Excerpt From Book: Selected Poems of Lilian Leveridge
It is a long time since the Circle of Young Canada has had a talk about one of our own writers. Indeed, I am afraid we have lost sight of the fact that as a Circle we stand for a sincere interest in Canadian literature, and many times have declared ourselves readers of Canadian authors. So today let us try to make amends for our seeming neglect by spending a little time with Miss Lilian Leveridge—a writer of sweet verses and of heart-gripping stories.
One day some time ago, on a very wet, dreary afternoon, I asked Miss Leveridge to take tea with me, and as we part-took of the cup that cheers I coaxed her to tell me the story of her life and of her literary fortunes. To one of her intensely reserved and modest nature it was well-nigh impossible to grant this request, and it was only when I explained that I wanted the story for YOU that she agreed to talk about herself. Or rather, to be quite accurate, she said she would write down a few facts and pass them on to be used as I deemed best.
And so it is my priviledge and delight to be able to present Miss Leveridge, whose poems you perhaps have read, and whose stories you doubtless have enjoyed. I am merely a chairman today, introducing the speaker, and retiring into the background while she tells her story Listen attentively; there is a treat in store for each one of you.
I was born in England at the “Park Farm,” near the village of Hockering, Norfolk, in a rambling old three-story house on the slope of a hill, with orchards and meadows behind and before. It was an interesting old house of many rooms, as I gather from mother’s descriptions, for I cannot remember it. All the ﬂoors were of smooth brick, and there were, of course, hearths and open Fireplaces, and brick ovens built in the wall, and large built-in coppers in which, in long-ago days, the farmers used to brew their own beer. The surroundings always interested me most, however—the orchard on the hillside, where grew in abundance many kinds of apples, pears, plums, cherries, ﬁlbert nuts and small fruits. And these in April, my birthday month, were bursting into pink and snowy bloom, all swarming with bees. Several fruit trees were also in the garden, where many old-fashioned ﬂowers grew year after year—roses, hollyhocks, tall lillies, etc. Lilies of the valley, crocuses and snowdrops grew among the trees without cultivation.
To one side were the barns and stock yards, and there were lanes leading from the house through the ﬁelds to the main road, and all sorts of wild ﬂowers grew there in the lanes and meadows—primroses and cowslips, cuckoo ﬂowers, sweet violets, buttercups and daisies, and the hedges in the spring were white with May, or Hawthorne. Mother says, recalling these old scenes that it was not much wonder Browning sang, ‘O to be in England, now that April’s here!’ The scent of English violets always brings to me old inarticulate memories of England; in fact, a whiff of violets is really all my memory of my native land amounts to.
I was the baby when, on account of ﬁnancial reverses, we left the picturesque old Park Farm and went to live in the village. A year later, father ran away to Canada. That is, having failed to win mother’s consent to the project, he went without it, stole quietly away in the night, and wrote to her from Liverpool on the eve of his departure. The freedom and independence on broad acres of his own in the new land offered an irresistible lure. In a year’s time he sent for mother and the seven children. We lived a year near Millbridge, a lonely spot of which I have no distinct remembrance, then father bought a farm about six miles north of Coe Hill, where promising iron mines had been opened up, and there we made our permanent home.
This was a veritable wilderness; the country was sparsely settled. We had one neighbour, but no others nearer than two miles away There were no roads, only footpaths to the village and outlying districts; no school and no church. The 100 acre farm was heavily timbered, and there were just enough trees cut down for space to build our rude log shanty You can imagine what a change it was from the old English home, but in spite of the hardships and privations, our life there was a happy one.
There were three boys in the family (Frank, the ‘Laddie’ of ‘Over the Hills,’ the only native Canadian among us, was born later), and four girls, of whom I was the youngest. Father had practically everything to learn, but his strength and energy were unfailing, and the children, of whom the eldest was about twelve, were soon able to turn in and help. The mines and the railway for a time provided a means of livelihood, but little by little the trees were cleared away, and more land cultivated each year. I don’t need to picture for you the burning fallows, huge bonfires of splendid timber lighting up the night skies, logging bees, sugar-making, and such like things that go to make up pioneer life. There is a charm and fascination about it you have to live through to appreciate fully.
In those pioneer days, and always, in fact, mother was the good angel of our home. Her resourcefulness, industry and good cheer never failed. She had been a school teacher before her marriage, and now when there was no school she took charge of our education. We all had regular lessons, morning and afternoon, and no matter how busy she might otherwise be these were not neglected. My memories of mother’s tuition are most pleasant. No doubt her methods would be criticised nowadays, but they achieved the result of giving us a grounding in the fundamentals of education, a desire for knowledge, a love of reading, and a feeling for poetry music (she had also been a church organist in England) and art, and an appreciation of all the beauties in the heavens above and the earth beneath and the waters under the earth.
Mother taught us to use our hands in many ways; we each had our own special duties in the house and garden, and we learned to sew and knit and crochet—even the boys to a certain extent. We also learned many delightful games, and invented many more, and telling stories, remembered or invented, was a pastime freely indulged in.
Mother was our Sunday school teacher in those days, and though there was no church to go to, no Sunday passed without its lesson from the Book of Books, with Bible verses, hymn or prayer to be memorized. Sunday lessons were usually followed by a few chapters read aloud from some interesting book.
Reading aloud, on Sundays and in the long winter evenings especially, was one of our particular delights.
Christmas was always a time of joy, although expensive presents were absolutely unknown. For weeks beforehand there were secrets in the air, for we all made things to give each other. I am sure mother received a lot of worthless and foolish things, but these she always accepted at their love-value. I can distinctly remember one of my offerings; it was a wall decoration formed by the combination of one of my favourite picture cards—an elephant with a swarm of little children on its back—and my favourite text: ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me.’ Mother pointed out to me however, that the elephant and the text didn’t go very well together, so I made something else. A Christmas which stands out among the happiest I can remember was one on which in the early dawn I reached under my pillow for mother’s promised gift, a rag doll, dressed as I used to be in my baby days, in a long white robe, with short puffed sleeves caught up on the shoulders with bows of blue ribbon.
My very ﬁrst poem was, I believe, written before my school days began, for this was not until after father and the boys, aided by our neighbours, had hewn out a roadway through a mile or so of dense hardwood to the main road on which was situated the new school—the school mentioned in my poem ‘Springland.’ This early poem of mine was composed while I was ‘watching the pigs,’ which used to be my particular task during the long summer days. It was an irksome task, but it afforded me ample opportunities for the observation of nature and for long, long dreams. The poem wasn’t a very remarkable one, but it expressed a bit of nature, a little protest against the thralldom of my task, and a little outward reaching toward the land of my desires. I was extremely shy and difident about my maiden efforts, and I remember hiding shamefacedly on the woodpile behind the stove while my elder sister read aloud these verses to the admiring family.
Mother, from whom I inherited my poetic instincts, always encouraged me in every way. She discovered my early love for poetry, and gratiﬁed me by reading to me very often and teaching me little hymns and poems, and until I left home she was always my ﬁrst reader and critic—that is, after I began to write.
My ﬁrst story; ‘The White Violet,’ was published in The Canadian Churchman, whose various editors have been very courteous to me, and have always welcomed my short stories and occasional verse. In more recent years they have published three juvenile serials, “Rose Island,” “The Jolly Animals’ Club” and “Birds of the Merry Forest.” The majority of my short stories have appeared in the Methodist Sunday school publications (Pleasant Hours, Onward and Playmate), and they have also been particularly good to me. I have had a few ‘grown-up’ stories in The Canadian Magazine, Canadian Home Journal, etc., but by far the greater proportion of my stories are juvenile. I like best to write for children; their youthful enthusiasm and their fresh, unsated interest in a multitude of things that interest me seem to provide the kind of audience best suited to stimulate my imagination.
My school days passed uneventfully. I always loved study, and earnest application made up for what I lacked in brilliance as a student, so that my school record was fairly creditable. Mother describes me in early childhood as ‘always a quiet, happy little girl, and very little trouble,’ and I think this attitude toward life has continued pretty much ever since. It doesn’t tend to much in the way of excitement or thrilling narrative that could be put into a biography and yet, I think I was not entirely devoid of a spirit of adventure. I wanted to be a teacher, and circumstances were such that the West seemed to present the only opening—my brother was in Manitoba at that time—so I went to Winnipeg, alone; attended Collegiate and Normal school there, and taught school near Glenboro for one summer. Then, after two years in Manitoba, I returned home and continued teaching for about six years or so in Ontario.
In 1916 I came to Toronto as a stenographer, and, except for two short intervals at home, have been engaged in office work ever since. And I like it. Toronto was for several years the Mecca of my dreams, and it has not disappointed me. I truly love Toronto, and Toronto has certainly been good to me.
Now, is this a cheer we hear? Yes, surely we should give thanks for this perfectly delightful story of how a young girl became a writer. We have greatly enjoyed these charming glimpses of her life, haven’t we? And henceforth we shall feel a personal interest in all Miss Leveridge writes or has written, for has she not talked directly to us and taken us into her conﬁdence?
And perhaps it would not be amiss here to explain that, no bring this story up to date, we must include a protracted illness which removed Miss Leveridge from her work in Toronto for some months. But the good news has reached us that she hopes to return soon again, and will take up the pen which sickness compelled her to lay down.
C. Paul Kirby 2014
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Excerpt From Book: World War One Diaries & Letters of Frank Leveridge
Frank Leveridge was the youngest of eight children (four boys and four girls) born to Anna and David Leveridge on July 29, 1890. He was the only child born in Canada, on the Leveridge homestead. It is here he spent his childhood years at the end of a side road of what is now known as the Faraday Road north of Coe Hill.
Although by the time Frank was growing up things were easier, there still was not a lot of money to spare and conditions were still primitive by comparison with the way people live today. Because of the age difference, Frank’s older brothers were young men and going their own way while he was still very young.
Frank began writing daily diaries in December 1907. Perhaps he was influenced or encouraged to write by his mother, Anna, who wrote frequent letters to her mother in England, and by his sister Lilian.
At the time of the ﬁrst diary, his elder sisters Florence and Katie were married with Katie living just up and across the road on the Elliot Farm which she and her husband Charles Tivy had purchased, while Florence was married to Joseph Hanthorn and lived at “Uncle Joe’s place” which was another homestead about half way between “The Corner” and the main road.
His second oldest sister, Gertrude was working in Belleville, and his youngest sister, Lily, was living at the homestead.
Although his older siblings were young adults, each family member still had “chores” and responsibilities that were appropriate to his (or her) age and ability. The book Your Loving Anna, describes the experiences of the Leveridge family before 1900 in greater detail.
The Leveridge homestead consisted of a hundred acres; the land on top of the hill was not very good for farming; consisting of small hillocks in the ﬁelds with shallow soil and rocky outcrops. Even the early farm machinery (horse drawn mowers, binders, etc) in use at the time would be difficult to use on this land but hand methods (which were used when the Leveridge’s ﬁrst settled here) like a scythe or cradle simply were not productive enough to be viable, even in those days.
In Frank’s time they still ploughed with a one furrow, horse drawn plough which was difficult and time consuming to use. Every time the plough would hit a rock (and there were lots of rocks), the handles would be ﬂipped up and the plough turned upside down if the horse didn’t stop immediately. The horse supplied the pulling power, but the handles were used to steer the plough horizontally and also to control the depth.
Ploughing proceeded at a walking pace, and since each furrow was no more than 10” wide, it took quite a while to plough even one acre. While team drawn two (or possibly more) furrow ploughs that you rode on were available then, they were not suitable for the rocky, hilly land and small ﬁelds. They also could not get close to the fences and into the fence corners as well as the single furrow pough could.
Because Coe Hill was a small community, in time, many of the neighbours became relatives, i.e. Hanthorns, Tivys, Blackburns, etc.
Frank kept a war diary, and wrote letters home to different family members. He carried his diary with him from January 1st, 1916 until at least April 10th, 1916 when he was wounded. He made an entry every day even if it was to say that nothing much happened that day.
The original is a little red book, 3” wide by 4” tall and 3/4” thick; a convenient pocket size. It is bound in red leather and is called “Collins’ Lady’s Diary, number 148.” It has a pocket on the spine for a pencil that came with the diary when it was purchased. The pencil is still in the pocket.
At the front it has a section with what was considered to be helpful and useful information at the time, then several pages headed “Memoranda” before the main section which has a preprinted page for each day in the year 1916.
About half of the entries were made using the pencil that came with the diary and the rest were done with pen and ink. The pencil entries are somewhat faint, but still legible.
In the “Memoranda” section of the diary are the addresses of people that he knew in England. In the “diary” section, January 1st is the ﬁrst entry, and the last entry is on April 9th, likely the day before he was wounded.
As the reader will see from the entries, while he was in England, Frank Leveridge made at least one visit to his long-lost English relatives in the Norwich – Dereham area (he may also have made one or more visits in 1915 but that period is not covered here.)
From the diary, it seems that April 9th, 1916 was his ﬁrst and only experience at the front. It is also likely that there may have been one or more previous diaries like this one to cover his army experiences in 1915 and perhaps also in 1914 but they have not survived.
After Frank Leveridge’s death, the diary was returned to his wife Maggie with his other effects. It remained in the family, and since 1944 when Maggie Leveridge died, it has been in the posession of Frank Leveridge’s youngest son, James (Bud) Leveridge. In turn, he has now passed the diary on to his daughter, Marlene Alexander (neé Leveridge).
C. Paul Kirby 2014
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