Old St. Andrews



Beverley Van Horne



A Period of Decline

Addie bequeated Minister's Island not to her nephew Billy but to his daughter Beverley Ann, but in her minority the Island property was administered by Richard's widow Mrs. Bruce. A series of letters between the Royal Trust and Bill Clarke, head gardener, show that immediately after Addie's death, Mrs. Bruce was desirous of cutting costs on the Island and that this concern became more acute with time. The wharf was rotten and needed rebuilding—perhaps it could be partially rebuilt, using logs from the Island or salvaging some from the part that would not be repaired. The tennis court is in bad shape—it would be good to have it rolled for little Beverley Ann to play on, but it cannot be resurfaced. The stairs by the tower are falling apart—put up a warning sign or remove them altogether. Perhaps a second-hand lawnmower could be found somewhere. Payroll is rather high; is there really enough work for four gardeners in the winter? Consider growing vegetables in the greenhouses in conjunction with the fruits, as selling these might pay for the 25 tons of coal needed to heat the greenhouses in the winter. Some of the flower beds could be levelled and made into lawn, such as those along the walk leading to the house. Present shrubs can be maintained but no replacements. By 1944 Mrs. Bruce decided that seeding and planting of annuals should be reduced to "a few showy shrubs, placed where they will best attract the eye," that flower beds should be rotated for cultivation every other year, and finally, in 1945, that staff on Minister's Island should not increase during spring and fall, but become a kind of mobile workforce, moved from farm to gardens to fields whenever need required. Henry Clarke remembers his father sitting up late at night poring over seed catalogues, trying to get his order down to about thirty dollars. All this time, in a kind of irony that doesn't seem to have been perceived by Mrs. Bruce, there were complaints by the Royal Trust that the grounds were becoming increasingly unkempt, with long grass growing at the foot of trees, weeds by the roadside, hedges overgrown, and the coachman's cottage looking "as if it were abandoned in a hay field."

The Judge and Senator Through this period Mrs. Bruce began to look for summer tenants. In the fall of 1941 signs were put up at the entrance to the Island and near the house itself advertising "Residence to Let," in the hope of catching the eye of some summer visitor wandering the grounds. There was a ray of hope in 1944 when, as a result of the efforts of Mrs. Redmond and Miss Shaughnessy, summer residents, the Wartime Convalescent Homes did an inspection, but nothing came of this. The old Tait house on the golf links, and the old Marine Hospital on Montague Street, were used instead. Finally in the summer of 1949, Covenhoven was rented by Judge Berry and Senator Matthews from Tom's River, New Jersey. The Judge and the Senator were friends by reason of their marriage to two sisters. They rented Covenhoven for about $1,000 a summer—a pretty good deal, as it came mostly intact from Addie's day. Though cost-cutting measures had caused it to have gone downhill somewhat, the Island was still quite gorgeous, the house itself was more or less in peak condition, and the building came complete with a cook, maids and chauffeur. This elderly foursome enjoyed retired and genteel summers at Covenhoven. They raised the American flag on the house, dressed formally, liked to have tea on the veranda, and take long, leisurely dinners. They are remembered chiefly by Henry Clarke, a young teenager who picked up some pocket money washing dishes. They wouldn't come to dinner, he recalls, until they heard the gong, and the length of time they spent at the table was somewhat annoying because he liked to play cards in the evening after everything had been cleaned up and put away. "They were nice," he remembers, "a little bit strict. They were la-de-da when it came to tea and all that stuff like that. That was the only time I ever saw such formality because I hadn't been there for the Van Horne part of it. They enjoyed themselves. They were always dolled up, the men wore suits and ties, the Judge a straw hat. The Senator was an old sea captain. He'd have his yarns with you, so would the Judge. The two old ladies were nice." Though they didn't really like it when Henry cut the grass at tea-time, they would sometimes snag him for a game of croquet if they were short-handed. "I'd get out there in my bare feet and they'd shoot my ball into the flower beds or something. I'd go to pick it up and they'd say, 'No, you have to play it from there!' I'd say: 'If I do that my dad will have my head!'"

Luckily for posterity, this foursome took lots of photographs, some of which survive in the Clarke family and the Provincial Archives. They show that they were not alone on Minister's Island, but were often in the company of friends and family. It was really quite a retreat for these vacationers. To have been able to pick up this extraordinary island retreat for such a price must have seemed too good to be true.

Beverley Ann The Judge and Senator were gone by 1954, for the St. Andrews summer directory for 1954 and 1955 shows that the occupant was now James Beattie, the husband of Beverley Ann. If Beverley Ann had had to wait until her 21st birthday to take over control of the estate from Mrs. Bruce and the Royal Trust, this would have happened in 1953, so probably this is the main reason the Judge and Senator were no longer there. With her mother having died when she was two, and an alcoholic father who died when she was 14, it is little wonder that Beverley Ann had problems. At 17 she made headlines when she disappeared from her Montreal home and was found by private detectives a month later living in a Vancouver boarding house and working as a dishwasher. The newspapers made a great deal over the plight of the "poor little rich girl."

During her brief residency on Minister's Island, she is remembered by Algonquin staff as one who liked to drink and party. On leaving the Hotel bar she would invite the entire staff over, and many would go. Al Redner recalled that "The Beverley Van Horne we knew was an alcoholic. She had a butler, she had a maid, and she had a husband. The husband was fooling around with the maid. I don't think she was fooling around with the butler but they ran the house and we would go over there and party all night long. She was a very kind person; she was a little off the wall, because of all of her money and the alcohol she was consuming, but she was a nice person. What we saw at Beverley Van Horne's was a spoiled girl who was into drugs and alcohol and a husband who was fed up and carrying on with the maid. Beverley certainly had no purpose for living; she was just spoiled wealth."

Bellman Terry Grier was there on one occasion. He remembers being struck by the enormous beer-freezer; he says a lot of it was being consumed on that occasion. Head bellman Cuddy O'Brien attended one party. Beverley Ann made a grand entrance, he recalls, descending the staircase "dressed like a swan." That night Mr. O'Brien slept in Sir William's bed.

There were other antics. One day, recalls Henry Clarke, as she was rowing over to the mainland to attend church, she lost an oar, but instead of simply using the other to bring the boat close enough to pick it up, she dove in after it. No church that day. That night, he says, she did a striptease on the piano in Addie's old black clothes.

Unlike her father and like Mrs. Randolph, Beverley Ann didn't put a great deal of work into maintaining the estate. In 1955, she sold the Island's herd of Ayrshire cattle. Probably she considered the farm just another unnecessary expense. After 1955, she seems to have stopped coming. Locals and Algonquin staff remember this time as one in which it was easy to party and have overnight assignations on Minister's Island, otherwise known as being accidentally stranded by the tide. At that time, remembers bellman Alan Casey, the beach house was open, with glass scattered about. No door, you just walked in. The gardener, Mr. Clarke, didn't seem to mind. You'd put the radio on, sit around and chat, dance, whatever. Some people would drift off to look at the view from another location. It was really a classy little spot. The swimming pool was down on the beach. They did their swimming, mostly at low tide, because you had the pool full of salt water. It was a beautiful little beach house. You'd go down under the first floor and there was a little changing area; keep going out the door, and walk down a cement spiral staircase, which was a part of the beach house itself. The pool has filled in a lot since then. Even in those days you could just see remnants of it. The caretaker would probably empty it out of rocks, sand and whatnot.

In 1959 the Royal Trust Company, acting on Beverley Ann's wishes and doubtless those also of Mrs. Bruce, put the Island up for sale. It was about to pass into American hands.