IN early colonial days, it was no uncommon sight to behold government dignitaries passing through the village of Port Hope on their way to and from the seat of Government and doubtless Governors of Upper Canada have stopped over night at local inns.
However no details of any such visits remain and all that may yet be recounted is the episode of Sir Peregrine Maitland and Shoemaker Smith. One day in 1828 the Governor was travelling eastward in his official coach, attended by a numerous retinue. As he drove in state down Walton Street, he expressed a desire to see the old shoemaker, who was famed far and wide as a red-hot radical. His coach was accordingly stopped before the humble abode of the cobbler. The latter immediately took in the situation.
Coming to the door without removing his leathern apron or his cap, the old ” rebel ” shook his fist at the amused throng and thundered, ” Ah, ye know not what yere doing ! Ye wud sell yer birthright for a mess of pottage ! ” He thereupon retired into his shop and the gratified onlookers resumed their journey.
King William the Fourth died on the 20th of June, 1837, but it was not until the 2nd of August that Port Hope heard the news of his death. The proclamation of his successor, Queen Victoria, took place on the 7th. Late in the afternoon Sheriff Ruttan of the Newcastle District arrived from Cobourg where he had proclaimed the Queen at noon. Stationed at the foot of Walton Street and surrounded by the local militia, he repeated the ceremonial and read the prescribed proclamation.
” Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late Sovereign Lord, King William the Fourth, of blessed memory, by whose decease the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and all other of his late Majesty’s dominions, is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, saving the rights of any issue of his late Majesty King William the Fourth, which may be born of his late Majesty’s consort, We, Henry Ruttan, Esq., Sheriff of the Newcastle District ; the Hon. Zaccheus Burnham ; the Hon. Walter Boswell ; the Hon. Thomas A. Stewart,Legislative Councillors of the Province of Upper Canada ; William Falkner, Esq., Judge of the District Court ; and Richard Hare Lovekin, Alexander Fletcher, Richard Hare, Esquires, Justices of the Peace for the said District of Newcastle, and all inhabitants of this District, therefore do hereby, with one full voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim, that the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria is now by the death of our late Sovereign of happy and glorious memory, become our only and lawful and rightful liege Lady Victoria, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, saving as aforesaid, Supreme Lady, &c., of this Her Majesty’s Province of Upper Canada, to whom, saving as aforesaid, we acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all hearty and humble affection ; beseeching God, by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess Victoria with long and happy years to reign over us.”
Thus was the glorious reign of Queen Victoria ushered in, in Port Hope, with feelings of much loyalty -and solemnity.
Twenty three years afterwards the young Prince of Wales visited the Town. He arrived in Cobourg on the 6th of September, 1860, on board the Steamer Kingston (Algerian.) Next morning he took a hasty trip to Peterboro’ and then came on to Port Hope about noon. Several arches had been erected in his honour and residences were profusely decorated. A well-organized procession escorted H. R. Highness and suite through the principal streets to the Town Hall, where Mayor Scott presented the Corporation Address, amidst the greatest cheering from the immense concourse of people assembled. The Prince was thereupon escorted into the Hall where he was entertained at luncheon by the leading citizens of the Town. When the Mayor had duly proposed the toast of the Queen and Royal Family, H. Royal Highness left by rail for Whitby.
The town participated in two events during the next three yearsthe first an occasion of mourning and the second of rejoicing. On the death of the Prince Consort, an address of condolence was despatched to the Queen, which was responded to by the Duke of Newcastle and on the occasion of the Prince of Wales’ wedding the Mayor proclaimed a whole holiday as a mark of gratitude to the Prince for his attentions to Port Hope.
Two royal visitors have since honored the Town, Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1868 and Princess Louise in 1879. The latter passed through the Town in company with her husband, the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada, on September l0th. They merely visited the Town Hall, where they received the usual formality of an address to which the Marquis very fittingly replied, referring gracefully to the happy significance of the name ” Port Hope.”
The only other visit of any importance was that of the Earl of Dufferin in his official capacity on Sept. 3rd, 1874.
On July 1st, 1887, the Queen’s Jubilee was celebrated. The usual Dominion Day programme was entered into with increased spirit and in addition the decorations and illuminations eclipsed all previous attempts.
But the Diamond Jubilee of 1897, as being a more solemn occasion, will outlive the memory of the earlier celebration. On Sunday afternoon, June 2 oth, a most memorable service was held in the Methodist church, attended by all the local organizations. Its most inspiring moment was at 4.13 when in company with British subjects all the world around the National Anthem was sung. The following Tuesday was the official day of rejoicing. Another service was held in the morning and in the afternoon a procession marched to the Park where speeches were delivered by local orators. At night illuminations and a promenade concert in the Drill Shed closed the proceedings.
The news of her Majesty’s death, January 22nd, 1901 was received with general sorrow by the inhabitants of Port Hope as well as by many millions of the departed Queen’s subjects far and wide. Such a recent event requires but little description. On the day of the State Funeral, the 2nd of February, an imposing service was conducted in the Methodist Church, attended by all the religious denominations of the Town, which fittingly concluded a long and memorable reign.