Twenty-Five Years in Canada
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 23 Nov 1961, p. 69-73

Tweedsmuir, Lord, Speaker
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Some personal reminiscences. Some observations about Canada, about Britain, and about the relationship between the two nations.
Date of Original:
23 Nov 1961
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Full Text
An Address by LORD TWEEDSMUIR Chairman, Canadian Section, London Chamber of Commerce
Thursday, November 23, 1961
CHAIRMAN: The President, Dr. Z. S. Phimister.

MR. PHIMISTER: To Canadians the title of Tweedsmuir evokes mental images both of Scotland and Canada. It brings to mind a well-beloved Governor-General, our speaker's father, whose example of service stirred this country and whose autobiography Memory Hold the Door is a classic of its kind. The name Tweedsmuir reminds us also of the Canadian achievements of our guest today.

Lord Tweedsmuir first came to Canada in 1936. In 1938-39 he wintered in Baffinland in the service of the Hudson Bay Company. He served in the Canadian Army, 1939-45, and commanded the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in Sicily and Italy. Lord Tweedsmuir was wounded, was mentioned in despatches twice and was decorated with the Military O.B.E. and the Order of Orange-Nassau.

A founder and past president of Canadian Veterans of the United Kingdom, Lord Tweedsmuir is a director in a number of English companies, including B.O.A.C. At present he is Chairman of the Canadian Section of the London Chamber of Commerce.

In the Tweedsmuir family, as one would expect, there is a strong affinity for printer's ink, and our guest today is author of two books, Hudson's Bay Trader and Always a Countryman. In two days Lord Tweedsmuir will celebrate a birthday-his first to be celebrated in Canada since 1939, when he was a one-pip Lieutenant in Ottawa. Lord Tweedsmuir and Lady Tweedsmuir have both spoken to this Club on previous occasions, and it is with warmth as a friend of long standing that we welcome him again, today, when he has chosen to speak on the topic, "TwentyFive Years in Canada."

LORD TWEEDSMUIR: It gives me very great pleasure to be here, and my wife asked me to say how much she enjoyed being your guest last year. She has accompanied me from New York. We follow each other in jobs. She is a British delegate at the United Nations, a post that I occupied ten years ago.

I would like to preface my remarks by making an apology that I have not a copy of my speech. As I do not read my speeches, I consequently do not write them. Well, seeing so many distinguished men here reminds me that there is a New York psychiatrist who has a sign over his office door which reads: "Maybe you have no complex-maybe you are inferior."

Having read the excellent book of your visitors' speeches, I have noticed that they are men of both learning and experience on subjects of which they have obtained a complete mastery. One thing that I learned in the Canadian Army was that if you don't play poker very well, don't play at all. Therefore, I shall not make any pretensions.

I came to Canada twenty-five years ago. That may not seem a very long time, but it is slightly over a quarter of the time that Canada has been a nation. I now live in Britain and come to Canada some five or six times a year. This leads some people to say: "Wouldn't it save a lot of time if you went to live there?" My title to speak may seem questionable, but I may say that I did not divest myself of my Canadian identity, when I divested myself of my Canadian Uniform and bystanders see a lot of the game. One of the things I would like to mention is the enormous interest that exists in Britain about all things Canadian. I was an adviser to a newspaper published in Britain which dealt entirely with Canadian news. It made no concession to the fact that it was published in Britain. It was not only read by people who had an obvious interest in Canada, or those who wanted to learn about Canada to do business there, but a substantial part of the readership was composed of people who had never been to Canada and, almost certainly, would never get to Canad, but who read anything they could find about Canada. I am often asked what people in Britain are saying about Canada at this very moment. People in Britain made too much of Canada's boom of the 50's and have also exaggerated Canada's pause of the 60's. But, in my frequent visits here, I am conscious of an underlying confidence that bodes well for Canada's future.

One of the things which I think has struck me most forcibly, since I first came here in 1936, is the steady growth of a Canadian identity. Canada was not then very interested in the rest of the world, nor was the rest of the world interested in Canada. It is probably true to say that most people from Britain and the U.S. found Canada rather more British, or rather more American, or rather less so, than they had imagined. I remember in the war in Italy, we would creep through the darkness of the hills on night advances. The Italian villagers that we encountered would whisper: "Are you English?" "No." "Are you American?" "No." "Then who are you?" "Canadians," we would reply. That seemed to puzzle them. It puzzles no one any longer. A clear cut of a Canadian identity has evolved. As well as a Canadian outlook and a distinctive Canadian taste. Sometimes the British exporters to Canada have not given full weight to this. Britain and Canada have two powerful elements in common. One is a common habit of thought. The other is what might be called an enlightened amateurism. I think Von Clausevitz must have been thinking of the Canadian army when he wrote: "There are only three possible courses open to an enemy, and he always chooses a fourth."

Science has stood the world on its head in the last twenty-five years. You cannot change geography. But world circumstances can change its significance. The Canadian army went off in 1914 and 1939 knowing their hearths and homes were secure against the enemy. Now it is the nearest of the Western powers to the potential enemy. We have now come to a point of history when it is technically possible to conquer the earth. World maps have always put the Mediterranean in the middle. It is the historic source of civilization and war. But suppose you took your map and put the Arctic Ocean in the middle, with the three largest power blocs grouped round it. It would be more realistic. A lot of changes have come to that northland since I first knew it. I remember going down Hudson's Strait in 1938 in the old Hudson's Bay Company vessel, the Nascopie. I asked the skipper one night in the chart room where we were on the map. He replied: "Look at that chart on the wall. It's the latest Admiralty chart, and by that we are 150 miles inland."

In sharp contra-distinction. Last July I was standing beside a rapid on the southern shores of Hudson's Strait. The roar of the rapids alone broke the silence. But suddenly there crept in a noise that grew stronger and stronger. I looked up and there, tracing a vapour trail across the sky, was a B.O.A.C. plane, seven miles up on its course, non-stop from Los Angeles to London. People will tell you the new north is now extremely sophisticated and safe. But if you are contemplating a plane with a broken pontoon and a broken wireless set, and four hundred miles to walk-if you are to reach safety-then the new North is mighty like the old.

Winter, too, has come to have a different meaning. Winter now is not just accepted as a period when activity is slowed down for six months. It is now regarded as another frontier to be rolled back. Another thrilling thing in which I have participated is the taming of great waters for the Hydro Electric power. The exciting thing about the Hydro Electric development is that you are living on the income of the world, instead of its capital. The trappings of pioneering change, but not the essence. After all a performance of Shakespeare in modern dress is none-the-less a performance of Shakespeare.

The word "progress" worries me. I am never too clear of the meaning. I saw an obituary notice of a young pilot and it said he believed in progress. If he only believed in change that was good. It hardly needed saying. If he believed in change, whether good or bad, it didn't say much for his discrimination. I would substitute the word "achievement". It is what human beings achieve in the time of history, not just in the passing of time. You sometimes hear it said: "What is Canada?" Canada is an adventure, and I have been enormously fortunate to be able to partake of it. I collect people and places, and I have a great collection of both. I do not have to live on my memories. I have the great good fortune to be able to continue to partake of it. The first time I ever made a speech I said to the Chairman: "For how long should I speak?" and he said: "Just as long as you like, but we all go at 2 o'clock!" If you will excuse me making what is perhaps more appropriate to an after-dinner speech than an after-lunch speech, I will now sit down.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Harold Lawson.

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Twenty-Five Years in Canada

Some personal reminiscences. Some observations about Canada, about Britain, and about the relationship between the two nations.