EPISODE 863 “THE SONG OF THE SHIRT” by THOMS HOOD, 1843 and THE PUTTING OUR STYTEM
EPISODE 856 DIDO ELIZABETH BELLEAlan skeochjuly 13, 2023What captures your attention when you look at this 18th century painting??“Who is the brown skinned lady in this paining?”“Her name was Dido Elizabeth Belle and she was born in 1761 in the British West Indies.’“What is startling about her ?”“Off the top, she is very pretty.”“And?”“And she seems totally relaxed with the white girl…they seem to be good friends.”“Why is that remarkable?”“Slaves were expected to defer to their owners in the 18th century, yet this brown girlseems to be good friend … certainly not a slave. I think the girls are sharing conversation.As a mater of fact, the brown skinned girl named Dido is even more relaxed than the white girl. I would haveexpected the reverse in that century. Seems like they are both sharing a secret conversation.they are equal, ..I would even go so far as to say the black girl is dominant..so totallyrelaxed. So unlike a slave.”“Do you know who she was?”“No”“Here name was Dido Elizabeth Belle.”“She was a remarkable young lady…a lucky young lady”“How so?”“She may have influenced the abolition of slavery in England.….her early life was startling.”
HISTORY OF DIDO ELIZABETH BELLE
‘her mother, whose name is believed to be Maria Bell, was a slave in the West Indies. The year that Belle’s parents met is not known, nor is it clear that their relationship was consensual. Belle’s baptism records yield no information about her father which indicates she was considered an illegitimate child.
Upon the death of Maria Bell, John Lindsay in 1766 requested that Belle be entrusted to his uncle, Lord Mansfield, who was already raising his young great-niece, Elizabeth Murray, due to her mother passing and her father’s serving the Crown as an ambassador first to Austria and later to France. The addition of Belle to Lord Mansfield’s household provided Elizabeth Murray with a playmate. Belle’s role in the household seemed to have been as Elizabeth’s lady’s companion rather than her lady’s maid. While in the household she received an education and an annual allowance of £30, several times the wages of a domestic servant. As an adult she managed the estate’s dairy and poultry yards and helped Lord Mansfield with his correspondence, a task normally assigned a male secretary or clerk.
Dido Elizabeth Belle spent nearly three decades at Kenwood House, the home of the Murray family. The best insight into Belle’s life with Lord Mansfield comes from Thomas Hutchinson who visited Kenwood House in 1779 when she was around 18 or 19. While dining with Mansfield, Hutchinson was surprised to see Belle, a woman of black ancestry, sitting with the ladies drinking coffee and later going on a walk with her arm locked with another woman. An American guest reported, however, that Belle was not allowed to dine with the family.
In 1784, Belle witnessed the death of Lady Mansfield and the following year the marriage of Lady Elizabeth Murray to a distant cousin, George Finch Hatton. She remained at Kenwood House, however, for nearly another decade, finally leaving the estate upon the death of Lord Mansfield in 1793.
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich
And your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby
Don’t you cry
One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take the sky
But ’til that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mammy standing by
EPISODE 859 EMILY BLOWER…FEMALE STONEHOOKER (SPEECH AT BRONTE HISTORICAL SOCIETY JULY 18, 2023
july 18, 2023Photo credits to Marjorie Skeoch“This little piece of fossilized shale is 450 million years old give ortake 30 million years, Ordovician shale from the bottomof the ocean seas that once covered great swaths of North America.Once upon a time it was mud. Pressure and time have createdshale. That shale is the subject of our discussion tonight”EMILY BLOWERIn 1867 Tom Blower suddenly died leaving his wife Emily with eight children, all under 16 years of age.There was no safety net for Emily. No insurance policy. No government aid as we have today.Emily was on her own and we can only imagine her fear for the family future she faced.There was one chance of family survival. Tom Blower was a stonehooker and owned theschooner Catherine Hays. I am not sure where Emily was living in Port Credit when Tondied but records reveal that Emily moved all eight children into the Cateirne Hays andfirst loaded split cordwood which she sold in the ‘Toronto market where the sttonehookersdocked at the foot of Bathurst Street.The payment were not enough to feed and clothe her family so she decided to becomea stonehooker. This was not an easy decision because stonehooking was physicallydemanding and dangerous. Just sailing a schooner full of shale from the shale bedsbeween Bronte and Port Credit was tricky. Some schooners like the Pinta were swampedin a sudden storm and crews drowned. (Bodies of the Quinn brothers were neverfound. The body of the third man was found frozen solid under the thwarts of the Pinta’s scow.(that happened in 1882 by rhen the Blower boys were adult stonehookers well aware of the dangers..)Emily was an unusual woman. Likely the only woman to become a stonehooker.The only reason we know about her decision to Stonehookers is becausestonehooking captain Al Hare of Port Credit made a comment about Emily thathas been passed from person to person and thereby entered the historical record.(Note: One of our guests lives next door to a Blower descendent. Perhaps a largerstory of Emily could be researched by maryanne Mason nd Bronte Historical Society.}Let me attempt to paraphrase Al Hare: “I remember seeing Emily Blower stonehooking in waist deepwater with her black skirt billowing with trapped air around her body while shedirected her eight children to do what they could do to help.” (These are words I havechosen but I believe are accurate…Alan SkeochWhy was Emily wading in waist deep water? There were three ways of gettingslabs of shale. First and the easiest was by quarrying slabs from the beachesalong the North shores of Lake Ontario. That was a tough job in itself madetougher by angry shoreline farmers who blamed stonehookers for erosion oftheir farm land. Eventually a law was passed that no stonehooker couldquarry or remove stone within 50 feet of the shore. So Emily and her childrenhad to operate in waist deep water to loosen and lift shale slabs.Emily may have even been forced to gather shale by the third method which wascalled “blind stavlling” in water six to eight feet deep. Often the water was cloudy and the bottom couldnot be seen so a long stonehooking rake was used whose tines could hookand lift pieces of shale. This seems to have been difficult so stonehookerspreferred the easier two methods.Lifting shale was tough work.1) from where shale rested to the little scow2) from the scow to the schooner deck or hold3) from the schooner to the bathurst Street wharf4) from the wharf to the horse drawn wagonsThen the empty stonehookers were often filled with horse manure for the return tripModel of the LithophoneSTONEHOOKING — A HARD LIFE … BUT A GOOD INCOMEEmily could support her family by hooking shale. As near as I can deterninethe stonehookng trade was profitable. If Emily could load just two cord-like ’tices’of shale on the deck of the Catherine Hays and then sail to the Bathuststreet Toronto wharf, she could sell the 3;x6’x12’ piles of shale for $5 each.Prices varied from low of $3 to a high of over $10 to Toronto builders for housefoundations)Suppose Emily got $10 for two piles of shale. That does not sound like muchmoney today.. i.e. the price of two cups of coffee. But it was good money inEmily’s time. In the year 1900, a $5 load of shale would be worth $183 today. (i.e. 2023)Two loads sold for twice that. Stonehooking was a good business in spiteof the dishevelled look of the stonehooking schooners with their raggedpatched sails and splintered unpainted decks. That income is Hard for me to believe. Maybe I am wrong.Emily’a boys became stonehookers and are the subject of one ofW. Sniders’ stories in his newspaper features called Schooner Dayspublished in the Toronto Telegram starting in 1931 when the stonehookingdays were over. At least one stonehooker was filled with straw andsoaked in kerosene before it was set alight as entertainment for Torontoniansat Sunnyside beach.Ross Noel and his wife are owners of the new Stonehooker Brewery and graciously provided samples of their productionfor our audience. Pleasure. I managed to down two samples. Marjorie downed 1.5 samples.Maryanne Mason hosted the evening and proudly displayed two Bronte artifacts…a stonehooking rake made by blacksmith Sam Adams anda model of the Lithopone, a stonehooker made famous when Walter Naish failed to attach the anchor chain to the stonehooker andthe ship floated away with the winter ice.Stonehookers took so much shale from the Lake Ontario shoreline that farmers fields and forests and one graveyard were eroded,Sovereign House in Bronte is very close to the shoreline as were some farm buildings in the 19th century. So eroded by stonehookers was PortCredit that loads of soil had to be dumped and then shielded with cement slabs to create Saddnigton Park. Stonehookers were not popular.