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February 2014

Snapshots in History: February 28: Remembering the Kalevala

February 28, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: YouTube – Reading from the Kalevala in Finnish – Published on July 28, 2012) 



(Credit: YouTube – The Kalevala – Short excerpt from a performance by Nick Hennessey at Otovan Opisto, Finland in November 2011 – Published on October 15, 2012) 



(Credit: YouTube – Myth of the Great Oak from Kalevala (Rune 2) in English – Uploaded on March 21, 2009) 


On February 28 and beyond, take a moment to remember the Finnish national poetry epic known as the Kalevala, compiled by Finnish physician and linguist Elias Lönnrot who was a collector of traditional Finnish oral poetry. The first compilation of Kalevala was published on February 28, 1835 with 35 cantos; an expanded version was released in 1849 with 50 cantos. Dr. Lönnrot conducted eleven field trips in all in search of poetry, visiting places in Finnish Karelia, Russian Karelia, the Kola Peninsula, and the Baltic countries. At the time, Finland was under Russian rule (after a long period of being under Swedish domination) and Lönnrot’s work in compiling the Kalevala was part of a patriotic movement helping to define a Finnish identity; he opined that the epic poetry that he found were parts of a larger masterpiece – his work in assembling this masterpiece helped to launch something called Karelianism. There has been some debate over whether Lönnrot authored some of the compiled Kalevala himself. Now, February 28 serves as Kalevala Day and Finnish Culture Day in Finland and for Finns all around the world.

Kalevala was written in the trochaic tetrameter format in which four stressed or long syllables are followed by four unstressed or short syllables. In fact, the term “Kalevala meter” has been used to describe a version of trochaic tetrameter used in the Kalevala employing broken (i.e. one stressed syllable in a falling position usually with no pause (or caesura) present) and normal tetrameters interchangeably. A long syllable with a main stress (containing a long vowel or a diphthong, or ending in a consonant) is considered to be metrically strong and can only be found in the rising section of the second, third, and fourth feet of a line. Conversely, a short syllable with a main stress is considered metrically weak and can be found only in the falling section of the second, third, and fourth feet of a line. Additionally, neutral syllables can occur at any position, especially in the first foot of a line with its more flexible structure in which strong syllables can occur in a falling position and weak ones in a rising position.

The main characters from the Kalevala include: the central character Väinämöinen (old and wise with magical power over song and music and a contributor to the creation of Earth by adding trees and life (from the remains of a duck egg as the first man born to the goddess Ilmatar) – he plays the kantele, a Finnish stringed instrument similar to a zither); Seppo (Smith or Blacksmith) Ilmarinen (an immortal inventor who invented the Sampo, a magic mill of sorts that represents prosperity); Lemminkäinen (a warrior and hero in the Kalevala who, along with Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen, participates in the stealing of the Sampo from the people of Pohjola (the “Northland”)); Louhi (a witch who as the “Mistress of the North” serves as the main antagonist to Väinämöinen in the battle to control the Sampo which was ultimately lost and destroyed at sea); Kullervo (a mentally ill magician who was abused as a child and sold into slavery to Ilmarinen – in the end, he commits suicide as an escape); and, Marjatta (a young virgin from Kalevala becoming pregnant from eating a lingonberry and who gives birth to a son out of wedlock in a forest after being turned away by her family and others – an allegorical parallel to the Virgin Mary and the Birth of Christ. Väinämöinen is displeased with the birth and threatens harm to the child, who in turn criticizes Väinämöinen and later becomes the King of Karelia. Consequently, Väinämöinen departs from Kalevala but leaves his kantele and songs as his legacy to the people.).

The Kalevala has influenced literature in other languages, including English. For example, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha, was written using a similar trochaic tetrameter. Also, consider the influence of the Kalevala on J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, including the character Túrin Turambar from The Silmarillion based on Kullervo, and Gandalf the Grey from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings based on Väinämöinen.

One can access Kalevala online translated into English in eBook format in volume 1 and volume 2 from Project Gutenberg.

Consider the following titles for loan from Toronto Public Library collections:  


The Kalevala tales of magic and adventure

The Kalevala: tales of magic and adventure [Translation of: Suomen lasten Kalevala]/adapted by Kirsti Mäkinen; illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin; translated by Kaarina Brooks, 2009. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction. J 398.20948 MAK

Children and adults alike should enjoy this illustrated re-telling of the Kalevala. 


The maiden of Northland an epic tale of Finland

The maiden of Northland: an epic tale of Finland / adapted by Aaron Shepard, 1986. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction. J 398.20948 SHE

Follow this excerpt from the Kalevala that pits Väinämöinen versus Ilmarinen for the hand of Aila, the maiden of Northland and daughter of Louhi, in which Louhi asks for gifts never seen before, resulting in the kantele and the sampo but resulting in marriage for neither Väinämöinen nor Ilmarinen who escape with their gifts but lose them to the ocean.


Louhi, Witch of North Farm: a story from Finland's epic poem, the Kalevala / retold by Toni de Gerez ; pictures by Barbara Cooney, 1986. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction. A DEG / J 398.2 DEG /  J 398.20948 DEG

Louhi’s attempt to steal the sun and the moon does not go too well when the gods learn of her plan.


Canadian views of Kalevala / edited by Silja Ikäheimonen-Lindgren; 150th Anniversary Kalevala Festival Committee, 1985. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 894.5411 CAN

Consider this Canadian secondary source of criticism and interpretation on Finland’s national epic.

Also available in the Finnish language as Kanadalaisia katsauksia Kalevalasta. Finnish Adult Non-Fiction. 894.5411 KAL \B FIN  


The kalevala an epic poem after oral tradition

The kalevala: an epic poem after oral tradition / Elias Lönnrot; translated from the Finnish with an introduction and notes by Keith Bosley; and a foreword by Albert B. Lord, 1989. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 894.5411 KAL

Oxford University Press published this English language translation of the Kalevala by Keith Bosley.

For additional copies, click here. Those wishing to read Kalevala in the Finnish language, consider the following:

Kalevala / Elias Lönnrot, 1985. Book. Finnish Adult Non-Fiction. 894.5411 K121 \B FIN

Toronto Public Library collections also carry translations of the Kalevala in the Hindi and Tamil languages.


The magic mill: a Finnish folk-tale from the Kalevala / adapted and illustrated by Joanna Troughton, 1989, c1981. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction. J 398.20948 TRO

Ilma(rinen), the best smith in Finland, goes to Lapland to get his magic mill (or Sampo) back from the Dame of North Farm.


Tales from the long lakes; Finnish legends from the Kalevala / Keith Bosley; illustrated by Richard Kennedy, 1966. Book. Children’s Non-Fiction. J 398.22 B

Old and young alike can enjoy a segment of the Kalevala in storytelling prose form.


Snapshots in History: February 25: Remembering John Graves Simcoe

February 26, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: Government of Ontario Art Collection, 694156 - Portrait of Colonel John Graves Simcoe, [ca. 1881] - Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, 1791-96 - George Theodore Berthon (1806-1892) - Oil on canvas - 109.2 x 83.8 cm (43" x 33") - This image is in the public domain. URL: )   


On February 25 and beyond, take a moment to remember the life of John Graves Simcoe (Born: February 25, 1752 in Cotterstock, England; Died: October 26, 1806 in Exeter, England) who served as the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from 1791-1796. Simcoe served with British forces during the American War of Independence, being invalided home to England before the surrender of Yorktown in 1781. During the war, Simcoe had been promoted from lieutenant to lieutenant-colonel and became one of the more successful regimental commanders and demonstrated his penchant for tactics with the publication of his Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers. During his convalescence, he resided at the home of his godfather Admiral Samuel Graves in Exeter, England. There, Simcoe met and married Admiral Graves’ ward Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim (“Mrs. Simcoe”) who was an heiress in her own right, owning a 5,000-acre estate in Devon, England.

Simcoe briefly served as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons in 1790 before being promised and appointed to the position of Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in September 1791. Upper Canada, as it was then known, was comprised of southern Ontario and the watersheds of Lake Superior and Georgian Bay. Under Simcoe’s stewardship, Upper Canada’s bicameral legislature founded York in 1793 (previously Fort Toronto (French) and afterwards Toronto as of 1834) which became the capital on February 1, 1796 (as Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) was too prone to American attack) and introduced elements of the British legal system into Upper Canadian society, including English common law, trial by jury, and freehold land tenure. Upper Canada also abolished slavery with the passage of the Act Against Slavery on July 9, 1793, resulting in no slaves present by 1810 which predated the British Empire as a whole by 23 years. 

Ill-health cut short Simcoe’s time in service in Upper Canada as he left in 1796 and resigned as Lieutenant-Governor in 1798 after a brief stint serving as British force commander in 1797. Simcoe also commanded the Western District in Britain subsequently but died in 1806 before taking up his new post as commander-in-chief in India to succeed Charles Cornwallis who had also died after shortly assuming the post himself.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Mrs Simcoe's diary

Mrs. Simcoe’s diary / Elizabeth Simcoe; edited by Mary Quayle Innis; foreword by Michael Ganrowski, 2007, [1965]. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 971.30209 SIM SIM (Series: Voyageur classics)

Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary offers those interested in Canadian history a primary source snapshot of the 1791-1796 time period. She met aboriginal Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant and explorer Alexander Mackenzie. She was interested in the First Nations peoples as well as the fauna and flora and the developing social customs of the British settlers in Upper Canada. Follow Elizabeth Simcoe’s journey (and that of her husband) from September 17, 1791 to October 16, 1796.

See also: copies of the 1965 edition (971.302 SIMCOE). Or, consider the following version:

The diary of Mrs. John Graves Simcoe: wife of the first lieutenant-governor of the province of Upper Canada, 1792-6 / Elizabeth Simcoe; with notes and a biography by J. Ross Robertson, and two hundred and thirty-seven illustrations, including ninety reproductions of interesting sketches made by Mrs. Simcoe, 1973, [c1911]. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 971.302 SIM

Consider this edition of Elizabeth Simcoe’s diary edited in 1911 by journalist and publisher John Ross Robertson



John Graves Simcoe 1752-1806 a biography 

John Graves Simcoe, 1752-1806: a biography / Mary Beacock Fryer and Christopher Draycott, 1998. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 921 SIMCOE / 971.302 SIM / 971.30209 SIM FRY

Follow the military career of John Graves Simcoe from his time as commander of the Queen’s Rangers during the American Revolution through to his appointment as the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and founder of York (now present-day Toronto), followed by his ill-health, additional military appointments and eventual death.

Also available in eBook format (Access Online). 


Simcoe's choice celebrating London's bicentennial 1793-1993

Simcoe's choice: celebrating London's bicentennial, 1793-1993 / Edited by Guy St-Denis, 1992. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 971.326 SIM

John Graves Simcoe wanted present-day London, Ontario to be the capital of Upper Canada in 1793 but was overruled by Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester, who agreed to Simcoe’s second-place choice of York. However, this historical development did not stop London from becoming the largest municipality in southwestern Ontario and a centre of higher learning with the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College. 


Infant Toronto as Simcoe’s folly / John Andre, 1971. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 971.354 A / 971.3541 A.

Read about the role of German artist and settler William Berczy (founder of Markham, Ontario) in the founding of York (predecessor to Toronto) in co-operation with John Graves Simcoe.

Click here for more copies (971.3541 A).


Governor Simcoe and his lady / Marcus Van Steen, [1968]. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 921 SIMCOE / 921 SIM VAN

This biography of the Simcoes recounts the death of John and Elizabeth Simcoe’s infant daughter Katherine (January 16, 1793 to April 19, 1794) and her burial in the old military burial ground at Victoria Memorial Park (now Square) at Portland and Niagara Streets, several blocks northeast of Fort York.  


Toronto stories from the life of a city, Part 1: York [1 videocassette] / Lynx Images Inc., 1994. VHS. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. VIDEO 58790

Learn about the early history of York (Toronto) from 1793 to 1834 through quotations attributed to early inhabitants and through the narration of a facsimile of “Mrs. John Graves Simcoe”.


Click here to view digitized images associated with John Graves Simcoe (including pictures and photographs and posters and printed ephemera) in Toronto Public Library collections.

Reading Toronto: The Black Experience

February 25, 2014 | Winona | Comments (0)

Did you know that Toronto was the first city in Canada to officially recognize Black History Month?

In the 1950s, the Canadian Negro Women's Association successfully petitioned Toronto City Council to recognize Black History Week. In 1979, thanks to advocacy by the newly formed Ontario Black History Society, February was proclaimed Black History Month in the City of Toronto, and later proclaimed provincially in 1993 and across Canada in 1995.

The history of the Black community in Toronto has its origins in the early settlement of the city, when the first African Canadian residents arrived with the British and United Empire Loyalist settlers. In 1799, 15 Black residents were living in Toronto (then York), and by 1837 there were 50 families. Today, Toronto's Black community includes the descendents of those early residents, as well as those of fugitive slaves from America in the 1800s and migrants from Africville in Nova Scotia or southwestern Ontario in the 1900s, plus more recent immigrants who have come from Caribbean, African, and Latin American countries in the 20th and 21st centuries.   

In celebration of Black History Month, and to honour the experiences of Toronto's African-Canadian and Carribean-Canadian communities, I offer you this selection of fiction and non-fiction books by some of Toronto's great Black storytellers. You can read them any month of the year.


The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada edited by Benjamin Drew, with an introduction by George Elliott Clarke

The Refugee edited by Benjamin DrewThis collection of interviews with fugitive slaves, first published in 1856, includes the stories of ten men living in Toronto. The book is plainly propagandistic: it condemns slavery in the United States and portrays Canada as a paradise, forgetting that slavery was legal here until 1834. But it is also, as George Elliott Clarke points out in his introduction, a fascinating collection of "settler narratives" that "are also great reads. They exhibit the rough intrigue and derring-do of historical romance, as well as the Byzantine traps and torments of the Gothic." 


A Black Man's Toronto, 1914-1980: The Reminiscences of Harry Gairey, edited and with an introduction by Donna Hill

A Black Man's Toronto by Harry GaireyHarry Gainey was born in Jamaica in 1898, moved to Cuba as a boy, and came to Canada in 1914 on his own at the age of 16. He soon settled in Toronto where he found employment with the Canadian Pacific Railway as a sleeping-car porter, then helped to organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, worked to make changes to Canada's immigration laws, and went on to become a senior statesman in the city's Black community. This wonderful oral history is transcribed from nine hours of interviews, and offers insight into daily life in Toronto and its emergent Black community, as well as life on the railway, and the casual discrimination and systemic racism he experienced. You can read a partial excerpt of the book here.


The Meeting Point by Austin Clarke

The Meeting Point by Austin ClarkeThis is the first novel in the "Toronto trilogy" (the others are Storm of Fortune and The Bigger Light) about the experiences of a group of West Indian immigrants, their friends, lovers, relations, and employers, in late 1950s Toronto. The story centres on Bernice, a Barbadian woman employed as a live-in maid by a wealthy family, and the at first comic, then tragic, events that unfold when cultures collide. Bernice's fictional experience is modelled on the real experiences of women during the notorious Domestic Workers Scheme, in which Caribbean women age 18-35 were recruited to live in Canada as domestics, thereby allowing Canadian women to enter the workforce. Austin Clarke himself came to Canada in 1955 from Barbados, to study at the University of Toronto, and is considered the first Black writer to achieve major attention in Canada. In 2002, Clarke won the Giller Prize for his ninth novel, The Polished Hoe, and in 2005 he won the Toronto Book Award for More.


Sleep On, Beloved by Cecil Foster

Sleep On Beloved by Cecil FosterCecil Foster's second novel also uses the Domestic Workers Scheme as a starting point to explore the complex culture of racism experienced by immigrants from the Caribbean diaspora. Ona Morgan leaves behind her Jamaican home and her baby for a new life in Canada. When she and her daughter are reunited in Toronto, twelve years later, the two must struggle to reconnect with one another and with their cultural heritage. Sleep On, Beloved was shortlisted for the 1995 Trillium Award. Foster has a new novel out this year, Independence, and it's already getting great reviews. 


Soucouyant by David Chariandy (e-book | talking book | book club set)

Soucouyant by David ChariandySet in Scarborough in the 1970s, David Chariandy's debut novel centres on Adele, a Black woman of mixed race who immigrated from Trinidad in the 1960s and now suffers from early onset dementia. The story is told from the perspective of the son who has returned to care for his deteriorating mother and the collapsing family home. In Caribbean folklore, a soucouyant is an evil bloodsucking spirit; the publisher notes that here the soucouyant is a symbol "of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas." This beautifully told, complex novel was nominated for ten literary prizes, including the 2008 Toronto Book Award. Look for Chariandy's second novel, Brother, to be published sometime next year.


What We All Long For by Dionne Brand (ebook | talking book)

What We All Long For by Dionne BrandThe city is a major character in Dionne Brand's third novel, which won the 2006 Toronto Book Award. This book gives voice to the experiences of four twenty-something second-generation Torontonians - Tuyen, Carla, Oku, and Jackie - as they struggle with identity, displacement, and desire. There are are also brief, evocative glimpses of Toronto's Black communities of the past, such as passages that describe nights out at the Paramount Tavern and the Elephant Walk Club, two infamous clubs on Spadina Avenue in the 1970s. Brand is also an award-winning poet whose long poem thirsty also explores the many cultural intersections in Toronto.


T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto's Black Storytellers, edited by Karen Richardson and Steven Green

FT-Dot Griots edited by Karen Richardson and Steven Greenrom the afterword: "We are Toronto's Black storytellers; standing together in hopes that the world might see us, Africans in a foreign land where transplanted roots fight for a foothold in the snow. This winter I am hopeful. I look forward to embracing fellow artists and friends. I am warmed by the fire in their words, soothed by the heat of their voices. From the Bluffs to the Caledon Hills, the Pickering power plant to Sky Dome, right up to the Maraine, my words find residence. I hear the crackling syllables on open stages and I know something is happening. Our words live here and in case you haven't noticed - so do we."


 You may also enjoy these books by more of Toronto's Black storytellers:

            Women Do This Every Day by Lillian Allen Motion in Poetry by MotionBrown Girl in the Ring by Nalo HopkinsonThe Heart Does Not Bend by Makeda Silvera


For related reading, check out Katherine's post Canadian and Black on the Toronto Reference Library blog.

You may also be interested in the Toronto Public Library's collection of materials on the Black historical and cultural experience, with special emphasis on Canadian material: The Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection.

Do you have a favourite book about the Black experience in Toronto? Please share it in the comments section below!

Snapshots in History: February 20: Remembering A. J. Casson and the Group of Seven

February 20, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: YouTube - Alfred Joseph Casson, A Canadian Painter and Member of The Group of Seven – Published on June 15, 2013)



(See URL: - Credit: CBC Digital Archives - A.J. Casson: the last of the Group of Seven  - Medium: Television; Program: The Journal; Broadcast Date: Oct. 28, 1986; Guest(s): A.J. Casson, Paul Duvall, Dennis Reid; Reporter: John Kalina; Duration: 13:07)



(Credit: Library and Archives Canada - Canadian Victory Loan drive poster. A. J. Casson won first prize with this poster in the 1941 Victory Bond contest conducted to find suitable illustrations for the 1st Victory Loan campaign in Canada during the Second World War. Source URL: – Artist: Alfred Joseph Casson; Copyright expired. Crown Copyright. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-585.)  


On February 20 and beyond, take a moment to remember a Torontonian commercial artist and painter named Alfred Joseph “A. J.” Casson (Born: May 17 1898 in Toronto, Ontario; Died: February 20, 1992 in Toronto, Ontario) who joined the Group of Seven in 1926 as a replacement for Francis (“Frank” or “Franz”) Johnston. Casson spent time as a youth in Guelph and Hamilton where he commenced a lifelong commitment to commercial art; in 1919, he worked at Rouse & Mann Ltd. as an assistant designer to Franklin Carmichael. Beginning as a printmaker and painter in watercolours, Casson began to exhibit oil paintings in 1922, primarily landscapes from Muskoka and Haliburton. (For example, view the National Gallery of Canada website to view Summer Landscape (1925), painted at Paugh Lake in southern Algonquin Park.) Exploring rural Ontario with his automobile enabled A.J. Casson to paint small towns which became a favourite theme, employing a tendency toward simplification and focusing upon the essential elements as recommended by Lawren Harris. Casson joined the printing firm Sampson Matthews (that specialized in screen printing) in 1926 and served as chief designer for many years before retiring in 1957 to paint full-time.

After the Group of Seven disbanded in 1932, Casson co-founded the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933 that included several members of the Group of Seven amongst its collective of 28 painters. Casson gave back to the arts community by supporting other artists and charitable bodies and by serving as president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1948-1952), president of the Ontario Society of Artists (1941-1944), and as a board member of Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario) (1955-1959). After he died in 1992 at the age of 94, Casson was buried upon the grounds of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario along with other Group of Seven members.


Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

A.J. Casson: an artist's life / Christopher E. Jackson, 1998. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 759.11 CAS

This book was published by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection to accompany the exhibition entitled “A.J. Casson: an artist's life”, organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection from 14 November 1998 to 7 November 1999.


Sunday morning with Cass: conversations with A.J. Casson / Ted Herriott and Alfred Joseph Casson, 1993. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 759.11 CAS HER / 759.1109 CASSON

Read the interviews conducted by Ted Herriott with Canadian painter A.J. Casson.


The Bard of rural Ontario A.J. Casson [1 videocassette] / Harvey Kirck; Sketches of our town (Television Program), 1989. VHS. Documentary. Non-Fiction. Video 54534

Join journalist Harvey Kirck as he talked to A.J. Casson who discussed his experiences visiting and painting rural Ontario for over fifty years.



My favourite watercolours, 1919 to 1957 / A.J. Casson; foreword by Paul Duval, 1982. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 759.971 CAS / 759.11 C

Find out which of his own watercolours that A.J. Casson liked best from during the 1919-1957 time period.

Click here for additional copies (759.11 CAS).


A. J. Casson, his life & works: a tribute / Paul Duval, 1980. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 759.11 CAS v.1

Consider this biography of A.J. Casson and a review of his art work by Paul Duval.

Snapshots in History: February 18: Remembering Canada and the Battle of Paardeberg

February 19, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)



(Credit: Canadian War Museum - Map of the Battle of Paardeberg Showing the Position of the IX Division (which included the 2nd Royal Canadian Regiment) on 18 February 1900 during the First Engagement - URL: - See also:


On February 18 and beyond, take a moment to remember the Battle of Paardeberg during the Boer War in Orange Free State, South Africa from February 18-27, 1900. The battle began with British and allied forces besieging a Boer army commanded by Piet Cronjé at Paardeberg Drift on the banks of the Modder River. Included amongst the British-led forces were 31 officers and 866 other ranks of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry (known also as 2 RCRI). This constituted the first major involvement of Canadian troops in the South African War. It also resulted in the worst losses suffered in a single day during the Boer War with 18 Canadians dead and 60 wounded. Consequently, the British high command opted to play a waiting game with the surrounded Boers until a surprise attack was launched on the evening of February 26-27, 1900 with troops of the 2 RCRI in the forefront of the attack that led to the surrender of General Cronjé's Boer forces in the first important British victory of the war.

One can also read further accounts of the Battle of Paardeberg on the Royal Canadian Regiment website, the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum website, (For an Australian) Boer War Memorial website, and on the website. See also Cameron Pulsifer’s article “It’s Just Like the Resurrection: The Boer Surrender to the Canadians at Paardeberg” from the journal Canadian Military History, Volume 9 Issue 1 Article 5 (2000). See also The Great Boer War by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (available as an eBook online by Project Gutenberg) by clicking here.

Consider the following titles for loan from Toronto Public Library collections: 


Canada's soldiers in South Africa tales from the Boer War 1899-1902

Canada's soldiers in South Africa: tales from the Boer War, 1899-1902 / John Boileau, 2011. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.0484 BOI

Follow the journey of Canadian soldiers who fought alongside British troops to prevent the Boer farmers from establishing their own state separate from the British Empire. Picture the differences in Canadian public opinion over whether to help out the “mother country” (Great Britain) or to mind one’s own business and stay out of foreign adventures and military incursions.  


Canada's little war fighting for the British Empire in Southern Africa 1899-1902

Canada's little war: fighting for the British Empire in Southern Africa, 1899-1902 / Carman Miller, 2003. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.0484 MIL

Historian Carman Miller has set the stage for the reader: Picture the superpower of the day (i.e. Great Britain) flexing its muscles to prevent the independence of two Dutch-speaking republics in southern Africa owing to the presence of rich gold and diamond resources, not to mention their strategic position on the African continent situated by the southern oceans. Canada, then a British colony, sent 7,000 soldiers to supplement the British force of 200,000 troops. Canadian troops contributed to victories in campaigns such as the Battle of Paardeberg but some also participated in questionable tactics such as the scorched earth policy and the establishment of concentration camps that imprisoned women and children. All the while, public opinion was divided back home with English Canada predominantly in favour of aiding Great Britain and French Canada overwhelmingly against the Boer War.  Consider the Boer War as foreshadowing of the 1917 and 1944 conscription crises in the first and second world wars with divided public opinion back home in Canada.  


Our little army in the field the Canadians in South Africa 1899-1902

Our little army in the field: the Canadians in South Africa, 1899-1902 / Brian A. Reid, 1996, Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.0484 REI

Read about the first Canadian troops sent overseas to fight. Learn about the different units that distinguished themselves in the conflict and earned battle honours. 


Painting the map red Canada and the South African War 1899-1902

Painting the map red: Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902 / Carman Miller, 1993. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.0488 M

Historian Carman Miller researched private and public papers from manuscript and printed sources to produce this book. The author set the context of why many Canadians volunteered to fight for the British Empire in the Boer conflict despite the debate over whether or not to participate. Miller examined the challenges of leading citizen soldiers into battle and the various leadership types associated therewith. Learn how the soldiers’ experiences and the public’s view of the war shaped Canadian viewpoints as well as the country’s political and military development.

Click here to access 1st paperback edition copy (1998, c1993). Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.0484 MIL


Canada at Paardeberg / Desmond Morton, 1986. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968 M

Military historian Morton authored this booklet for the Canadian War Museum that covered regimental histories of participating Canadian regiments in the Boer War.


"The Canadians": those who served in South Africa, 1899-1902 / Gary A. Roncetti and Edward E. Denby, 1979. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.048 R

This publication listed the names, units, campaigns and casualties of the Canadian forces in the Boer War as well as mentioning Canadians who served in the South African Constabulary.


The Montreal Highland cadets being a record of the organization and development of a useful and interesting corps / Ernest J. Chambers, 1901. eBook. Access Online. (Access URL: )

View this eBook online to review the following content by chapter: 1) British Cadet Corps; 2) Montreal’s First Cadet Corps; 3) The Cadet Movement of 1889; 4) Highland Cadets Organized; 5) Under the Critical Eyes of Royalty; 6) The Duke’s Flag; 7) Ten Years’ Work and Progress; 8) Official Recognition; 9) Highland Cadets in South Africa.

Snapshots in History: February 11: Remembering Nelson Mandela and His Release from Prison

February 11, 2014 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: YouTube – Nelson Mandela Release 1990 – Uploaded on May 27, 2007 – Original content sourced from the BBC archive)



(Credit: YouTube – Nelson Mandela Released From Prison (1990) – British Pathe – Published on December 11, 2013) 



(Credit: YouTube – BBC News Nelson Mandela released from prison – Uploaded on June 28, 2008) 






(Credit: CBC Digital Archives – Nelson Mandela released - Medium: Television; Program: Sunday Report; Broadcast Date: Feb. 11, 1990; Guest(s): George Bush, Joe Clark, Hennie de Klerk, Art Eggleton, Nelson Mandela, Brian Mulroney; Host: Peter Mansbridge; Reporter: Gillian Findlay, Barbara Frum, Anna Maria Tremonti, Tony Weaver, Jean-François Lépine; Duration: 22:30 - URL: ) 




(Credit: CBC Digital Archives – Mandela Visits Canada - Medium: Television; Program: The National; Broadcast Date: June 18, 1990; Guest(s): Nelson Mandela; Host: Peter Mansbridge; Reporter: Gillian Findlay; Duration: 2:24 - URL: ) 




(Credit: CBC Digital Archives – In South Africa with Nelson Mandela - Medium: Television; Program: The Journal; Broadcast Date: Feb. 14, 1990; Guest(s): Nelson Mandela; Host: Barbara Frum; Duration: 13:28 - URL: ) 


On February 11 and beyond, take a moment to remember lawyer and former South African President Nelson Mandela (Born: Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918 at Mveza, Eastern Cape, South Africa; Died: December 5, 2013 at Johannesburg, South Africa; his Xhosa clan name was Madiba) and his release from Victor Verster Prison near Paarl, South Africa on February 11, 1990, a key moment in his quest and that of similarly like-minded people to free South Africa from the racist apartheid regime, a moment realized with the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of South Africa following the victory of  the African National Congress (ANC) to a majority position in the national parliamentary elections on April 27, 1994. Mandela pursued a policy of reconciliation1999) after which he devoted himself to humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours. 

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections (This list is by no means exhaustive nor is it intended to be): 


His day is done a Nelson Mandela tribute

His day is done: a Nelson Mandela tribute / Maya Angelou, 2014. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. Poetry. 811.54 ANG

African-American poet Dr. Maya Angelou honours the amazing life and forgiving soul of Nelson Mandela.

Alternative format: eBook (Access Online


Madiba A to Z the many faces of Nelson Mandela

Madiba A to Z: the many faces of Nelson Mandela / Danny Schechter, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06509 MAN SCH

American journalist and documentary filmmaker Danny Schechter worked with Nelson Mandela on several documentary films and was asked by the filmmakers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom to make a documentary about the making of the motion picture. In the case of Madiba A to Z, each chapter of the book begins with a letter of the alphabet and a corresponding word that describes a theme present in Nelson Mandela’s life.

Alternative format: eBook (Access Online


Mandela his life and legacy for South Africa and the world

Mandela: his life and legacy for South Africa and the world / Bob Crew, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06509 MAN CRE

Author Bob Crew, a British journalist, offers the reader an interesting comparison between Nelson Mandela and a more recent South African president, Jacob Zuma, as well as comparing both South African leaders to other global leaders. 


Mandela a film and historical companion a major motion picture based on Nelson Mandela's bestselling autobiography Long walk to freedom

Mandela: a film and historical companion: a major motion picture based on Nelson Mandela's bestselling autobiography Long walk to freedom / A. M. Kathrada, William Nicholson et al., 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06509 MAN MAN

Enjoy this companion book to the recent feature film Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom. Read accounts of producing, directing, and designing the movie. 


Long walk of Nelson Mandela [Frontline] [1 videodisc] / John Carlin and Clifford Bestall; PBS Home Video, 2011. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06509 MAN LON

Discern between Mandela the man and the myth. Learn about his character, leadership, and relationships with friends, family members, fellow inmates, and adversaries and jailers. Follow the changes in Nelson Mandela from a risk-taker in earlier years to a wise and mature leader.


Reconciliation: Mandela’s miracle [1 videodisc]  / Michael Henry Wilson, Carole J. Wilson, Murray Macdonald et al.; High Wire Productions; PBS Distribution, 2011. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction.  324.26808 MAN REC

This documentary used interviews with various people to chart South Africa’s journey from apartheid to democracy and the impact of Nelson Mandela upon this process. 


Conversations with myself

Conversations with myself / Nelson Mandela; foreword by Barack Obama, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06092 MAN MAN

This compilation from Nelson Mandela’s personal archives tapped into his letters written in prison, two major collections of recorded conversations, notebooks written before his incarceration on Robben Island, calendar, and an unfinished draft of a sequel to his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Read Mandela whether it is the family man, whether he is debating the efficacy of passive resistance and guerrilla warfare or negotiating with his enemies, or whether he is treating his prison wardens and guards with courtesy and respect..  

Alternative formats: Large Print, eBook (Access Online), eBook (Access Online), Audiobook CD, and Talking Book (Restricted to Print Disabled patrons).

See also the French language version: Conversations avec moi-même : [lettres de prison, notes et carnets intimes] / Nelson Mandela ; traduit de l'anglais par Maxime Berrée ; ouvrage publié sous la direction de Jean-Louis Festjens ; [préface de Barack Obama], 2010. Book. French Adult Non-Fiction. 968.06092 MAN MAN 



Playing the enemy Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation

Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation / John Carlin, 2008. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 968.065 MAN CAR

This book is the basis of Clint Eastwood's film Invictus. South Africa hosted and won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Newly-elected President Mandela, striving to bring together racially-divided South Africa, uses sport as a means to unify the nation. He wears a Springbok outfit to present the Webb Ellis Cup to South African captain François Pienaar.

Alternative format: eAudiobook (Access Online


Long walk to freedom the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Long walk to freedom: the autobiography of Nelson Mandela / Nelson Mandela, 1994. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 323.1196 MANDELA / 921 MAN / 921 MANDELA

Read Nelson Mandela’s story in his own words which he began writing in 1975 during his 27 years of imprisonment. His refusal to neither succumb nor be embittered shines through in this account of his life up to his co-winning the Nobel Peace Prize (with F.W. DeKlerk) and becoming South Africa’s president.

Alternative formats: Paperback edition, eAudiobook (Access Online), and eBook (Access Online).


Please view the Nelson Mandela blog post on the Barbara Frum District Blog that reminds readers that Nelson Mandela was not solely responsible for transforming South Africa into a democratic state.

Snapshots in History: February 6: Remembering Bob Marley

February 6, 2014 | John P. | Comments (2)


(Credit: Bob Marley live in concert in Dalymount Park on July 6th, 1980; Photographer: Eddie Mallin – URL: )



(Credit: – Bob Marley – URL: )



(Credit: YouTube – Bob Marley – One Love – Uploaded on April 20, 2010)


(Credit: YouTube – Bob Marley – War – Uploaded on June 29, 2011)



(Credit: YouTube – Bob Marley – Redemption Song – Uploaded on August 24, 2007)


On February 6 and beyond, take a moment to remember the life and music of singer-songwriter Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley (or Nesta Robert Marley – apparently, Marley later inverted his first and middle names) (Born: February 6, 1945 at Nine Mile, Jamaica; Died: May 11, 1981 at Miami, Florida). Marley developed a global following for his reggae music and his commitment to Rastafarianism. Bob Marley and the Wailers were a reggae band that made music and toured between 1963 and 1974 after which Marley teamed up with a new back-up band during 1974-1976 and narrowly escaped assassination preceding a “Smile Jamaica” concert intended to ease competing political tensions in Jamaica. Marley relocated to the United Kingdom during 1977-1978 where he recovered the album Exodus that stayed on the British album charts for 56 straight weeks. (The album included the songs Exodus, Waiting in Vain, Jamming, and One Love (People Get Ready). Marley returned to Jamaica in 1978 to perform at the One Love Peace Concert during which he was able to get then-Prime Minister Michael Manley (who had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two) and then-Leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga to shake hands on stage.

Marley released the album Survival in 1979 to show his support of African people, followed by Uprising in 1980 that included his acoustic folk classic Redemption Song that demonstrated Marley coming to terms with his mortality as the cancer that was ravaging his body at the time would soon take his life in 1981. 

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Marley Africa road trip [2 videodiscs] / Ziggy Marley, Rohan Marley, and Robbie Marley, 2013. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction. 916.04 MAR MAR DISC 1-2

Three of Bob Marley’s sons retrace their father’s African journey in 2010, thirty years after Bob Marley performed an important concert to celebrate the independence of Zimbabwe.


Bob Marley conquering lion of reggae

Bob Marley: conquering lion of reggae [3rd ed.] / Stephen Davis, 2013. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 782.42164 MAR DAV

The author provides the reader with a well-researched biography of Bob Marley built upon interviews conducted with Marley himself before his death and several of his associates. Marley was a champion of human rights, self-determination, rebellion, and the role of the individual who expressed himself through the power of reggae music. 


Bob Marley

Bob Marley / David Burnett, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 782-42164 MAR BUR

This pictorial work provides snapshots of different points in Bob Marley’s life, juxtaposing success with an attempt on his life. 


The future is the beginning the words and wisdom of Bob Marley 

The future is the beginning: the words and wisdom of Bob Marley [1st ed.]  / Bob Marley ; introduction by Cedella Marley ; edited by Gerald Hausman, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 782.42164 MAR MAR

Marley and Rastafarian expert Hausman compiled quotations gleaned from interviews with Bob Marley that outlined his personal, philosophical and spiritual beliefs.   


Marley [1 videodisc] / Bob Marley, Carlton "Pee-Wee" Fraser, Cedella Booker, Chris Blackwell, and Ziggy Marley, 2012. DVD. Documentary. 782.42164 MAR MAR

Watch this documentary about the influential impact of Bob Marley upon the music and sociopolitical scene, made with the support of the Marley family.


Bob Marley a rebel life 

Bob Marley: a rebel life / Dennis Morris, 2011. Book. Adult Non-Fiction. 782.42164 MAR MOR

Photographer Dennis Morris formed a close friendship with Bob Marley. The photographic portraits demonstrated the trust that Marley showed Morris while he was being photographed.  


Kaya [35th anniversary deluxe ed.] [2 sound discs] / Bob Marley and the Wailers, 2013. Music CD. POPULAR MAR

Marley [the original soundtrack] [2 sound discs] / Bob Marley and the Wailers, 2012. Music CD. SHOWS MAR

Live forever September 23, 1980, Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA [2 sound discs] / Bob Marley and the Wailers, 2011. Music CD. POPULAR MAR

Listen to the music of Bob Marley’s last recorded concert.


Please visit Toronto Public Library’s Arts & Culture blog to view Bill V.’s blog post entitled:

Bob Marley's Redemption Song - the Canadian connection .


Please also view Remembering Arthur Ashe: February 6: Snapshots in History.

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