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Catharine and Edward Horton Bensley fonds (P643)

1937-1994. - 15 cm of textual records. - 24 photographs. - 4 maps.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

Mrs. Catharine Bensley, née Speid, was born in Lennoxville on June 27, 1915. Her father, Arthur Theodore Speid, was born in Montreal. He was a teacher in Lennoxville. The Bensley family was from Scotland, where they owned five farms and a residence. Mrs. Bensley made a trip to Scotland and stayed in one of the houses, called Ardovie, that the family still kept there. She remained there from the fall of 1938 to the summer of 1939, just before the beginning of World War Two. The house was then occupied by a retired British army colonel, a Mr. Adler.

Mrs. Bensley studied English and French literature at Bishop's College, receiving her degree in 1936. She married Major Edward Horton Bensley in 1944, when he had temporarily left the European front to return to Canada. A medical officer in the Canadian army, he had met Catharine when he was doing his military training near Sherbrooke. Mr. Bensley subsequently pursued a career as a toxicologist at the Montreal General Hospital. At the end of this career, he also worked at the Osler Library at McGill University. He died in 1996. Mrs. Bensley now (2004) lives in her Town of Mount Royal home. The couple did not have any children.

Scope and Content:

This fonds concerns the life and activities of Mrs. Catharine Bensley, née Speid, chiefly before the Second World War, when she travelled in Scotland in 1938-1939. The fonds also contains information on her husband, Edward Horton Bensley, who served as a major in the Canadian army during the war.

The fonds includes various documents made, received or acquired over the years by Mrs. Bensley: cards and tourist brochures of Montreal, Quebec and Ontario (ca. 1950), postcards, correspondence with her husband when he was in Europe during the war and a copy of Canada's Weekly -- Review of the Canadian Army Overseas (1942). There are also theatre programs, including one for a play called Hay Fever, in which the donor herself played the lead role, and one from the Open Air Playhouse for a Montreal production of Shakespeare's Cymbeline that starred William Shatner and for which Mrs. Bensley was part of the production team. There is also a brochure on the Casavant organ builders of St. Hyacinthe.

The fonds also contains personal diaries kept by Mrs. Bensley in 1938-1939, which document her stay in Scotland in one of the houses that still belonged to the Bensley family. She stayed there from the fall of 1938 to the summer of 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. In the diaries she recorded her impressions on topics ranging from the Scottish climate to her social activities. The diaries also contain comments on world events. They end with her crossing of the Atlantic by ship and her return to Canada and the Eastern Townships. There are a few other documents along with the diaries, such as invitations to parties in Scotland and dance cards. Lastly, the fonds contains some photographs, most of them of family scenes taken outside.

The fonds is divided into the following series ans subseries:

  • P643/A: Personal diaries
  • P643/B: Correspondence and personal documents
    • P643/B01: Personal correspondence
    • P643/B02: Invitation cards and dance cards
  • P643/C: Printed documents
    • P643/C01: Cards
    • P643/C02: Other printed documents
  • P643/D: Photographs and postcards