Tuesday, December 26, 2017

John G. "Jack" Higgins (1891-1963): Collector of our Featured Christmas Cards

Photo: John Higgins and the Oxford Canadian ice hockey team. John Higgins is in the back row, second from right. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll - 086), Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Jack Higgins: Newfoundlander Through and Through
From the files of The Gazette July 9, 1998.

It is indeed an ironic twist of fate that Senator John G. Higgins died on Canada Day, July 1, 1963. As a veteran of the First World War, he would have said he died on Memorial Day, the day Newfoundlanders commemorate the massacre of the Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel. It was just as ironic that Jack Higgins was even a member of the Canadian Senate; he had fought long and hard to keep Newfoundland out of Canadian Confederation in the late 1940s. But such ironies were an integral part of the life of this unheralded Newfoundlander.

....Shortly after his graduation he was selected as the 1909 Rhodes Scholar for Newfoundland and spent the next three years at Merton College, Oxford, where he read law, and captained the seven-member Oxford-Canadian Ice Hockey Team, which also included Newfoundland 1910 Rhodes Scholar, Robert Tait. This team, which toured Europe, was undefeated in the 17 matches it played, outscoring the opposition 204 goals to 17.

...Higgins became one of the leading members of the Responsible Government League, firm in his belief that Newfoundland should return to self-government before any negotiations should be begun with Canada. He participated in both referenda campaigns, contributing his speaking and writing talents and financial support. Never one to take defeat lightly, on March 31, 1949, he hung black crepe, a symbol of mourning, over the door of his house.

There had been no elected House of Assembly in Newfoundland during the 15 years of the Commission of Government. An election was scheduled to elect a new House on May 27, 1949. Higgins, never before a candidate for elected office, was returned by the voters of St. John's East as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. As party leader H. G. R. Mews had been defeated in the election, Higgins became the leader of the opposition, the first in post-confederate Newfoundland. His term in the house was short-lived, however, as he was not a candidate in the next election in 1951, preferring the logic of the law courts to the fractious debate of the House of Assembly.

His political career was not over. On January 15, 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appointed Higgins as the first Progressive Conservative Senator from Newfoundland.

...Higgins married Alice Casey of Harbour Grace on August 13, 1925. They had three children, Gilbert, Mary Margaret and John. He was made King's Counsel in 1932. He was also a fine poet, who published in local magazines such as the Newfoundland Quarterly on a regular basis. Much of his poetry remains unpublished.

Jack Higgins was an ardent Newfoundlander. He was a lover of books from childhood and began collecting Newfoundland books at an early age. He purchased many rare and valuable documents, mainly from England, concerning Newfoundland...

(excerpt from the Gazette article stored in the digital archive of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies)

Jack Higgins' son Gilbert was a great friend of Rattling Books before it even existed. I have fond memories of visiting Gilbert in his book stuffed apartment in Stephenville where to have a cup of tea I had to first wait while Gilbert removed stacks of books to clear a seat for us, his access to the tea and even the stove. Those books and articles so lovingly cared for by Gilbert are now under the care of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Thank-you Gilbert for your unbounded and contagious enthusiasm for books.