The Welsh Surveyor or Spy? War of 1812

Windsor’s poet laureate Marty Gervais thinks the history books may have fudged the story of the capture of Detroit in the War of 1812.

“I believe the British got the plans for the fort from a Welsh surveyor on this side of the river,” said Gervais.

In fact, he goes so far as to call Thomas Smith a British spy. He bases his claim on several source texts which he has been reading while researching a new book on little-known stories about Windsor.

Gervais has also written a poem about Smith which he will read this Saturday during a free performance by Windsor Symphony Orchestra at Riverfront Festival Plaza as part of Windsor’s commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the capture of Detroit.

The poem, Future City on the Detroit River: Thomas Smith, Surveyor, will be recited during the performance of a new work by Windsor composer Brent Lee, titled Brock at Detroit.

History records that British Gen. Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh somehow got their hands on the plans for Fort Detroit prior to launching their attack on Aug. 24, 1812. The next day, U.S. Gen. William Hull surrendered the fort with barely a shot being fired.

Who provided Brock with the plans has remained something of a mystery. But Gervais said it isn’t a huge leap of logic to suspect Smith, a Welsh-born surveyor living in Petite Cote, present-day LaSalle.

“He had been working hand in-hand with the Americans since 1805 designing street plans for the city of Detroit,” said Gervais. “They trusted him.”

But he was staunchly pro-British and when the Americans declared war in July 1812, Smith handed fortification plans to a member of the British Indian department, who in turn gave them to Brock. Smith was identified in correspondence only as a “gentleman of veracity.”

Some historians believe the fort’s layout was among papers which the British seized when they boarded the American packet Cuyahoga near Amherstburg a month earlier.

Either way, it makes for an interesting debate 200 years on. It also sets up Thomas Smith as a forgotten or ignored hero of the war.

In his role as Windsor’s first poet laureate, Gervais has been writing about Windsor and its characters. Besides the poem about Smith, he will read another about Simon Girty, the late-18th century vigilante who was revered on this side of the border but hated by the Americans he terrorized.

Gervais’ new prose book, The Other Windsor: Forgotten Stories, will be published by Biblioasis in October.

Read more:

Canadian in running for Dylan Thomas Prize

Canadian poet Jacob McArthur Mooney is one of five emerging authors shortlisted for the 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize, an international competition celebrating young writers.

Nova Scotia-born, Toronto-based Mooney is a poet, blogger and literary critic, who recently received the Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award and served as writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. He made his debut in 2008 with his poetry collection The New Layman’s Almanac and is working on his first novel.

Mooney made the list of Thomas Prize finalists for his latest book Folk, which features poems tackling the 1998 Swissair crash as well as life next to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

“Throughout the book, short terse poems full of memorable phrases capture a sense of place and the lives of people coming to terms with their identity and communal realities,” the prize jury said of Folk.

He faces stiff competition for the latest edition of the award, which switched from a biennial to an annual contest in 2010 and carries a cash prize of £30,000 (about $48,000 Cdn).

Belgrade-born, New York-based author Téa Obreht is nominated for her debut The Tiger’s Wife, which earlier this year won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction and is also a contender for the U.S. National Book Awards.

Along with Obreht, two other first-timers are in the running for the Thomas Prize: U.S. author Benjamin Hale for The Evolution of Brunoand British writer Annabel Pitcher for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

Rounding out the list is Belfast-born, London-based writer Lucy Caldwell for her sophomore novel The Meeting Point. In the Thomas Prize’s inaugural year in 2006, she was shortlisted for her debut novel Where They Were Missed.

“Our judging meeting continued for hours with deliberations about the flair and excellence of the books,” prize chair Peter Stead said in a statement.

“There really is something here to excite and challenge every kind of reader.”

Sponsored by the University of Wales, the Thomas Prize honours the memory of the Welsh writer, whose first book of poetry was published when he was 21 years old.

It celebrates excellence in young authors between the ages of 18 and 30, publishing English-language work from anywhere in the world. Different genres are considered, including novels, short stories, poetry and plays. Past winners include Rachel Trevise, Nam Le and Elyse Fenton.

The winner will be revealed at a ceremony in Thomas’ hometown of Swansea, Wales on Nov. 9.

Wales builds creative links with Canada

Wales builds creative links with Canada

Section Culture | Published on 4 Nov 2011

Canada’s top representative in Britain has been welcomed to Wales for the first time by First Minister Carwyn Jones for talks on developing trade links between the two countries.

High Commissioner Gordon Campbell, who has been in post since September this year, said, “Canada and Wales have both established a strong reputation for creativity, and I’m sure that there are many opportunities for Canadian and Welsh companies to work together in areas such as film, the literary arts, and digital interactive technologies for entertainment and education.

The First Minister said: ” We already have strong relationships through the creative industries and I want to encourage any further opportunities for our two nations to do business with each other.”

There are a number of links between Wales and Canada through the creative industries, including:

Machine Productions which co-produced the first series of the children’s TV show Tati’s Hotel with Canadian production company Screen Door Ltd.

Ha Ha Hairies Ltd set up in Cardiff last year by Jan Page and Mellie Buse, the creators of Grandpa in my Pocket. Canada-based company Decode was appointed to distribute the TV show internationally.

Rondo Media recently worked with Canadian-based production company Rhombus on a documentary entitled The Devil’s Horn about the history of the saxophone.

Dinamo productions are working on a new project called Badly Drawn Roy and will be working alongside a company called Lizard Brain Animation based in British Columbia.

Calon is developing a project with a company in Montreal, called Cinegroupe, for an animated series for a grown-up audience.

During his time in Wales the High Commissioner will tour the Senedd, the roof of which is constructed from Canadian Red Cedar wood.

Clive Doucet reaches the “end of the road” in Wales

Clive Doucet reaches the “end of the road

Posted by Trevor Pritchard on Friday, October 28, 2011

Over the past few months, we’ve been following Clive Doucet’s journeys across Europe. The former city councillor and mayoral contender has been writing extensively about his travels since May, usually with an eye to how Ottawa can learn from the places he’s visited.

Today, Doucet marks the end of his six-month trip. In a blog post titled “End of the Road,” he chronicles his visit to the book-loving Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye:

It seemed like the right place to end our long tour through Europe. Hay itself is a beautiful place with a couple of pleasant pubs, a small market place and a fine old church in the centre, but it is the books which make it. You can browse for hours through the stores. I found everyone from the autobiography of the Globe and Mail’s John Doyle to authors I’d never heard of like Ethel Mannin who had published 87 books over the course of her life, novels, memoirs, travel books. It was both fascinating and humbling to discover prolific authors who are as new to me as the day.

The town has 26 second-hand bookstores, writes Doucet, and plays host to an international cultural festival. While his post is more focused on his personal experiences than urban insights—and understandably so, given Hay-on-Wye marks the end of his journey—Doucet does offer this insight into how rural transit differs between England and France:

I was struck with the difference between France and Britain. In a similar village, Limoux, where we stayed in France, there was a twenty minute rail trip from the nearest large centre, Carcassonne and the service was being reinstalled further out into the hills. You simply walked across one track to the other, waited for a bit and off you went on a comfortable ride to Limoux. The Hereford/Hay connection was such that there were only locals and ourselves on it, not a single visitor.

The French commitment to small farmers and rural services contrasted with the English approach that small farmers are inefficient and rural rail lines be uprooted like noxious weeds. [The difference] couldn’t have been more vivid.

Rural mass transit is, of course, an ongoing discussion in eastern Ontario, with groups like MOOSE trying to forge better transit connections with the smaller communities outside Ottawa.

As for Doucet’s plans, now that he’s back in Canada: Spacing Ottawa says he’s returned to Ottawa to serve as a “visiting scholar” at Carleton University’s College of the Humanities.

North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History

North American Association for the Study of Welsh Culture and History


International Conference on Welsh Studies

Bangor University

Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales

26-28 July, 2012

Call for Papers

The NAASWCH Program Committee seeks diverse perspectives on Wales and Welsh culture – as well as proposals focused on the Welsh in North America – from many disciplines including: history, literature, languages, art, social sciences, political science, philosophy, music, and religion. NAASWCH invites participation from academics, postgraduate/graduate students and independent scholars from North America, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

Those wishing to present a paper suitable for a 20-minute reading may submit an abstract (maximum one-page).  Proposals for thematic sessions, panel presentations, or other formats are also welcome.  Please include a brief (one-page) c.v. with your abstract submission.  The abstract-proposal deadline is2 January 2012 but early proposals are encouraged. Participants will be notified by mid-February. E-mail submissions are welcome and will be acknowledged promptly. If you have not received confirmation of your electronic submission within one week, please resend the document.

NAASWCH works to promote scholarship on all aspects of Welsh culture and history; to develop connections between teachers and scholars in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom who are committed to the study of Welsh culture and society, history, language, and literature; to provide an intellectual forum in which scholars and teachers of Welsh culture may share their research and teaching experience, and to provide support for the study of Welsh-North American history and culture.

Please see the NAASWCH website for additional information:

Please submit abstracts or session proposals by no later than 2 January 2012 (electronically if possible) to Professor Tony Brown, School of English, Bangor University, Bangor, LL57 2DG ( and Dr Andrew Edwards, School of History and Welsh History, Bangor University (

Those who are not submitting proposals but would like to receive conference information should contact Linda Jones, Conference Administrator, College of Arts and Humanities, Bangor University;



(Thurs. Oct. 13: Westboro) 

A child poet. A powerful magician. Two archeologists. Robert Graves, writer. A young mother in labour. And you, the listener. What could connect these people? Storyteller Christine Cooper weaves a tangled web of tales that reaches from pre-historic Wales to modern-day Norfolk, taking in history, myth and personal biography.

The Battle of the Trees is a Welsh mythic poem found in the 10th century Book of Taliesin, which has baffled scholars for centuries.  My performance explores the relationships between that poem and the people living and dead, real and mythical, who have clustered round it like moths round a flame. Through these stories I explore our relationship with trees, beings that fill our countries and our cultures across time and space.

audience comments, The Battle of the Trees     “Absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful, and so original. Thank you, thank you.”
                                                      “A spell-binding, evening – a journey through many emotions – very inspiring!”
                                                          “Amazing! I was completely drawn into the world you created.”