Lord Sydenham was the governor of Upper Canada from 1839-1841. As governor general, he was responsible for bringing union to Upper and Lower Canada, and with bringing the seat of government to Kingston. His residence in Kingston at the time was at Alwington House. This house was about half hour out of downtown Kingston- seen for all sakes and purposes at the time as ‘the country’ in the 1830s. Hales Cottage was about twenty minutes outside of the city, started in 1841 as residence for government officials who would take part in the official administration of Upper and Lower Canada.
The tale my grandfather told was that Lord Sydenham was returning to Alwington House after a tryst with a female friend in Kingston, when his horse shied, and he fell off onto the stones that were being used to build Hales Cottage. It is a fact that he died September 19, 1841. One source I found said that he did fall from his horse around Hales Cottage (they said around the hill) on September 4, 1841 and that he was unfortunately dragged for a distance with a fractured leg; he succumbed to his injuries.
Did I ever see Lord Sydenham? As a child every groan of the plumbing, every whisper of wind on the window was an indication of his presence. When my mother and I moved into the house, it was a good year before I slept in the room that I was to inherit. What torture to a creative ghost- fearing mind that an old house CONSTANTLY creaks.
Once I became used to the house as a teenager, I was less likely to believe or be afraid, of anything I might see at Hales Cottage. There was a strange day when I was doing the dishes, and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a rather heavy set dark haired man smiling at me from the kitchen doorframe. When I looked again, anything that might have been there was gone- the joviality of the smile certainly didn’t strike me with anything more than an amiable presence.