The enduring romance of the highwayman

Brave, dashing and manly, these social bandits have lofty status. But some, like Dick Turpin, fall far short of the glowing stereotype

The enduring romance of the highwaymanIf memory serves, my first encounter with the concept of a highwayman came circa 1952 thanks to the weekly Sun comic book. One of its regular characters was Dick Turpin, a highwayman who embarked on a series of adventures with his female sidekick Moll Moonlight. In addition to robbing the rich to help the poor,…

The first rock ’n’ roll Christmas

That a guy nicknamed Elvis the Pelvis had tackled sacred songs was offensive and sacrilegious to many. But it was perfect marketing

The first rock ’n’ roll ChristmasTeenagers in the 1950s couldn’t escape the music of their parents. Despite radio’s new-fangled Top 40 and the attendant infiltration of rock ’n’ roll, the sounds of the past were all around. This was particularly the case for Christmas songs. But things began to change in late October 1957, thanks to Elvis Presley announcing the…

How healthy is our health-care system?

A recent report compares care across eight developed countries, including Canada. The results are edifying

How healthy is our health-care system?The Manhattan Institute – an American free-market think-tank – recently published a comparison of health care across eight developed countries. Looking at Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States, the analysis provides food for thought. Here are my takeaways. Role of government Governments in all eight countries are…

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?

A separate Scotland and a unified Ireland would certainly face new challenges. But life might be easier for the English

What if Brexit leads to the breakup of the United Kingdom?If Brexit happens and has the unintended consequence of facilitating Scottish independence and Irish unification (picking up where last week’s column left off), what would that mean for various groups? For Scottish unionists, leaving the United Kingdom would certainly be a major psychological wrench. Unlike, say, the former states of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – both…

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequences

How about Scottish independence and Irish unification, just to start the conversation?

Brexit’s potential for unintended consequencesLet’s do a thought experiment. We’ll begin by making two speculative stipulations. First, assume that Boris Johnson comes out of the United Kingdom’s Dec. 12 general election with a comfortable Conservative majority. Thus empowered, he pushes his new European Union withdrawal agreement through parliament without any material amendments and the U.K. then leaves the EU…

Pack up you troubles in your old kit-bag

Our perspective in marking Remembrance Day is definitely at odds with views of the day, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices weren't worthy

As rhetorical formulations go, ”the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” packs a formidable punch. Signifying the coming into effect of the armistice that ended the First World War, the words have a striking resonance: eliciting solemnity, dignity and the sense of something very important. Much more so than VE Day or…

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?

It took far more than our efforts during the Great War to nudge Canada out of its subordinate role in the British Empire

Did the Great War really create a distinct Canadian identity?If you turn left upon entering the main gate of Toronto’s St. James Cemetery, you’ll soon come to a tall, imposing Celtic cross made of stone and inscribed with the family name Hagarty. There are three people buried there, but pride of place is given to someone whose earthly remains repose thousands of miles away…

Brexit’s endgame finally beckons

If Boris Johnson is to get his agreement passed, he needs to change parliament. The Dec. 12 general election provides the opportunity

Brexit’s endgame finally beckonsMy Aug. 1 column noted the significance of Boris Johnson becoming United Kingdom prime minister. Given his key cabinet and staff appointments, he was clearly going to force Brexit resolution in a way that his predecessor, Theresa May, was either unable or unwilling to do. This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Both May and her…

Beaverbrook: A Canadian who liked to win

Relentless and focused, Max Aitken wasn’t squeamish about cutting corners to get what he wanted in business and politics

Beaverbrook: A Canadian who liked to winMax Aitken – widely known as Lord Beaverbrook – is the subject of a new biography by English author Charles Williams. Max Beaverbrook is a readable book on an interesting and controversial character, one whose balance of attributes is ambivalently encapsulated in the subtitle Not Quite a Gentleman. Aitken was born in Maple, Ont., in…

Like father, like son? How Justin and Pierre compare

I thought Justin Trudeau was largely free of his father's unattractive qualities. Or would at least hide them better. I was wrong

Like father, like son? How Justin and Pierre compareSome of the chatter around the federal election focused on the potential comparison between Justin Trudeau in 2019 and his father, Pierre Trudeau, in 1972. Given the circumstances – both men running to defend convincing majorities won four years earlier – it was an obvious topic. I wrote a column on it last January, specifically…

Is the rise in inequality exaggerated?

Is the rise in inequality exaggerated?The rise in economic inequality is one of the most potent 21st century memes. You could even call it pervasive. It dominates the debate in the Democratic presidential contest and has a material echo in our current federal election. The rich – particularly the notorious one per cent – must be made to “pay their…

Charmed life of Marie Antoinette came to dismal end

Over time, she became the all-purpose scapegoat for everything that ailed pre-revolutionary France

Charmed life of Marie Antoinette came to dismal endThe woman known to history as Marie Antoinette was born in Vienna in 1755. As the 15th child of Empress Maria Theresa, the infant immediately became an archduchess of Austria and was given the baptismal name Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna. At the age of 14, she was married to the heir to the French throne…

When TV westerns ruled the roost

The longevity and sustained popularity of Gunsmoke and Bonanza put them in a class apart

When TV westerns ruled the roostWhen Bonanza made its debut on Saturday, Sept. 12, 1959, it was joining a TV schedule littered with series westerns. During that 1959-60 season, over 30 westerns regularly stalked North American home screens. And most of them were on network evening TV, thus occupying plum spots during peak viewing hours. ABC’s 1959-60 Sunday night roster…

Canada goes to war: 80 years ago, there was no hesitation

Ultimately, though, disagreement surfaced. The trigger was conscription and the division was between Quebec and English Canada

Canada goes to war: 80 years ago, there was no hesitationCanada went to war 80 years ago this September. The formal declaration came on Sept. 10, a week after the United Kingdom and France had declared war in response to the German invasion of Poland. In taking the United Kingdom’s side, Canada joined three other dominions – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Canada was…

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came calling

His tour of the U.K. and Ireland just before the Second World War was a huge success. But prudence meant his entourage came home early to avoid any danger

With war on the doorstep, The Singing Cowboy came callingThe summer of 1939 was nerve-wracking for Europe. As July slid into August, it became increasingly clear that – barring a miracle – war was on its way. And there were no miracles to be had. There was, however, a distraction that delighted tens of thousands. Gene Autry, The Singing Cowboy, came calling across the…
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