Theme Layout

Boxed or Wide or Framed

[style4]

Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider

No

Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider

Grid Slider Styles

Display Author Bio

Display Instagram Footer

Dark or Light Style

Search This Blog

Blog Archive

Followers

Popular Posts

Pages

How the Irish Famine Changed the World


The terrible parallels hit you like a bucket of cold water in the face -- at least if you have been immersed for a while in Scotland's Highland Clearances. Check out the image to the right. Looks like it could be from a Scottish Clearance in Sutherland or Glengarry, or perhaps Lewis, Uist or Barra. In fact, it's from County Clare in Ireland -- Mathia Magrath's house "after destruction by the Battering Ram." I know this because today we checked out the Irish Famine Exhibition at St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in Dublin. The exhibition, which runs until Oct. 15, brought the famine experience front and centre for me. Between 1845 and 1851, approximately one million Irish people died of starvation or disease and a couple of million emigrated, many of them to Canada. Many of those were forcibly evicted by landlords spouting the free-market doctrine of laissez faire. The end result: an Irish diaspora that has produced a globe-scattering of something like 70 million people of Irish descent. The decades immediately after the famine brought mostly silence about that trauma. More recently, scholars and others have turned increasingly to the Great Hunger, as it is also called. Today in Dublin, you can see famine monuments in St. Stephen's Green and on the north bank of the Liffey. You can visit the marvellous EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum. And you can spend an hour poking around on the Jeannie Johnston, a replica famine ship. If you have time for only one stop, the exhibition at St. Stephen's Green includes a 15-minute film that summarizes the saga. Millions displaced, not hundreds of thousands. Terrible to contemplate. Preparing to leave Dublin, all I can think about is how the Irish famine changed the world.

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

A merciless takedown of Mackenzie King




I was taken with Roy MacLaren's new book about Mackenzie King and said as much in this review that turned up on May 13 in the Globe and Mail.
(Special to the Globe)

After talking privately with Adolf Hitler in Berlin, Wailliam Lyon Mackenzie King concluded that the German Fuhrer was a fellow mystic who spoke the truth when he insisted “that there would be no war as far as Germany was concerned.” Hitler’s face, the Canadian prime minister wrote in his diary, was “not that of a fiery, over-strained nature, but of a calm, passive man, deeply and thoughtfully in earnest.… As I talked with him I could not but think of Joan of Arc.”
That morning, as Mackenzie King had left his Berlin hotel, he had sensed “the presence of God in all this,” guiding his every step toward this meeting and “the day for which I was born.” June 29, 1937. Before he left Berlin, Mackenzie King wrote a note thanking Hitler for giving him a silver-framed photo of himself – “a gift of which I am very proud.” By this time, the Fuhrer had dispatched more than 4,000 innocents to concentration camps and created laws turning German Jews into secoindnd-class citizens.
With Mackenzie King in the Age of the Dictators, former diplomat and high commissioner Roy MacLaren eschews biography to focus on the Canadian prime minister’s foreign-policy performance. He delivers an exhaustively detailed, tightly controlled, yet merciless takedown of Mackenzie King’s responses to both Benito Mussolini and Hitler.
If with Hitler we were not confronting the most obscene tragedy of the 20th century – the industrialized slaughter of more than six million Jews in the Holocaust – this encounter could be staged as a farce in which a delusional bumpkin meets the worst tyrant of the age and mistakes him for a holy man.
In March, 1938, after the Nazi annexation of Austria, an unperturbed Mackenzie King wrote in his diary: “I am convinced he [Hitler] is a spiritualist – that he has a vision to which he is being true … that [his] Mother’s spirit is … his guide and no one who does not understand this relationship – the worship of a highest purity in a mother – can understand the power to be derived therefrom or the guidance … the world will yet come to see a very great man – a mystic, in Hitler.”
Here, Mackenzie King was projecting what Charlotte Gray has described as his “pathological obsession with his mother’s memory” onto Hitler and fusing it with his ludicrously inflated fantasies of his own significance. As he himself saw it, MacLaren writes, “he had played a central, even divinely ordained role in keeping peace in Europe.”
As MacLaren makes clear, many Canadians discerned the truth. Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, made no rush to judgment but, by 1934, according to one contemporary, he had become “solidly, fanatically, anti-Hitler; refers to him as Al Capone and to the Nazis as gangsters.” Around the time Mackenzie King was confiding to his diary, “I am being made the instrument of God,” journalist Matthew Halton of The Toronto Star described Hitler at a Berlin rally as a demonic orator who “turned his hearers into maddening, moaning fanatics.” Over the course of a month in Germany, Halton had “seen and studied the most fanatical, thorough-going and savage philosophy of war ever imposed on any nation.”
When Mackenzie King hailed the Munich Agreement, which ceded to Hitler much of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland), Winnipeg journalist J.W. Dafoe – who had repeatedly warned against the Fuhrer’s hate-filled rhetoric – wrote what MacLaren rightly describes as a “scathing editorial” in which he denounced the appeasers for validating “the doctrine that Germany can intervene for racial reasons for the ‘protection’ of Germans on such grounds as she thinks proper in any country in the world.”
Ian Kershaw, the British biographer of Hitler, summarized with the advantage of hindsight: “None but the most hopelessly naïve, incurably optimistic or irredeemably stupid could have imagined that the Sudetenland marked the limits of German ambitions to expand.” Enter Mackenzie King.
Early on, Canadian diplomat Vincent Massey deplored Mackenzie King’s “ostrich-like policy of not even wanting to know what is going on.” He concluded that Mackenzie King combined an anti-British bias with an extreme egotism, and after Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs went on a racist rampage and incarcerated 30,000 Jews, Massey wrote to Mackenzie King that “the anti-Jewish orgy in Germany is not making [British prime minister Neville] Chamberlain’s policy of ‘appeasement’ any easier.” Mackenzie King agreed that “the post-Munich developments have made appeasement difficult and positive friendship [with Hitler] for the moment out of the question. That is no reason, however, why the effort should be abandoned.” Unbelievable.
This book assumes a familiarity with the history of Europe in the 1930s. It is a tour-de-force indictment of Mackenzie King and, by implication, the political system that made him the longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history. For those concerned about the contemporary rise of fascism and neo-Nazism around the world, Mackenzie King in the Age of the Dictators is ominous and terrifying.
In September, Ken McGoogan will publish Flight of the Highlanders: The Making of Canada.


Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Fur-trade rascals are making for McMaster



So here is an early heads-up on a Hamilton event where I will be giving a talk on June 4. What happened is that the library at McMaster University acquired an extraordinary collection of papers from the estate of the late Dr. William Bensen. Dr. Bensen was a medical doctor with a passion for Canadian history, and especially for anything related to John Rae or the fur trade. I had the privilege of meeting him over dinner some years ago and we had great fun chatting. He showed me a box of china that had been on board Franklin's ship the Terror.
Anyway, I am quite excited to investigate this collection of papers, which comprises letters and documents pertaining to such figures as James McGill, Simon Fraser, Alexander Mackenzie, William McGillivray, and Simon McTavish, all of whom were associated with the fur-trading North West Company based in Montreal. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, not to put too fine a point on it, these ex-Highlanders -- renegades, rogues and rascals almost to a man -- used fur-trade profits to build the Golden Square Mile in Montreal and swanned about like kings. I was thrilled to discover that the men who figure in this archive turn up in five of my books (if we count Flight of the Highlanders, coming this September).
I'm calling my talk Rogues, Rascals and Kings: Fur-Trade Adventurers Spring from the Archives. It kicks off at 7 p.m. in Convocation Hall and is open to the public. BUT space is limited so you have to register by clicking here. If you're within hailing distance of McMaster, come on down!
(Pictured here: William McGillivray (above left) and Simon McTavish.)

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :

Writers' retreat set to go at Tamarack in July


So that one-week writing-workshop-retreat in the Haliburton Highlands? I have been remiss in not reminding folks that it is happening from Sunday July 7 to Friday July 12. Yes, I will be serving as writer-in-residence at Tamarack Lodge Cottage Resort and Art Centre, which is two and a half hours north of Toronto. Situated on a motor-free lake, the lodge comprises four cottages and a “big house” with a separate meeting space. Last July, Anne-Marie Marais took these wonderful images.
This July, I’ll lead workshops for five mornings (Monday to Friday) from 9 to 12. You can spend your afternoons writing . . . or you can go swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or forest walking. Or you can mix and match. Evening activities will include a campfire reading, a presentation by the writer-in-residence, and an evening of student readings.You will stay in one of the four cottages. Tamarack will provide lunch and dinner and supplies for a continental breakfast.
The idea is to check in on Sunday July 7 between 3 and 5 p.m. Check out will be after lunch on Friday July 12. The cost will be $1150 per person, single-room accommodation, meals included. If anyone wants to share a room with bunkbeds or twin beds, the cost is $ 995, but you have to register with a roommate from the beginning.
We still have some spots available on a first-come first-serve basis. The person to contact is Barbara Kraus, co-owner of Tamarack Lodge. She can be reached at info@tamaracklodge.ca or 705-559-5972. 
In the workshop, Telling True Stories, we’ll focus on writing memoir, autobiography, travel articles – or whatever it is you happen to be writing. We’ll look at point of view, creating scenes, handling flashbacks. And we’ll do some in-class freewriting and sharing. You will need to bring a laptop to make this possible (no printer available).
Also, after you have registered with Barbara, I hope you will send me a 1,500-word work sample which I will distribute for workshopping among all participants. I will send out a call. Meanwhile, if you have any workshop-specific questions, you can drop me a line at ken.mcgoogan@gmail.com.
For the record, our writer-in-residence (that would be me) has earned a teaching-excellence award from University of Toronto (continuing education) and serves as a mentor in the low-residency MFA program in creative nonfiction at University of King’s College in Halifax. You can find out more than you need to know at: www.kenmcgoogan.com. Come on down!

Ken McGoogan
0 Comments
Share This Post :
Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.