Tweedsmuir Place

The 39 steps and the opening of the Shakespearean Gardens

Lord Tweedsmuir

Lady Tweedsmuir

Photo: Yousuf Karsh

Tweedsmuir Place was named for John Buchan, 1st Lord Tweedsmuir, and 15th Governor General of Canada (1935-1940). The naming of Tweedsmuir Place was in belated recognition of an official visit by Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir in May 1936 to open the Shakespearean Gardens.

Lord Tweedsmuir was born in Perth, Perthshire, Scotland, which pleased many of the sons of the land of heather. From the same shire in which he was born came descendants of many of the present residents of the Perth County township of North Easthope.

John Buchan was a partner in the book publishing firm of Thomas Nelson and Son for 20 years. He and his wife were novelists. Buchan was a prolific writer and depended on his books for a good part of his income. He was a spinner of tales and spy stories. His most famous book was his espionage thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps, published during the early years of the First World War. At least three movies have been based on that book, one of them directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It became a classic thriller and made John Buchan famous.

in 1935, he was appointed 15th Governor General of Canada and elevated to a Peerage as 1st Lord Tweedsmuir. The title, Lord Buchan, was taken so he took the name Tweedsmuir, which is where he lived as a boy, and added the name of his Oxfordshire manor house Elsfield. Thus, he became Lord Tweedsmuir of Elsfield.

When they came to Stratford in May 1936, the Buchans been in Canada only a few months. They officially opened the Shakespearean Gardens. (More details about the opening of the Shakespeare Gardens were added in The Streets of Stratford 2004, published as commemorative booklets by the Stratford Beacon Herald, 20 years after Stan Dingman's work. The viceregal train carrying Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir slipped quietly onto a railway siding near the Stratford station early in the morning of May 28, 1936. Later that morning, they were officially welcomed by Mayor Walter H. Gregory and his wife Ina (see Gregory Crescent) as they emerged from their coach. In a speech on the steps of city hall, he said his visit to Stratford was "like a homecoming." And when he declared a half-day holiday for the schoolchildren, he was drowned out by the cheering crowd.

Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir unveiled the sundial in the centre of the Knott Garden. (see Huron Street). It was a gift to Thomas Orr from Sir Archibald Flower, the mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon in England. On the same visit, the Buchans unveiled a memorial to the pioneers of North Easthope, many of whom had emigrated from Scotland. And many from Perthshire, where John Buchan was born.

Lord Tweedsmuir instituted the Governor General's Literary Awards in 1937. He was the first Canadian Governor General to die in office (February 1940). By: Stanford Dingman

In 1937, Lord Tweedsmuir wrote to friends in England, "I am a passionate Canadian in my love for the country and the people." After his death from a stroke in 1940, Canadian journalist, John. W. Dafoe said, "He was the pick of the lot." Source: Streets of Stratford, 2004.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In 1907 , Buchan married Susan Grosvenor, daughter of Norman Grosvenor and a cousin of the Duke of Westminster. She was a childhood friend of Virginia Stephen later Virginia Woolf, and they remained friendly, though not always close, in adult life. The Hogarth Press, run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, published a work of Lady Tweedsmuir in 1935 and she was the recipient of one of the last letters Virginia Woolf ever wrote. Her time as Vicereine of Canada is remembered for her energetic relief work. Her library project of gathering books in Eastern Canada for impoverished western communities and sending train carloads of them west was the foundation for many public libraries across the prairies.

Her interest in literary education influenced the establishment of the Governor General's Awards, for many years Canada's primary literary awards, and the library at Rideau Hall. After her husband's death she returned to Britain, where she wrote several more novels, a series of memoirs, and a biography of her husband.

By the mid-1930s, Lady Tweedsmuir, took great interest in the Federated Women's Institute in this country. While at a meeting of the Athens Women's Institute, she stressed the need for preserving the history of our Canadian people. As an active WI member in England, she suggested that Ontario Women's Institute branches follow the example of their English counterparts and keep detailed local history books.

In 1940, a recently widowed Lady Tweedsmuir was delighted to approve that these histories should be named after her late husband, thereby originating The Tweedsmuir Village History Books. For a list of books see WIO Digital Collections

She died at Burford, near Oxford, on March 22, 1977, and was buried beside her husband in the churchyard at Elsfield. Source Wikipedia

Cairn to honour early settlers

In 1934, the residents of North Easthope Township planned to build a cairn to honour the early settlers in their area who had emigrated from Scotland and Ireland. After some discussion, the committee chose a 40-foot square plot of land on Lot 21, Concession 1. along highway 7 and 8, just west of the village of Shakespeare. A designer and an architect were named and the materials for the cairn, such as granite stones, sand and gravel, were brought from nearby township properties.

On May 28, 1936, at 4 p.m., the Governor General of Canada, Lord Tweedsmuir, pulled back the Union Jack flags to reveal the 12-foot cairn honouring the pioneers of North Easthope. The cairn is on Line 34 (Hwy 7 and 8, Road 107, Perth East, Shakespeare, Ont.

Following the unveiling, Katherine McCallum, president of Hampstead Women’s Institute, presented Lord Tweedsmuir with a leather-bound copy of History of the Pioneers (which can be read here), in which was recorded the history of the early settlers of North Easthope.

Unveiling the North Easthope cairn with Lord and Lady Tweedsmuir, 1936