It has been a roller-coaster since I first saw Kim Lunmen’s June 2011 article Fulford Yacht's Historical Homecoming in Thousand Islands Life Magazine. The story was about the yacht Magedoma, now known as Cangarda. Since then I can truly say the “Mighty St. Lawrence River” seems to link us all.
Soon after Kim wrote hers, I wrote an article in August 2011 about my grandfather Charlie MacLean and his tragic marriage to Martha Fulford, Charlie and The Magedoma… Romance and Tragedy on the River. I also wrote to Ian Coristine to ask permission to use his photos of the Cangarda/Magedoma.
It seemed a little cheeky so I added a query: “Was he one of my distant cousins from the family summer home at St. Patricks near Riviere du Loup in Quebec, much farther down the St. Lawrence River?”
The answer to both questions was a cheery ‘yes’. That was last summer, 2011. Since then, like children drawing a puzzle, we have been able to join up the dots.
After my grandfather, Charles MacLean, left Brockville, he moved back to Montreal and started building his own home, Mull Hall (now the Pointe Claire Civic Centre known as Stewart Hall) on the banks of the St. Lawrence on Lake St. Louis. Then in 1914 he went off to the Great War. He married my grandmother, Doris Aldous from Winnipeg in 1916 at St.James’ Church in Picadilly, London. In 1918 they came home to live at Mull Hall, the great mansion that is so reminiscent of Brockville’s Fulford Place.
Doris’s grandfather was Sir Henry Bate, knighted, my mother always said, for building the Canadian Parliament buildings. He was, in fact, chairman of the Commission charged with beautifying Ottawa, and yes there is a link to the Ottawa River there.
At the turn of the century, it was all the rage for the fabulously wealthy to build grand follies far from the industrial smoke and chaos they had created in the cities. Singer Castle and Boldt Castle are wonderful local examples, but the same thing was happening all the way down the St. Lawrence, at Cancouna and Metis and Murray Bay all in the Province of Quebec.
Sir Henry built his grand house at St. Patricks, not far from Riviere du Loup, and my grandmother Doris took her new husband down the river from Pointe Claire to meet the family and spend some quality summer time. Charlie Maclean loved it. Of course the water was a little saltier than you’d find at Gananoque, but every day he’d swim a mile and swallow a mouthful for his health.
However Charlie found the Aldous compound and the little house they had there too small, and when it came up, he bought the quite grand Molson house not far away, and called it “Brandypots” after the distant light house (and yes, I can still link this…)
The Coristines were great magnates in the fur trade. An Bate married a Coristine and when I was a small boy, the great house in the middle of the compound was filled with the children of Bobby and Liz Coristine. Ian’s cousins!
Trading on that frail link, my wife and I determined to come and visit the 1000 Islands. We’d been asked to review Ian’s book/app ‘One in a Thousand’ and we were hooked.
It was at this point Charlie Maclean reached out a spectral hand. The Brockville General Hospital contacted our family and asked if we could help with the 100 year celebration of the Maternity Ward, Charlie, as mayor of Brockville, had endowed on the death of his dear wife, Martha. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We drove from Montreal, and our first stop was Fulford Place where we had a very warm welcome. It was deeply moving standing in Martha’s room, looking at the photos of my grandfather and his wedding to Martha. I’d sent some photos of the young jock who loved rowing on the river, and so won the heart of the heiress. The official ceremony re-badging the Maclean Maternity ward is August 17th and I will be there!
To cap it all, we went on to visit the distant, kind cousin we’d never met on Raleigh Island – Ian - and so closed the circle on the river. Fulford Place, Mull Hall, Brandy Pots and Raleigh. As Ian says in his magical book, ‘the river chooses some’.
By Charles MacLean Cochand
Chas Cochand was born in Montreal and raised in the Laurentians at his family's ski resort Chalet Cochand. At 14 he went off to school in Switzerland but returned to the University of Western Ontario in London, ON for a degree in English & History. He attended the Inns of Court School of Law, London UK, and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1978 and has been practicing criminal law in England ever since. He lives with his wife Judy and three adult sons in the New Forest, Hampshire U.K., but comes home every summer for a month at Judy's family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
To learn more about the Magedoma, see articles Kim Lunman’s three TI Life articles: Fulford's Steam Yacht Afloat Again, May 2010; Sequel: The Cangarda's 'Faithful Guardian', June 2010; and Fulford Yacht's Historical Homecoming, June 2011.