Happy birthday, Sir John A.!

The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald stands in city park in Kingston, Ontario. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The statue of Sir John A. MacDonald stands in City Park in Kingston, Ontario, Canada’s first capital and the home of the nation’s first Prime Minister. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

He drank too much. He argued too much. And he didn’t play by the rules enough.

He is Canada’s Father of Confederation and January 11 is his birthday.

Sir John A. Macdonald, the man who did more for Canada than anyone else in its history, was a character in life and is one now, 122 years after his death. Sir John, Eh? the Musical runs from January 9-12, 2013 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada’s first capital. The play is written by Jim Garrard, the former executive director of the Toronto Arts Council, and stars members of the Kingston-based Salon Acting Company. Using humour, music and brilliant writing, the play portrays Macdonald honestly, not shying away from his shortcomings while also underscoring his genius and his passion to build a united Canada, no matter the cost. Anyone who believes Canadian history is boring will be challenged to hold on to that notion after seeing the play.

Macdonald was born in 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland and five years later moved with his family to Kingston, Ontario. He became a lawyer and his former offices were recently turned into a pub in his hometown. Kingston is in the midst of a Macdonald revival, building toward the first Prime Minister’s 200th birthday. The Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission is aiming to make Macdonald’s birthday a national holiday. As part of its efforts, it conducts walking tours daily during the spring, summer and fall, and celebrities often take part. The Pacific Scandal, Louis Riel trial and contentious relations with the United States are all covered, along with stories of ghosts and tavern fights.

The walking tours in 2012 featured Don Cherry and former Prime Minister John Turner. Costing just $20 and lasting for 90 minutes, the walk moves through the city’s downtown, stopping at sites notable in Macdonald’s life, and culminates in City Park, where a statue of Macdonald has stood since 1895.


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A photographer who has worked in the largest media markets in Canada and the U.S., Julia’s travel photos and videos have been featured prominently in the Toronto Star and been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Her new line of photo jewelry was inspired by her travels. Even though she is an American, one of her favourite travel experiences was spending Canada Day 2000 on Parliament Hill, joining in a parade with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and others. Julia is Vacay.ca’s Visuals Editor. See her work at www.juliapelish.com/blog.

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