Sir Andrew Macphail and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” by Simon Lloyd
On November 11, 1918, the day an armistice finally silenced the guns of the First World War, Sir Andrew Macphail, proud son of Orwell, Prince Edward Island, finished a remarkable writing project. “John McCrae: An Essay in Character,” was a lengthy appreciation of the life and career of Sir Andrew’s close friend, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who had succumbed to illness and exhaustion in January of that momentous year. Summoning all of his considerable literary gifts, Macphail now celebrated McCrae’s character and many accomplishments, the most famous of which was a short poem, “In Flanders Fields”. When the book In Flanders Fields and Other Poems was published in 1919, it contained just over 40 pages of McRae’s verse: the bulk of the volume’s 141 pages were given over to Macphail’s essay.
Both Macphail and McCrae were accomplished writers, physicians, and soldiers, and each, in his own way, can now be regarded as an iconic figure in Canada’s First World War legacy. Exactly one hundred years after Macphail wrote his “Essay in Character” on McCrae, the Macphail Homestead will host a talk by research librarian and archivist Simon Lloyd discussing the friendship of these two extraordinary men, and the various ways in which their brilliant careers intersected.
Starting with a Cash Bar and light snacks at 6:30 pm the talk will begin at 7 pm.
Simon Lloyd received his BA in History and English from the University of Kings College, Halifax in 1994, and his Master of Library and Information Science degree from Dalhousie University in 1997. After working in several Halifax-area archives, he came to UPEI’s Robertson Library to take up the position of University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian in 1999. Simon and his wife made their first visit to the Macphail Woods and Homestead shortly thereafter, and he has been fascinated with Sir Andrew’s legacy ever since: he was, therefore, pleased and honoured at being invited to join the Macphail Foundation executive earlier this year.
Simon grew up hearing stories of the Second World War from his Welsh and English grandparents — both of his grandfathers served with the Royal Air Force — and has long had an interest in military history. Mindful of the lessons of his grandparents, Simon has always tried to practice respectful observance of Remembrance Week and other military commemorations, something he now shares with his own children. Since August 2014, he has written monthly columns for The Guardian marking the centennial of the First World War, focussing on the experience of Prince Edward Islanders during that monumental struggle exactly one hundred years ago.