Not when you work for the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission. Mrs. Bleaney’s story is one of the more obscure, but wholly interesting, threads in the tapestry of Sir John’s legacy, and in the history of Canada as a whole.
Mrs. Rachael Bleaney (1877-1934) was a fortune teller living in Kingston, who in the year 1925 gave a reading to the sitting Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. Mrs. Bleaney talked to his mother and made several predictions about the prime minister’s future. Mr. King was very impressed with Mrs. Bleaney, praising her skill in an October 20th diary entry.
The following year, Mackenzie King once again visited with Mrs. Bleaney, shortly before the election. Following that reading, King headed to Cataraqui Cemetery to commune with the spirit of Sir John A. Macdonald, whom he greatly admired.
On our Theatrical Walking Tour, In Sir John A.’s Footsteps, Mrs. Bleaney is portrayed by Anna Sudac, who, with the help of a $10 bill, is able to commune with our first Prime Minister’s spirit.
Following a tip from noted historian Allan Levine, author of the seminal biography King, I found myself accompanying our Commissioner Arthur Milnes on a trip to Cataraqui Cemetery on April 1st to locate Mrs. Rachael Bleaney’s final resting place. With the help of a map and a description of the gravestone she shares with her husband and daughter, we set out to find this intriguing piece of Kingston history. After an exhilarating search, we came upon the grave, distinguishable almost solely by the prayer book carving at the top. Upon closer inspection of the worn, moss-covered inscription, we knew absolutely that we had found it.
Standing at the grave of the woman who helped Prime Minister King commune with the spirit of Sir John was one of the most exciting, albeit it surreal, moments of my career with the Macdonald Commission. The history of Canada, seen as quiet and unassuming, is peppered with intriguing and oftentimes forgotten figures like Mrs. Bleaney. For me, in some small way, locating her grave and writing about the experience is a way of keeping her story alive, of reminding myself and my fellow Canadians that we all have stories, and that by connecting those stories, to past prime ministers like King and Macdonald, and to one another, we are all a part of the greater story of Canada.