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This hitherto unpublished diary was written by John Henry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.