“At West Lawn, Hamilton, on the 11th day of May inst., Georgia, wife J. Octavius Macrae, Esq., and second daughter of the late Edmund Ritchie, Esq.
Funeral at 3 p.m., Sunday, the 14th instant.
Friends and acquaintances please accept this intimation.”
Hamilton Spectator. May 13, 1876
At first blush, it seemed a sad, if not overly unusual, death notice.
Westlawn was one of the city’s more magnificent homes of the day, a stone mansion at the end of a long carriageway which entered the property at the corner of Queen street north and York street. It had been built for Colin Campbell Ferrie, Hamilton’s first mayor, when Ferrie was at the height of his business success.
Little was known about Georgia Mcrae when the death notice first appeared, but over the next few weeks much more would be learned.
A hint of what was to come was carried in the following short item which appeared in the Hamilton Spectator of May 13, 1876, the same day Georgia Mcrae’s death notice and funeral announcement appeared:
“At the request of Mr. Macrae, an inquest is to he held upon the body of his late wife. The jury viewed the body this afternoon, and adjourned awaiting the result of the post mortem examination. “
The indefatigable George Kerr was relentless in his pursuit of fishermen who were not operating according to the dictates of the law:
“This morning, several men from the Bay were put on trial before the Police Magistrate, charged with fishing without a license. Mr. Kerr, Inspector of Fisheries, had taken up twelve yards of illegal nets, and this so disgusted him that he never rested until he arrested the guilty parties. One of the men, Thos. Cross, was fined $12 and costs, but his lawyer, Mr. Carscallen, gave notice of appeal on the ground that nothing had been proven against his client but the fishing of pike, and there was no statute protecting this fish. His Worship said that no nets should be allowed into the Bay whatever as Burlington Bay was a mere nursery for fish and should be protected. The rest of the cases were adjourned until Wednesday.”
The Hamilton Market of Saturday May 12, 1876 got a good review in the Spectator in an article which also contained the solution reached in the dispute regarding the insufficient availability of fish stalls:
“There was a pretty large market this morning, the square being well-filled. However, it could be seen at a glance that three-fourths of the wagons on the market were the property of hucksters and market gardeners; the attendance of farmers being very slim. This is due in a great measure to the season, the farmers’ time being occupied in spring work.
The fish market, as usual, presented a lively appearance. The differences existing among the fish merchants are now being smoothed over by the city’s intention of making fish stalls out of the public water closets. This place will accommodate two or three more merchant fishermen”
Finally, yet another exhibition of the immensely popular gymnastic training programme run by Miss Salmond was held on May 12, 1876 in the rooms she rented in the same building as occupied by the Spectator:
“The fourth reception of the parents and friends of the pupils attending Mrs. Salmond’s Gymnasium on McNab street took place last evening and was a most successful and pleasant affair throughout. An audience of between two and three hundred, comprising many of the elite of the city, was present, and al appeared to enjoy the programme extremely. There were upwards of sixty pupils, which shows that the interest in this important branch of education is increasing. Descriptions of most of the exercises have been given in former issues of the SPECTATOR. These were performed last night in a manner which displayed the great improvement since the last reception. The calisthenic exercises were gone through which great precision and regularity, while in the more difficult gymnastic performances, a remarkable degree of physical endurance and skill was exhibited. In particular may be mentioned the trapeze, the suspended ladder, the stirrup and flying rings exercises, in which a number of the advanced pupils jumped, girls as well as boys. In this, there was a good-natured rivalry between the sexes as to which would excel the other, and one young lady cleared the string at 3 feet, 10 inches, a feat which few of the boys would surpass. Altogether the whole display was a most creditable one to both teacher and pupils, and it is to be hoped that sufficient encouragement will be given Mrs. Salmond by our citizens to make this really excellent and highly beneficial training school a permanency in Hamilton.”