Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > Exploring Toronto: Henry Mulholland Cairn in North York

Exploring Toronto: Henry Mulholland Cairn in North York


Today, I had to go to the North York General Hospital to visit someone and before I went I took a look at Google Maps which told me there was a trail I could walk through – slightly out of my way – right by the hospital. I decided I would take in some nature and walk through the “Betty Sutherland Trail”. In order to get to the trail I decided to park on Manorpark Court. When I was walking into the entrance of the trail between the last two houses on the north side of Manorpark Court I saw what I would have called a memorial but I found out is actually called a ‘cairn’. There was a plaque on it, so being a history geek I had to go over and check it out.

Honestly, the area looked pretty abandoned and if it wasn’t for the fact that there were houses on either side of the lot where this cairn was sitting I would have believed that nobody ever even looked – or noticed – this memorial. It almost looks as if it would be a great place to sit and read – there is a bench that goes around the bottom as you can see – but I think the lot would benefit from something more, maybe a garden but that would probably cost the city way more money than they’d be willing to spend in terms of maintenance. I will maybe have to head out here one of these days when the sun is shining and see how it is for reading and just general chilling.

I had never heard of Henry Mulholland before I had seen this cairn and its plaque but it turned out he was a pretty interesting guy. I got a picture of the plaque on the front of the cairn up close and posted it below:

It reads:

“Dedicated to the memory of Henry Mulholland and his wife Jane Armstrong.

Pioneers of this district who emigrated from Ulster in 1806.

And took out the original grant of four hundred acres from the Crown. (Symbol which I think is a pine cone.)

He fought in the War of 1812. (Another symbol, I don’t know what this one is.)

And later returned to Ireland to induce further emigration. (Another symbol, I think it’s an acorn.) 

While returning was drowned in the wreck of the Lady of the Lake in the Straits of Belle Isle in 1833.

Erected by the descendants of the eight branches of their family in October 1937.”

I have to wonder how it was that Henry Mulholland’s wife’s name was Jane Armstrong and not Jane Mulholland. Maybe she got remarried? Maybe she was one of the first ever feminists and refused to take on her husband’s name when she married him sometime in the early 19th Century? (I think it is safe to assume they got married in the early 19th Century if Henry was old enough to fight in the War of 1812 and died in 1833.) Who knows? Maybe more research is required.

The descendants mentioned in the last line are listed on a plaque on the back of the cairn:

“The following are the

Eight branches of the

Henry Mulholland Family

Mentioned on the reverse side of the cairn

James Stewart

William Mulholland

David Mulholland

William Duncan

George White

Thomas Mulholland

James Francis

David McBride”

It also turns out that Henry Mulholland’s great grandson was none other than the 10th Premier of Ontario - George Stewart Henry – who was in office in the 1930s. Why there is no one with the last name Henry listed as one the eight branches of the Henry Mulholland family who erected the cairn in 1937 then I can’t quite figure out but if you know drop me a line.

And don’t think I am going to leave you without any info on the Betty Sutherland Trail. I didn’t have time to walk the whole thing but what I did walk through was very lush and beautiful. There was one lifeguard/rescue lifesaver post by the Don River which had clearly fallen down – maybe I should let The Fixer for the Toronto Star know about it but other than that it all seemed in good repair. Here’s a picture of the trail below. I think of anything paved as more of a path than a trail but, hey, that’s just me I guess.

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  1. kelly.stephenson@ryerson.ca
    July 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    This is very interesting. I recently found out that I am a relative of Henry Mulholland and George Stewart Henry. Thanks for posting!

    • July 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      My pleasure, that’s pretty cool that you’re related to them! Which branch are you from (if I may ask)?

  2. Cam Duncan
    March 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I too am a descendant of Henry Mulholland and his wife Jane Armstrong. My great-great-grandmother was Sarah Mulholland, daughter of Henry and Jane. She married William Duncan of York Township in 1831. William owned 400 acres on the north side of Sheppard Avenue between Dufferin and Keele. Each of the eight branches refers to the eight sons and daughters and their descendants.

  1. August 11, 2011 at 11:59 pm
  2. September 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm
  3. November 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm
  4. November 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

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