John Henry Robinson Molson was born in Kingston in 1826, a favoured grandchild of the founder of Molson's Brewery in Montreal. He inherited the brewery (land, premises, and equipment) upon John Molson's death in 1836. This hitherto unpublished diary was written by John Henry Molson when he was just fourteen years-old. His grandfather had died when he was ten, and his father and uncles now ran the brewery, as well as a foundry, a ship-yard, and a line of steamships on the St. Lawrence. He was aware that this would be his last real summer as a child; in September his formal apprenticeship at the brewery would begin. In the spring of 1841, JHR, his father Thomas, and younger sister Mary Anne boarded the steamer Queen in Montreal. The three were on their way to Halifax where the would take the HMS Britannia to begin a four-month tour of Britain. By September 3 the family was back in Montreal. The diary was not resumed again until February 1842 when JHR chronicles this journey from Montreal to Toronto. The last entry is dated December 3, 1842. With the eye of a keen observer - sometimes ingenuous, sometimes self-conscious - the boy records the details of their trip including descriptions of the 12,000-ton paddlewheeler, death and storms at sea, and whales and birds that he saw. When the Britannia arrived in Liverpool June 9 they discovered that the ship had been feared lost at sea. During their travels throughout England and Scotland JHR described with great detail the latest transportation and industrial developments of Great Britain (and compared them unfavourably to those in Canada). The trip back to North America was capped by JHR attempting some daring acrobatics from the main-top mast head, alarming the sailors who tried to pursue him.
About the authors
A biographer and former independent bookseller, Karen Molson is the author of The Molsons: Their Lives and Times, and Hartland de Montarville Molson: Man of Honour. She lives near Vankleek Hill, Ontario, and likes to spend time studying and photographing birds.