It was a far cry from the elegant Edwardian rooms of Fulford Place, Brockville’s finest mansion, but it fits in with the question: “Where do Wet-Bobs go in winter?”
Charlie was an athlete. As a young boy he’d excelled at swimming, paddling and football; at 16 he was a member of the old Grand Trunk Boating Club’s Water Polo team when it travelled down to defeat the New York Athletic Club.
Aged 24, he won the Dominion single blade championship at Ottawa, in 1900, before their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary, and took the swimming title as well. Charlie was also captain of the winning Grand Trunk War Canoe team, in the half mile, defeating fifteen other teams including the redoubtable Britannia and Ottawa teams. He went on to win both titles again, against the Americans, at the Pan American exhibition in Buffalo.
Charlie captained his Club's war canoe, when for four years in succession, it won the mile race of the Canadian Canoe Association (1902-05). He was one of Canada’s outstanding athletes at the turn of the century.
He was on the water rowing when he met Martha Fulford, and he was married on the deck of the magical family steam yacht, the “Magedoma”, and if he couldn’t be in the water swimming, or on it sculling, it was going to have to be another sport.
There is no record that I have seen that describes any of the elite of Brockville skating or playing hockey, though I am sure some of them did.
Charlie’ s second wife, Doris Thornton Aldous was certainly a skater – she skated in Winnipeg as a young woman, and came from a family where all her brothers were well known locally as hockey players.
My recollection is that the fabulously wealthy Fulfords went somewhere warmer in the long cold winters... probably down south, away from the snowy embrace that used to cover Canada so effectively ‘in the old days’!
The first few MacLean Christmas’ after the Great War were no doubt spent at Mull Hall. Charlie loved his new palatial home, on the west island of Montreal. It was so palatial that it took several tons of coal a month to heat and keep the plants thriving in the conservatory (and the cockatoos flying) in the warm, humid air. It was the advent of children that spoiled this idyll!
In fact, in the 20s, Charlie MacLean had decided quite firmly on winter sport, which is fortunate, as it also determined that I am able to sit down and pen this tale!
So, of course, the MacLean’s went north by train, on the line from Montreal to Ste. Agathe and the sparse delights of the Murray Inn. And there is no doubt that they were quite happy there, in the slightly rakish little town on the edge of the lake.
They would have remained there but for the unfortunate fact that Berthe Streuber, their Swiss nanny, fell in love with a member of the staff at a ski lodge run by a Swiss family, twenty or so miles away, a ski lodge where snow shoeing was not the most important sport, and there was steam heating and the cuisine was cordon bleu!
It was also a popular rendezvous for the myriad of members of the Montreal Cross Country Ski Club, who came to the Chalet Cochand to learn to ski, from Emile Constant Cochand, a man who’d been invited from Switzerland to Quebec to teach skiing.
And so it was... Charlie and Doris eschewed the delights of Mull Hall and the great fir tree emblazoned with candles ( and the small boy whose only job was to snuff those in danger and replace stubs) for the rigours of cross country skiing, sledding and the like. His Anglo-Saxon palette was tempted by the aromas of Swiss cheese fondue and raclette, huddled round the roaring fires of the Chalet, listening to the dulcet sounds of yodeling.
In due course, Charlie and Doris’ daughter Morna married Louis, a son of the house, and they would travel up to the Chalet every winter, to sortie ‘dans le traineau’ with their grand-children (my sisters Heidi and Josi in photo) at Christmas.
By Charles MacLean Cochand
Chas Cochand was born in Montreal and raised in the Laurentians at his family's ski resort, Chalet Cochand. At 14, he went off to school in Switzerland, but returned to the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, for a degree in English & History. He attended the Inns of Court School of Law, London UK, and was called to the Bar by Middle Temple, in 1978, and has been practicing criminal law in England ever since. He lives with his wife Judy and three adult sons, in the New Forest, Hampshire U.K., but comes home every summer for a month at Judy's family cottage on Lake Simcoe.