Anglophones formed 40 per cent of the Quebec City population in 1850, yet their story is little known





It's not surprising that outsiders and, indeed, many Quebecers, believe that Quebec City is solidly French. As Louisa Blair points out in the second volume of her aptly titled The Anglos: The Hidden Face of Quebec City, the English-speaking population began to lose its visibility long, long ago. "The interest of historians in anglophone Quebecers was deflected at Confederation, and by the 1940s had almost vanished completely."

Blair, whose own family has deep roots in Quebec City, has sought to at least "partially unveil the hidden face." Her latest book begins in 1850, when English speakers made up 40 per cent of the overall population; an anglophone Protestant elite dominated the timber trade, shipbuilding and other industries; hundreds of British troops provided "a pack of trouble on payday and prestigious matches" for the daughters of local anglophones; and an anglophone served as mayor.

By the late 19th century, Blair notes, the British garrison had departed and Irish, European, American and Chinese immigrants had changed the composition of the city's English-speaking population.

"While the anglophone gentry with their snowshoe clubs, skating parties and afternoon teas behaved as if nothing was amiss, their numbers were in decline and the economy was undergoing a sea change."

In the early 20th century, anglophones accounted for little more than 10 per cent of the total citizenry and were divided by religion and ethnic background.



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Paul Anderson - 1/4/2006

It wasn't only relatively large cities in Quebec that had Anglo minorities. I was recently in Bertierville, an old town on the north bank of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Trois Rivieres. Dear the central business district I saw a row of restored older single-family residences. One was marked _Ancien Presbytere Anglican._ Narry an Eglise Anglicane was to be seen in the neighborhood, but I suspect that it once existed in the area and perhaps also that the residences were homes to an Anglophone merchant elite.
Paul Anderson
Washington University


Sheelagh M. Grenon - 1/2/2006

The Anglos
The Hidden Face of Quebec City
Volume II
Since 1850
Louisa Blair


I beg to differ.

It is with some hesitation that I bought The Anglos, volume II, that is. I am by no means a historian, and I cannot claim to be steeped in the history of Quebec City. I am reacting with my gut, as someone born here in Quebec City. I have lived here most my life except for various periods of self-imposed exile which began with a two year hiatus for boarding school in Halifax, at that crucial age of 16. I would later leave this town so often out of fear and frustration only to return because I missed that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I did not find elsewhere. My own “crise d’indépendence” took me across the pond and down to the most southern point of the African continent, Cape Town, South Africa. My thinking was that if it was good for my mother’s sister and her family, then I would be alright there. How naive one can be at 22—another bilingual country and I did not speak the other language... But that is another story.

My mother was British. My father is a French Canadian. My paternal grandfather, a French Canadian from Chicoutimi, graduated, at the turn of the 20th century, from Queen’s University, Kingston, with a degree in Civil Engineering. He returned to Quebec with not only that degree in hand, but with an excellent grasp of the English language. He would go on to become the chief engineer responsible for the building the railroads linking the mining town of Chibougamau with the Saguenay port of Baie des Ha Ha and with Quebec City. My mother was a war bride. My parents met and married in Scotland. My eldest brother was born in England, but my three younger brothers and I were born here in Quebec City. My mother was 75% Irish and 25% English. She was English. It was the 25% that counted and that is what my brothers and I grew up with. My mother was English, High Church of England, and not Irish Catholic. Those Irish roots were buried never to be mentioned or celebrated. I had an English education in Quebec City and Halifax, NS. My mother tongue is English and I consider myself an English speaking native of Quebec City, and a Canadian first and foremost.

I am also one of the hidden faces of the English Face of Quebec City. I did not attend any of the public schools of Quebec City. I am not part of the St. Pat’s nor the Quebec High clique. I went to Marymount, a private school that is barely mentioned in the book. My parents had planned on sending me to Bellevue which once had an English section, not just English classes, but a full school just as it does at the Villa Maria in Montreal. My paternal grandmother and my aunt were educated by Les Dames de la Congrégation at Bellevue and the Villa Maria. My brothers were to and did follow in their father’s footsteps at the Petit Séminaire de Québec. As I was about to start school Bellevue started closing down its English section. In 1953, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary started their Junior and High School on Mont Carmel street in Old Quebec, up behind the Château Frontenac. I was part of that first kindergarten class of 1953. It offered that something special that no other school in the City had, be they French or English language schools. It was small. It was international. The buildings were old homes. There was nothing institutional about the school. Space was not a luxury. We had a library in the attic. Reading was a very important part of the school culture as was penmanship, music, drama and ballet. The nuns went from one building to another in the dead of Winter wearing black woven wool shawls. We used the Institut Canadien for special recitals, the YWCA, on Sainte-Ursule, the church hall of the Chapelle du Sacré Coeur for our Christmas bazaars, recess was on the hill neighbouring the Citadel. The chapel was so tiny we took turns as the entire student body and faculty could not fit in. We would come together in the Spring for the May Day celebrations in the convent garden, which is now a City-owned park. The cannons that sit there were also there when I was a child. I received my first communion from the hands of none other than Mgr Alphonse-Marie Parent, that of the 1967 ‘Rapport Parent’ that would bring about the closing of Marymount College in Quebec City. He was that one constant witness of the presence of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary from their arrival to Quebec City, in 1943, to their departure in 1969. We learned to sing “O Canada” in French and in English. I learned “God Save the Queen” in Halifax, not Quebec City.

Regardless of the various languages heard in the halls and classrooms, Marymount College (as it became known when it opened in Ste-Foy) opened our eyes, our minds, our ears to a whole other world outside Quebec City, outside Canada. The nuns came from different parts of the world, as did the boarders. Even our ‘God’ was different in that He was a loving God and not the punishing, vindictive one of our surrounding culture.

My family lived on Fraser Street until I was eight years old. The book tells me I lived in “the Anglophone Montcalm enclave”. I see the building we lived in but I do not recognize the English names. I suppose I was hidden then too. We did, however, speak English and French on the street without fear. The fear would come with the advent of the FLQ in the mid-60s. Jean Lesage and Jean Beliveau were neighbours. In those days there was a curling club on the South West corner of Fraser Street and Parc. There was a Chinese laundry on Crémazie between de Bourlamaque and Cartier. My father was not into hockey and my parents’ Saturday evenings were ‘Poker Night’, the nickel and dime kind. The advent of television brought into my home The Jackie Gleason Show and Séraphin made his way in from radio as did Bishop Fulton Sheen. The Ed Sullivan Show took over our Sunday nights. I had my first haircut at the hair-dressing salon with Monsieur Adrien at Holt Renfrew on Buade Street. Holt Renfrew also had a children’s clothing department. Our school uniforms were bought there. My school’s annual fashion show events were held at the Château... And there was the Quebec Winter Club with its bar, its tennis and, I believe, squash courts, swimming pool, curling rink and dinning room. I learned to swim in the swimming pool that was once a part of the Palais Montcalm. Those were good and happy days for me.

Politically, in my family, it was not complicated. We voted Liberal period. Maurice Duplessis was in power. My grandfather despised the man. In those days politics was not language based. It was nonetheless very emotional—in colour too: the red Liberals and the blue Union Nationale. Those were simpler days. Duplessis’ death in 1959 would usher in a new era in Quebec politics that would alter its many faces.

I grew up in a bilingual home where religion and politics were never discussed—just like the University Club/Cercle Universitaire rule. We still don’t. When I came ‘home’ from boarding school in Halifax in June of 1966 I found I had a separatist brother, and a family emotionally torn by language. Ironically, it was my English-born brother who slapped my family’s English face. He is still a separatist and travels with a British passport... It was hell. I came back with two girlfriends from Halifax. One came for two-weeks holiday while the other and I attended Laval Summer School. My brother and his pals would let my friends speak English, while I was told to speak French only... For me there was not much fun to be had with them. I had no right to speak English outside my home anymore.

1960: Jean Lesage (Liberal) was elected Premier of Quebec, and John F. Kennedy (Democrat) was elected President of the United States. John Deifenbaker (Conservative) was Prime Minister of Canada and Harold MacMillan (Conservative) was Britain’s Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth was and still is the Head of the Commonwealth. Charles de Gaulle was President of France. Fidel Castro was in power having overthrown the US-backed regime of General Batista. John XXIII was Pope. Marymount moved from its cramped quarters in the old city to a new building in suburban Ste-Foy, not Sillery as the book states. Now that we were all under one roof, we discovered the world of American politics, the passion of politics. We discovered baseball and the passion of the World Series. Before our first academic year ended in our new building we discovered the fear of the draft as the Bay of Pigs Invasion began to echo... Vietnam was a far-off land slowly making its way to that world map on our classroom wall. In November 1963 we witnessed our teachers mourning their gunned down Irish Catholic President. We grieved with them as violence entered our lives here in Quebec City.

The world started to change from Quebec’s FLQ bombs, Vietnam, draft dodging, Beatlemania, Trudeaumania, flower power, women’s lib, Vatican II that opened windows so wide, Motown, birth control, pot, LSD, Woodstock, closet doors swinging open, the metric system, radiation and chemotherapies for cancer, etc... all that and more coloured my French and English speaking world, right here in Quebec City. I heard about it, read about it and watched it all in English. It is all part of my history, a history, I was once told not too, too long ago, that is irrelevant in Quebec’s history. My true face was best kept hidden.

I left Quebec City, hoping never to return, on the 3rd of October 1970—the early days of airline terrorism. As I headed out to Cape Town, South Africa via England and France, Canada was shot in the heart by Quebec. I was not here during Canada’s October Crisis of 1970. I would return to Canada and to Quebec City the following year. My friends were all gone. I made my way to Toronto for just a year only to discover that I missed the French factor: the men smoking on the streets, even in the cold of Winter as they walked bundled up but the hands in constant motion. The noisy, smoke-filled bars and restaurants. The French wines as opposed to Cold Duck. I settled in Montreal. I would return to Quebec two years later, just long enough to fill my bank account and head back to Halifax and four years of university. I returned once again to Quebec City at a time when teachers were not needed, nor were substitute teachers. I left again only to come back in 1988. I have been here since.

I was living in Quebec City when the PQ came to power in 1976. My family still has its scars.

I was studying at Laval University during that first 1980 referendum. I had two classes that left me bruised, battered and forever scarred.

I was also in Quebec City for the November 1995 referendum. By then I knew better than to get involved in any political discussion. Politics became my cue to leave the room or any party that turned into a drunken cry for “Vive le Québec Libre”. My boss, a liberal, had taken to calling me “ma maudite bloke”... it was easier to let it pass, to remain silent knowing that all around me were political enemies. I did not dare touch that boat... That would come later with a simple ‘No’. That ‘No’ also has its own story in a city where one is referred to Montreal for any kind of English information and support services.


Where is the grief for all that we have lost? Where is the grief for the language rights that are lost, it appears, forever? I miss reading about Owen Carter’s legacy along with that of Tony Price, though his family remains very well rooted here in Quebec City—we do have their beautiful Auberge St-Antoine of which there is no mention. I missed reading about Jo Ouellet’s French-English dictionary for tourists, or her hidden words puzzles. No mention of John Martin calling in, on a regular basis, to a certain morning talk show host, with his prominent English accent. So much left hidden and I wonder if any of it will ever be uncovered. I missed the story of St. George Elementary School on St-Cyrille and its Stobo Auditorium on Fraser Street—that private school for Protestant and Jewish children—as I missed the story of Bishop Mountain Hall, an asylum. Kerhulu for tea, with no chocolate éclairs in the Summer months… I miss the story of the singing group from St. Lawrence College, The Quebeckers… I missed the story of why the Périscope theatre sits where I knew the Synagogue of my youth to be. I missed the story of all those beautifully polished brass memorial dedications mounted on the walls on the ground floor entrance of the now chronic care facility that once was the wonderful Jeffrey Hale Hospital. One does not see such memorials in the French hospitals and schools. Quebec City English history is on those walls and it is also in all our cemeteries… It may be Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish English, but nonetheless so very, very English and in Quebec City.

I find it is regrettable that the author of The Anglos did not grow up in this beautiful, but changed city. The book lacks the pathos of the loss that I think many English speaking people experienced during these turbulent times and which, for many, continues. It smacks of a kind of political correctness. I do not believe that the English speaking people of Quebec City are assimilated at all. The author has failed to find those many hidden, lost, gone, or dying English faces. Our echo can still be heard as it bounces off the cliffs of the North and South shores of the majestic Saint Lawrence River. I am not ‘pure laine’, I am an English speaking person born, raised and living in Quebec City, the oldest of Canada’s provincial capital cities.

Sheelagh Grenon
Quebec City, December 26, 2005.


Sheelagh M. Grenon - 1/2/2006

The Anglos
The Hidden Face of Quebec City
Volume II
Since 1850
Louisa Blair


I beg to differ.

It is with some hesitation that I bought The Anglos, volume II, that is. I am by no means a historian, and I cannot claim to be steeped in the history of Quebec City. I am reacting with my gut, as someone born here in Quebec City. I have lived here most my life except for various periods of self-imposed exile which began with a two year hiatus for boarding school in Halifax, at that crucial age of 16. I would later leave this town so often out of fear and frustration only to return because I missed that certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I did not find elsewhere. My own “crise d’indépendence” took me across the pond and down to the most southern point of the African continent, Cape Town, South Africa. My thinking was that if it was good for my mother’s sister and her family, then I would be alright there. How naive one can be at 22—another bilingual country and I did not speak the other language... But that is another story.

My mother was British. My father is a French Canadian. My paternal grandfather, a French Canadian from Chicoutimi, graduated, at the turn of the 20th century, from Queen’s University, Kingston, with a degree in Civil Engineering. He returned to Quebec with not only that degree in hand, but with an excellent grasp of the English language. He would go on to become the chief engineer responsible for the building the railroads linking the mining town of Chibougamau with the Saguenay port of Baie des Ha Ha and with Quebec City. My mother was a war bride. My parents met and married in Scotland. My eldest brother was born in England, but my three younger brothers and I were born here in Quebec City. My mother was 75% Irish and 25% English. She was English. It was the 25% that counted and that is what my brothers and I grew up with. My mother was English, High Church of England, and not Irish Catholic. Those Irish roots were buried never to be mentioned or celebrated. I had an English education in Quebec City and Halifax, NS. My mother tongue is English and I consider myself an English speaking native of Quebec City, and a Canadian first and foremost.

I am also one of the hidden faces of the English Face of Quebec City. I did not attend any of the public schools of Quebec City. I am not part of the St. Pat’s nor the Quebec High clique. I went to Marymount, a private school that is barely mentioned in the book. My parents had planned on sending me to Bellevue which once had an English section, not just English classes, but a full school just as it does at the Villa Maria in Montreal. My paternal grandmother and my aunt were educated by Les Dames de la Congrégation at Bellevue and the Villa Maria. My brothers were to and did follow in their father’s footsteps at the Petit Séminaire de Québec. As I was about to start school Bellevue started closing down its English section. In 1953, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary started their Junior and High School on Mont Carmel street in Old Quebec, up behind the Château Frontenac. I was part of that first kindergarten class of 1953. It offered that something special that no other school in the City had, be they French or English language schools. It was small. It was international. The buildings were old homes. There was nothing institutional about the school. Space was not a luxury. We had a library in the attic. Reading was a very important part of the school culture as was penmanship, music, drama and ballet. The nuns went from one building to another in the dead of Winter wearing black woven wool shawls. We used the Institut Canadien for special recitals, the YWCA, on Sainte-Ursule, the church hall of the Chapelle du Sacré Coeur for our Christmas bazaars, recess was on the hill neighbouring the Citadel. The chapel was so tiny we took turns as the entire student body and faculty could not fit in. We would come together in the Spring for the May Day celebrations in the convent garden, which is now a City-owned park. The cannons that sit there were also there when I was a child. I received my first communion from the hands of none other than Mgr Alphonse-Marie Parent, that of the 1967 ‘Rapport Parent’ that would bring about the closing of Marymount College in Quebec City. He was that one constant witness of the presence of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary from their arrival to Quebec City, in 1943, to their departure in 1969. We learned to sing “O Canada” in French and in English. I learned “God Save the Queen” in Halifax, not Quebec City.

Regardless of the various languages heard in the halls and classrooms, Marymount College (as it became known when it opened in Ste-Foy) opened our eyes, our minds, our ears to a whole other world outside Quebec City, outside Canada. The nuns came from different parts of the world, as did the boarders. Even our ‘God’ was different in that He was a loving God and not the punishing, vindictive one of our surrounding culture.

My family lived on Fraser Street until I was eight years old. The book tells me I lived in “the Anglophone Montcalm enclave”. I see the building we lived in but I do not recognize the English names. I suppose I was hidden then too. We did, however, speak English and French on the street without fear. The fear would come with the advent of the FLQ in the mid-60s. Jean Lesage and Jean Beliveau were neighbours. In those days there was a curling club on the South West corner of Fraser Street and Parc. There was a Chinese laundry on Crémazie between de Bourlamaque and Cartier. My father was not into hockey and my parents’ Saturday evenings were ‘Poker Night’, the nickel and dime kind. The advent of television brought into my home The Jackie Gleason Show and Séraphin made his way in from radio as did Bishop Fulton Sheen. The Ed Sullivan Show took over our Sunday nights. I had my first haircut at the hair-dressing salon with Monsieur Adrien at Holt Renfrew on Buade Street. Holt Renfrew also had a children’s clothing department. Our school uniforms were bought there. My school’s annual fashion show events were held at the Château... And there was the Quebec Winter Club with its bar, its tennis and, I believe, squash courts, swimming pool, curling rink and dinning room. I learned to swim in the swimming pool that was once a part of the Palais Montcalm. Those were good and happy days for me.

Politically, in my family, it was not complicated. We voted Liberal period. Maurice Duplessis was in power. My grandfather despised the man. In those days politics was not language based. It was nonetheless very emotional—in colour too: the red Liberals and the blue Union Nationale. Those were simpler days. Duplessis’ death in 1959 would usher in a new era in Quebec politics that would alter its many faces.

I grew up in a bilingual home where religion and politics were never discussed—just like the University Club/Cercle Universitaire rule. We still don’t. When I came ‘home’ from boarding school in Halifax in June of 1966 I found I had a separatist brother, and a family emotionally torn by language. Ironically, it was my English-born brother who slapped my family’s English face. He is still a separatist and travels with a British passport... It was hell. I came back with two girlfriends from Halifax. One came for two-weeks holiday while the other and I attended Laval Summer School. My brother and his pals would let my friends speak English, while I was told to speak French only... For me there was not much fun to be had with them. I had no right to speak English outside my home anymore.

1960: Jean Lesage (Liberal) was elected Premier of Quebec, and John F. Kennedy (Democrat) was elected President of the United States. John Deifenbaker (Conservative) was Prime Minister of Canada and Harold MacMillan (Conservative) was Britain’s Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth was and still is the Head of the Commonwealth. Charles de Gaulle was President of France. Fidel Castro was in power having overthrown the US-backed regime of General Batista. John XXIII was Pope. Marymount moved from its cramped quarters in the old city to a new building in suburban Ste-Foy, not Sillery as the book states. Now that we were all under one roof, we discovered the world of American politics, the passion of politics. We discovered baseball and the passion of the World Series. Before our first academic year ended in our new building we discovered the fear of the draft as the Bay of Pigs Invasion began to echo... Vietnam was a far-off land slowly making its way to that world map on our classroom wall. In November 1963 we witnessed our teachers mourning their gunned down Irish Catholic President. We grieved with them as violence entered our lives here in Quebec City.

The world started to change from Quebec’s FLQ bombs, Vietnam, draft dodging, Beatlemania, Trudeaumania, flower power, women’s lib, Vatican II that opened windows so wide, Motown, birth control, pot, LSD, Woodstock, closet doors swinging open, the metric system, radiation and chemotherapies for cancer, etc... all that and more coloured my French and English speaking world, right here in Quebec City. I heard about it, read about it and watched it all in English. It is all part of my history, a history, I was once told not too, too long ago, that is irrelevant in Quebec’s history. My true face was best kept hidden.

I left Quebec City, hoping never to return, on the 3rd of October 1970—the early days of airline terrorism. As I headed out to Cape Town, South Africa via England and France, Canada was shot in the heart by Quebec. I was not here during Canada’s October Crisis of 1970. I would return to Canada and to Quebec City the following year. My friends were all gone. I made my way to Toronto for just a year only to discover that I missed the French factor: the men smoking on the streets, even in the cold of Winter as they walked bundled up but the hands in constant motion. The noisy, smoke-filled bars and restaurants. The French wines as opposed to Cold Duck. I settled in Montreal. I would return to Quebec two years later, just long enough to fill my bank account and head back to Halifax and four years of university. I returned once again to Quebec City at a time when teachers were not needed, nor were substitute teachers. I left again only to come back in 1988. I have been here since.

I was living in Quebec City when the PQ came to power in 1976. My family still has its scars.

I was studying at Laval University during that first 1980 referendum. I had two classes that left me bruised, battered and forever scarred.

I was also in Quebec City for the November 1995 referendum. By then I knew better than to get involved in any political discussion. Politics became my cue to leave the room or any party that turned into a drunken cry for “Vive le Québec Libre”. My boss, a liberal, had taken to calling me “ma maudite bloke”... it was easier to let it pass, to remain silent knowing that all around me were political enemies. I did not dare touch that boat... That would come later with a simple ‘No’. That ‘No’ also has its own story in a city where one is referred to Montreal for any kind of English information and support services.


Where is the grief for all that we have lost? Where is the grief for the language rights that are lost, it appears, forever? I miss reading about Owen Carter’s legacy along with that of Tony Price, though his family remains very well rooted here in Quebec City—we do have their beautiful Auberge St-Antoine of which there is no mention. I missed reading about Jo Ouellet’s French-English dictionary for tourists, or her hidden words puzzles. No mention of John Martin calling in, on a regular basis, to a certain morning talk show host, with his prominent English accent. So much left hidden and I wonder if any of it will ever be uncovered. I missed the story of St. George Elementary School on St-Cyrille and its Stobo Auditorium on Fraser Street—that private school for Protestant and Jewish children—as I missed the story of Bishop Mountain Hall, an asylum. Kerhulu for tea, with no chocolate éclairs in the Summer months… I miss the story of the singing group from St. Lawrence College, The Quebeckers… I missed the story of why the Périscope theatre sits where I knew the Synagogue of my youth to be. I missed the story of all those beautifully polished brass memorial dedications mounted on the walls on the ground floor entrance of the now chronic care facility that once was the wonderful Jeffrey Hale Hospital. One does not see such memorials in the French hospitals and schools. Quebec City English history is on those walls and it is also in all our cemeteries… It may be Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish English, but nonetheless so very, very English and in Quebec City.

I find it is regrettable that the author of The Anglos did not grow up in this beautiful, but changed city. The book lacks the pathos of the loss that I think many English speaking people experienced during these turbulent times and which, for many, continues. It smacks of a kind of political correctness. I do not believe that the English speaking people of Quebec City are assimilated at all. The author has failed to find those many hidden, lost, gone, or dying English faces. Our echo can still be heard as it bounces off the cliffs of the North and South shores of the majestic Saint Lawrence River. I am not ‘pure laine’, I am an English speaking person born, raised and living in Quebec City, the oldest of Canada’s provincial capital cities.

Sheelagh Grenon
Quebec City, December 26, 2005.

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