Following is Grace's introduction to the singing of 'A Canadian School Song'.
I receive ‘Loyalist Trails’ on my computer which gives a weekly summary of happenings and interesting facts about Loyalism, our national organization and the individual branches.
A few months ago there was mention of a song dedicated to the Loyalists. It was entitled - A Canadian School Song - with words written by a Dr. M. J. Keane and the music by George Sidwell from Hamilton, ON. I knew I had to find out more, and so I contacted Dominion President Fred Hayward UE (Hamilton Branch). He sent me a copy of the song. Through another contact, I was put in touch with the archivist of the Hamilton Public Library. Information about Dr. Keane was not available, but Mr. Sidwell had a most interesting and tragic life story.
The music for ‘A Canadian School Song’ was written by George Sidwell in 1913. He dedicated the song - "to the memory of the United Empire Loyalists whose services to Canada and the Empire should never be forgotten". He went on to state that - "all patriotic songs are valuable for they cannot fail to accomplish an important part in fostering feelings of loyalty and devotion". His aim was to touch the lives of citizens of all ages with these important patriotic messages, and especially touch the young at an early impressionable age.
George Sidwell was born in 1865 in Burton-Upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England. Some time around 1890, he married Mary Jennings with whom he had 13 children over the years. The family immigrated to Canada in 1905. They first settled in Grey County, then Brant County, and finally by 1911 they were living in Hamilton. His occupation was listed as a carpenter and mason. It was also around this time that George Sidwell started writing and publishing patriotic music. He later became manager of the Empire Music Publishing Company.
In 1915, he composed a piece of music which he sold to a company in England and for which he was to receive $2000. He decided to deliver it in person, and I suppose visit friends and relatives as well, and perhaps have other business dealings. And so he booked passage on one of the great ocean liners of the day - Cunard Cruise Lines famous ‘Lusitania’. On this particular voyage, the ship sailed out of New York Harbor on May 1, 1915 bound for the British Isles. On May 7 off the coast of Ireland, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship, and it sank in 18 minutes. Out of 1,959 passengers, 1,198 were killed.
I decided to look up the ‘Lusitania’ passenger list for that particular sailing to see whether George Sidwell would be listed. On the 3rd class passenger list, I found his name - George Sidwell, age 48, of British nationality, his residence was Hamilton, Ontario, and his body was never recovered. As sad as his death was, we are thankful for the music he composed and the messages of love and patriotism for Canada that he held most dear.
In the 3rd verse of ‘A Canadian School Song’, Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane are mentioned. They were part of the War of 1812, much later than the Revolutionary War of 1775 - 1783 which is our area of concentration. But some Loyalists of the Revolutionary period also took part in the War of 1812. The last line of the chorus reads, "loyalty to country and to King". This music was published in 1913 and King George V was on the throne at that time, the grandfather of our present Queen Elizabeth II.
A CANADIAN SCHOOL SONG
- 1913 -
dedicated to the United Empire Loyalists
The Loyalists with hope and faith,
Their trust in right and justice bore;
And we the sons of noble sires,
Must bear our part as they of yore.
Three cheers for the Loyalists!
Three cheers for all -- who sing --;
The deeds of sterling loyalty,
To Country and to King.
Their courage, staunchness, love of truth,
Have made a people bold and free;
The hand of fellowship we give,
To all who join in unity.
At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane,
We keep the flame forever bright;
Nor shall we want for loyal hearts,
To bear the flag, defend the right.
Then sing the songs of Canada,
Our own dear home forever blest;
The land where freedom plants her flag,
Must hold the Empire of the west.