20 March 2013

Guelph: City of Galt, Gay, Glyn, Graves and Girdles

March Break. Others head south and we go to Guelph. I've never been much taken with March Break; spring seems so fleeting and I don't want to chance missing an early arrival. Five years ago, when we first visited this area, crocuses were in bloom. This year things weren't nearly so pleasant. Observed Guelph's James Gay, Poet Laureate of Canada (self-proclaimed) and Master of All Poets (self-proclaimed):
Canadian climate must have been changeable ever since the            world begun,
One hour snowing, and the next raining like fun
And so it was when I visited the man's grave. Snow turned to sleet, sleet turned to rain. My wife and daughter chose to stay in our Jeep as I paid my respects. Good sports both, they had no interest in Gay but were in town to take in (pun intended) an exhibit of ladies undergarments at the Guelph Civic Museum.

And so they did, as I stuck close so as to not look like a pervert. The only male in the room, the only male in the entire museum, I was transported back forty years to a time when my mother was in the habit of parking the family car outside the entrance to Eaton's lingerie department. I'd enter the store with eyes trained on the tile floor.    

Now a husband and father, I can not only raise my eyes but talk about some of the items. The girdle above, for example, brought mention of John Glassco, author of Canada's first rubber fetish novel.

(Do we have a second?)

Not a single Canadian boy or girl outside Guelph will be able to tell you that the city was founded by John Galt, once a rival of Sir Walter Scott. Amongst the museum's holdings are the doors to The Priory, the man's Upper Canadian home.

I'd expected Galt's literary works to be recognized, and was pleasantly surprised to see them presented next to those of naughty Guelph girl  Elinor Glyn...

and crossing the room was fairly floored (pun unintended) to find a display devoted to the Master of All Poets. There, by way of telephone, I was treated to an anonymous actor reciting four selections of Gay's finest verse.

Yes, I'm overdue for a haircut.

I'll try to distract with this poem by James Gay:

An Address to My Fellow Citizens of Guelph 
My old townsmen of Guelph, I no longer can repine,
In composing this poem, giving pleasure to all mankind:
I've not been many long years with you: this you know is true;
Not one of all could ever think the regard I've got for you.
Oftimes you have met me on the street, pleasant, good-natured and fine;
This I found my duty, to treat my fellow-mankind.
Working hard in this town of many a year, and tried to do my best;
And, like other misfortunes, I fell away like the rest.

Update: Hair cut.


  1. This Canadian boy outside of Guelph could certainly tell you that the city was founded by Galt. Largely because both my parents were from Guelph, so I carry the myths and legends of this storied metropolis in my bones. I'm probably going back in August for a visit - I think the Civic museum is in a new location from when I visited in the 90s. Is it worth a visit?

    1. Ah, a son of a son and daughter of Guelph. I well understand the waters of the Speed and Eramosa run through your veins.

      You are right, of course, that the museum is in a new location - the convent on Norfolk Street, now lovingly restored. And what Canadian museum isn't worth a visit?

      If you do come this way, Mark, we fully expect you to swing through St Marys. There's a Sleeman in it for you.