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The Guards and the Skating Masquerade, 1864
Edited by Robert Henderson
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The Rink, Montreal

With the possibility of war between the Federal States and Great Britain a possibility at the end of 1861, the Grenadier and Scots Fusilier Guards were dispatched to Canada to shore up its defences. Tensions soon subsided in 1862. That same year, civil war broke out in the United States and it was deemed prudent that the Guards remain in garrison in Canada. The guards officers quickly made themselves busy in North America with hunting and snowshoe clubs, plays, balls, and so on. A number of them, ventured south of the border into the United States to observe the bloodiest war ever to occur on North American soil. From the journals of these officers, a publication was created entitled The Journal of the Household Brigade covering the years 1862 to 1864. The following is an extract of a skating masquerade that was attended by a Guards officer in Montreal during the winter of 1863-1864. While not occurring at Christmas, Santa Claus does receive a mention.

"THE SKATING MASQUERADE

VICTORIA SKATING RINK--The Fancy Dress Entertainment, the announcement of which has raised such high expectations, came off with the greatest éclat. Over the entrance to the Rink outside, was a handsome transparency, consisting of the Prince of Wales' Feathers, with the Royal Arms on each side; the whole being surmounted by a wreath, held by two angels. The crush at the door in the earlier part of the evening was very considerable. Once inside, however, the animated spectacle presented to the visitor fully repaid the inconvenience momentarily sustained by a good squeeze. The interior of the rink was brilliantly lighted and decorated with Union Jacks, Trinity flags, and evergreens. In the centre, upon a raised platform, was stationed the band of the Royal Artillery, and in the gallery over the entrance the drums and fifes of the Grenadier Guards, which performed alternately with their well-known skill and effect. From the centre platform the rink afforded a novel scene of gliding masqueraders in every variety of fancy costume, among the most striking of which we must notice several very well got-up red Indians in real costume, who looked as if they could make the building echo with a mar whoop. A knight in armour also made very splendid appearance; nor must we forget Old Santa. Claus, who swept along, surrounded by a band of juveniles, with a most benevolent air. Then there were Quakers, Contrabands, Zouitves, Corsairs, Jockeys, Carters, Habitants, Sailors, Turks, Creeks. Here Lord Dundreary might be observed in conversation with Napoleon Bonaparte, and Robinson Crusoe conversing with Sam Slick. There was also an elegant genus of red devils, with blue wings, who found innocent pleasure in pursuing unfortunate contrabands, till they were supposed to take refuge in the infernal regions. The female characters were not so numerous as the masculine ones. We however noticed a Highland Herd Lassie, a Russian Lady, several Black Nuns, Flower Girls, Quakeresses, red riding Hoods, the Maid of Athens, a Bohemian Peasant. &c."

The rink was densely crowded with spectators, of whom it is computed there were about 4000 present."

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An excellent gift for the Military History Enthusiast who has been "good" all year is a Victorian "Good Conduct" Medal awarded to British Soldiers. See our gift section for details.

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Copyright The Discriminating General 1999