This object is one of those things that I simply can’t bear to throw away. My father ordered it, probably because he saw an add on television and imagined that with its authority, he could put the whole Stickland – Strickland debate to rest once and for all. (As I type these words in Word on my MacBook Pro, I notice that Stickland gets the red underline, Strickland does not. Clearly, like my father before me, I am fighting a losing battle.)
It is 11” x 17” and looks credible at first glance. But the fact that the word “SEAL” is embossed into the gold seal makes me a tad suspicious. Isn’t that a tad redundant? But this was created in the days before the internet, and so the amount of research that went into it, evidenced by a copious bibliography printed on the book, makes it seem fairly credible. It would take you five minutes to find this out in the internet nowadays. This document was created on just the other side of the digital revolution.
What the scroll tells us is that the name of Stickland, and its derivatives such as Strickland, goes back to very ancient times –it’s actually a Norman name, so puts my daddy’s family way back to the time and possibly in the company of William the Conqueror when he roared into England, back in 1066 and all that.
My mom’s side, the Arthurs, go back even further. They were the ones waiting for the Conqueror in Hastings almost 1,000 years ago saying “Welcome to England.” While I have some Scottish blood in there as well, and even a dram of Irish, my pedigree is quite secure on the English side.
My paternal grandfather immigrated to Canada in the early part of the last century. He was a blacksmith in the small community of Maryfield. Saskatchewan. My mom grew up on a farm near Broadview, just up the road. Somehow, improbably, proving once and for all that opposites attract, they met and married and hence the writer of this blog was brought into the world.
My mom and dad grew up in a Canada that was very much a British colony. We had a photo of the Queen of England on the wall in our dining room when I was growing up. A typical Sunday dinner would have been roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Royal Albert china. Dad dressed for these meals and we children were allowed to be seen and not heard, elbows on the table was considered a serious crime, the tv was nowhere in sight, and one didn’t leave the table without first asking to be excused. Etc.
While a Brit at heart, my dad was a fierce Canadian. He loved this country with all his heart and soul. Well, I should qualify that. He loved the English version of this country. He didn’t care for the French, but this animosity was directed mostly into hockey: the beloved Maple Leafs vs. the damned Montreal Canadiens.
I know it’s easy to castigate the English, but I am proud of my English ancestry. I love my Arthurian cousins still living in England, although born here, on Vancouver Island. The history of imperialist Britain I know can be brutal and arrogant, but I can tell you that my dad was one of the kindest and most principled men I have ever known.
I’ll give you an example. (I think this also happened to my brother, Tom.) When I was twelve or thirteen or so, my dad came into my bedroom, which he never did, smoking his pipe, which he always did. He sat on the side of my bed, looking around like he was, as they say, an anthropologist on Mars, with great plumes of blue smoke emanating from his pipe.
Dad was laconic, to say the least. A man of very few words. There was an extremely long and awkward silence as he composed himself and chose his words.
Finally, he said: “You know what a gentleman is.”
I said I did.
“When you’re around girls, which you will be now, always try to be one.”
That was all. And that was my facts of life speech, I guess.
I’ve tried to live up to my dad’s advice. I think I’m getting better at it the older I get. I hope I am.
Finally, I would say about this parchment that I will never be able to throw away — the implication that the Sticklands were Normans and may well have originated in France could not have been welcome knowledge to my dad. Be that as it may, it would seem to be so.
He didn’t exactly brag about the contents of this document, but I guess in my own way I am doing it for him now.
Thanks for reading.
Here’s my favourite English song I could think of . . .