Editor’s Note: Chas M. Cochand discovered our first story about the Fulford family, written in May 2011, Fulford Yacht's Historical Homecoming, by Kim Lunman. Soon after he provided the untold story of romance and tragedy of Senator George Taylor Fulford’s daughter, Martha and her marriage to Charlie MacLean, who came from Montreal. Charlie and The Magedoma… Romance and Tragedy on the River and Romance and Tragedy on the River: The Circle Closes were two of his articles.
Then in 2014, he wrote Charley MacLean’s Homecoming Down River, telling the story of how the family was invited to return to Brockville for a tea party. In 2015, Chas presented a link between the Thousand Islands and the Quebec Laurentians and Chalet Cochand. On November 11th, Remembrance Day, Chas wrote an article, Ian Aldos McLean’s Christmas Feast. allowing us to step back in time. Now, December 2018, he adds to the stories of days gone by.
They had come home, well some of them had.
Jean was 16 now, almost dix sept. He could remember all the parades and the flags and the soldiers and uniforms and the velvet horses, shimmering like silk when they left, so proud.
There were marching bands and drums and those terrible whiny pipes ‘les Écossais' played with their bare kilted legs and funny bonnets.
Jean had stood there with Percy, the Irish orphan, trying to follow the mystery and the logic.
M’sieur le Curé had said they were going to punish ‘les Boches’, a cowardly sinful nation who had shamelessly attacked the innocent King of the Belgians and his people.
Jean had heard some of the men saying it wasn’t their ﬁght here in rural Quebec, up-River from Montreal ‘abord de la grande ﬂeuve’, now covered mostly in dirty grey ice.
Jean looked at ‘le Colonel’.
He'd been young, with flashing eyes and smile; when he left with his sword and pistol, horses and groom.
Now, sometimes he looked so sad. His eyes seemed older and he laughed less.
He brought home a wife and a small son from the war and there had been speeches and solemn masses in churches to remember those who had
not come from home. His mother's favourite brother Uncle Jean Marc had gone.
The Big House had been building slowly all through the war, and was all but ready for their welcome home. Spruce bows and snow! And wagons and sleighs, and mysterious trunks and “Madame”, le Colonel's beautiful new young wife he brought home from Angleterre.
The bodies had not come home, and there was much sadness and anger over that. They said Jean Marc slept with the others, at Vimy in France. Jean thought his ‘oncle' would be happy there.
There were widows in the village who remembered those who had not come back, and they said the big ‘hôpital' at St. Anne's, down the road was filled with some of the terribly injured, bodies torn by explosions, eyes still staring at the horrors, gassed with terrible poisons.
Madame's brother was there. ‘l'Oncle Harry' who sat quietly, coughing as he drank ‘le whisky blanc'. He had been gassed and still coughed a lot.
M'sieur Monty, Madame's father was there. The whole village turned out to watch him fire the cannon last year! But it had been hard with all the young men all away, so far away and it had been cold, and not much food.
Before the war had started, life had been sweet. Would it be the same again? Ever?
Jean had told Perce about the parties when ‘les Cousins de Brockville' had come down the River in the great flashing yacht, so fast sometimes in the night you could hear the drumming of her mighty steam engines and Jean would wake and would go to the window to see her piercing white light as she arrived from up-River with all the happy excited guests.
The dinner in the grand dining room after was wonderful.
He and Perce had done all the fires that morning, and Madame Young had gotten all the young girls in from the village to shine the silver. M. Young was serving wine in sparkling carafes and the little boy, Ian, was laughing as le gouvernant M'amsel Wildgoose carried him about, and the Big Dogs were sleeping, one eye open, watching for bones.
Perce coughed and nudged him. Jean looked and Perce nodded.
A candle on the big tree was guttering. That was their job, in their shiny new Christmas suits. There were fifty candles to watch.
Jean reached with his silver snuffer, candle out, and then wrestled a fresh candle from the box on his hip, on tip toes, he carefully pushed it into the softt goo of the old candle and lit it with the taper Perce passed him.
It was going to be ‘okay'. Le Colonel was back, the cows were in milk on the farm, the sleighs were ready, and the bells polished.
Bientot, Pere Noel viendra! There would be feasting in the servant’s hall tonight and singing and dancing again. In the spring. M. Young said Le Colonel was going to buy a fine new modern motor car and he and Perce would be trained as drivers!
And then it would be summer, and fishing! and swimming.
By Chas MacLean Cochand, Brook Farm, Blissford Hampshire SP6 2JQ.
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 to Canada every summer for a month at Judy's family cottage on Lake Simcoe.
Chas has written eight other articles for TI Life some are whimsical while others, like this one, link his family to Brockville through the Fulford family. This is another of those fascinating articles.
Note: The Big House is now known as Stewart Hall and was built by the authors grandfather, Charles MacLean. When it was originally built in the small village of Pointe Claire, Quebec, it was named Mull Hall. Today it serves as a community centre.