Queen Milli of Galt

“Queen Milli of Galt” is a play, written by Gary Kirkham, that’s coming to Theatre Orangeville May 8.  In fact, this morning, Susan went to the first read through, at the rehearsal hall.  It is a delightfully heart warming story – we saw the play in Blythe a few years ago – and can hardly wait for it to open here.  Yes, it’s Good Friday, and the cast is rehearsing again on Easter Sunday, but as they said in the movie “Shakespeare in Love“:

William:  “The show must…”

Tilney – Master of the Revels: “Go on.”

The story of Queen Milli of Galt is true – partly, or wholly, we’re not sure.  But Millicent Millory was a real person – born in Galt, Ontario, in 1890.  She became a teacher who worked in Lambton Mills, Malton, Northern Ontario, and Rockwood – also, apparently, in Calgary.  Prince Edward, who became Edward VIII, was certainly a real person and a playboy, and he did visit Canada several times before becoming king… in 1919, 1923, 1924, 1927 and later up to 1950, but it’s the 1919 visit where the story began.  While here in 1919, the prince stayed at the Iroquois Hotel in Galt.  Millicent’s father, James Milroy, owned the hotel, so it’s quite reasonable to believe that Milli could have met Prince Edward there, as she claimed.  The prince also bought a ranch near Calgary that he visited often – even after he abdicated the throne and married Wallis Simpson.  But the rest of the story is not so easily confirmed.

Did Milli Milroy Marry Prince Edward?

For the rest of her life, Milli claimed that she did indeed marry the prince.  She said it was a morganatic marriage, which means that she and any children give up any claim to royal title or privilege.  There were children, she said, two boys – Andrew and Edward – who were either quickly adopted, taken back to England by the royal family, killed in a car crash, or – one of them at least – risen to power and influence in the Canadian government.  To save embarrassing the prince and royal family, Milli kept secret the names of her sons, but she did, occasionally, show friends the marriage certificate and photos that she kept in the family bible.  She said she would allow these to be made public after her death.

Milli died in 1985, and on her gravestone is incised: “Millicent A.M.M.M.St.P-Daughter of James and Helen Milroy, 1890-1985 Wife of Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, 1894-1972”.  Not long after Milli died, someone broke into her home.  The only thing taken was the family bible.   In a story in the Wellington Advertiser, August 29, 2003, writer Stephen Thorning quotes an interview with the late Eva Howlett, a friend of Millicent Milroy, who confirmed many of these facts.

What’s the Real Story?

What does it matter?  It may be true, in whole or in part, but it’s an intriguing tale, and the play written about it is delightful.  “Queen Milli of Galt” runs from May 8 to 25 at Theatre Orangeville, 87 Broadway, Orangeville.  It stars Heidi Lynch, Jefferson Mappin, Mag Ruffman, Adrian Shepherd and Lauren Toffan.  David Nairn directs.

There is another story told… one that connects the prince to Orangeville in a very distant way.  Apparently during one of his early visits to Canada, his car (minus the prince) pulled up to a gas station on Broadway and filled up.  Kind-a like the many American inns that claim “George Washington Slept Here” or those in Great Britain claiming “Dick Turpin slept here.”  But all these tales may be true!

Post Script

Susan got back from the read through – and lunch – just a few moments ago. She said, “The play is even better than I remember – and all the actors are superb”.  Gary Kirkham was at the reading, too, and he was thrilled with this production.  It’s going to be so much fun!

Post Post Script

If you’re into geocaching, here’s a challenge.

Still Standing

Old foundation wall on a grassy slope

The remnants of Thomas Jull’s Mill, built 1857, at Little York and Mill Street in Orangeville

Looking at the old mill wall – or what’s left of it – I can picture farmers bringing burlap sacks of grain to the mill to Little York and Mill Street, a block south of Broadway.  They’d arrive by horse and wagon.  If the wagon was full and heavy maybe the horses would be a little winded, huffing and rattling their traces as the farmer unloaded the grain.  Perhaps there’d be a trough with water, like the one in front of Town Hall… and maybe the farmer would remember to stop at the grocery store to pick up a bag of flour to take home.

a brief history of the millAccording to the historical plaque on the grounds, the mill in fact operated from the time of horse drawn carts to pick-up trucks – 1857 to the late 70s – producing flour, then livestock feed.   There was another mill on the same site before this.  Orange Lawrence built the first.  He was a major landholder in the area and gave the town its name.  His mill was wood frame and burned down.

Thomas Jull and John Walker Reid built the stone mill.  They were sons-in-law of Orange Lawrence.  At first, the mill was powered by an overshot wheel, which means a flume or mill race must have started upstream to bring the water to the top of the wheel (Also there must have been a lot more water).  At some time a turbine replaced the wheel, and it, in turn gave way to electricity in 1913, when the mill produced 75 barrels a day of Pride of Dufferin and Gold Anchor flour.  The building operated until 1977, stood vacant for eight years, while various ideas were put forth for its use, but in 1985, it came down… and this little bit of wall is all that’s left still standing.