The theatrical troupe spent a lot of time in Allan Macpherson’s ballroom showcasing their bizarre brand of political commentary, cleverly hidden under the guise of theatrical eccentricity. Allan Macpherson was an influential man in the day, acting as Post Master, Magistrate, and Major of the Lennox Militia. He was a classic “man about town” in the early days of Napanee, and played a pivotal role in the early development of the community. Macdonald was related to the Macpherson’s through marriage on his mother’s side, and thus naturally spent a lot of time at Mr. Macpherson’s home along the banks of the Napanee River during the time he lived and worked there.
Donald Creighton touched briefly on the Société de la Vache Rouge in his seminal biography The Young Politician, The Old Chieftain. He describes the theatrical troupe as a “curious mixture of medieval chivalry and Highland Scottish fervour” and that, for a young Sir John, it was a riposte (though admittedly an absurd one) to the approaching revolution in British Canada. Imagining the first Prime Minister of Canada prancing about with a cardboard sword in hand, certainly adds a humourous—and human—element to his persona.
As well, The Red Cow Society lives on to this day. Made up of former Macpherson House staff, board members and volunteers (who worked at Macpherson House before the property was bought by the Historical Society), The Red Cow Society formed as a way of continuing the relationships built through the members’ involvement at Macpherson House. Coordinator Lisa Bird said, “We developed such a close relationship with one another, bonding over a mutual love of history and community engagement. We consider ourselves family, and we didn’t want to lose that.”
Paying homage to the Société de la Vache Rouge of Macdonald’s time seems fitting for a group who met in the very home where that troupe performed. The current Red Cow Society is heavily involved in local community and charity projects, spearheading their own initiatives and providing man power for other organizations in need. Recently, their annual Halloween History and Hauntings Tour in Napanee and Desoronto sold out within days.
Do you have a group that pays homage to Sir John A. Macdonald? The Commission would love to hear from you and feature your group on our website and in future editions of our monthly newsletter.