The Last Word

1925c-photo-of-phyllis-laura-knight-b1889-zoom

Phyllis Knight around 1925

Phyllis Knight and Jean Royce continued to live in the small house at 140 Stuart Street until Jean’s death in 1982. Phyllis moved to a nursing home and died there eighteen months later. She was 94 years old.


Today, a popular Queen’s mascot stands in the medical library on campus. It’s a small bronze ape in a pose similar to that of Rodin’s The Thinker.

photo-of-hugo-statue-bracken-library-01

Photo of “Hugo” by Jo Stanbridge

The ape’s name is “Hugo,” and he originally belonged to Archie Knight. Phyllis gave him to the library around the time the Knight family home was demolished. The theme of the statue is Darwin’s Origin of Species. Archie recalled reading that book in his early days as a theology student at Queen’s, and arguing passionately with his roommate:

“when that subject was broached there could be nothing expected but bad temper and red hot discussion. The conclusions…upset all our previous religious training and left us almost hopelessly stranded. I should never like to pass through those days a second time.” [1]

Archie’s roommate, Malcolm MacGillivray, went on to become a prominent clergyman in Kingston, and moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Archie gave up his theological studies and became a professor of professor of animal biology and physiology. He boldly argued in favour of Darwin’s work, and wrote an essay that was “the first full-blown exposition of doctrinaire Darwinian evolution in the Queen’s records.” [2]

On the main floor of Bracken Library, just down the street from the spot where the Knight family home stood, Hugo is now bolted to his pedestal. (Library staff discovered that he had been spending too many nights out on the town with students.)  He still dresses up for various holidays, and his head is shiny from being “rubbed for luck.” Thanks to Phyllis Knight, he stands both as a reminder of big ideas that shaped the university, and of the wit, intelligence and generosity that were her father’s legacy.


Many thanks to Queen’s University librarian Elizabeth MacDonald-Pratt for drawing my attention to the “Hugo” statue and generously sharing her research about him.

Learn more:

“Hugo Rheinhold and his Philosophizing Monkey,” by Axel Schmetzke [webpage] University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point website (https://library.uwsp.edu/aschmetz/Rheinhold’s_Monkey/Rheinhold’s_Monkey_Page.htm : accessed 20 February 2017).

“Hugo Rheinhold” [wiki article, 21 October 2016] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Rheinhold : accessed 20 February 2017).


[1] Excerpt from 1933-09-02 Autobiography of Archibald Patterson KNIGHT b1849. Typescript by his son Cyril Workman Knight. Original typescript in the possession of Mary Elizabeth KNIGHT Clark, Cobourg, Ontario. Scanned by John Carew in June 2014. Copy in possession of Jo Stanbridge, Kingston, 2016.
[2] “A Gladiatorial Professor”, by B.N. Smallwood, H.M. Good and A.S. West, Kingston Whig-Standard, magazine section, Saturday 25 January 1992; excerpt from the book Queen’s Biology: An Academic History of Innocence Lost at Fame Gained, 1858-1965. Kingston : Queen’s University Press, 1992.

Sources


This is the last entry in the Storydello series 52 Queen’s Crescent, about the Knight family in Kingston, Ontario. Thank you so much for following along!  Next up: Rogues and Royals, a 16-generation trip back through my Dad’s line of descent. Please stay tuned!

Time Marches On

colour-phyllis-stirling-hall-02

Stirling Hall now stands where Archie and Corrie raised their family. They watched Queen’s University grow up around them, and played a vital role in the university community–they lived, studied and worked on campus.

Archie held positions in the biology department, the medical faculty, and the school of mining. He helped to design and equip the “New Medical Building” that opened in 1907. Ironically, it is now the home of Queen’s University Archives.

When Phyllis’s house was torn down, she saved and organized Archie’s papers and donated them to the archives. His letters and notebooks are now preserved in the building he helped to design. These blog entries could not have been written without them.

Sources

Phyllis Relents

colour-phyllis-stuart-street

In 1961, when Phyllis said “no” to the property developer, the university principal stepped in. He negotiated the deal himself. He invited Phyllis for tea, and they discussed the matter quietly. Faced with the inevitable, Phyllis relented. Her home would be torn down.

Jean and Phyllis moved to a smaller house just two blocks away, at 140 Stuart Street. As in the old house, each had her own apartment, where they lived quite happily for fifteen more years.

Sources

Phyllis’s House

colour-phyllis-with-jean-royce-02

The house was two-and-a-half storeys tall, made of brick with wood floors, big closets, a dining room with a built-in china cabinet, and a fireplace. It was from this house that Phyllis’s siblings started their marriages and careers, and moved away. This was also the house where her niece (Muriel’s daughter) came in 1903 as a toddler, grew up and married, and emigrated to England. And it was in this house that both of Phyllis’s parents had grown old and died in 1935 and 1936.

Phyllis continued to live in the house for many years afterward, making her living as a music teacher, giving lessons and even holding recitals in the living room. To boost her income, she converted the second floor into apartments, and rented one of these to the famous university registrar, Jean Isobel Royce. The two women became fast friends.

Sources

Phyllis’s Fight

in-progress-phyllis-protest

A controversy erupted at Queen’s University in 1961, twenty-six years after the death of Archibald Patterson Knight.

As a scientist, Professor Emeritus, and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, AP might have been in favour of the plan for a new physics building on the Queen’s University campus. But the Board had chosen a site that would destroy the last large green space on campus. Students and faculty protested, demonstrations were held, and the Board was forced to change its decision.

An alternative site was chosen on Queen’s Crescent, where most of the property owners had agreed to sell. Just one person held out. It was Archie and Cordelia’s daughter, Phyllis Knight, who had lived at 52 Queen’s Crescent for nearly 70 years.

Sources

Cyril’s Rocks

colour-cyril-rock-collection

In the backwoods of Ontario, a blacksmith named Fred LaRose was working on the new railroad when his pickaxe struck a rock. It broke off “a piece as big as my hand, with little sharp points all over it,” and a shiny vein running through its middle. He showed the rock to the owner of a nearby hotel.

“Some kind of damn metal,” they decided, and sent it away to be tested.

It was Cyril’s professor, W.G. Miller, who received the sample, and a lab report confirmed his suspicions. The rock contained silver. Lots of it. The race was on!

It was already October, and a Canadian winter would soon set in, making travel impossible. Professor Miller rushed to the site along with two assistants. One of them was Cyril Knight.

Sources

Cyril at Home

colour-cyril-in-hockey-uniform

Soon after Freddie went to live at the asylum, and while his sister Muriel was living in the U.S. with the first of her many husbands, Cyril Knight was still living at home with his two younger sisters and their parents. The whole family was busy with music lessons, sports and studying, and their father’s schedule was crammed with teaching, writing, committee-work, travel and science experiments.

“I have oiled the thing on the roof,” Cyril wrote to him, “but you didn’t tell me how to make out the report.”

Cyril was a third-year geology student. He was also the captain of the Queen’s University hockey team, which had recently won the American intercollegiate championship. But in August 1903, just as the team was looking ahead to an exciting new season, something extraordinary happened to Cyril.

Sources