Historic figures in Canadian life became intimate friends, almost old pals, as a little elderly lady modestly unfolded to The Star the history of her early days. The little lady was none other than Miss Laura Secord Clarke, a granddaughter of the famous Laura Secord, whose trip through the woods to save the British forces from the enemy in the war of 1812 is one of the most heroic deeds on record. Miss Clarke is a sister of the late Lieutenant-Governor Lionel H. Clarke.
The iron grey hair and wrinkles that come with advancing years have failed to separate this lady from the energy that has ever been one of her outstanding characteristics. Time has dealt lightly with Miss Laura Secord Clarke, and The Star found her to be, despite her threescore years and ten, a vivacious lady, whose short staccato accents denoted a life of activity. Her grey-blue eyes have not lost the twinkle of youth, but a touch of sadness, a sort of pensive, reflective sadness, enters them when she speaks of the beloved friends of her childhood, who lie beneath the green sod at the foot of a group of tall evergreens in a secluded nook of a graveyard in Guelph, Ont., her birthplace. Physically, Miss Clarke is rather short and slight, with a striking facial resemblance to the pictures one sees of the famous Laura Secord. The Star found her attired in a black dress, the silken sheen of which seemed only to accentuate its blackness, which, however, was relieved by the gold and white Maltese Cross pinned on her breast—the badge that distinguishes the posterity of United Empire Loyalists. The motto on the badge reads "Ducit Amor Patriae"— 'Love of country leads," and surely no more fitting one could be worn by this patriotic little British lady of the old school.
Ireland Not So Wicked.
Answering questions of The Star, Miss Clarke said that she was the daughter of Dr. Clarke and Mrs. Laura Secord Clarke, of Guelph. Her mother was a daughter of the celebrated Laura Secord and Dr. Clarke was her second husband. Speaking of her Irish ancestry, Miss Clarke said with a sigh: "You know, I can't believe that Ireland is so wicked as the papers say. Everybody was so nice to me "when I was in Ireland. The Irish are such a charming race."
Miss Clarke reminisced of the days when she attended a private school n Guelph, and the principal forced the girls to take an eight-mile walk through the snow before breakfast to strengthen their constitution. Truly.
Asked if she had seen her famous grandmother often, she said: 'Oh, yes, you know I used to visit grandmother at Chippawa when I was still a school-girl in my 'teens. Grandfather was collector of customs in Chippawa then, the government having given him this position in return for his service in the war. He had a bullet in his knee that was never extracted," and then she smilingly added: "There were no X-rays
screen, you see."
"Your grandmother was a woman of a very fine character was she not?" queried The Star.
"Yes," she replied, "Laura Secord was the most devout religious woman I have ever known. She used to make me read the Bible to her on my visits. She possessed great presence of mind, and was an ideal wife. She was one of those women who make life worth living."
Miss Clarke stated that she had often heard the story of the famous walk through the woods from her grandmother's own lips. "Grandmother said she was terribly nervous when she met the Indian chief," said Miss Clarke, "and she always asserted that it was God's mercy that had enabled her to reach Lieut. Fitzgibbon in safety."
"Did Laura Secord show any physical effects after her arduous trip?" asked The Star.
"She was extremely tired, of course," was the answer, "but her remarkable constitution stood up well under the strain."
Indians Were Hostile.
"Do you remember any other incidents of importance told you by your grandmother?"
"Indeed I do. Once an Indian chieftain came to take away my Aunt Mary, and grandmother saved her by shouting 'Smallpox, smallpox, open the windows, there's smallpox here,' and the Indian, in dread of the disease, jumped out the window and fled. Of course there was no smallpox at all," naively added the little lady.
"I remember, too," she said, "my grandmother's tales of the perils of Indian attacks in the old days. Why, once an Indian threw his tomahawk at Auntie Mary and almost struck her with it."
"But don't put that in the paper," Miss Clarke hastened to add, "the Indians were such good allies of ours and I wouldn't offend them for the world." After receiving The Star's assurance that there was nothing offensive to anyone in what she had said, she went on with her reminiscences :
"You know, I had some chairs and tables belonging to Laura Secord, but I am such a roamer that I have given them to relatives. The only thing I have left is this," and she showed The Star a bronze medal struck off by the government after Laura Secord's death. It shows her warning Fitzgibbon of the coming of the enemy and is inscribed on the reverse side with the story of the trip through the woods."
"Yes, I think I shall spend the rest of my days in Toronto," smiled Miss Clarke. "You see, I have so many good friends here and [...] of the Woman's Historical Society and the United Empire Loyalists' Association. "It makes one sad to visit my birthplace in Guelph, everything is so strange there/now that it makes me sad. But here, everything is so lively that I just think I'll stay." The wonderment of The Star at this little old lady liking a place that was "so lively," was so great that the interviewer bade the charming descendant of a great Canadian a hasty good-night.
'Oh, do stay, it is only 11.30," she said. And this from a woman who must be close to eighty years old.