Archives: Perth County history

The Royal Visit

Here is a poem James Reaney wrote about the 1939 Royal Visit to Canada by Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

The Royal Visit

When the King and Queen came to Stratford
Everyone felt at once
How heavy the Crown must be.
The Mayor shook hands with their Majesties
And everyone presentable was presented
And those who weren’t have resented
It, and will
To their dying day.
Everyone had almost a religious experience
When the King and Queen came to visit us
(I wonder what they felt!)
And hydrants flowed water in the gutters
All day.
People put quarters on the railroad tracks
So as to get squashed by the Royal train
And some people up the line at Shakespeare
Stayed in Shakespeare, just in case—
They did stop too,
While thousands in Stratford
Didn’t even see them
Because the Engineer didn’t slow down
Enough in time.
And although,
But although we didn’t see them in any way
(I didn’t even catch the glimpse
The teacher who was taller did
Of a gracious pink figure)
I’ll remember it to my dying day.

Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on board the royal train, May 31, 1939.

For more about the 1939 Royal Visit, see the Special Trains page at Library and Archives Canada.

 

The Royal Visit is included in James Reaney’s first collection of poems The Red Heart (1949). The poem also appears in James Reaney’s 1967 play Colours in the Dark, where it follows an actual letter a child wrote to his father describing how the Royal train failed to slow down on that day (see Act I Scene 13).

May 6 Arts Gala at Stratford Central Secondary

On May 6 in Stratford, Ontario, Stratford Central Secondary School welcomed poet and playwright James Reaney as the first inductee to the school’s Arts Hall of Fame. James Reaney went to high school there from 1939-1944.

Reaney’s family, including his sister Wilma McCaig and his brother Ron Cooke, attended the induction ceremony at Central last week. In honour of the occasion, students staged the opening scene of James Reaney’s play, Colours in the Dark. James Stewart Reaney (James Reaney’s son) gave thanks on behalf of the Reaney family. “This kind of recognition, I know, would have touched Dad deeply,” he said.

James Stewart Reaney and Rick Cooke with the bicycle from Colours in the Dark.

© 2017 James Reaney