Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | May 13, 2016

Victoria Day – Cornwall Ontario.


Canada Post issued this stamp in July 1857 with an image of the young Queen Victoria.  (this is a copy)

Victoria Day is Canada’s oldest official holiday.  It was declared a holiday by the legislature of the Province of Canada in 1854 to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.  Victoria came to the throne in 1837.


In 1877 Cornwallite’s celebrated the Queen’s Birthday with “pomp and pageantry.”

A local newspaper reported:  “It is an undeniable fact, that when Cornwall resolved to have a day of public rejoicing, the work is certain to be thoroughly and efficiently done.  When such an occasion as that of Thursday last moved the people of the loyal old borough to keep high holiday, no half heartedness marks their conduct, and no half-measures will satisfy their aspirations.  When the programme for the 24th had received its final revisions at the hands of the various committees, there were not wanting a few members whose dread was that too much had been undertaken, and that a surfeit of events would result in some of them being imperfectly carried out for lack of time and proper superintendence of loyal joy on Thursday has proved the groundlessness of those fears, to the intense satisfaction of those who entertained them.  Had it not been for the unfortunate and regrettable accident which brought the athletic games to an abrupt termination, every item of the programme would have been faithfully attended to, thanks to the zealous and unremitting attention of those who were chafed with the onerous duty of directing the several divisions of the day’s proceedings.

TERRIBLE FATAL ACCIDENT which cast a gloom over the entire community and brought the athletic portion of the programme to a sudden mournful termination.  In spite of repeated warnings, and ind defiance of the efforts of the ring keepers, a number of spectators persisted in forcing their way within the ropes which encircled the arena.  Among these was a young girl named Ellen Kavanaugh, aged 13 years…This unfortunate little innocent , ignorant of the danger which she ran, had penetrated the dense surrounding ring of spectators and taken up a position about six or eight feet inside the ropes.  The heavy ball, with its elastic handle of hickory, sped with the force of a cannon projectile from the hands of the powerful champion (Rory R. McLennan), and, taking a slightly oblique direction, alighted fair on the head of the doomed infant with a dull, crashing, sickening sound which was distinctly audible to the majority of the horror stricken spectators.  Death was of course instantaneous….The remains of the little creature were reverently lifted up and removed in the charge of Mr. W.L. Kavanaugh, the uncle of the deceased…Poor “Rory” McLennan, who bears in the frame of a Hercules a heart as soft and tender as any woman’s was deeply overcome by the disastrous event.  He at once took his departure in a carriage, visibly moved the painful result, for which he was of course, in no way responsible…The vast throng of spectators, impressed as one man, by the awful presence of sudden death, turned slowly and sadly away from the spot…”


scan0044 This was followed by bicycle and foot races and a concert by Miss Bessie Pearl Gilbert on the Cornet.

At 3:30 pm, Harmon and Seabury did their high diving and trapeze act, followed by the local cadets doing military drill.


At 4:30 the crowd at St. Lawrence Park watched a balloon ascension, and then enjoyed a sack race and grease pig contest.

Evening festivities included more music, fireworks and cannon salutes. and more balloons and rockets.


A pin tray issued to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, donated to the museum in 1968 by Mrs. J.J. Whittaker.






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