In the midst of winter, it is certainly fun to think of the glorious ‘tea party’ hosted for the grand children and great grand children of one-time Brockville mayor, Charley MacLean; the man who fell in love with and married Martha Fulford, the great Brockville heiress, who lived at Fulford Place.
Charley, who lived in Montreal, was out rowing on the St. Lawrence when he caught the eye of Martha Harris ‘Mattie’ Fulford, daughter of the multi-millionaire Senator George Taylor Fulford of Brockville; whose fortune was based on the world famous patent medicine, Pink Pills for Pale People.
I wrote about their romance in the August, 2012, issue of TI Life.
Romance and Tragedy on the River: The Circle Closes.
Tragically, Martha died in childbirth in 1910, leaving her fortune to their son, who survived some forty-eight hours and then died intestate; her substantial inheritance passed to her young husband, Charley MacLean. He remained at Fulford Place, founded the Brockville Maternity Hospital in memory of his wife, in 1912 and even became the mayor in 1913.
In time, the lonely widower left Brockville and returned to his roots to look after his mother in Montreal and built Mull Hall, along the River in the village of Pointe Claire, Quebec. Curiously, Mull Hall is reminiscent of Fulford Place. In 1917 he married my grandmother, Doris Thornton Aldous of Winnipeg, Manitoba and a new life began.
Imagine our surprise, when my wife and I were invited back to Charley's second home -- a home near Montreal we never knew -- for a party!
It was last summer and it was the 50th anniversary of the gift of the grand home Charley had built during World War I, to the town of Pointe Claire, by the Stewart family. (The Stewarts were another well-known industrial family, founders of the MacDonald Tobacco Company). It was the Stewarts who purchased the property from the second owners, the Fathers of Sainte-Croix. At that time it was destined to become a housing development. It was the Stewarts who saved the home from demolition and sold it to the City of Pointe Claire for $1. Thus, it has been the focus of art, culture, and community activities for over fifty years; what a glorious tradition.
The organizers thought they would organize a grand tea party and invite Charley MacLean’s descendants, and we came! Two from Hampshire, U.K., two from Minnesota and a large contingent proudly wearing the MacLean tartan came from British Columbia.
Our hostess was Diana Stewart, daughter of the amazing woman who saw the potential for her community and gave a priceless gift.
The ‘tea party’ coincided with a sad moment. Charley’s oldest grandson, Gordon MacLean was laid to rest in the family plot on the top of Mount Royal, and we clustered around the family stone that marks the spot where Charley and our family are buried.
But we rejoiced too!
There was a chance to be one of the MacLeans living in the Big House!
An art installation in the grounds on the river bank permitted us all to dream of gracious living in another era. All you had to do was poke your head through and you could be Charley, Doris, Ian, Morna and Meriel in front of your own home.
Guests could pose as the MacLean Family – and they did!
The tea was lavish and there was an opportunity to tell stories of “the tall rich people with big dogs” who once lived in Charley MacLean’s mansion, on the west island of Montreal, on the St. Lawrence River that connects us all.
Chas MacLean Cochand, Brook Farm, Blissford, UK