MacCarthy Page 34a.1

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An extremely rare and fabulous bronze bust of Queen Victoria, created by Canadian sculptor Hamilton MacCarthy, in 1897, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

It is the tallest bust we've seen at 46 cm high and weighs a back-breaking 11.8 kg.

These busts were expensive and only the wealthier classes could afford to have them on their mantles.

Hamilton Thomas Carleton Plantagenet MacCarthy (1846-1939) is in the front rank of Canada's very finest sculptors.

He was early on, recognized for his superior talent, when the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada, who, with his wife, Princess Louise, essentially founded the National Gallery of Canada, donated his bust of a smiling girl below, to the collection in 1884. It is an early number - 177 - in the catalogue of Canada's treasured items

Queen Victoria - Hamilton MacCarthy 1897
Orig. bronze bust - Size - 46 cm, wt 11.8 kg
Found - Shakespeare, ON
Signed H MacCarthy RCA, Sculptor, 1897

Hamilton MacCarthy 1 - 1846-1939

1 2 3 4 5 6

Hamilton had started his sculpting career in London, creating busts for Lord This and That.

By 1885 he had relocated to Canada where he made a reputation sculpting busts and monuments celebrating Canada and Canadians.

His diploma submission, for acceptance into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, was the plaster bust of Lucius O'Brien, far left which he completed in 1892, and finished off with a coat of watercolour paint.

This was a good career move, as Lucius - known to many as "Luscious" because of his love of rich colours - was the first President of the RCA.

During the wave of patriotic feeling that led up to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, in 1897, Hamilton created busts of General Isaac Brock and Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, as a pair, left to symbolize the creation of the Dominion as a partnership of whites with the Indian People of Canada.

Brock had enormous respect for Tecumseh, and his warriors, and thought they played a bigger role in defending Canada, against American attack, than the lukewarm laggards in the Canadian Militia, many of whom were American sympathizers - in fact little more than home-grown potential - and some actual - terrorists.

These copies are in bronze. But Hamilton also made other, cheaper versions, in terra cotta and plaster.

The casualties from the Boer War 1899-1902, brought commissions for memorials to the more than 300 Canadians who died in South Africa.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Monument Cup, Brantford, ON c 1905
Orig. souvenir cup - Size - 75 x 80 mm
Found - St. Thomas, ON

This cup features Hamilton MacCarthy's Brantford Boer War Memorial which he completed in 1903.

The monuments that sculptors created in towns and cities across Canada, became, themselves, new tourist destinations as trains were taking tourists increasingly further than they had been able to go by horse and buggy.

This increased tourist traffic and boosted the souvenir trade after 1900. This promoted a flood of coloured postcards as well as a huge output of small souvenir items memorializing every school, monument, hospital, court house and memorials in every little town across Canada. Something to take back and show all the folks.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

BoerWar Monument, Brantford, ON - H MacCarthy
Orig. pc - Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Burlington, ON
Go to Brantford Monument


In 1899 Canada sent its first Contingent ever to fight in a foreign war. As casualties mounted - over 300 volunteers would never return home - the call to memorialize their sacrifice went out.

Hamilton MacCarthy was called on to make more Boer War Memorials than any other Canadian sculptor. Today they grace the public places and are so permanent a part of the landscape that the millions who have passed them by don't even know they exist - sort of like the air we breathe...

Great Canadian Insight

When visiting Charlottetown, PEI, we asked a lifelong resident, and local historian, if there were any Boer War memorials in town.

"Heh, Heh, Heh! Nope," he chuckled, somewhat amused at the question, "not here."

When we later visited the downtown square we easily found George Hill's wonderful World War I memorial right behind the Confederation Centre.

And there even closer beside the historic home of Canadian Confederation was the large and magnificent Boer War monument on its huge pedestal, by Hamilton MacCarthy, where it had been for over a century!

And in the small town of Qu'appelle, Saskatchewan, after driving up and down the streets in vain looking for a memorial to the signing of the peace treaties with the Indians in the 1870s, we finally stopped, exasperated, and asked a couple who were raking leaves, where it was.

"It's huge, somewhere around here!" I said. They looked dumfounded. "No, nothing like that here!" As we drove off, completely frustrated, not four houses further on we came upon a half acre of park, in the midst of which stood a magnificent huge monument that had stood there since 1877....

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer War Monument, Quebec, PQ - H MacCarthy
Orig. pc - Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Vancouver, BC
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Harold Borden Monument, Canning, Nova Scotia
Orig. monument -
Found - Canning, NS
Erected in homage to the quintessential Home Town Hero, is this marvellous monument crafted by one of Canada's finest Edwardian sculptors, Hamilton MacCarthy. Hamilton executed other fine Boer War era memorials in Canadian cities, including several in Ottawa, Ontario, including one to Alexander Mackenzie on Parliament Hill.

The monument is topped by a bronze bust, and also bears bronze plaques of Harold's most famous battlefield engagements.

At the bottom it features a watering trough for horses, which has been filled with flowers for many decades.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Spoon, Borden Memorial,
Orig. Spoon - Size - 14 cm
Found - Miami, FL
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Memorial Plate, Canning, NS c 1903
Orig. ceramic saucer - Size - 16.5 cm
Found - Hopkinton, MA

Probably Canada's rarest Boer War plate is this small souvenir saucer, featuring Hamilton MacCarthy's memorial to Capt. Harold Borden, Canada's most famous casualty during the Boer War, in Canning, Nova Scotia.

His father was the Minister of Defence and Militia during all of Prime Minster Laurier's term in office, from 1896-1911. He was a strong proponent for Canadians to go fight in South Africa. All, that is, except his own son, whom he tried to dissuade from going. Newspapers making snide comments ultimately made Harold overrule his father's objections. He left his medical studies at McGill University in Montreal, and served with distinction for the few weeks before he was felled by a sniper's bullet.

The wicker casing, completely covering the back, alone, makes it unique among Canadian memorabilia plates. We have never seen another. Below the unveiling in 1903.

Go to Borden Monument

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer War Memorial, Halifax, NS - Hamilton MacCarthy
Orig. pc - Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Windsor, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Boer War Monument Cup, Brantford, ON c 1905
Orig. souvenir cup - Size - 75 x 80 mm
Found - St John, NB

The corner stone for this monument was set by the Duke and Duchess of York during their 1901 tour of Canada, the same month as Canada's First Contingent, returning from their year of service, came marching down the street in the back to a boisterous welcome from the citizens in the town.

Go to Halifax Monument
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005
Hamilton designed the magnificent Boer War monuments in Ottawa 1902, above, Quebec 1902, far left, and Brantford, 1903, above left, as well as others in Halifax and Canning, Nova Scotia below, and Charlottetown, PEI.