Entertainment Notes

Forgotten Mountie wives

Brian Bethune March 18 2002
Entertainment Notes

Forgotten Mountie wives

Brian Bethune March 18 2002

Forgotten Mountie wives

Twenty-five years a Mountie, much of it served in the back end of beyond, and Harold Clark

writing a was perhaps job ever. Especially one critical of his beloved RCMR “Like telling tales about your mother,” says the 82-year-old, who left the force in 1965. The Unpaid Second “Man" (Crocus) is Clark’s tribute to the women who served alongside their Mountie husbands in the first half of the 20th century. Officers in one-man rural stations had huge territories

to cover. In their absences their wives not only ran the phones and sorted out minor squabbles, but also kept prisoners in cells built into their homes and cared for children whose mothers had been jailed. One woman recalls sitting in the cruiser guarding a drunk suspect.

Her Mountie husband, before he went inside to type a report, gave her a heavy flashlight and told her to bash the prisoner if he got out of hand.

But the book’s main purpose is to tell what Clark calls a “mean, mean story.” Many of the surviving

1,800 widows of lower-ranking Mounties who served before 1949-women whose unpaid labour saved the federal government millions-live in penury because their pension benefits ceased when their husbands died. Clark is angry that pre-war class biases-Ottawa did

fund benefits for the widows of commissioned offlcers—still reverberate. Clark, who plans to donate any profits to charity, says he wrote The Unpaid Second “Man" to “shame the government into do-

ing the right thing.”

Brian Bethune