Although Catharine Nina Merritt was a more prolific writer than her sister Emily Lena Merritt, her death in 1928 meant that she was omitted from Women of Canada, a collection of biographical sketches of prominent Canadian women published in 1930. Nonetheless, Catharine’s biography slips into Emily’s entry, so we do know a bit about her and her family.
St. Catharines, Ontario, was named after Catharine and Emily’s grandmother, Catharine Rodman Prendergast Merritt. As the War of 1812 drew to a close, their grandfather, the Honourable William Hamilton Merritt, Sr., purchased the land upon which the original town of St. Catharines, Ontario, was situated. He named the developing town after his wife, who was apparently, in his estimation, a saintly woman.
This post arises, though, because in researching Catharine, I discovered that she wrote “O Canada.” What? you say, as did I. And so to Google.
The music for our national anthem was written by Calixa Lavallée and the words that we know are adapted from the original lyrics written by Robert Stanley Weir. The Canadian Encyclopaedia Online gives a good account of the choice for the national anthem, which was ultimately determined by a contest held in Quebec City in June 1880. It can be surmised, then, that this version of “O Canada,” set to the music of Calixa Lavallée, is Catharine Nina Merritt’s contribution to that competition. I’m not sure I don’t like hers better. It almost scans…
“O Canada / Music by [Calixa] Lavallée / Words by Catharine Nina Merritt.” CIHM 43474: “Filmed from a copy of the original publication held by the Metropolitan Toronto Library, Canadian History Department”
Here, too, is Emily Lena Merritt’s biography from Women of Canada (Montreal, QC: Women of Canada, 1930).