A puissant pair; he the descendant of one of old England’s most famous naval heroes and she the daughter of one of her most famous sporting peers. Yet they hired out to a bachelor farmer as “man and wife,” Lady Rodney wielding the skillet, the while Lord Rodney sweated in the fields. Small wonder, then, that the ranch-farm which this distinguished couple now own is said to be one of the most successful in the Canadian West.
ALONG ancestry has its advantages. But now and then the possessor meets obstacles which must be hurdled if he would continue to enjoy the privileges of proud birth.
Take the case of Lord Rodney, of Alberta. His forefathers were all fighting men, roving the seas in search of adventure—and generally finding plenty of it.
Rodney, on the other hand, had been a British military officer but found little satisfaction in soldiering as a life work.
So one foggy day he expressed the opinion to his wife that life might be more interesting and profitable if spent in the sunlight of Western Canada. Lady Rodney thought the migratory idea a good one and gave it considerable encouragement.
As a result, George Bridges Harley, eighth Baron Rodney, is neither marching his men in formation nor sailing the rolling seas as did his paternal ancestors. Instead of wearing a uniform with plenty of gold braid, Lord Rodney is wearing overalls and finding the keenest satisfaction in winning golden yields from his broad Alberta acres.
The Rodneys always have preferred the open to the calm, sequestered life of baronial halls. The first Lord Rodney was a British Admiral who inflicted defeats on the French and Spanish fleets at a naval battle off Dominica in 1782. The Admiral was granted a pension of two thousand pounds by the British Government, and ten years later it was made perpetual. Early in 1924 it was announced in London that the pension granted Lord Rodney in 1782, to continue to him and his direct descendants had been commuted by the British Treasury for a cash payment of forty-two thousand pounds sterling.
The handing over of a lump sum of $200,000, has not been of any great financial assistance to the present Lord Rodney, now in his thirty-sixth year and owner of a thousand-acre farm on the banks of the Saskatchewan River. According to the plans of the family, the commutated pension is administered by a trust company, being carefully invested for the heirs of the Rodney estate. Eventually it will all return to the British Government in death or succession dues. The big thing in the Rodney family’s life at present is their farm in the Edmonton district, and Lord and Lady Rodney declare they would rather live there with their children than anywhere else in the world.
During the war Lord Rodney, who was a Major in the British Tank Corps, decided to settle in Canada, where he had purchased a small acreage of land two years before the outbreak of the conflict. Shortly before the Armistice, he married Marjorie, the eldest daughter of the Honorable Launcelot Lowther, brother and heir of the Earl of Lonsdale, well known in sporting circles. In 1919 Lord Rodney and his wife proceeded to western Canada. On arriving in Edmonton they went to a hotel in preference to Immigration Hall. Apart from that their subsequent activities differed little from those of other settlers.
Registered as Farm Help
A DAY or two after their arrival they went to the Government Employment Bureau and registered as farm help. They took the first job that came along, hiring out as “man and wife” to a bachelor farmer near Fort Saskatchewan. While Lady Rodney did the cooking, her husband worked as a “hired man.” For a whole summer they lived in a tent near the borders of their present farm, where they cooked, slept, and worked from sun-up until sundown. Together the newly married couple battled with the elements and began the development of a combined farm and ranch which is regarded, nowadays, as one of the best-kept estates in Alberta province.
Close to the tented settlers when they began their career, was the farm of Judge Fiset, of Rimouski, Quebec. The Judge and his daughter had been spending their summers there for a number of years, and it was not long before Lord Rodney and the Judge became friendly neighbors. He told the judge his plans and how he wished to rear his family in a new and growing country. And it was the Judge’s land which the young nobleman bought later in the autumn. Lord
Rodney began breaking and clearing the land, and in 1924 increased his estate to a thousand acres. For three years he has been specializing in the breeding of blooded live-stock. Fine Clydesdale horses, Shorthorn cattle, and a large number of black swine are his greatest pride, and a number of them have taken prizes in prize competitions in the United States and Canada.
Lord Rodney’s success in working the land and developing livestock has been so marked that many of his titled and non-titled friends in Great Britain have sought his advice on settling in Canada. Turning the numerous requests over in his mind, Lord Rodney evolved the idea of establishing a farm school on his estate. There, young Englishmen who want to learn farming, and are willing to pay for the experience, are learning the fundamentals of agricultural success.
“Men with capital,” said Lord Rodney, in explaining his farm school idea, “are not likely to come out and rough it for a year or two as hired help. It doesn’t pay them—not in the end. I believe I have the right idea, and that when the men who come to my place to learn farming have learned what I have learned—have seen how a farm may be run and a comfortable living won from the soil—they will be far better fitted to buy--and sell intelligently than if they had spent a year or two as hired help with a man who had no particular interest in their possibilities as farmers on their own. I am planning to bring over a small party of such settlers from the Old Land every spring. Lady Rodney and I are content on our farm, for here we have found happiness. We wouldn’t stay in England, for we love conditions in Canada and will stick to our home in Alberta.” Lady Rodney takes just as much interest in the administration of the work on the large farm as does her hard-working husband. “I think it is simply delightful,” she told a friend recently. “The free and healthy life of western Canada cannot help but appeal to anyone who is fond of outdoor life. We have found it healthy for ourselves and our children, and would rather live in Canada than anywhere else.” Their eight-year-old son, George, is a devoted lover of animals and feels right at home and completely happy on Cottesmore Farm.
Eagles Don’t Beget Doves
THE-Rodneys—whose family motto is: “Eagles do not bring forth doves”—have been noted for many generations forbbeing long of courage and short of temper. The late Lord Rodney was denounced from the Bench as a “very bad-tempered man,” when his first wife, mother of the present peer, obtained a divorce from him in 1902. He remained in the black books of the Royal Family until his death, not only on account of his treatment of Lady Rodney, but also for his vigorous protest against the granting of the colonelcy of the Regiment of First Life Guards to queen Victoria’s son-in-law, the late Prince Henry of Battenberg.
Prince Henry, father of Queen Ena of Spain, and of Lord Carisbrooke, had held a position in the Guards du Corps at Berlin, and Queen Victoria expressed a preference for having her favorite sonin-law given command of the regiment. While the authorities were ready to comply with her wishes, some of the officers of the regiment, led by the late Lord Rodney, were so vigorous in their denunciation that Prince Henry, realizing that he was unwelcome, requested Queen Victoria to abandon her intention and let him have an unattached colonelcy, which would give mere army rank in the regiment, without command. The Prince’s death on the west coast of África during the Ashanti campaign did not serve to allay the bitterness of the Royal Family toward the father of the present peer.
Because his sons by his first marriage sided with their mother, Lord Rodney left everything he could to his second wife. As a result the present head of the house was dependent upon his hereditary pension and upon the heavily encumbered family estate in Hampshire. Now, with the pension commuted and most of the old English estate disposed of, Lord Rodney is working out a new destiny for his family near “the banks of the Saskkatchewan.”
Unlike many of his forebears he is popular with his neighbors, and has established, already, a reputation for painstaking industry and ever-present good nature. Notwithstanding the fact that one of his ancestors was a fellow crusader of Richard Coeur de Lion and his whole lineal descent is largely a record of British history, there are many in England and western Canada who believe the present peer will achieve a more substantial success than any of his progenitors.
In addition to the blue blood which runs in his veins he has the necessary qualities of tenacity of purpose, of a rare and genuine democracy of outlook, to make a thorough going Canadian. He represents a marriage of fine tradition to practical, pioneer achievement. His fellow agrarians of the West will watch his progress with the paternal eye which a kindly father casts upon a courageous and enterprising son.
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