News Local

The extraordinary lives of Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer  
Author and journalist Ray Argyle recounts for an audience the life and times of two extraordinary Canadians - Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine. Argyle appeared as part of Algonquin College's Speakers Series.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Author and journalist Ray Argyle recounts for an audience the life and times of two extraordinary Canadians - Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine. Argyle appeared as part of Algonquin College's Speakers Series.

Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine – two extraordinary Canadians who witnessed two seminal events in our young nation’s history.

While Smallwood, is today celebrated as the last living father of Confederation, Mallandaine is a much lesser known figure although we have probably all seen him. For Edward Mallandaine was present at the driving of the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigellachie, British Columbia on Nov. 7, 1885 and appears in that iconic photo of the event.

The lives of these two truly historic figures were recounted by author Ray Argyle during a recent session of the Algonquin College Speakers Series. A seasoned journalist and radio broadcaster, Argyle is the only Canadian to have been elected a fellow of the International Public Relations Association. He has also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his “contributions to Canadian life.”

Lifting stories from his two non-fiction novels, “Joey Smallwood: Schemer and Dreamer” and “The Boy in the Picture: The Craigellachie Kid and the Driving of the Last Spike,” Argyle called the building of the CPR and the addition of Newfoundland the “anchors of Confederation.”

The author found a special kinship in exploring Mallandaine’s life. Argyle grew up in the interior British Columbia community of Creston, the town that Mallandaine helped found. After he turned 18 and left home, Mallandaine had worked as a dispatch rider carrying mail and parcels between Revelstoke and Sicamous, B.C. Hoping to join in military to fight in the Northwest Rebellion, he took a railway flat car and headed east. However, the conflict was over by the time he reached Craigellachie. Nevertheless, the lad decided to stay and watch history in the making.

“There was going to be a ceremony,” Argyle said during his hour-long presentation. “They were calling it the driving of the last spike and Edward was determined to be there.”

That day he watched Donald Smith drive the last spike. In the famous photo taken of that moment, Edward can be seen standing between Sir Sandford Fleming and engineer Henry Cambie. Mallandaine later fought in the First World War rising to the rank of colonel. He later served as magistrate, chairman of the hospital board and mayor of Creston.

“Edward had a fascinating life,” added Argyle. “He was just about the whole ball of wax in Creston.”

Mallandaine died in 1949 at the age of 82. That same year, Joey Smallwood was the leading Newfoundland into Confederation. Hailing from Mint Brook, Smallwood believed that union with Canada would bring prosperity to the British colony and improve Newfoundlanders’ quality of life by giving them access to North American standards of social welfare and public services. The island had a population of 300,000 at the time. It was remote and impoverished but it had its own currency and postage stamp, Argyle added.

The future of Newfoundland was decided with two referendums in 1948. Newfoundlanders had to decide whether they would join Canada, remain under British rule or regain independence. When the first referendum failed to gained 50 per cent support for any one option, a run-off ballot was held in which 52.48 per cent of voters endorsed Confederation.

“Newfoundland had finally decided to throw in its lot with Canada. It was the final stitching of all the former British colonies in North America,” said Argyle. “Joey Smallwood had accomplished his dream.”

Money to the tune of a billion dollars a year pours into Newfoundland, added Argyle. Smallwood became leader of the Newfoundland Liberal party and wins 22 of 28 seats in the House of Assembly. He went on to develop industry in paper mills, cement factories and deep-sea docks, while improving roads, schools and social services. Smallwood pursured the Churchill Falls hydroelectric power project which ultimately brought few economic benefits to the province. Smallwood died 17 December 1991 in St. John's, just a few days before he would have turned 91.

“What are we to make of the legacy of the legendary Joey Smallwood,” Argyle asked. “He changed life for the better. He transformed Newfoundland into a modern economy and Newfoundland’s presence in Confederation has made Canada a country that truly does extend from coast to coast to coast.”

SChase@postmedia.com