, passed away at Corner Brook in the autumn of 1921 at about the age of 71. He became locally renowned during his lifetime as the prospector who, in 1905, discovered the rich ore bodies at Buchans River in the interior which was the beginning of the thriving mining town of Buchans.

That was Mattie’s greatest claim to fame. But three years later, in March of 1908, he was chosen by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company to act as guide in probably the most singular wildlife venture in local history. The AND Company, builders of the Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, had ordered from Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, founder of the Grenfell Mission, head-quartered at St. Anthony, 50 of the 300-reindeer herd which the medical missionary had purchased in Scandinavia. The animals were intended as a supplement to caribou as a food source for the northern population.

laplanders-at-St-Anthony-medicalarchives.jhmi_.edu_vbartlett_phnewfound
Saami and reindeer, Newfoundland 1907 photo Vashti Bartlett (Johns Hopkins archives)

Reindeer in harness

However, the AND Company wanted 50 of them for an experiment; to see if reindeer could be used in harness for hauling logs in the lumber woods. These were originally intended to be landed at the convenient harbor of Lewisporte. However, when the overseas steamer arrived with the animals and their Lapland herders, it was found that Lewisporte was ice-choked and the deer were then landed at Cremaillere Bay near St. Anthony.reindeerboat-vashti-bartlett-medicalarchives.jhmi

The mill builders sent a team of men north, under supervision of a key employee, Hugh Cole, to escort the reindeer south to Millertown. Mattie Mitchell was contracted to act as the guide for the company men and the reindeer. Because the sea ice was unsuitable, it was decided that the “reindeer drive” would be down The Great Northern Peninsula. The project was a first (and only) of its kind in our annals.

Reindeer drive route

It had been a long and severe winter. From the outset the drive showed promise of being an arduous undertaking. On March 22, the unusual caravan, which included four Lap herdsmen and their trained dogs, had reached the headwaters of Cat Arm River inside White Bay, after 20 days of torturous travel. Because of storms and sub-zero weather which had slowed both men and deer, provisions were now practically gone.

Forced to turn eastward in an effort to survive, the hikers and their charges reached an empty logging camp at Sop’s Arm River March 28.

reindeer-route-nq-1966-flr.gov.nl.ca
Reindeer drive route, Nfld Quarterly 1966 (click to enlarge)

20 miles in 52 hours

At Cole’s direction, Mitchell and another man headed by dog-team to the village to find food. When the pair reached the settlement, they found it deserted. The inhabitants had moved across the bay to their more sheltered winter quarters. The men pushed ahead, reached the people, obtained some supplies and returned to Cole’s camp. It took them 52 hours to make the round trip of about 20 miles. The party and the deer then continued towards Deer Lake.

At the foothills of the Long Range Mountains caribou were encountered and the trekkers dined on welcomed venison. Thirty days after leaving St. Anthony, the Cole party and deer had reached the summit of the great peninsula’s mountain range. But sub-zero temperatures and storms made travel appalling. When they eventually descended and again reached foothills on the other side of the range, the most difficult part of their journey was over. The intense cold and severe gales persisted, but there was more shelter and now the waterways were opened, permitting the herd to swim across St. Paul’s Inlet.

Reindeer on railway cars

Bonne Bay was reached April 23, after 53 days on the trail. Cole left his party and made a sled trip to the railway depot at Deer Lake where he took a train for Millertown to arrange building of corrals for the reindeer. Mattie Mitchell stayed with the party in his capacity as guide. Cole returned to meet his crew and the reindeer at a point halfway between Bonne Bay and Deer Lake. Then the animals were loaded into railway boxcars and eventually reached Millertown. The long, unusual journey was completed by April 30. They had been on the trail 58 days and covered 400 miles of the most grueling nature.

mun-maritime-history-archive-ca1907-harnessed reindeer in St. Anthony
Reindeer in St. Anthony ca. 1907

After a while the AND Company lost interest in the experiment of using reindeer as beasts of burden. But the animals, together with the Laplanders clad in their attractive native garb, proved to be a showpiece at Millertown and attracted visitors from as far away as St. John’s. Even the colony’s governor was curious enough to organize a party to go and view the novelty. Eventually, the reindeer were donated to the Grenfell Mission and shipped back to St. Anthony. The Laplanders returned home and Mattie Mitchell went about his business as a fishing and hunting guide and prospector. It is said he did not lack for clients.grenfell-reindeer-hooked mat-crescentlanehooker.blogspot-2010_02

Mattie married to Mary Ann Webb

Mattie Mitchell was married to a lady named Mary Ann Webb. They had a large family. One of their sons, also named Matthew, became a well-known guide and prospector in his own right.

Mattie, Sr. was a local celebrity when he died at Corner Brook. One of his last requests was that a priest be at his side in his final moments. This was fulfilled when one of his sons, John, travelled to nearby Curling and returned with a clergyman.

A Roman Catholic priest was at the veteran woodsman’s side when he breathed his last.

Mitchell ancestry

As disclosed in last week’s column on Mattie Mitchell, he was born either at Hall’s Bay or Norris Point about 1851 and was the son of a Micmac Indian Chief whose ancestors came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700s from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Information on Mattie’s parents or on his early years and on his own wife and family are indeed scanty.

f-speck-1922-p-134-beothuk-and-micmac
Frank Speck Beothuk and Micmac 1922:134 Mattie Mitchell on list of Nfld hunting territories

I would be keenly interested in hearing from any reader who can shed more light on the family and career of this remarkable man. Are any of his descendants still residing in Newfoundland? If so, a letter from them would be greatly appreciated.

A highly interesting footnote to this two-column series on Mattie is that, according to several reference sources, family tradition has it that this particular Mitchell Clan had a presence in Bay St. George during the early days of the French migratory fishery and that Mattie’s great grandfather was given a vessel by the king of France in order… “to facilitate the movements of the Micmac on the water in the interests of France.”

Don Morris column Reindeer Drive Mar. 14 1992

In Mr. Morris’ next column, a Mitchell family member responds. I will post it next week. (Last week I posted Part 1 – Buchans.) The reference to Mattie’s great grandfather is from Frank Speck’s Beothuk and Micmac 1922 (Internet archive). For more on the Mitchell forebearers, see ‘father,’ ‘grandfather,’ ‘Captain Jock’ in sidebar of The Mattie Mitchell Webpage. Reindeer in Newfoundland as well as the 1966 Newfoundland Quarterly article is in a pdf newsletter 2010 from the Dept. of Environment and Conservation.

With the Lapps… 1907-1908

With the Lapps Amazon linkInterestingly, while looking through Amazon books, I found With the Lapps… A woman among the Sami, 1907-1908 by Emilie Demant Hatt (tap image to see more).

So, at the same time as Mattie Mitchell was herding reindeer with Saami herders in Newfoundland, a Danish woman was with the Saami in Northern Sweden and Norway herding reindeer.