Friday, March 7, 2014

Research and Development

Some years ago I got interested in the War of 1812. It was one of those strange obsessions, like the one the Dickens character had with King Charles's head. It will make more sense to you when I explain that my forebears were on this continent in those days, some in Canada and some in the States, and so personally involved. What was that like? I was curious. In the course of reading about that war, and about the border between Maine and New Brunswick, where the ancestors lived in those days, I came across the story of the Reverend Mr. Duncan McColl. An extraordinary man. A saint, if the Methodists had saints.

No doubt you've asked yourself from time to time, what if they gave a war and nobody came? It actually happened on the Saint Croix River. Duncan McColl made it happen. After many years of his labors to save souls, he had built up a huge congregation from both sides of the border, including most of the people in the towns of St. Stephen (Canadian) and Calais (American). Living as they were in Christian amity, they didn't want to fight each other when the American government declared war.

So they didn't.

Duncan McColl went to the magistrates to urge for peace. They formed a committee of the prominent men on both sides of the border to keep order. All went well. The following year, American troops showed up in Calais. Luckily, or by the grace of God, the commanding officer and many of his men were Methodists. Duncan McColl preached to them and they agreed to keep the truce. British troops came to the other side, but Mr. McColl talked to their officers also, and they, too, kept the truce. They say a load of gunpowder that the British authorities sent to St. Stephen for self-defense was given to Calais so they could have fireworks for a proper fourth of July celebration. A picnic, I'm thinking, although with no dancing. Duncan McColl was sternly against dancing.

Lest you think that Mr. McColl was some sort of milksop, let me assure you that before he answered the call to become a preacher of the Gospel he had a distinguished military career, serving in the Argyll Highlanders, the famous 74th Regiment of Foot, where he saw sharp action at Castine, Maine.

It's all in his memoirs. These were serialized in the British North American Wesleyan Methodist Magazine of 1841 and 1842, ten years after Mr. McColl's death, printed out in tiny blurry print almost illegible to human eye or optical character reader. I'm here to announce that I spent all of last week, something like fourteen hours a day, scanning, copying, and parsing his words (and the words of whoever edited and annotated his work for the magazine) with a view to putting the memoir up on Kindle in legible form. This I have done. As a result I'm almost blind from eyestrain. I would be happy to give it away, but 99¢ was the least Amazon would let me sell it for. Go get it here.

…And now I'm going to go rest my eyes.

© 2014 Kate Gallison

1 comment:

  1. Kate, twas a Herculean piece of work! tjs