We recently spent a weekend at Niagara- on-the-Lake and Queenston Heights. We took in a show at the Shaw Festival and in my mind, I relived the War of 1812.
Before heading out, an office query went something like this, “Queenston Heights? Is that in the Kingston area?”
I had to pick myself off the floor. How could any red-blooded Canadian not know about the Battle of Queenston Heights?
Shaken, but confident that not everyone is historically challenged, I tried out another history question on a junior Triblet.
“Do you know who Isaac Brock is?” I asked.
“I have heard the name,” came the response.
I once again had to get myself off the floor.
I was afraid to ask who Canada’s first prime minister was for fear of cardiac arrest.
After gathering myself, I launched into a mini-history lesson on Queenston Heights, Sir Isaac Brock and how the War of 1812 may have played a role in Canada and what we are today. So passionate was I, the historical dim bulbs looked at me as if I personally fought in the War of 1812.
I cannot help but think of all my grade school teachers spinning in their graves. Little Chris Clark learned something? Regardless, I do remember being taught Canadian history, albeit draped in the Union Jack. Our school days started with the Lord’s Prayer and God Save the Queen.
I digress. I am not sure where my affinity for Niagara-on-the-Lake area and its history comes from, but I am smitten. It’s a beautiful part of our country that offers a step back in time. Gorgeous period homes, the Niagara Parkway running along the Niagara River and a history steeped in the War of 1812.
Of course, there’s a romantic side to those days of yore. Problem is, the lives people led and they way they fought and died during the war was anything but romantic.
However, there remains a certain majesty in the area. There’s the Brock Monument at Queenston, with its spectacular river views. Fort Mississauga. Fort George. And I can’t believe at war’s end the Brits gave up Fort Niagara. Today, it’s a stateside beacon of the past, as it shines in the evening sun at the mouth of Lake Ontario.
As most should know, this is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. If not celebrating its bicentennial, perhaps give it some thought. It’s a unique bit of Canadian history before there was a Canada. And while Niagara-on-the-Lake was just part of the overall war, it remains a stunning part of our history. I just wish more people knew about it.