Sticky: The Honourable James Cockburn Warts and All: A friendly chat about a local historic figure

James Cockburn Day is going to be different. Usually, the James Cockburn Society participates in a weekend full of local activities to help raise awareness about the Hon. James Cockburn, a Father of Confederation and the First Speaker of the House of Commons. Its purpose is also to increase people’s knowledge of local history in Northumberland County.

For many years, Rob Franklin has portrayed Cockburn in several plays at Victoria Hall and the Cobourg Museum. Due to the pandemic, the Society decided not to do a performance this year.

Instead, we would like to facilitate conversations about local history.

In recent weeks, news reports of protests by Black Lives Matters and Indigenous groups question whether statues of significant historical Canadian figures like Sir. John A. Macdonald and Egerton Ryerson should be removed. Locally, a statue of Lt. Col. Arthur Williams in front of Port Hope town hall has created a stir.

These groups and others challenge our notions surrounding the records of these people who are aggrandized through statues, public monuments, and other honours. The role of these people in the genocide of Indigenous people tests the standards by which we, as a society, see their contribution to Canada’s formation.

This shines a light on our views of people in the past. So, we are going to have a discussion about how we see historical figures using our very own James Cockburn and others as examples. We are calling it: The Honourable James Cockburn Warts and All: Seeing the humanity in people from our past.

We hope it will give you some food for thought.

Original speaker’s chair coming to Cobourg in February

This is the original speaker’s chair for the Canadian Parliament in 1867, used by the Honourable James Cockburn. It was bought for the Province of Canada in 1863 and moved to Ottawa after Confederation. It was used until 1873 when it was replaced. It is made of Walnut with velvet seat covers. The design is Gothic, meant to match the architecture of the building. Cockburn kept the chair when he retired and remained within the family until it was donated by his great-granddaughter, Helen Sprott in 1983. This chair will be displayed in the James Cockburn Room of Victoria Hall. For more information, check out these two news stories from Northumberland Today and Northumberland News.

James Cockburn’s chair will be on display in Cobourg

We are so excited about this news! Thanks to Northumberland Today for this great article: “COBOURG – Cobourg expects many visitors during Canada’s sesquicentennial year, but few so distinguished as an inanimate one from Ottawa — the actual chair James Cockburn sat in during his time in the House of Commons.

And since this particular Father of Confederation practiced in Cobourg during his early career, the loan of the chair by the Federal government for display in Victoria Hall seems appropriate.” more…

Getting ready for our annual performance this Saturday


Rob Franklin, aka James Cockburn, practices his performance in the Bailey at Victoria Hall on July 27.

(Cobourg, ON) July 25, 2016 – At its July 18, 2016 Regular Council Meeting, Cobourg Municipal Council Declared Saturday, July 30, 2016 as James Cockburn Day in the Town of Cobourg. The Town of Cobourg will pay tribute to one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation, James Cockburn with a one-man play titled The Life and Times of James Cockburn. Scheduled for Saturday July 30, 2016, the play will explore significant moments in the life of James and the history of the Town of Cobourg.

A graduate of the prestigious Upper Canada College, James Cockburn was a Member of Parliament for West Northumberland, a well-respected speaker of the House of Commons, held a successful law practice in the Town of Cobourg and was one of Canada’s founding fathers. In recognition of James’ contribution to both the Town of Cobourg and Upper Canada, in 1997 Robert Washburn successfully approached Cobourg Town Council to rename the Civic Holiday in Cobourg to the James Cockburn Day. Since 1998, on the Civic Holiday the Town of Cobourg pays tribute to James Cockburn and travels back in time through the enactment of The Life and Times of James Cockburn performed by Rob Franklin, Manager of Planning for the Town of Cobourg and member of the James Cockburn society.

“James Cockburn is a great Canadian figure, who is not only important to our local history, but an important figure in the founding of our nation,” said Rob Franklin, James Cockburn actor. “We are very excited by the upcoming Canada 150th celebrations and the opportunity to continue to raise the profile of this great Canadian.”

The play will take place in front of Victoria Hall at 55 King Street West at 11:00 a.m. followed by a book signing at 11:45 a.m. and an opportunity to take pictures with the actor who plays James Cockburn.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to once again work with the Town to bring this historical re-enactment to the public,” said Robert Washburn, local Northumberland County journalist and member of the James Cockburn Society. “Through our efforts in putting on this production and the free distribution of our children’s book, we hope to educate people today and help future generations to realize his amazing contributions.”

In 2014, through a generous donation from a Cobourg citizen, the Town of Cobourg and the James Cockburn Society produced a children’s book on the life of James Cockburn. The children’s book will once again be made available in paperback with black and white renditions for children to colour in. Robert Washburn and volunteers from the James Cockburn Society will hand out copies of the book to attendees of the play.

Victoria Hall & James Cockburn Room Tours
Complimentary tours of both Victoria Hall and the James Cockburn room will also be taking place on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 12:00 p.m.

For more information on James Cockburn Visit the James Cockburn website at, look for James Cockburn Society.