In the course of any discussion about Parkwood and its history, Adelaide McLaughlin often comes up. People tend to fixate on her and her background and how she rose to become a leading socialite and hostess of business and social functions afforded by the McLaughlin status and lifestyle. I am often asked how ever did this farm girl born and raised in Brougham, (north Pickering, Ontario) succeed among society and the snobbery that she would have encountered and perhaps, been blocked by, everyday.

Truthfully, I do not know how she endeavoured past the restrictions of a late 19th and early 20th class structure, but I have my guesses. Don’t forget that out of the two, between Sam and Adelaide, Adelaide actually had the more paper-based education.  Adelaide left the Kinsale/ Brougham area to attend teachers college in Ottawa prior to meeting Sam McLaughlin. She acquired her teaching certificate and taught in a typical Ontario school house, as many young women did as the nation grew.

She gave up teaching when she married Sam McLaughlin but her teacher self is still evident in the artefacts and archives that we hold. I see her crib notes as she studied many different aspects; from nature, to biblical references, to hiring and running a household staff. I see her scrapbooks where she clips information about the latest medical advances, and political rhetoric of the times, including the role of education inside and outside of the home. She makes notes on the current ( her current) curriculum discussions, highlighting and using quotations and facts in her speeches that she made as president of the Ontario Home and Schools Movement.

The Parkwood household library affords many clues on how Adelaide “succeeded”, as queried.  I am going to draw your attention to five volumes of books under the series title; The Great Opera Series.  These approximate fifty page volumes, provide the necessary information to assist any novice attending an opera understand and follow the program. Beautifully illustrated drawing one into the story, the book provides a comprehensive discussion of the cast, the history behind the story itself, and the break down of each act. Once the reader is familiar with the story line and authentic history to the opera, the reader is then taken on a journey of the music used throughout the program, encouraging the reader to note the undercurrent and the emotions which the music should evoke at key plot lines of the story.

The short answer to Adelaide’s success, she was not a fool, she prepared.

The Great Opera Series books that line the Parkwood Library shelves are: The Meistersingers by Wagner; Lohengrin by Wagner; Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni; Carmen by Bizet; Madame Butterfly by Puccini.  All of them are written by J Cuthbert Hadden (1861-1914) who was a prolific writer in his time, including contributing content to many well known volumes of music history.


The rather more interesting aspect is with regards to the illustrations, which are stunning as noted above.  For the longest time, I could not figure out who the illustrator was, as they are unnamed on the volumes. The only clue is on each picture in the books, a small block print with the initials SB. SB turns out to be John Byam Liston Shaw known as pre-Raphaelite- inspired, Byam Shaw 1872-1919). An Indian born, British painter, Shaw is known as a painter, illustrator and design teacher. When his popularity as an artist waned, he turned to teaching, and in 1910 formed the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole School of Art later renamed simply the “Byam Shaw School of Art

With the outbreak of WWI, Byam Shaw enlisted in the Artist Rifles”, producing was cartoons and memorial commissions, just like many of the Victorian and Raphaelite inspired artists of the day, if you can recall the November blog about Holly Leaves.

Byam Shaw was a casualty of the 1919 influenza epidemic.