Theodore Harding Rand

At Minas Basin and Other Poems, Theodore H. Rand
At Minas Basin and Other Poems, Theodore H. Rand

Theodore Harding Rand was born on 8 February 1835 in Canard, Nova Scotia. He is well-known as a Canadian poet and educator. Rand published two compilations of his own poetry, At Minas Basin and Other Poems (1897) and Song-Waves (1900), as well as an anthology of Canadian poetry, A Treasure of Canadian Verse: With Brief Biographical Notes (1900).

Rand was born into a Baptist family. His father was Thomas Woodworth Rand, the deacon of the First Cornwallis Baptist Church; his mother was Eliza Irene (née Barnaby) Rand. Rand was married in Canard to Emiline August Eaton on 5 November 1861. Rand and his wife never had children, despite his passion for the education of youth. He died on 29 May 1900 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, only hours before he was to receive an honorary degree from the University of New Brunswick (UNB) during that school’s centennial ceremonies.

In his youth, Rand moved to Boston, where he worked in a drugstore. During his time there he was influenced by men such as Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Lloyd Garrison. These men, known for their liberal theologies, abolitionist views, and transcendentalist ideas, consolidated Rand’s reformist ideology (Conrad, “Rand”). Wanting a higher education, Rand moved back to Nova Scotia to attend Horton Academy.

Rand enrolled in Horton Academy in Wolfville, Nova Scotia in 1854. In 1855, he was baptized by the president of the academy resulting in what Conrad calls his “second birth” (“An Abiding Conviction” 159). Rand graduated from Horton Academy and enrolled in Acadia College. He graduated from Acadia College in 1860 with his Bachelor of Arts degree, and immediately went to teach at Horton Academy. Rand’s teaching career was short-lived; in January of 1861 he accepted the position of the Chair of English and classics as a reward for his support of non-sectarian schooling systems (Conrad, "An Abiding Conviction" 161). During this time, the Nova Scotia government was headed by two Baptists: J.W. Johnston and Charles Tupper. With the help of Rand, they were working towards establishing and bettering public school systems in Nova Scotia, working to separate—but not eliminate—religion in schools. On 29 February 1864, after having suggested that the Superintendent of Education be a member of the Executive Council, Rand requested that he be given the position of Superintendent of Education, stating that he “would hope to throw some life into the improved provisions of our Common School Education” (Conrad, “An Abiding Conviction” 162).

In 1863, amid his growing successes in the educational system, Rand graduated with his MA from Acadia and afterwards spent time travelling throughout Nova Scotia visiting schools. In 1866, he published The Journal of Education for Nova Scotia. Although he was supported for the most part by loyal followers, Rand did experience criticisms (Conrad, “An Abiding Conviction” 163-4).

Apart from being concerned with the denominational aspects of schools, Rand also concerned himself with ensuring the accessibility of educational tools, with the construction of new schools, and with the design of grading schemes. He was dismissed from his position as Superintendent of Education on 2 February 1870. In the same way that his appointment caused controversy, his dismissal also fuelled province-wide controversy.

When Rand’s term as Superintendent of Education ended, the New Brunswick government, under the leadership of George E. King and George L. Hatheway, was working towards establishing a public schooling system similar to that of Nova Scotia’s. Rand was consulted by King for advice on the Common Schools Bill, which was passed in 1871 (Conrad, “An Abiding Conviction” 169). In September of that year, Rand moved to Fredericton and became the Superintendent of Education for the Province of New Brunswick. During this time, he took on the cause of public schooling and, as was the case in Nova Scotia, was met with both support and criticism. The criticism came from Roman Catholics lobbying for their own schooling system. The revolt against the Common Schools Act resulted in injuries and rioting, and the government was therefore forced to compromise. Catholic children were taught catechism outside of school hours. Rand was also faced with the challenge of the education of the French-speaking Acadians. His solution came in the form of new French and bilingual textbooks (Conrad, “Rand” 881). While in New Brunswick, Rand began the publication of the Educational Circular in 1876.

In 1874, Acadia University awarded Rand an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree and appointed him to their Board of Governors, and in 1878 he was appointed a member of the UNB Senate. In 1883, he took the position of Chair of Principals and Practice of Education at Acadia University.

In 1885, Rand moved to Toronto, then, in 1886, took the position of principal at Woodstock College in Ontario, with the condition that if and when funds permitted the College would merge with Toronto Baptist University. The two schools merged to become McMaster University in 1887. Rand served as the Chancellor of McMaster from 1892 until 1895 when he stepped down due to health concerns.

Rand expressed an early interest in writing but did not pursue it until later in life. His early poems address the intersection of nature and faith, and reflect the influence of his religious background and his time spent in the Maritimes. His first poems were published in the McMaster University Monthly (1891).

In 1897, Rand published his first collection of poems At Minas Basin and Other Poems (1897). Some of his poems became popular, although critics, such as G.H. Clarke, observed that his writing was too complex to have become popular with readers. Rand admitted himself that he had no interest in being a popular poet (Conrad, “An Abiding Conviction” 180).

“Dragonfly” is one of his few poems that has been frequently anthologized, along with “June,” “The Loon,” and “The Whitethroat.” Section two of “Dragonfly” asks the dragonfly, a “Winged wonder of motion,”

Are you blind to the sight
Of the heavens of blue,
Or the wind-fretted clouds
On their white, airy wings,
Or the emerald grass
That velvets the lawn,
Or glory of meadows
Aflame like the dawn. (Rand, Treasury 273)

Rev. E.M. Saunders, D.D., a close friend and colleague, explains that in poems like that “he took to the metaphysical and mystical” (7). Rand published a second collection of his own poems, Song-Waves and Other Poems (1900), which reflected the same concerns. All of his poems, said on critic, are “marked with thought and chaste diction” (MacMurchy 98).

In 1900, just before his death, Rand began the editing of the anthology A Treasury of Canadian Literature: With Brief Biographical Notes (1900). For this, he compiled multiple works by Canadian authors, “a collection of what may be regarded as the best representative poems” of the country (MacMurchy 98). His own poem “The Whitethroat” is the first poem of the collection. It begins:

Thy notes prolong, prolong,
I listen, I hear -
I – love – dear Canada,
Canada, Canada. (1)

Its sentiment demonstrates the goal of the anthology, which was to celebrate Canada. William Briggs said that Rand “spared no effort” (6) in compiling the poems “to make his Treasury worthy of its name” (6). It was his goal in creating the anthology to have it be “an open door through which the voices of Canadian singers may vibrate” (Rand, xxi).

Though Rand included a number of poets from all across Canada, he remained very faithful to the Maritimes by recognizing some of the major poets from the area. Among the New Brunswick poets included in the anthology are Bliss Carman, Margaret Gill Currie, James De Mille, Charles G.D. Roberts, and Francis Sherman.

Throughout his life Rand remained loyal to his country, especially New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as to his Baptist upbringing.

Holly Russell, Spring 2010
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Rand, Theodore H. At Minas Basin and Other Poems. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1898.

---. Outline of a System of Public Schools for the City of Halifax: An Address Delivered Before the Board of School Commissioners. N.p.: n.p., 1866.

---. Song-Waves and Other Poems. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1900.

---, ed. A Treasury of Canadian Verse: With Brief Biographical Notes. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1900.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Briggs, William. “Recent New Books: Treasury of Canadian Verse.” Montreal Gazette 7 June 1900: 6. 22 June 2020

Conrad, Margaret. “‘An Abiding Conviction of the Paramount Importance of Christian Education’: Theodore Harding Rand as an Educator, 1860–1900.” An Abiding Conviction: Maritime Baptists and Their World. Ed. Robert S. Wilson. Saint John: Acadia Divinity College, 1988. 156-195.

---. “Rand, Theodore Harding.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 12. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1990. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. 2003. U of Toronto/U Laval. 29 Feb. 2010

MacMurchy, Archibald. Handbook of Canadian Literature (English). Toronto: W. Briggs, 1906.

Saunders, E.M. “Theodore Harding Rand, D.C.L. Ex-Chancellor of McMaster University.” The Aylesford Union 11 (1898–9): 4-7.