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John A. Macdonald returns to Belleville more than a century later

By Kate Shumakova [5]

BELLEVILLE –  Sir John A. Macdonald [6] and his wife, Lady Agnes, stopped in Belleville at Maranatha Centre Tuesday, only 139 years after their first visit.

The true-life re-creations of the first prime minister of Canada and his wife were presented by Brian and Renee Porter of Brockville. The re-enactors presented the original speech that Macdonald – whose 200th birthday is being celebrated this month – made during his first visit to Belleville in 1876 and shared inspiring and humorous stories from his life.

“He looks very much like Sir John A. – his delivery, everything – he is just a perfect copy of our first prime minister. So when he speaks, it gives you the feeling that you are back in history when the actual John A. Macdonald was present. They bring life into it,”  Hastings County Historic Society [7]president Richard Hughes said.

Brian Porter is a retired elementary-school teacher and his wife a retired nurse. Their love for history started as re-enactors in the Brockville Infantry Company of 1862, [8]a group of citizens who portray life in Upper Canada.

“We wear red coats. We  had an encampment at the museum in Brockville some years ago. And someone said that the minister of ammunition, who happened to be John A. Macdonald, should come and review the troops,” Brian Porter said. ” ‘Why wouldn’t you portrait him?’ ”

Porter agreed, found a top hat, put together a costume, and it came off very well. Porter said he realized that it could be a good idea to go and tell John A. Macdonald’s story at schools. It has been 15 years since his first presentation.


http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/john-a-macdonald.mp3 [9]


Renee Porter recreated Lady Agnes Macdonald. She read several passages from Agnes’s diary, describing her new husband and her feelings for him.

“It’s quiet an honour to be a wife of the man behind the politics. And what I found interesting is to see what his private life is like,” she said. “He has a very sad history. His fist wife died after being an invalid for many years; his first baby died at the age of 13 months … He was a widower for 10 years until he met Agnes. From the few little excerpts I read you can see that he was much more comfortable and happy with the domestic side.”

Renee Porter recreated all the 1880s costumes for her husband and herself. They are trying to follow carefully all the details by looking through tons of historic pictures and photographs of that time.

“The details are important. So you have to wear the right eyeglasses and hats – it’s hard to find good top hats,” Brian Porter said.

From the perspective of a modern woman, Renee Porter said, the most uncomfortable thing about women’s clothing of that time was the sleeves.

“The worst part in the warm weather are the long sleeves – that really bothers me,” she said. “They just covered up everything in those days. They did not want to have any sun, no tan. It’s kind of a relief to get into my own clothes at the end of the day,” she added, laughing.

The evening was organized by the Hastings County Historical Society and featured a big birthday cake to honour Macdonald.