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II

It was my third visit to Canada. The first time I was there in 1909, when, as a member of a party of Australian and New Zealand delegates to the Imperial Press Conference of 1909, we travelled through Canada on our way to London. During the couple of weeks we then spent in Canada we were the guests of the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. A special railway car was our home except when we occasionally spent a night at some of the beautiful hotels of the company. Luncheons and banquets were tendered to us wherever we went. Each of the provincial Governments and also the Dominion Government entertained us, and we were the guests of the then Governor-General, Earl Grey, and Lady Grey, at Rideau Hall, the historic home of Canadian Viceroyalty. We saw most of the wonders of Canada—vast prairies, where a few years previously buffaloes had wandered, converted into waving wheat fields, the immense pine forests, freshwater lakes that are great inland seas, the Niagara and Montmorency Falls, the stupendous grandeur of the


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Rocky Mountains, the far-famed Heights of Abraham and the walls and forts of quaint old Quebec, the majestic St. Lawrence river and the wonderful bridge over it at Quebec, as well as the Dominion's many activities in the fields of industry and commerce.

When in Canada in 1909 I was fortunate in meeting Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then Prime Minister of Canada. It was when we were the guests of the Governor-General. His charm and brilliancy were striking; he was handsome; he had a fine figure, his features well defined, his hair white; he had grace, courtesy and scholarly eloquence. At the first gathering of Empire statesmen in London he put in a few words the idea of Empire unity when he said, “If you want our aid call us to your councils.” At a dinner given by the Governor-General to the Australian and New Zealand journalists, Sir Wilfrid, when proposing “The Sister Dominions,” made a remarkable speech. He said:

“In connection with your reception in Toronto I was impressed by the statement made by one of you that you had come here as cousins and we received you as brothers. Truly as brothers we receive you—we are bound together by an even stronger tie than blood, a tie that is manifold in its embraces, not only binding together men of the same blood, but men of many origins, and connecting all in the common bond of citizenship. In a former period it was a proud boast in Asia Minor and Greece to proclaim, ‘I am a Roman citizen.’ In these days it is not ‘I am a Roman citizen,’ but ‘I am a British subject.’ It is in this


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quality that our guests are going to England at the present time.”

We met in Canada in 1909 an exceptionally remarkable man, Mr. George Ham. He was a sort of super-courier of the C.P.R. and was our cicerone through the Dominion. Before we landed at Victoria, British Columbia, from the steamer that brought us from Australia, he had come on board, and from then until we left he was our guide, philosopher and friend. All of us, especially the ladies, of whom there were several, got to love him for his kindliness and his wit. He was one of the best-known men in Canada, and wherever he went he seemed to exude his gospel of cheer. His fund of humorous stories was inexhaustible and his laughter infectious. Here are a few of his original sayings:

“Talk is cheap; that is why it is so prevalent.”

“Young man, when you think you know more than the boss does, it's time to quit.”

“Never offer an anchor to a drowning man.”

“Ours is a show world, but behind us all there is a Beneficent Showman.”

Once when he came round after an operation in a hospital he found himself in a darkened room. He asked the nurse the reason. “Well,” she explained, “there is a big fire across the street and we were afraid if you awoke and saw the flames you might think the operation hadn't been successful.”

One of his stories was about a judge during the Caribou gold rush who fined a miner two hundred dollars.




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“That's dead easy, for I've got it here,” said the culprit, “in my hip pocket.”

“And six months in jail. Have you,” continued the judge, “that in your hip pocket?”

Another of his stories was about the same judge, who sentenced a wicked old man guilty of a heinous crime to ten years' hard labour. “Your honour,” said the prisoner, “I'll never live to do as much as that.” “Well,” answered the judge, “you do as much of it as you can.”

When we parted with George Ham at Quebec we made him a presentation. Tears ran down his cheeks, and there were few of us whose eyes were not dim. The last time I saw him was in a hospital in Montreal in 1920. He was not wealthy, but he had what he told us he valued more than millions—the affection of thousands of friends. He died in Montreal in 1926 in his seventy-ninth year.

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