Honouring our Heroes – has the time come for a Southampton Hall of Fame?

Sometimes over the last five years, I recall thinking that Southampton has not done a very good job in remembering and honouring our “HEROES”. It is more than 175 years since the permanent European settlement happened and, if someone were to ask us who are the most famous people that our town has permanently honoured during that time, we would have to answer, “none”.

My ancestors came here in 1851 and I cannot nominate any of them BUT, when I think about it, there have been some very remarkable people that made outstanding contributions, not just to our town but, in some cases, well beyond here … why have they not been recognized somehow, somewhere over the decades? In my perfect little world, we would walk into the town hall and along the longest wall would be a row of portraits with a plaque beneath them telling the stories of the fame they brought and the sensational accomplishments they had.

So, I decided to do my tiny part. I made up “my” list. I have selected only three of them that I believe are truly “ICONIC”.

I submit them to the “Court of Public Opinion” for you to decide if they should be our first three inductees into the “SOUTHAMPTON HALL OF FAME”. They all are number one so I will just put them in chronological order.

BROCK MACAULAY – He was born in Southampton in 1871. In the1890s and early 1900s, the name of Brock MacAulay was lauded in Ontario and beyond “for his superb play” as a curler. The book “Curling in Ontario 1846 to 1946” tells us this and that on January 22, 1906, a cup called the Glen Challenge was competed for at a bonspiel in St. Thomas, entered by 72 rinks from 21 different clubs. At the end of six rounds, the Southampton Club, which then enjoyed great prestige under the leadership of celebrated skip, Brock MacAulay, emerged as the winners. All of this was before there were Provincial Champions and Brier winners.

This one sentence from the Southampton Beacon in 1912 however, put it all in perspective. “When the famous Brock MacAulay curling team returned from the International Bonspiel in Winnipeg on the late train, they were met by a candlelight procession”.

In October of 1930, Brock MacAulay was inducted, as an Honourary Life Member of the Ontario Curling Association.

ROBERT LEITH (Dinny) HANBIDGE – He was born in Southampton on March 16, 1891. His father was a blacksmith and carriage maker. Robert attended elementary and secondary school in Southampton but took Grade 13 in Port Elgin in preparation for advancing his education. He also began playing Canadian Rugby with his friends in Southampton and Port Elgin. He followed this with advanced education courses at the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute. He did all of this by the age of 18.

In 1909, he went West to Regina and enrolled in the Saskatchewan Law Society Law Course. But his love of Canadian Rugby went with him and, from 1911 to 1913, he played football for the Regina Rugby Club, now the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

He articled in the law office of Sir Frederick Haultain, the former Premier of the North-West Territories of Canada, entered local politics in 1920 and, in 1929, was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan and was the Chief Whip of the Co-Operative Government and long-time friend and confidante of John Diefenbaker. Later in life, in 1958, he was elected as an MP to the Canadian House of Commons and re-elected in 1962 under Diefenbaker. In 1963, he resigned his seat and was appointed the 12th Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan and served with distinction until 1970. He died in Saskatchewan on July 25, 1974. He is heralded there for his long and distinguished career in serving the people of their province … and he was from Southampton.

IRWIN “FAWCETT” WARDER – Born July 12, 1909. Just the mention of his name means a lot to thousands of people; he was a person who made a real difference. After graduating from high school here he went on to a distinguished teaching career in Toronto. It was not until 1956 however, that I met him and became part of the initial group of young people whose lives he influenced, and from there, he went on to change our town “forever”.

In 1956, he asked town council to fix up the two derelict old tennis courts beside the Lawn Bowling Club, buy two nets, and build a practice wall. If they did that, he agreed to start a Tennis Club. Who would have guessed what this would mean in the decades that followed? There was panic in many families trying to find the money to buy rackets and balls for their children. We all had to have a frame and the racket had to be in it when not in use. We got one racket and our parents wanted it to last us a lifetime. My lesson time was 10 a.m. and I left my summer job at the Southampton Cleaners and Laundromat five days a week that summer. I ran to my 30-minute lesson and then back to work. It truly was a “miracle” for all of us kids.

But who would have guessed that tennis would go, from that start, to involving thousands of young people and adults and we would see the name of our town become “Tennis Town”. I left home for work in 1960 but always marveled at the wonderful contribution that Mr. and Mrs. Warder made to people in our town and to thousands of summer visitors.

Their contributions were truly “Iconic”.

These are my three “Iconic” selections. I cannot think of anything more wonderful than seeing pictures of these three and 50 or 60 more “difference makers” from our town hung on a “Town Hall Wall of Honour”.

Let’s all “Smile” and move forward. Who are your favourites?


G. William Streeter
March 19, 2024