Just over 81 years ago in the September 8, 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, Maud (LM Montgomery) and Ewan Macdonald were pictured with two of the stars of the upcoming Anne of Green Gables movie. “Probably no Canadian ever wrote a book nor created a character more famous than ‘Anne of Green Gables,’ by L.M. Montgomery…” the Star noted. “Mrs. MacDonald (sic) is now living in Norval, Ont., where she is busy on a new novel… For the movie production the author receives nothing, having sold dramatic rights to her book to the publishers in 1919.”
We can hope, however, that the new movie renewed books sales and notoriety for Montgomery when it was released.
Maud kept her hands and eyes busy at all times, whether writing, cooking, gardening, observing, or creating. The University of Guelph Library Archival and Special Collections holds a collection of needlework made or saved by L.M. Montgomery, or Maud Macdonald (as she was known in Norval). There are cotton crochet borders and edgings, doilies, huckweave embroidered towels, dresser scarves, cloths, crazy patchwork cushion tops, and more.
Whenever women gathered or had a free moment at home, they chose to create their art. Along with her poetry and prose, Maud embroidered, crocheted, knit and sewed.
At a well-attended Norval Women’s Institute meeting in August 1932, Maud (Mrs. E. Macdonald) spoke about Laces and displayed some of her own best work. It’s possible that some of the items in the University’s collection were on display at that summer meeting 83 years ago.
In December 1928, The Georgetown Herald newspaper began to mention upcoming Christmas events. On December 5 the Herald‘s Norval news column highlighted the annual public school concert, the United Church bazaar, the Presbyterian Sunday School Christmas entertainment, and the Norval Young People’s Union meeting.
The Young People’s variety night had a special treat – a radio – that was used in the Anglican Parish Hall so attendees could enjoy music programs. As well, live piano solos, impressions and readings (including one by Maud, or “Mrs. E. McDonald”) took place. The eclectic evening concluded with a spelling bee, which Maud won.
Two weeks later, the Herald reported that the Presbyterian Sunday School entertainment had been a success. Maud (“Mrs. Ewan McDonald”) gave readings, presented attendance diplomas, and probably helped the other church women cook and serve supper to all those gathered for the festivities. Her husband Ewan (“Rev. Ewan McDonald”) was chair for the evening.
Each year Norval and Union Presbyterian churches celebrated a date close to Thanksgiving with a Fowl Supper, or the equivalent of today’s chicken dinner at many churches. These evenings were not only great fundraisers for the church, but times of socialization. A program of entertainment would be put together for the benefit of attendees.
Since the 1930s we have celebrated Canadian Thanksgivings on the second Monday of October, a date close to the end of our field harvests. Before that, however, the date was not always specific.
According to “Get to know Thanksgiving” by Canadian Living Magazine, “From 1879 to 1920, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated annually in October or November, to celebrate ‘the blessings of an abundant harvest’. From 1921 to 1930, Thanksgiving was combined with Armistice Day (now Remembrance Day), which was observed on the Monday of the week of November 11.”
Combining the two events for one holiday may have been useful, but it did not give much respect to veterans who had served in The Great War. Armistice Day had begun on the second Monday in November, 1919 in the British Empire. According to the Canadian War Museum, Canadian Parliament passed an Armistice Day bill for ceremonies to be held on the first Monday during the week of November 11 beginning in 1921, and it was combined with Thanksgiving for a double-billed holiday. So during the 1920s, Canadians probably gave more thought to the Thanksgiving portion of the holiday weekend than for Armistice Day. But in truth, it wasn’t that many years after the first world war, and the whole concept of “remembrance” as we may consider it today was very young. There was little public demonstration: veterans, families and friends would gather at local memorials (many communities were only beginning to erect cenotaphs in the 1920s) or perhaps in church, but the observance was modest.
The Canadian War Museum also notes that by 1928 prominent citizens – many of whom were veterans – voiced their request for a stronger recognition of Armistice Day and separate from Thanksgiving. In 1931 the federal government decided that Armistice, or Remembrance Day, would be held on November 11 (the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, as we know it). Remembrance Day would “emphasize the memory of fallen soldiers instead of the political and military events leading to victory in the First World War.”
Thanksgiving would be our thanks for an abundant harvest to tide us through the winter to come.
“After the War: Remembrance Day.” Canada and the First World War: Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of History. n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.
Tancock, Kat. “Get to Know Thanksgiving.” Canadian Living. Transcontinental Media G.P., 2014. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.
The Georgetown Herald (dates in articles shown).
Rubio, Mary and Elizabeth Waterston. The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery (Volumes III and IV). Toronto: Oxford UP. Print.
Each year in the village of Norval, Ontario, Kathy Gastle and the Norval Community Association pull out all the stops to hold an old-fashioned Christmas celebration in the spirit of author LM Montgomery. There are bazaars at local churches, author signings, the LM Montgomery museum at Crawford’s Village Bakery (the Crawfords are relatives of Maud’s), and other significant events. This year Montgomery Christmas is pleased to have A Kindred Spirit Christmas, created and performed by The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company, performed in the Anglican Parish Hall where Maud used to act and recite with local residents. Saturday November 29 and Sunday November 30 performances take place at 3:30pm; tickets are $20 or two for $35. The play also continues December 5, 6 and 7.
You may want to sample some of Aunt Maud’s Christmas cake at Crawford’s – made from Maud’s treasured recipe – or search for handmade holiday gifts at the local bazaars. Perhaps best of all is the opportunity for you to walk around to view the Lucy Maud Montgomery Garden, the manse where she lived while Ewan was minister to Norval Presbyterian Church, the church itself, and the Credit River that tumbles through the village. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the late autumn atmosphere in a village that treasures Maud.
Marion Abbott, founder of The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company, is a graduate of the Musical Theatre Performance Program at Sheridan College and has achieved the Piano Performance ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music. As a performer, Marion has appeared in such shows as Bye Bye Birdie, Cole, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Into the Woods. Upon graduating Sheridan in 1999, Marion was hired to accompany vocal exams and to sub-in for various classes, before being hired in September 2000 as part of the vocal faculty. Marion has been teaching musical theatre to children since she was 16 years old; she started in various schools and churches in the Scarborough area and eventually ended up in Brampton.
After teaching privately and working for The Brampton Theatre School, she opened Marion Abbott’s Performing Arts Studio. The studio produced over 30 productions, including All Shook Up, Seussical, Mousetrap, Anne of Green Gables and High School Musical. Her students performed in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida in 2009 and 2011. Marion recently co-created The Confidential Musical Theatre Project, which will have its third installment in January 2015. The show has already been franchised to Vancouver, BC where they will mount their first installment in December 2014 (www.confidentialmusicaltheatreproject.com).
As a dramatist, Marion created No Safe Harbour, a play about the Halifax Explosion and based on the book by the same name by Julie Lawson. After multiple performances in Brampton, No Safe Harbour toured Halifax, Nova Scotia in September of this year and is booked to return in July 2015.
Marion and her husband Giancarlo Piccin, a visual artist, have a nine-year-old son, also named Giancarlo. Marion’s all-time hero is Walt Disney, and she is a passionate movie collector. Her first introduction to LM Montgomery’s Anne was when she was a young girl by her mother Margaret, and she’s been hooked ever since; Marion’s favourite books are Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, and The Blue Castle.
Marion Abbott is the genius behind The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company, a new group to perform in the old Anglican Parish Hall where LM Montgomery performed during the 1920s and ’30s.
The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company promotes the work and legacy of the acclaimed Canadian author through the magic of theatre. All works presented are either adaptations of her writing or productions that reflect her incredible genius and spirit.
“It was in the Parish Hall that the people of the village gathered for youth meetings, concerts and dramatic presentations directed by Maud herself. The Spirit of Maud Theatre Company is honoured to perform in a space so often frequented by Ms. Montgomery during her time in Norval,” Marion notes.
Wednesday, May 13, 1942 The Georgetown Herald provided a biography of Maud after her death, noting that for the previous two years she had been in ill health. The writer emphasized the “freshness and simplicity of style” that marked her writing. There was not much to say about her time in Norval, other than the fact that the family had lived in the village for a few years and Ewan was minister. But across the country fans of LM Montgomery mourned the loss of their beloved author. I know that there were pilgrimages made to her gravesite today to offer Maud floral tributes and thanks for her work.