"… an author who writes exceptionally fascinating stories on social and cultural change." — The Globe and Mail

Events and Articles

Ray’s upcoming appearances:

June 8, 2017 – Probus Club, Cobourg, Ont. 11:00 a.m. “Anchors of Confederation.”

June 9, 2017 – Rotary Club, Cobourg, Ont., 12:00 p.m. “Anchors of Confederation.”

June 15, 2017 – Scarborough Centre Probus Club, 11:00 a.m. – “Anchors of Confederation.”

June 28, 2017 – Whitby Probus Club, 11:00 a.m. “Anchors of Confederation.”

Sept. 29, 2917 – Kingston Writers Festival (TBA) – An Act of Injustice”

The extraordinary lives of Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine

By Sean Chase, The Pembroke, Ontario, Daily Observer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Joey Smallwood and Edward Mallandaine – two extraordinary Canadians who witnessed two seminal events in our young nation’s history.

While Smallwood, is today celebrated as the last living father of Confederation, Mallandaine is a much lesser known figure although we have probably all seen him. For Edward Mallandaine was present at the driving of the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway at Craigellachie, British Columbia on Nov. 7, 1885 and appears in that iconic photo of the event.

The lives of these two truly historic figures were recounted by author Ray Argyle during a recent session of the Algonquin College Speakers Series. A seasoned journalist and radio broadcaster, Argyle is the only Canadian to have been elected a fellow of the International Public Relations Association. He has also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his “contributions to Canadian life.”

Lifting stories from his two non-fiction novels, “Joey Smallwood: Schemer and Dreamer” and “The Boy in the Picture: The Craigellachie Kid and the Driving of the Last Spike,” Argyle called the building of the CPR and the addition of Newfoundland the “anchors of Confederation.”

The author found a special kinship in exploring Mallandaine’s life. Argyle grew up in the interior British Columbia community of Creston, the town that Mallandaine helped found. After he turned 18 and left home, Mallandaine had worked as a dispatch rider carrying mail and parcels between Revelstoke and Sicamous, B.C. Hoping to join in military to fight in the Northwest Rebellion, he took a railway flat car and headed east. However, the conflict was over by the time he reached Craigellachie. Nevertheless, the lad decided to stay and watch history in the making.

“There was going to be a ceremony,” Argyle said during his hour-long presentation. “They were calling it the driving of the last spike and Edward was determined to be there.”

That day he watched Donald Smith drive the last spike. In the famous photo taken of that moment, Edward can be seen standing between Sir Sandford Fleming and engineer Henry Cambie. Mallandaine later fought in the First World War rising to the rank of colonel. He later served as magistrate, chairman of the hospital board and mayor of Creston.

“Edward had a fascinating life,” added Argyle. “He was just about the whole ball of wax in Creston.”

Mallandaine died in 1949 at the age of 82. That same year, Joey Smallwood was the leading Newfoundland into Confederation. Hailing from Mint Brook, Smallwood believed that union with Canada would bring prosperity to the British colony and improve Newfoundlanders’ quality of life by giving them access to North American standards of social welfare and public services. The island had a population of 300,000 at the time. It was remote and impoverished but it had its own currency and postage stamp, Argyle added.

The future of Newfoundland was decided with two referendums in 1948. Newfoundlanders had to decide whether they would join Canada, remain under British rule or regain independence. When the first referendum failed to gained 50 per cent support for any one option, a run-off ballot was held in which 52.48 per cent of voters endorsed Confederation.

“Newfoundland had finally decided to throw in its lot with Canada. It was the final stitching of all the former British colonies in North America,” said Argyle. “Joey Smallwood had accomplished his dream.”

Money to the tune of a billion dollars a year pours into Newfoundland, added Argyle. Smallwood became leader of the Newfoundland Liberal party and wins 22 of 28 seats in the House of Assembly. He went on to develop industry in paper mills, cement factories and deep-sea docks, while improving roads, schools and social services. Smallwood pursured the Churchill Falls hydroelectric power project which ultimately brought few economic benefits to the province. Smallwood died 17 December 1991 in St. John’s, just a few days before he would have turned 91.

“What are we to make of the legacy of the legendary Joey Smallwood,” Argyle asked. “He changed life for the better. He transformed Newfoundland into a modern economy and Newfoundland’s presence in Confederation has made Canada a country that truly does extend from coast to coast to coast.”



September 20, 2016

 Mosaic Press announces Canadian historical novel, An Act of Injustice

Mosaic Press has acquired rights to An Act of Injustice, an historical novel by Ray Argyle inspired by the 19th century Canadian murder trial and wrongful conviction of a blind man for the poisoning of his youthful bride.

An Act of Injustice draws on court records, descendant interviews and contemporary accounts of the 1884 trial of Cook Teets in the death of Rosannah Leppard, and the subsequent confession of another person to the crime. It is scheduled for publication in April 2017.

cover1.png Mosaic Press editor Michael Walsh said the book blends historical figures with fictitious characters “to create a suspenseful and penetrating narrative of how at a time of religious and racial intolerance, Victorian era Ontario dealt with crime and punishment.”

The novel moves from rural Grey County in Ontario’s Queen’s Bush to political and legal settings in Ottawa and Toronto as Leonard Babington, a disgruntled newspaperman filled with guilt over past indiscretions, comes to grips with his lost love for the victim and his determination to bring the actual killer to justice.

“The trial of Cook Teets was one of the first to raise serious questions about failings in Canada’s justice system,” Ray Argyle said. “My fictional treatment imagines how the main characters reacted to death and betrayal, and to the intolerance of Victorian Canada toward minorities and those not part of the privileged class.”

Ray Argyle is the author of several non-fiction books, including biographies of French president Charles de Gaulle, Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood, ragtime musician Scott Joplin, and Edward Mallandaine, the “boy in the picture” of the driving of the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

About Mosaic Press:

Mosaic Press is an Oakville, Ontario based publisher that has released award-winning and critically acclaimed works of fiction and poetry for over forty years. Mosaic Press has published major award winning authors, including one Nobel Prize winner, twelve Governor General’s Award winners, a Stephen Leacock Award winner, numerous Crime Writers of Canada Derrick Murdoch Award winners, J.I.Segal Prize, Milton Acorn Poetry Award and numerous others.




 Matthew Goody, editor,

Mosaic Press Ltd.

1252 Speers Road Unit #2
Oakville, ON L6L 5N9
Tel. / Fax: 905-825-2130

 Ray Argyle:

Tel. 613.583.7547







photographer: Deborah Windsor

The Caverne of Pont d’Arc

Cave Art Culture: Exploring the Cavern of Pont d’Arc in Ardèche

October 2, 2015

In peace and war, good times and bad, France has never scrimped in spending on its cultural monuments. The Louvre, Versailles, and more recent additions such as the Pompidou Centre and the Opéra Bastille in Paris have helped give the French an enduring sense of grandeur in their country. This focus on culture has also brought economic benefit. The 80 million tourists who come to France every year make it the world’s most visited country, and their spending accounts for more than 10% of the annual French GDP.

Pascal Terrace, the member of the French National Assembly for the region of Ardèche in the south of France, hopes that a “crazy project” he has promoted – a 55 million Euro recreation of prehistoric paintings found in a remote cave – will become the next big French cultural destination.

My invitation from the Ministry of Culture to attend a media briefing for the Cavern of Pont d’Arc came in both English and French, unusual for a French government document. It promised “exclusive access” to a replica of the cave where a thousand wall paintings of wild animals of the Palaeolithic era were discovered in 1994. They had gone undetected for more than 30 thousand years, and may represent the world’s oldest examples of figurative art.

The Cavern of Pont d’Arc is a collection of glistening white stucco buildings on the La Razal plateau, a mountaintop stretch of scrub and woodland overlooking the village of Vallon Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche River valley, 600 kilometres south of Paris. The main structure, the size of an aircraft hanger, houses an above ground replica of the Chauvet cave where the paintings were found by amateur cavers on a weekend outing. In order to protect the paintings from contamination, the cave is closed to all but a few archaeologists. M. Terasse sees the replica as “an invitation to a journey back in time.”

It is indeed that. You begin the journey in total darkness, on a footbridge that takes you thirty thousand years into history to join the first Homo sapiens who made their way across Europe at the height of the Ice Age, in the last days of the Neanderthals. Dim lights appear in corners of the grotto and the paintings come into view. So realistic are they that you can almost hear the neigh of wild horses rampaging across the plateau, or the snarl of lions about to attack a clutch of bison. Other paintings show in beautiful detail the cave bears, rhinos, snow panthers, and now long extinct aurochs and wooly mammoths that once prowled the gorges of the Ardèche  River.

The paintings are the work of early hunter-gatherers, known as Aurignacians after the French village where their presence was first detected. They created the world’s first realistic representations of the mammals with whom they shared the earth  – the first real art. Never cave dwellers themselves, they worked by torchlight with charcoal from Scotch pines they’d burned, and red ochre they’d dug from the earth.

The Caverne in its perfection has raised questions about whether the public is well served by access to a fully replicated cave environment. The Globe and Mail headed its report, Faux Real? Its reporter seemed unsure whether seeing the replica had been “better than nothing” or “the next best thing?” to seeing the actual paintings in the actual cave. A British art critic writing in the Telegraph complained the replica treats art lovers “like fools” and shows contempt for the “anonymous geniuses” who created the paintings. Both concede that because the Chauvet cave has been closed to the public to prevent contamination by toxins or human detritus, films and books offer the only alternatives.

Jean Clottes is widely recognized as a world authority on cave paintings. He is largely self-taught and acquired his Ph.D in archeology after many years as an amateur enthusiast, going underground on his days off as a teacher of English in the Pyrénées village of Foix. He was a lowly paid director of prehistory for the Midi-Pyrénées region for many years, eventually succeeding to a career post as inspector general of rock art for the Ministry of Culture. He has dug more deeply into the meaning of the Chauvet paintings than perhaps any other person.

Now a vigorous 81, Clottes spoke to the assembled media after the briefing at Pont d’Arc. His remarks had a scientific bent and contrasted with those of the politicians present. When I caught up to Clottes, I asked him what it had been like to be the first expert to enter the Chauvet cave.

“I had driven 400 kilometres through a winter storm to get from my home to Vallon-Pont d’Arc. It was December 28, 1994, and I was the only guest in the hotel. The entrance (to the cave) was difficult because, as we found out later, the main entrance has been blocked by a rockslide around 23,000 years ago. We went through a crack in the roof, down a ladder. When I set foot eight metres below, I was dazzled by what I saw. These splendid drawings were made by great artists. Here was work by fully modern minds, capable of abstract symbolic thinking.” Sealed by nature from outside contamination, the paintings “looked as fresh as if they’d been painted yesterday.” Contemporary art experts agree the paintings are remarkable for their perspective, shading and illusion of motion.

Until his retirement in 2001, Jean Clottes headed up the team planning the Chauvet replica. “The public are eager to know about the paintings and see the impressive panels elsewhere than in books or in films,” he told me.

Perhaps there are bigger questions to be asked about the replica than the merit of seeing copies of the Chauvet paintings. The artists of Chauvet were members of the Aurignacian culture, created by the first Home sapiens who reached Europe at the height of the Ice Age. How did some learn to make such wondrous depictions of the mammals that roamed the forests and fields of the Ardeche Valley more than thirty centuries ago? How could they afford to expend energy of making art while struggling to survive in an inhospitable land? Why did they bother?

“Everyone agrees,” insists Jean Clottes, “the paintings are, in some way, religious.” Clottes says he is not himself a believer but that it is “man’s spirituality, with its three branches of philosophy, religion and science, that truly distinguishes us from animals.”

Clottes found himself the epicentre of a raging controversy when he co-authored a book suggesting the Chauvet artists did their work while acting out religious rituals under the influence of shamans. In “The Shamans of Prehistory,” Clottes suggests the artists may have laboured while in a trance induced by religious fervour, drugs or a lack of oxygen. He argues that shamanism “was the most prevalent belief system of hunter-gatherers.”

From this, Clottes concludes that the term Homo sapiens (“man of wisdom”) as applied to modern mankind “is an unfortunate misnomer.” He points out that animals “have all sorts of knowledge and far more wisdom than we– as they do not threaten to destroy their environment and even their own species.”

Our ancestors who laboured by torchlight to produce the cave paintings, Clottes says, would better have been called Homo spiritualis artifex, “for making art was their main characteristic.”

A sad postscript to this story is that at none of the events launching the Caverne du Pont d’Arc, were the people who discovered the cave present. Jean-Marie Chauvet, the parks ranger after whom the cave is named, has been entangled for years in lawsuits with the French government and the owner of the land where the cave was found. Two government officials have been convicted of falsifying Chauvet’s expense records to make it appear he was on official duty when he found the cave; he argues he was on vacation. The legal stalemate seems nowhere near an end.

For more information about visiting the site, go to: http://en.cavernedupontdarc.fr



Electoral reform? Be careful what you wish for


With the design of a new electoral system destined for the agenda of a House of Commons committee on democratic reform, the respectful atmosphere that all sides have promised for Parliament is likely to give way to shrill and highly partisan debate. Soon after Parliament resumes on Jan. 25, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef will ask the committee to study alternatives to the first-past-the-post voting system that Canada has followed since Confederation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely believed to favour preferential voting, or a single transferable vote (STV), rather than full proportional representation (PR) that would assign seats based on each party’s share of the popular vote.

If this be so, the well-known adage “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it” could serve as a note of caution for the Prime Minister in his presumed desire to implement changes seen as likely to favour the Liberal Party.

Experiments with alternative voting systems have produced surprising and even bizarre results in provincial elections. Politicians need to remember that under whichever system

Canadians may cast ballots, they are likely to find a way to express a common will, often channelled into the theme of “throw the rascals out.”

Systems similar to the single transferable vote have been used in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, but it was the B.C. election of 1952 that produced perhaps the most bizarre outcome in Canadian political history.

After the collapse of a wartime coalition of Conservative and Liberal parties, outgoing Liberal premier Byron (Boss) Johnson decided that a switch from first past the post to a preferential ballot was the only way to keep the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, or CCF (predecessor to the New Democratic Party), from gaining power. Supporters of the two old-line parties, he reasoned, would opt for each other’s candidates as their second preference.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Voters were so fed up they turned to a band of political neophytes running under the Social Credit banner. It took three weeks to complete the recounts. The CCF won the most first choices (21 seats to 14 for Social Credit) but the final tally put Social Credit on top, 19 seats to 18. The new system deprived the CCF of power, but it destroyed the Liberal and Conservative parties. Social Credit premier W.A.C. Bennett reverted to first past the post after winning a majority in 1953. He accurately predicted the old-line parties would be out of power “for 50 years.”

Alberta used STV to decide urban seats from 1926 through 1955, and Manitoba from 1920 to 1953. Its adoption was pushed by the Progressive movement, a precursor to the new parties that would later rise in the West.

Ms. Monsef has promised public consultation but no referendum on the new system the House committee may recommend – and the government chooses to adopt – for the 2019 federal election.

Not surprisingly, in view of the fact that in referendums in British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba in 2005, 2007 and 2009, voters rejected proposals to dump first past the post. They were uncertain about new and unfamiliar systems of proportional representation.

These outcomes are encouragement for the Conservative opposition in its demands for a referendum. They fear STV would produce Liberal governments “forever” but believe an aroused Conservative faithful would be able to win a referendum.

One study, done after Oct. 19, suggests that under STV, the Liberals would have bolstered their majority, with fewer Conservatives and more NDP members being elected. But STV could have other results. Rather than reinforcing the Liberal hold on the electorate, it could cause a rush to the middle with three or four centrist parties feeding off one another’s second choices. If it induced the Conservative Party to rebrand itself, possibly under a female leader, the Liberals could lose any advantage they might have expected.


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