Katherine Jane Ellice: The 1838 Adventure
Whenever I discover a painting, watercolour or sculpture, I am amazed by the history that comes with the artwork. Every creative endeavour is steeped with the artist’s experience and personal biography. This axiom was again confirmed in my search for paintings that would feature the idea of home and homecoming. This is when I met Katherine Jane (Janie) Ellice, who was born in Scotland (1813), the daughter of Sir Robert Balfour and Eglantyne Katherine Fordyce. Archives indicate that she was an accomplished sketcher and watercolourist, which is evident by watercolours, Bedroom at Presbytere and Intérieur du salon.
“A brisk firing commenced all around the cottage; bullets coming through the house in all directions. Then came a dreadful rush of Men, women & children, screaming, some falling & being trampled upon in the door way. We thought the rebels were coming to murder us, & locked in Tina’s arms I was trying to compose my mind when Mr. Parker pushed thro’ the crowd & told us we were safe.” Jane Ellice, The Diary of Jane Ellice
Katherine married Edward Ellice on July 15, 1834. Four years later, she joined her husband on the HMS Hastings and made the cross Atlantic voyage to Canada. Edward was to be the private secretary to his cousin, by marriage, John Lambton, who had been appointed Governor General of the Province of Canada and Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada. They arrived in Canada on May 27, 1838.
It seemed that the adventure of living in an unknown destination was evolving in expected patterns. But adventures are not always predictable and follow a course that changes the trajectory of circumstances and outcomes.
In November 1838, a few short months since their arrival in Canada, Katherine, her husband, and her sister Tina along with all their household were taken prisoners during a nighttime siege. While the details are not fully clear to me, it seems that Katherine negotiated with her captors and found a way to keep everyone safe and able to return home.
Katherine kept a diary of her time in Canada, which is held the Library and Archives Canada