As we get ready to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, a few words if I may, in memory of Albert Henry George Grey, better known as Earl Grey. He was a British Lord who served as our ninth Governor General. They were all British lords who lived at Rideau Hall in Ottawa until 1953 when Vincent Massey became the first Canadian to serve as the Queen’s representative. Before becoming a Lord, Grey was a Liberal who served in the British House of Commons from 1880 to 1894, and he is remembered by historians as a reformer.
He became our Governor General in 1904, following service to the crown in South Africa and he had a definite reputation as someone who was determined to shake things up. He believed that colonies like Canada should be allowed to govern themselves, for the benefit of Canadians, rather than for the moneyed interests in England.
Speaking of money, Lord Grey didn’t have any when he came to Ottawa, because of a bunch of investments that went sour in South Africa. As Governor General in 1905, he signed the documents on behalf of Edward VII that brought Saskatchewan and Alberta into Confederation.
Grey championed a wide range of causes including prison reform, and development of an independent Canadian Navy which became a reality in 1910.
But if most of us remember Early Grey at all, it’s for the silver cup that he bought with $50 of his own money in 1909, to be awarded to the Senior Amateur Football Champions of Canada. Just over 3,800 spectators were on hand on Saturday December 4th of that year, when the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club prevailed over the Varsity Blues from the U of T by a score of 26-6.
12 years later, the Grey Cup became a truly east-west competition when the Toronto Argonauts walloped the Edmonton Eskimos 23-0 in front of close to 10,000 fans at Varsity Stadium.
This year, on November 26th, more than 40,000 are expected to gather at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa for Grey Cup number 105.
And now you know.
I’m Roger Currie