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Charlie and The Magedoma… Romance and Tragedy on the River

Kim Lunman captured all of the elegance and magic of bygone age in her May 2010 article , but there is a mostly untold story of romance and tragedy that also features Senator George Taylor Fulf0rd’s 126’  steam yacht, The Magedoma.

In 1988, Senator Fulford’s great-grandson, Scott Disher was interviewed on the radio in Montreal. His grand-father George Taylor Fulford had just died and Scott was asked about the connection between the fabulous Fulford Place at Brockville and magnificent Mull Hall (now Stewart Hall, the civic centre of Pointe Claire on the west island of Montreal).

Scott told the story on CBC’s ‘Daybreak’ of how the ‘poor boy, Charlie Maclean from Pointe Ste. Charles’ met and married Martha, the Fulford heiress and inherited the millions.”

Now Charlie Maclean wasn’t just a boy from a modest background. His father David and mother Mary were Scots protestants who had emigrated from Ireland. Montreal was always a good home to the Scots, even before Wolfe took Quebec!

Charlie was a ‘wet bob’ too! As a young boy he’d excelled at swimming and paddling, and at 16 he was a member of the old Grand Trunk Boating Club’s water polo team when it travelled down to defeat the New York Athletic club.  At age 24, he won the Dominion single blade championship at Ottawa in 1900, before their Majesties’ King George V and Queen Mary and won the swimming title as well.  He was also captain of the winning Grand Trunk War canoe team in the half mile defeating fifteen other teams including the redoubtable Britannia and Ottawa teams. He went on to win both titles again against the Americans at the Pan American exhibition in Buffalo.

Charlie captained his Club's war canoe when for four years in succession it won the mile race of the Canadian Canoe Association (1902-05).  He was one of Canada’s outstanding athletes on the water at the turn of the century. From the 1900 photo, he was good looking and a bit of hunk too!

Charlie is said to have been rowing on the river when he caught the eye of Martha Fulford, relaxing, taking tea on the stern of her father’s magnificent 126’ steam yacht, The Magedoma on its way to Lake Champlain. It was love at first sight.  They were married July 28th, 1908 on the Magedoma, docked in the Port of Montreal, and because Sen. Fulford had been killed in a motor accident, Martha was given away by an old family friend, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. (Canada’s Prime Minister  1896 - 1911).  The beautiful sterling silver barometre and clock was a wedding gift and is inscribed to Mr. & Mrs. C.W. Maclean from ‘Magedoma’s Crew’. It must have been a large, well paid crew as it is a very impressive wedding present.

Martha wrote a letter home to her mother while on her honeymoon, saying “Charlie was the kindest and most considerate man she had ever met”. She went on to say that he looked after her so well and she only hoped she could be half as good to him.

Poor Martha was married once before she married Charlie. Her first husband was George Sherrif and he was her childhood sweetheart. She had to wait until her older sister Dorothy married before she was allowed to marry him in 1906 but George was ill with cancer and died 2 months after they were married.

Martha’s marriage to Charlie was tragic too. Sadly, Martha developed appendicitis during her pregnancy and died shortly after giving birth to their son in 1910. Martha’s fortune passed to their newborn son, who survived some forty-eight hours and then died intestate, and the Fulford millions belonged to ‘poor boy’ Charlie Maclean.

The grieving widower, Charlie remained at Fulford Place in Brockville, eventually becoming mayor in 1913.  During his time, he was determined to try and prevent a similar tragedy and last year, Brockville General Hospital celebrated 125 years of service to the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. As part of the celebration,  research shows the creation of the maternity ward, endowed by Charles MacLean in August of 1912. The donation was given in memory of his first wife, Martha (Mattie) Fulford.

The maternity ward construction cost $9,163.67, and its furnishing $831.48. The furnishings were provided by the Brockville General Ladies Auxiliary, who for the first time overrode the decision of the Board of Governors about where to spend the auxiliary’s profits for the year. The Board said “no” to furnishing the new maternity ward, but the ladies did it anyway and changed their bylaws to reflect that decision. The completed ward was officially opened August 17th, 1912 as the MacLean Memorial Ward, a fitting tribute to the “1st” Mrs. C.W. Maclean.

Soon after he completed his term as mayor, Charlie left Fulford Place and returned to Montreal where he set himself up in business and set about building his own palatial home. According to Scott’s slightly “waspish account” (my aunt Meriel went to Compton with his mother and was his god-mother), Charlie was determined to build a mansion to rival Fulford Place, and hide his modest origins.

If that was even close to the truth, Charlie certainly succeeded. He bought the Knoll, which was owned by the Allen family (Allen Steamship Line) and developed a large farming estate on the edge of Pointe Claire. He commissioned the new home, “Mull Hall,” and when complete in 1916 with its 35 rooms, it was a more spacious, less ornamented version of Fulford Place. It was referred to as ‘Chateau Maclean‘  by the locals! Charlie’s nearby model dairy with electric lights, music to soothe the cows, and tiles (for ease of cleanliness) cost over $100,000.

In 1914, Charlie was gazetted a major in the 13th Scottish Light Dragoons (a Canadian reserve) and met my feisty grandmother, Doris Thornton Aldous before departing for active service in France. He came home in January 1916 and was promoted to Lt. Colonel, to organize and command the 207th Ottawa-Carleton Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force; popularly known as ‘Maclean’s Athletes,’ and returned to war.

Doris was not about to let the handsome and wealthy widower escape, and applied for a commission herself and as an Hon. Lieutenant, Canadian Field Comforts, travelled from Winnipeg across Canada on her military travel warrant, to board a ship in Halifax. They were married in St. James’ Church in Piccadilly, London on December 20th, 1917. My uncle Ian was  born in England as the war continued.

When they came home, Mull Hall was ready for them, though when Doris became pregnant with my mother, Morna, she decided to take a suite of rooms at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, with a doctor and staff, and my mother was born in the Ritz in March 1920.

The Fulford and Maclean families remained friends, visiting each other's mansions right up until World War II and there are photos of them together in 1942, all the men on leave in uniform.

The Colonel, as he came to be known, died in 1951, aged 75; the year I was born, so I carry on his name and some of the magic of the Magedoma (and its silver chronograph which sits on my desk).

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.


Posted in: History, People
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John Lyons
Comment by: John Lyons ( )
Left at: 12:44 PM Friday, June 22, 2012
I am the fe facto historian for the Prince Edward Yacht Club, located in Picton Harbour,and I can tell you that a B&W photo of the 'Magedoma' hangs in our Clubhouse lounge. It is pictured in the midst of tying up to our wharf while on Great Lakes patrol duty during WWII. It was based in Kingston at HMCS Cataraqui. I could email you a copy of the photo, if you like.
Yours truly, J.D. Lyons
Donna McMurtry
Comment by: Donna McMurtry ( )
Left at: 9:33 PM Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Wonderful account of historic and family events. I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing story. It certainly allows ones imagination to wander, and to capture the lifestyle in those affluent times~ albeit shared by war time sadness and turmoil.
Marc S
Comment by: Marc S ( )
Left at: 6:33 PM Monday, January 13, 2014
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mr Chas Cochand as we are preparing a documentary film on Stewart Hall (Mull Hull) for 2014. He is a true story teller and cherishes his roots dearly. Well done on publishing this article.
Nicholas Fulford
Comment by: Nicholas Fulford
Left at: 11:45 PM Monday, November 10, 2014
I was privileged several years ago to be taken out on the Cangarda on her visit to Brockville on a cruise up the St. Lawrence. A beautifully reconditioned steam yacht - it was like travelling back in time well before I was born, in 1958.

I had the old signal canon in my possession, and I presented it to her new owner to restore that part of her. That canon has its own tales to tell - including how my father George III dropped it down the cliff at the boathouse you see in the picture above.

As I said, it was a rare and remarkable privilege to spend a few hours cruising on the Cangarda - taking in the smell of varnish on a teak deck, and imagining something out of "The Great Gatsby". Yes, we recreate the past to fit a certain image - but I can imagine it, and it seems an awfully fine image to reflect upon.

(I refer to her by her original name because a fine ship should carry the pedigree of her first name, though in my family the name Magedoma has resonance.) No doubt there are many tales to tell if only the tellers had voice to speak them. But we Fulfords are not strangers to the spirit world, and if Mary - who conducted seances for Mackenzie King - were to find a way to speak to us, I am sure she would keep us entranced with all the stories of things that transpired on this lovely steam vessel.