Canadian Medical Lives
Series edited by T.P. Morley, M.D.
William Henry Drummond: Poet in Patois
By: J.B. Lyons
Published: Fitzhenry & Whiteside (1994)
Unknown in Ireland, his native land, and largely forgotten in Canada, the land of his adoption, Dr. William Henry Drummond (1854-1907), poet of the voyageur and the habitant farmer, was once a household name in the Dominion. His dialect verses had the power to charm - and to annoy. The latter emotion was experienced by those who believed incorrectly) that he mocked a section of the French-Canadian population.
J.B. Lyons describes how the Irish youth went into the Canadian woods as a telegrapher to support his widowed mother and younger brothers. Later, Drummond resumed his education, took a medical degree and practised in the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec before hanging out his shingle in Montreal - the same city where his ambitious brothers (two of them became millionaires) were to establish the prosperous business firm of Drummond Mccall.
His flair for writing verses impressed May Isobel Harvey from Jamaica, whom he married in 1894. At her urging, he published the best-seller that launched his meteoric career, The Habitant and Other French-Canadian Poems.
William Henry Drummond died at a comparatively early age in Cobalt, Ontario, where he was vice-president of Drummond Mines. This book, a biography rather than a critical study, concludes with a chapter that reviews Drummond's literary status as judged by his contemporaries.
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