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on April 26, 2004
Molson's beer is synonymous with Canada, the country's greatest and oldest brewer.
It all started back in 1782 when an 18-year-old John Molson arrived in Canada from England and by 1785 was the sole proprietor of a brewing enterprise that was located just outside the walls of Montréal. John Molson's three sons, John Jr., Thomas and William joined him in the business in 1816 when a partnership agreement was signed.
John H.R. Molson also known as "Jackey" and son of Thomas eventually inherited the Molson brewery from his grandfather, who apparently had favoured Jackey over his other grandchildren. When Jackey was only fourteen years of age, he and his father Thomas as well as his younger sister Mary Anne travelled to England in 1841 via steamer called the Queen from Montréal to Halifax where they boarded the ship called HMS Britannia.
On His Way In The World, published by Véhicule Press, is a diary written by Jackey that describes his voyage, his experiences and his observations of his first trip abroad. Upon reading the book I was quite impressed with the maturity of this 14 year old who would one day become the sole owner of Molson's Brewery. Perhaps his grandfather had recognized this wonderful trait in his grandson even when Jackey was a tender age. John Molson died when Jackey was only ten years of age and perhaps his grandfather had recognized his gifted grandchild even when the child was young.
His day by day recounting of the gruelling trip that commenced in the morning of Wednesday May 12th, 1841 from Montréal and ended June 9th, 1841 in Liverpool demonstrates his keen eye as well as his astute observations. As an example, when he describes the death of one of the passengers, he writes as follows:
"Weather pleasant, sea smooth, little or no wind, Birds very numerous. Died Mrs Gourlay (a lady having a husband and two children on board) of suffocation she had been ill from the time of leaving Halifax and was found dead in her birth; a coffin was made and her body was sewed up in a bag, and put into it and several cannon-shot put at the bottom. It was covered with the Union Jack and the engines stopped and after a prayer had been said it was dropped into the sea."
He then goes on the state the ship's position in relation to its latitude and longitude distances. This latter commentary is seen throughout the diary's accounting of the voyage.
This is only one example of the many scenes brilliantly and succinctly described by this fourteen-year old lad, who also showed a very profound grasp of English history and geography. It is very rare that we have the opportunity to experience a voyage across the Atlantic as seen through the eyes of a teenager who seemed to be more mature than today's average fourteen year old.
Another interesting feature of this book is the brief introduction to the history of the Molsons and their profound involvement in the various commercial, financial and civic enterprises in Canada.
Perhaps the next time we "gulp" down a glass of Molson's beer we should keep a copy of John H.R. Molson's diary handy to remind us of the fascinating history of this well known Canadian family.
Norm Goldman Editor of
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