Saturday, 26 March 2011

John McCarthy: A taciturn giant in Canada

Last November I took out a subscription to the US newspaper website Genealogy Bank. I did so as part of my search for Captain John Winn. I haven't found him yet but the subscription has paid for itself in an unexpected way. It seems US newspapers in the early 20th century were fascinated by the workings of Scotland Yard and I have found many articles which mention my great grandfather, John McCarthy.


McCarthy John head at Palace


Last night I came across a real gem - an article written following John McCarthy's appointment as Superintendent in charge of CID at Scotland Yard in 1912. It appeared in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, dated 18 October 1912, in a gossip column with the extraordinary title: "Gossip Of Europe. Marquise De Fontenoy's Budget of Old World Celebrities".

After paying tribute to John McCarthy's predecessor in the job, Superintendent Froest, the article goes on to describe the new appointee:


John McCarthy 1912


I shall have to ask my mother, who lived with him as a child, whether he was really "a giant in stature and strength" and "exceedingly silent and taciturn". The latter seems an unlikely description of any Irishman.

The information about John McCarthy accompanying the Prince of Wales (later George V) on a tour of Canada was new to me. It adds yet another dimension to my family's relationship with the country of which I have recently become a citizen.




Good old Wikipedia provided me with a detailed itinerary, in an article on Royal tours of Canada:

As modern modes of transportations allowed for easier travel across the oceans, more of the Royal Family came to tour the King's northern Dominion. The first since Queen Victoria's death was the son of the reigning king, Prince George (later King George V) and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall and York, who arrived in Canada in 1901. The royal party Рwhich consisted of 22 people, including the Duchess' brother Prince Alexander of Teck Рlanded at Quebec City on 16 September, from where the group then travelled to Montreal Рwhere separate Francophone and Anglophone welcoming committees caused confusion Рand then on to Ottawa, where the Duke watched the lacrosse final for the Minto Cup, which he enjoyed so much he kept the ball that was used. They then shot the timber slide at the Chaudi̬re River, watched canoe races, and picnicked in Rockcliffe woods, near Ottawa. They passed through Ontario, creating "incredible excitement seldom seen since the visit of his father in 1860." Amongst other duties, the Prince dedicated the Alexandra Bridge in Ottawa, in honour of Queen Alexandra.

The Duke and Duchess moved on to Manitoba where the former opened the new science building at the University of Manitoba, and then to Regina in the Northwest Territories. In Calgary, they met with First Nations chiefs and viewed exhibitions. Westward, they ended up in Vancouver and Victoria, to turn back again towards Banff, where the Duchess went to Tunnel Mountain and Lake Louise while the Duke went to Poplar Point. After passing back through Regina, they reunited in Toronto, welcomed by the Mendelssohn Choir, and attended concerts at Massey Hall. It was then around southern Ontario and back to Montreal again, where the Duke opened the newly rebuilt Victoria Bridge. The tour ended with a trip through Saint John, Halifax, and then out of Canada to the then still separate Newfoundland.

I also found on YouTube an old film of the royal party in Montreal and Quebec. Unfortunately, I cannot spot John McCarthy in any of the footage but, no doubt, an important part of being a royal bodyguard is to be discreet and keep out of the limelight.


John McCarthy's youngest daughter, Sheila, was born on 30 September 1901, whilst he was away in Canada with the royal couple. I don't suppose that made him very popular with his wife, my great grandmother, Agnes McCarthy nee Fritz. Sheila was given the second name Mary - hardly surprising in a good Catholic family - but I wonder whether it may also have been in honour of Princess Mary, with whom he was travelling when the baby was born.

1 comment: