Record on Colonel By set straight
An essay by journalism professor Randy Boswell on the legacy of Lt.-Col. John By, founder of the future Ottawa and builder of the Rideau Canal, was featured prominently in the Ottawa Citizen ahead of this year’s Colonel By Day holiday on Aug. 6.
Spanning the first three pages of the Aug. 4 Citizen, including a front-page photo of Boswell holding an inscribed chunk of masonry gathered from a damaged wall of the canal, the essay recounted the spending controversy that unfairly tarnished By’s reputation at the end of his life and Boswell’s journey to Frant, England to place the canal fragment on By’s grave. The gravesite pilgrimage was a side-trip taken while Boswell was conducting research in the U.K. for a planned book on another early figure from Ottawa history, Dr. Edward Van Cortlandt.
“By went to his grave — prematurely at age 56 — under a cloud of controversy. At the unhappy end of his truncated life, he had been robbed of the respect he was owed for his many contributions to the British Empire and denied the adulation he especially deserved for building the Rideau Canal,” Boswell wrote in the piece. “So, this little gift to the Colonel brought from the city he founded — a symbolic bit of stone from the most enduring monument to By’s ingenuity and sterling sense of duty — seemed a fair gesture of gratitude. I gave John By a keepsake shard of his magnificent canal to reassure him that history is now firmly on his side.”
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