Meighen Mews

Arthur Meighen, prime minister

Photo Fred Gonder

Arthur Meighen

Meighen Mews is a short street that runs off the east end of Devon Street. It is named for the only man born in Perth County or even in the Huron Tract, to become the prime minister twice.

The man was Rt. Hon. Arthur Meighen, the prime minister from July 1920 to the end of 1921, and a short period in 1926. Though his time was short, he is still known as one of Canada's greatest parliamentarians. He was a brilliant orator who always put his political beliefs ahead of his own popularity. He was too brilliant for his own good; his awesome power as a political thinker and debater angered not only his enemies but at times even his friends.

Meighen became leader of the Conservative and the Unionist parties, and the prime minister on July 10, 1920, when Robert Borden resigned and William Thomas White declined the Governor General's invitation to be appointed prime minister. During this first term, Meighen was the PM for about a year and a half. He fought the 1921 election under the banner of the National Liberal and Conservative Party in an attempt to keep the allegiance of Liberals who had supported the wartime Unionist government. However, his implementing conscription hurt his party's already weak support in Quebec, while the Winnipeg General Strike and farm tariffs made him unpopular among labour and farmers alike. The party was defeated by the Liberals, led by William Lyon Mackenzie King. Meighen was personally defeated in Portage la Prairie, with his party nationally falling to third place behind the newly formed Progressive Party.

The Arthur Meighen Gardens at the Stratford Festival were provided by the family (see below). Meighen Island in Prince Gustov Sea in the Arctic Ocean is named for the PM. By Stranford Dingman and Wikipedia

Photo Fred Gonder

Arthur Meighen Gardens

There are four distinct sections to the Festival Gardens. The largest is the Arthur Meighen Gardens, created in 1996 as a gift from the family of Canada's ninth prime minister, first elected in 1920. It lines the approach to the front entrance of the theatre. The gardens are a botanist's delight. Mainly perennials, all the plants are clearly labelled with their botanical and common names.

A short way along the building forecourt, past the huge planters, each containing lantanas, there is the Ann Casson rose garden. The rose bed is filled with about 40 varieties in a rainbow of colours.

Next, steps away, is the Elizabethan Garden. This parterre garden, a style first introduced in France during the life of Shakespeare, is designed with crazy paving, a method that originated in ancient Rome. The sections of parterre are enclosed by neatly trimmed boxwood hedges. At one corner stands a gleaming steel statue of the bard, book in hand. On the fountain are words from his play Cymbeline: These flowers are like the pleasures of the world.

Within the symmetrical parterre are four named gardens containing plants familiar in the 16th century. There's the Witch's Garden with plants such as vervain, considered in ancient times to be a herb with great medicinal powers. In the Romantic Garden are flowers used to make garlands, nosegays and posies. These might include clary sage, used for love potions, dreams and divinations. Of course, in the Kitchen Garden are edible plants and herbs. The fourth section is Shakespeare's Garden, where plants are paired with passages mentioned in his works.

Beyond the Elizabethan Garden, in an expanse of lawn, is a carpet bed, a style that was all the rage in the Victorian era and is still popular in public gardens. A carpet bed is designed using low-growing plants to present a smooth surface patterned as the name suggests. Source: The Record

Frank Holte, sculptures

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, Frank Holte served his apprenticeship at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company. He immigrated to Ontario in 1970, and for 39 seasons he headed the Stratford Shakespeare Festival props department. He is especially well known for his work in stainless steel.

A modern medium, stainless steel is much more economical than bronze but is rarely used for representational figure work. Holte’s statue of William Shakespeare in the garden at the Stratford Festival is therefore unique.

His other stainless works include a 40-foot Phoenix, commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum, and Spirit, a larger-than-life horse in the courtyard of the Stratford General Hospital.

Photo Fred Gonder