Nicholas Flood Davin, the Donald Trump of His Time and Place (Throwback Thursday)

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/be/The_first_Leader_building.jpg
The first Leader Building, 1884 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader-Post)

The first issue of the Regina Leader, now Leader-Post, was published on March 1, 1883, by Nicholas Flood Davin (1843-1901). Nicholas Davin was a lawyer, journalist and politician. He served as a war correspondent in the Franco-Prussian War before coming to Canada in 1872. Davin practiced very little law. The highlight of his legal career was the defence of George Bennett, a disgruntled Globe (now The Globe and Mail) employee who shot George Brown (Father of Confederation, founder of the Toronto Globe) in the leg. The injury turned gangrenous and George Brown died a few days later. Davin’s defence was unsuccessful and George Bennett was convicted and hanged in Toronto on July 23, 1880.

http://www.canadianpoetry.ca/images/nicholas_flood_davin.gif
Image source: Canadian Poetry (canadianpoetry.org)

In 1882, Davin came west and ended up in Regina. He accepted the offer of $5,000 seed money from a group of prominent citizens to start up a newspaper. During the trial of Louis Riel in 1885, he disguised himself as a priest coming into the jail to give Riel his last rites. He got an exclusive interview with Riel in French right in front of the Anglophone guard.

“Davin was an infuriating mix of good and bad, enlightened and retrogressive.” [1] In 1879, he submitted his Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds (known as the Davin Report) and advised Sir John A. Macdonald to institute residential schools for Aboriginal youth. In the 1880s, he argued for women’s right to vote, three decades before this actually arrived. Writer Ken Mitchell, whose play about Davin, The Politician, (opened in Regina Globe Theatre, 1978) called Davin “the Donald Trump of his time and place”.

Davin’s life entered a downward spiral in his late 40s. He was prone to bouts of drinking binges and was often embroiled in feuds with prominent citizens. In 1895, he sold the Leader to his former employee Walter Scott. In 1901, his wife was invited to the Government House to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York but Davin was excluded. Seeking a new start, he travelled to Winnipeg, but on October 18, 1901, he shot himself in a fit of depression.

 

[1] Leader-Post “Our past, your stories: Celebrating 130 years“, April 25, 2013

Sources:

  1. https://www.regina.ca/visitors/heritage-history/historical-biographies/biography-davin/
  2. http://www.leaderpost.com/lp130/history/past+your+stories+Celebrating+years/8267332/story.html
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leader-Post

 

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