James Cockburn Day – 2018

On Saturday, August 4, Rob Franklin, Manager of Planning Services for the Town of Cobourg performed a play about James Cockburn in front of Victoria Hall. James Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn) is an important historical figure since he was a father of Confederation and a resident of Cobourg and this would be the eleventh year that Rob has played the part of James Cockburn in a play.  However, the official James Cockburn day is Monday so the performance was repeated at the Sifton Cook centre on Monday. About 25 people showed up in the heat to watch the play –  it was a new one first performed last year. Another change this year is that the James Cockburn Society will now be looking after the James Cockburn room in Victoria Hall.

Rob Franklin as James Cockburn
Rob Franklin as James Cockburn

Last year Rob Washburn wrote the play to replace one that Rob Franklin had performed for 10 years and which was set in the last years of Cockburn’s life.  This play is set during a period in his life when he was active – he is coming off of a major political battle that began at the Quebec Conference in 1864 and took three years to complete. He is about to reach his political zenith in a few weeks when he will be elected the first speaker of the House of Commons.

“It is refreshing to have a new play to perform,” said Franklin. “We get a chance to see Cockburn as an active politician preparing to deliver an important address to the residents of Cobourg on the very first Dominion Day. While the other play reflects on Cockburn’s life, in this play, we see him as a vibrant man emerging from the success of Confederation following a tough battle.”

A graduate of the prestigious Upper Canada College, James Cockburn was the Member of Parliament of West Northumberland, a well respected speaker of the House of Commons, held a successful law practice in the Town of Cobourg and was one of Canada’s founding fathers. In recognition of James’ contribution to both the Town of Cobourg and Upper Canada, in 1997 Rob Washburn successfully approached Cobourg Town Council to rename the Civic Holiday in Cobourg to the James Cockburn Day. Since 1998, on the Civic Holiday the Town of Cobourg pays tribute to James Cockburn and travels back in time through the enactment of The Life and Times of James Cockburn.

Robert Washburn is a professor of e-journalism at Loyalist College, Belleville.  Prof. Washburn instructs in the new Journalism – Online, Print and Broadcast program at Loyalist College, where he teaches the uses of new technologies and journalism.

Content of this Post in blue was submitted by the Town of Cobourg

Below is a video of Rob’s performance at the Sifton-Cook Centre


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5 years ago

Its a bit of a shame in my opinion – James Cockburn is truly an important historical figure nationally and equally important locally however it seems most people don’t know much about him and don’t care enough to know.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rob
5 years ago

Sad situation. Is anything taught about him in either of Cobourg’s secondary schools? Or Susanna Moodie for that matter?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
5 years ago

Nor about the Fianans who were a unit in the Fenian forces who could not spel wourth a hewt. Grins.

5 years ago

Ridgeway is near Niagara not London. The Fianan Raid was on my Great Grandfathers farm in Ridgeway. But great job Rob