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The Whole Damn Lot
A Play in Two Acts
by John Ward

All rights in this play are reserved by the Proprietor. All applications for professional and amateur rights should be addressed to John Ward, whose e-mail address is

The Whole Damn Lot © J. Ward 1999

To Brandon my Grandson on his First Birthday
with one smile he closes the gap in a flash.


Recent killings, kidnappings, and the incarceration of media personnel around the globe, vividly illustrate that journalists in all media face prosecution and persecution, and that freedom of the Press can never be taken for granted. Despite the all too apparent appetite displayed by journalistic scumbags savouring vicariously every detail of scandals in the United States and England, not to mention downright lying due to inadequate verification, Press freedom must be cherished. The worst excesses of hired hacks and media moguls must be placed in the proper context. They merely serve to jade, and make the thinking public relish good journalism all the more.

The origins of freedom of the Press differ in many realms. Early publishers of newspapers were viewed by governing authorities as dangerous radicals bent on undermining the privileged few. Many and various were the stratagems used to harass, intimidate, and ultimately halt their efforts to give a voice to the voiceless and freedom to choose their own rulers. Yes, and freedom to sack those rulers when they chose to do so.

The present offering is a modest attempt to remind both Press and public of the hardships faced by those who fought for freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and the right to expand those freedoms when and where they could. It is a two-act play, its story based on the trials and tribulations of a nineteenth century pioneering Irish newspaperman in Canada.

At the time, Upper Canada, now represented mainly by the Province of Ontario, was governed by what became known as the Family Compact, a close association of prominent families, and by a Lieutenant-Governor sent out from England, whose principal purpose was to ensure for ever the subservient status of Canada as a colony of England. Not until 1952 was a Canadian appointed to represent England as Governor General of the entire dominion. In 1999, an Irish born lady, Hillary Weston, was the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, a for cry from the time when Canada was a colony of England.

Francis Collins, a native of Newry in Ireland, is the main character in the play. His newspaper, the Canadian Freeman, published in Toronto from 1825 until Collins's death in 1834, inflamed the Family Compact into a judicial prosecution of Collins in a case lacking all vestige of impartiality, with a hostile Bench, a packed Jury, and gaol sentence that, in effect, amounted to life imprisonment. It remains a stain on the Canadian conscience.

Since the above was first written, many more journalists have suffered persecution, even death, in various parts of the world. Two of the courageous ones whose names head a lengthening honour roll are Veronica Guerin, Irish journalist, who was murdered following her exposé of drug dealers in Ireland, and Daniel Pearl, an American journalist kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan.

Conditions in York Gaol, 1830

"In the cells below the ground floor, your committee found three female lunatics confined, one of them from England, and who is understood to be the mother of a family, who became deranged on her husband leaving her; another from Ireland, a young woman, and the third a native of Canada....they are lodged in locked up cribs, on straw, two in one crib, and the other by herself; one of them contrived to set fire to the jail some time ago, but it was providentially discovered in time to save the building....A gentleman confined for debt complained that the smell from the dungeon in which these poor lunatics are confined....was almost insupportable, and that their incessant howlings and groans were annoying in the extreme....our committee found 25 persons in this prison, twelve criminals on the ground floor, one criminal sick upstairs, one vagrant, the three lunatics above mentioned, and nine debtors...The debtors are, with one exception, all on the upper floor, apart from the other prisoners....There are six debtors confined on executions issued out of the Court of King's Bench. One debtor is in jail together with his wife and a family of five children...."

(Extract from a report of a Committee of the House of Assembly, dated February, 17 1830.)


FRANCIS COLLINS Editor and Proprietor of the Canadian Freeman
SHERWOOD Chief Justice
ROBINSON Attorney General
BOULTON Solicitor General
JARVIS Sheriff and Jailer
ROLPH Lawyer
WILMOT Witness

There is an interval between Acts I and II, and a brief curtain between Scenes in both Acts.

Courtroom; York, Upper Canada
5 Hours Later

York Gaol
Collins's Cell

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