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The chair that James Cockburn used in Parliament when he was Speaker from 1867 to 1873 is now (temporarily) in Cobourg - in the James Cockburn room!  You might think that this is fine but not special.  But most of the artifacts from that period were destroyed in a fire in 1916 when Parliament's Centre Block was destroyed.  The reason the chair was saved was because chairs were custom made for Speakers and given to them when their term was finished - so he had the chair at home.  His descendants donated it to the House of Commons in 1983.  It is now on loan to Cobourg - one condition is that no-one sits in it.

James Cockburn was born on February 13, 1819 so it was fitting that the first display of the chair was on his 198th birthday.Rob Franklin It has been a tradition in Cobourg that Rob Franklin plays the part of Cockburn - in period costume - and in an address to Council on February 13, James (sorry, Rob) said that he was looking good for his 198th birthday.  (Photo left).

The chair will stay in Cobourg in the James Cockburn room in Victoria Hall until mid September so will be available for a good part of the Canada 150  birthday celebrations.  It is of course also Cobourg's 180th birthday this year - on July 1st, 1837 Cobourg was officially incorporated as a town.

Each year, Rob performs a free, one-man, one act play outside Victoria Hall where he re-enacts some of the story of James Cockburn.  This year, that will be on August 7 - proclaimed as James Cockburn day.  Some years ago, Rob Franklin and Rob Washburn formed the James Cockburn Society and James Cockburn Chairtogether have worked to preserve Cobourg's connection to Cockburn - for example, Rob wrote the pamphlet outlining James Cockburn's role that is given to visitors to the James Cockburn room.  For 2017, Washburn has written a new play for Franklin to perform to mark the special year.

At right is a photo of Rob Franklin with the chair - note how it's lower than modern chairs - that's because Cockburn had shorter legs!  But the two Robs are thrilled to have the chair in Cobourg.  Rob Franklin said: "This physical piece of our history, used by James during the establishment of our nation, is an important symbol of the significant role he played in our Country's history and the formation of the standards of governance we expect today."

The chair will be on display in the James Cockburn room at Victoria Hall which will be open for viewing during special Canada 150 events, in the summer months, during the 12:00pm tours of Victoria Hall and upon special request.

For more on James Cockburn from a Cobourg perspective, go here.

 

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